New York (AHT) – No one likes a sore loser, especially in a society that values “winning” and “losing” as staples of a cut-throat capitalist regime.
When the Trump administration announced that it wanted to remove U.S. troops from Syria early in 2019, the U.S. ruling class fiercely rebuked at the very notion of drawing down an over eight-year-long war on the Arab nationalist state. Pressure from the corporate media and the military-state alike led the Trump administration to keep four hundred U.S. troops in Syria while maintaining many more in the neighboring nation of Iraq. Few in the U.S. establishment asked why the Trump administration would contemplate the removal of U.S. troops. The reason is that the U.S. regime change efforts in Syria have largely failed. A leaked report from the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) only adds insult to injury.
The leaked report indicates that the chemical weapons used in Douma in April of 2018 were likely planted by ground forces rather than dropped from Syrian military aircraft. According to the OPCW engineers,
The dimensions, characteristics, and appearances of the cylinders and the surrounding scenes of the incidents, were consistent with what would have been expected in the case of either cylinder having been delivered from an aircraft . . . In summary, observations at the scene of the two locations, together with subsequent analysis, suggest that there is a higher probability that both cylinders were manually placed at those two locations rather than being delivered from aircraft.”
That the leaked OPCW report contradicts the initial findings of the organization and was so blatantly suppressed completely delegitimizes the official narrative of the Douma chemical weapons incident. It was indeed the so-called “moderate rebels” in Syria who staged the attack. The U.S. and its imperial allies used misinformation to conduct airstrikes on Syrian territory without any investigation or vote held by the UN Security Council. Syrian President Bashar Al-Assad had little to gain from gassing his own people and provoking military hostilities from the U.S. and its allies. Unless, of course, one believes that Assad is a brutal dictator whose primary interest sides in slaughtering his own people.
Assad was re-elected by large majorities of the population in 2014 because he was viewed as the most capable leader for the job of waging a successful liberation struggle against armed terrorists. Turns out the people of Syria were right. The “crazed” dictator narrative has become more and more difficult to sustain as Syria has successfully taken back much of its territory from foreign-backed “rebels.” These rebels, many of whom sport the ideology of ISIS and Al-Qaeda, have retreated to safe havens such as Idlib province along the Turkish border and the At Tanf region along the Jordanian border. Israel has been caught providing medical assistance and logistical support to Al Qaeda affiliated fighters in Syria. Yet despite widespread support, jihadist proxies remain a dangerous nuisance rather than a threat for regime change.
The U.S. foreign policy establishment and the ruling class generally has not changed its mind about Syria. There should be no doubt given the hostile treatment of Tulsi Gabbard from the corporate media that regime change remains a priority for the U.S. in Syria. The CIA, Pentagon, and the rest of the “Deep State” understand that the only way to topple Iran and to weaken the influence of Russia and China to the east is through the removal of the sovereign government in Syria. As leaked Defense Intelligence Agency documents showed in 2012, the U.S. intentionally supported and supplied “Salafist” and jihadist elements in Syria for this very purpose. It is also why the de facto U.S. occupation of Syria resides in strategic economic centers so as to strangle the Syrian government of key natural resources such as water and oil.
The U.S. refuses to talk about Syria because the collapse of the Arab nation remains at the center of its agenda in the region. Military strategists have for years indicated that the road to Tehran, Moscow, and Beijing rests in the toppling of the government in Damascus. Recent U.S. aggression toward Iran has been rebuked by Europe for this exact reason. A war with Iran would be too costly and strengthen the alliance of resistance between Syria, Iran, Iraq, Russia, and China. The Trump administration has deviated from this strategy, first by campaigning on an ant-regime change platform and then by increasing military tensions with Iran while calling for the removal of troops in Syria.
It shouldn’t be underestimated that Iran remains under the very real threat of war from U.S. imperialism. However, U.S. provocations with Iran serve electoral interests more than anything else. Trump’s belligerence toward Iran sooths the predations of the rabid Zionist lobby which is so influential in U.S. elections. Bellicosity toward the Islamic Republic also appeases a section of Trump’s base that has been led to believe that Iran is a state-sponsor of terrorism. However, a ground war with Iran would likely spark public outrage and devastate Trump’s 2020 campaign. It may also lead to the abrupt end of John Bolton’s tenure in the Trump administration.
The bankrupt U.S. election system, steeped in American individualism, tends to remove the focus of analysis from the actual strategy of U.S. imperialism. While much of the U.S. population is weary of war, it is also vulnerable to being pulled and pushed toward whichever direction the U.S. ruling class steers its propaganda mill. U.S. imperialism relies on ideologies of exceptionalism and white supremacy to justify its crimes against humanity in the interest of profit. If Syria isn’t suffering at the hands of U.S. empire, then it isn’t worth covering. President Assad, the so-called “despot” of the region, is not in danger of regime change anytime soon. As the leaked OPCW report attests, undue attention on Syria only further exposes the criminality of U.S. imperialism.
However, according to journalist Ben Norton, Congress has been placing pressure on Donald Trump to intensify his belligerence toward Syria even as his administration beats the drums of war against Iran. Four hundred members of Congress have signed an open letter urging Trump to take more aggressive actions against Syria, Hezbollah, and Russia. The letter explicitly demands that Trump defend Israel’s interests and impose crippling sanctions on Hezbollah and Syria. This development has received a modicum of the attention that Trump’s aggressive posture toward Iran has garnered in recent weeks. Corporate media outlets, former generals, and so-called liberal oligarchs in the “resistance” claim to be against a war with Iran yet are more than willing to enact policies that make such a war an inevitable conclusion of actual military strategy of the U.S in the region at large.
That’s because U.S. imperialism is not so much interested in preventing a war with Iran than with waging such a war in the correct manner. Trump and his advisers have gone off the script of those in charge of the military apparatus. A war with Iran is not feasible. Such a scenario would lead to a world war scenario that could very well end in a cataclysmic defeat of imperialism in the region. U.S. military strategists understand that Syria and the rest of the axis of resistance in the region must first be destabilized and weakened before the overthrow of Iran can be attempted with any success. To truly resist war with Iran, then, we must continue to talk about Syria and ensure that the sovereignty of the Arab nation is protected from the machinations of the U.S. warfare state.
Danny Haiphong is the co-author of the book American Exceptionalism and American Innocence: A People’s History of Fake News-From the Revolutionary War to the War on Terror.