We need to abandon “regime change” in Syria

On "Chuck" Todd's morning newsie today he interviewed  Zbig and Andrea Mitchell about US policy in Syria.  Todd and Mitchell are widely seen as virtual mouthpieces of AIPAC and Bibi's government.  They seemed to want to use this segment as a springboard for yet more logrolling for aggressive US action against the Syrian government.

After wringing their hands over Russian "obstructionism" in the UN to their desires, they got down to business in trying to devise some way in which Russia could be forced economically or politically to abandon the Syrian government.  This babble did not reflect the simple truth that the rebels are losing on the ground and that there was never any chance that Russia would abandon Syria.

The United States has NO levers of influence or power that it can successfully employ against Russia, China or Iran.  Russia is still a major power.  It is heavily armed with nuclear weapons and has a lot of petroleum with which to fund its policy.  China is a major rival of the United States and possessed of the second largest economy in the world.  Iran has been bled white economically by sanctions but does not yield.

All that being the case, what on earth has the Obama Administration thought it would accomplish by demanding Syrian surrender to the rebels?  That was the basis of he Geneva talks.  What were we thinking?  Did we imagine that this would be a school board  or PTA meeting?  What were we thinking? 

Zbig was finally allowed to say a few words.  He stressed the need to settle the issues between Russia and the US on some viable basis and started to suggest what sounded like an appeal to modify the "regime change" theme so pervasive among the R2P/neocon crowd (including Obama).  Todd then cut him off.

US policy should change.  US policy should become a process of reconciling the existing government with what is left of the Syrian National Council and the Free Syria Army.  This should include amnesty for "ralliers' to the government, a cease fire against the nationalist secularist rebels, and a complete opening up of the country to international relief efforts wherever the jihadis do not rule and control. Once that is accomplished the re-united Syrian patriot forces should collaborate in exterministing the jihadis.  The jihadis came to Syria to die for their faith.  They should be assisted in that ambition.

Saudi Arabia?  Israel?  Ignore them.  pl


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58 Responses to We need to abandon “regime change” in Syria

  1. Fred says:

    Col. You stated:
    “This should include amnesty for “ralliers’ to the government”
    Didn’t the Syrian government start some form of this a few months ago?

  2. turcopolier says:

    They did and it has been fairly successful. pl

  3. FB Ali says:

    Col Lang,
    It is unfortunate that your excellent proposal is unlikely to be adopted by the US.
    The issue now is whether Obama can resist all the pressures bearing down upon him to intervene militarily in Syria. There are the Israeli and R2P lobbies that you have referred to (and their representatives within the administration). He presumably came under such pressure in his recent meetings with Hollande and King Abdullah. He is now going to meet another proponent of such a move – the Saudi king.
    Perhaps the main counter is Gen Dempsey’s resistance to a pinprick air strike. His insistence that any military intervention be properly prepared and safeguarded may give Obama pause, since he knows that the American public is weary of such large-scale military ventures. I don’t know if Hagel will back Dempsey; so far he seems to be a weak leader.

  4. turcopolier says:

    FB Ali
    Hagel does seem weak. I am trying to nudge the process a bit. pl

  5. PL! Great post and totally agree!

  6. F.B. Ali,
    I think that a good few of us who have been hoping that the kind of ‘Mad Hatter’s Tea Party’ now going on will not end in a major shambles have been trusting that, as it were, General Dempsey will pull our chesnuts out of the fire.

  7. Charles I says:

    Thanks for being willing. Good luck.

  8. Charles I says:

    I have just been devouring HBO’s Rome; n/w/s that one hangs their hopes where they may, defaulting to trust in our good Generals does not seem an auspicious condition for a polity to be in. Especially when our host points out the obvious for all inclined to see.

  9. Joe100 says:

    Col Lang –
    It appears that events on the ground may be moving rapidly in your direction
    I suspect that such movement will not be received well by the various “outsiders” trying to influence events.

  10. MartinJ says:

    There seems to be an utter lack of think tanks and media outlets that have the funding to promote your sensible, pragmatic policy on Syria. It leaves an over reliance on individuals such as Gen Dempsey to push for common sense.
    What is the way forward for the US to get out of this stranglehold by AIPAC and Gulf donors on institutions that advise on foreign policy?

  11. turcopolier says:

    Yes. AIPAC, AEI et al squeezed me out of the public square long ago. Sob. pl

  12. VietnamVet says:

    Add my agreement to your sensible policy.
    I was brought up with the bedrock American belief that we were a self-reliant practical people, just like John Huston’s characters at the movies.
    Instead, greed and ideology have seized America. A Syrian intervention would be Iraq all over again; ethnic cleansing (separating Sunnis, Shiites and Kurds) and then an eventually withdrawal back to Kuwait leaving thousands and thousands of dead behind and the USA bankrupt.

  13. Babak Makkinejad says:

    This is a policy supported also fully by the European Union.
    So we have a politico-military alliance of over 1 billion people who are dependent on the sanity of a single man – General Martin Dempsey – to counter the main contours of a very very bad policy.
    So, why have democracy; let us bring the Imperators back and send the Senate packing to their latifundia’s in the countryside.

  14. Babak Makkinejad says:

    The Mad Hatters evidently also occupy European levers of power as well.
    Why do not Sweden, or Denmark, or Switzerland publicly break with this madness?
    Are they afraid that US would sanction them?
    Or is it that they are also fully onboard with (US) Syrian policy – excepting UK.

  15. Babak Makkinejad says:

    All right; so AIPAC and Arabs of the Persian Gulf are running the show in US; what about the European Union?
    They seem to be totally onboard with Regime Change in Syria as well.
    Why is Europe supporting this – when did Syria become an enemy to the Europeans?

  16. Babak Makkinejad says:

    And evidently, there is no body in the public square in Europe either.

  17. Marco Naccio says:

    A sensible & realistic policy on Syria, as suggested, is an excellent idea.
    To implement sensible policy in the American interest would require defeating Zionism, particularly the Zionist occupation of Washington, DC.
    I’d be interested in hearing proposals for such a worthy defense of the nation.

  18. The Twisted Genius says:

    I think the policy you suggest for the US is what Assad is pursuing. Albeit he is pursuing it in a manner far too heavy handed for the delicate sensibilities of many. I find it ironic that the brutish Russians and Chinese are practically the only thing saving us from our ignorant impulses.

  19. Andrew says:

    Col. sir, Is there any truth to the rumor that AEI turned downright evil when you brushed aside the advances of Danielle Pletka after a night of Sambuka shooters?

  20. MartinJ says:

    I’m not completely convinced they have abandoned the regime. The UK has been trying to appear its totally with the rebels while doing little to assist them militarily.
    As more and more stories appear in the British press of our Muslim youth heading there to fight with AQ (we just had our first “martyr” in an SVBIED attack in Aleppo) then public opinion will turn.
    The truth is we are rather irrelevant as a country and the EU is only concerned with migration and business.

  21. Poul says:

    I think you are overstating the coherence of the Western Syria policy. The US way of seeing things is not the only one. European countries can move in the same direction as the US but not from the same motives.
    The US politicians have their share of delusions based on US domestic policy, world view and inherited traditions (pro-Israel etc)
    My own country of Denmark has it’s set of delusions and traditions. We are pro-Israeli but also pro-UN and the idea of Right to Protect has a strong appeal among a large group of Danish politicians.
    An example is Christian Friis Bach.
    His party is part of the present Danish coalition government and he is the party’s spokesperson on foreign affairs.
    If one reads this interview from the 22nd of January.
    (in Danish only. Unfortunately Google Translate contains some very misleading errors when translating into English. But I hope you can get an idea of his views)
    He clearly refuses to acknowledge that the Russians will not support a UN sanctioned attack on Syria. A policy doomed to fail.
    The lack of understanding Middle Eastern nations and their culture is also quite prevalent in Denmark.
    Our idea of democracy automatically solving all major problems leads our political parties astray policy-wise(here it’s in particular socialist parties who believe in this idea). Few journalists and no politicians discus why Iraq turned out a democratic failure. The idea that if Assad leave then Syrians will all be friends again is strong.
    I think that Syrian members of the Ba’ath party look at Iraq and see their future if the Syrian government loses. Purges and persecutions will be the name of the game.

  22. turcopolier says:

    In both cases Westerners and especially the US have made the mistake of personalizing the internal problems of Iraq and Syria so that it is believed that an individual or small group are the cause of societal problems. In neither case was/is this true. pl

  23. Babak Makkinejad says:

    EU is not just concerned with migration and business; it wishes to destroy the legal governments of Syria and Iran.
    UK is not irrelevant; she could break publicly with US on Syria and state that the policy is insane.
    Why does not she?
    This is eerily like the way the Warsaw Pact operated – directives coming from Moscow and they fell in line, you must admit.

  24. Babak Makkinejad says:

    I do not think you need to understand the Middle East to respect the Principles of the Peace of Westphalia, or the UN Charter.
    That Denmark (and other EU states) have declared Syria and Iran to be the enemies of Europe cannot be excused on the basis of ignorance.
    EU has been complicit in pushing 20 million into poverty in Iran and made another 8 million refugees in Syria.
    How can this be construed under responsibility to protect?
    It is like saying we rape to preserve chastity.

  25. Alba Etie says:

    Martin J
    I believe there is now such a groundswell of public opposition to a Syrian intervention that no politician will – including BHO ; intervene in that civil war. I also believe that We the People will make the R2P/neocon misguided agenda a campaign issue in 2014 ,& 2016 election cycles. Recall that it is one way that BHO defeated Mrs Clinton in the 2008 primaries – in that BHO voted against the Iraqi AUMF & that Mrs Clinton supported it . I believe the former Montana Governor Barry Schwietzer will likely run for the Democratic nomination – and he is certainly opposed to any more misbegotten military interventions .
    The primaries could very well be a path forward to break the stranglehold by AIPAC and Gulf donors on our Comity . Moreover I believe that Secretary of Defense Hagel is pushing back against the neocons – but to paraphrase Rummy – its a tough slog .
    And further in the plus column we have not sortie with Bibi against Natanz yet –

  26. PL and all:
    Is there a recent English language history of Iraq and/or Syria discussing those nation-sates history since WWI?
    Is there one in Arabic or Hebrew in translation or not?

  27. Can we come up with a word for dual citizens meaning US citizens with dual citizenship?
    Should any dual citizen be given access to Top Secret or Compartmented classified information? In my time I thought all TS and Compartmented classified info was NOFORN?
    BTW NARA {National Archives and Records Administration] and the Presidential libraries do not accept classified Compartmented info for permanent retention.

  28. turcopolier says:

    “I thought all TS and Compartmented classified info was NOFORN?”
    Yes, unless a specific agreement exists with a given country. pl

  29. PL! Thanks and does the original classification authority sign off on release to the foreign nation-state and/or agreement? I assume no derivative classifier could be authorized to make such an agreement?

  30. Charles I says:

    And yet today’s al-monitor.com claims that the Saudis will nonetheless press Obama for regime change when he visits in March.
    “The upcoming visit by President Barack Obama to the kingdom in late March is the second factor behind the new policy. King Abdullah will make a major push for a more vigorous American effort to oust Assad when he hosts Obama. The Saudis have been openly disappointed that Obama has not used force to get rid of Assad or provided more assistance to training and arming the Syrian opposition. By taking steps to curb Saudi help to al-Qaeda and Jabhat al-Nusra, the king hopes to disarm American concerns that the kingdom is naively helping terrorists gain a stronghold in Syria. Prince Nayef just visited the White House last week for meetings with national security adviser Susan Rice and assistant to the president for homeland security and counterterrorism, Lisa Monaco. The meetings were preparations for the president’s trip. The same issue of foreign fighters traveling to Syria came up in Obama’s meeting with Jordanian King Abdullah in California on Feb. 14. Hundreds of Jordanians have joined Jabhat al-Nusra.
    Saudi King Abdullah has a special attachment to Syria and has tribal and marriage connections to the country. He has been appalled at the gruesome bloodshed and the horrific cost of the civil war. He blames Washington for not doing more to stop the war, oust Assad and put in place a Sunni government that will break with Iran and Hezbollah. He would like Syria to become a Sunni base for toppling Hezbollah dominance of Lebanon.”
    Seems its ultimately all Iran all the time.
    Read more:

  31. MartinJ says:

    I was trying to draw a difference between EU member states individual policy on Syria and EU collective policy. I would argue that the British parliament’s rejection of war on Syria was a public break with US policy and a declaration of regime change an insanity. Its different to Iraq 2003 when Britain did fall in line like an obedient Warsaw Pact country.

  32. Petrous says:

    Col. Lang
    Kudos to your writing style (as well as the substance of course). The following statement, despite its brevity, coveys what many feel should be our policy towards the Syrian tangle sponsored mainly from Riyadh.
    ” … The jihadis came to Syria to die for their faith. They should be assisted in that ambition…. ”
    So true .
    Thank you for stating it so succinctly.

  33. turcopolier says:

    Charles I
    It will be a hard sell. pl

  34. turcopolier says:

    Some of the relationships are very old. Some extend back to WW2. These cover a lot of ground and there is a lot of delegated authority involved. Other relationships are transactional. Every major agency has an official who rules on the propriety of particular releases. One of them reads SST. pl

  35. Joe100 says:

    TTG & Col. Lang –
    More on the evolving ceasefire process. While photos are hard to trust, the photo in the Daily Star piece – “A member of Syria’s armed opposition forces (R) chats with an officer from the forces loyal to Syria’s President Bashar al-Assad in Babila town, southeast Damascus February 17, 2014, after a local ceasefire agreement was reached. Picture taken during a guided tour by the Syrian Army” is paints an interesting picture.

  36. Thanks PL! a deeply flawed history and system. I expect many more Eric Snowdens around the corner. GAO has concluded inferentially in a new report the IC now controlled by its contractors. A shocking indictment of the IC and its governance.
    The last three Presidents clearly wear no clothes.

  37. Charles I says:

    Yes, I hope so. Today’s GSN claims a rethink is underway, without explicit abandonment of regime change and seems to speak to sustaining the conflict and pressure on Assad.
    I know you hate to answer, but what have the Saudis got nowadays to, er, “sell” with?

  38. Matthew says:

    Col: And now for your moment of levity. See http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2014/02/17/syrian-peace-talks_n_4800928.html?utm_hp_ref=world
    Money quote: “Kerry says Assad is “trying to win this on the battlefield instead of coming to the negotiating table.”
    Imagine that.

  39. Bandolero says:

    Much of Europe (France, UK, Netherlands, Poland, Norway, Sweden, Denmark and some more) is in the grip of the American and Israeli lobbies, and the American lobby is mostly made up of staunch zionists, too.
    Besides Moscow, of course, the center of resistance against the zionist warmonger policies in Europe is currently Germany. In Germany the American and Israeli lobbies are also strong, and they almost completely control the German media, but Germany has also very important business ties to Russia and China, so there are some powerful business leaders telling the government quietly that it is no good idea to spoil the relations with these countries. In effect, the German government tries to balance the pressures, leading to some kind of resistance. Take for example the German Patriot missiles in Turkey. Germany full well understood that the Patriot missiles were asked by Turkey formally for defensive purposes, but John McCain and friends wanted Patriots stationed in Turkey to shoot down Syrian jets inside Syria across the border. So Germany complied with the Patriot request, but placed them so far away from the border, that they can’t fly into Syria. In other cases German resistance against the warmongers follows similar paths.
    Some EU countries now lean on the German line, take the Czechs, who let their embassy open and host a mirror of the SANA website, and some more countries, like Italy, Austria and southeast Europe also follow largely the German line. Besides that, Germany has enforced harsh austerity policies in the EU, which causes huge problems for the warmonger desires for war, because their wars are expensive, but Germany doesn’t give them the money they need for that.
    Btw: have a look at the face of Nuland’s darling Yatsenyuk, who just visited Merkel to ask her for support – and likely billions of money to counter Putins proposal for Ukraine – for the Israeli designed regime change op in Ukraine:
    While there are usually few news about the reality of such meetings, sometimes you can read in the faces how the talks went.

  40. turcopolier says:

    The hubris involved is caused by a self-righteous delusion of world hegemonic control. pl

  41. Mark Kolmar says:

    It is worthwhile to aspire to the impossible. I feel this applies for any potential resolution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict or to the Syrian civil war. If John Kerry or Hillary Clinton look silly for their efforts, without they would be less noted and not much less silly.
    “The jihadis came to Syria to die for their faith. They should be assisted in that ambition.”
    They should be dissuaded, de-radicalized when possible, removed from that ambition, consistent with the safety of those who disabuse. The formulation above sounds too much like retribution or vengeance for this former Catholic boy.

  42. turcopolier says:

    mark Kolmar
    Those of us who understand the ME, Islam, the jihadis and Syria know that they cannot be “dissuaded, de-radicalized or removed from that ambition.” For them death on the “path of God” as they see it is more important than anything else. There is no way to deal with jihadis except with the sword. If you do not deal with them that way they will impose Wahhabist views of Sharia wherever they can. that is what happened in Anbar in our long war there. Eventually the Anbar tribes came to see that there own culture and view of Islam would be utterly destroyed if AQ were allowed to rule them. That is why the “Sons of Iraq” cooperated with the US in suppressing AQ there. The situation is much the same in Syria. There is no “making a deal” with these people. They actually believe. They think they are pursuing salvation. pl

  43. Petrous says:

    You have hit on the crux of the matter. ” All Iran all the time “.
    It has been that way since the Iranian revolution of 78/79 & multiple scare Riyadh got circa 1979 from its Shia minority. For which they blamed the Iranian Islamic Govt. The chess game in the region is driven mainly by this animosity towards Iran and the fear that should (or when) the sanctions are lifted their importance as an indispensable ally will be greatly weakened. Hopefully the US will find its way clear to pursue its own national security & economic imperatives and not those of others (often at the expense of its own).

  44. FB Ali says:

    Mark Kolmar,
    I fully agree with Col Lang re the only solution to the jihadi menace. Much as I hate to say it, there does not seem to be any other way of dealing with the hardcore ones (there are, of course, many on the fringes who have been swept up in the emotional current who could probably be deprogrammed). But the hard core of any jihadi movement can only be dealt with in one way – elimination.
    Currently in Pakistan the government is trying to set up negotiations with the jihadi insurgents. Their response: behead 23 paramilitary soldiers that they were holding as prisoners, and assassinate over a dozen policemen and an army officer.
    What do you do with such people?

  45. Poul says:

    Never forget the human capacity for hypocrisy.
    Social Liberals of Denmark would consider human rights above the Peace of Westphalia.
    In their eyes helping the “population” topple the dictatorial regime is just.

  46. confusedponderer says:

    I think what underlies American enthusiasm for regime change is a profound and pronounced unwillinness to engage with the world as it is.
    At its core it is still popular. American exceptionalism and America’s great power to US actors suggest an ability to shape the world according to America’s ideas of how it should be.
    There is not that much of a practical difference between the Obamaite R2Pers and the Bushmen. They’re essentially two kinds of the same utopian breed.
    Ron Suskind’s famous White House aide put it that way in the Bush years:
    The aide said that guys like me were “in what we call the reality-based community,” which he defined as people who “believe that solutions emerge from your judicious study of discernible reality.” I nodded and murmured something about enlightenment principles and empiricism. He cut me off. “That’s not the way the world really works anymore,” he continued. “We’re an empire now, and when we act, we create our own reality. And while you’re studying that reality — judiciously, as you will — we’ll act again, creating other new realities, which you can study too, and that’s how things will sort out. We’re history’s actors . . . and you, all of you, will be left to just study what we do.”
    The omnipotence complex on display there is still there.
    In my perception the Obamaites are not any less enthusiastic about regime change than were the Bushmen, they just think that with their civil society stuff and their skill at NGO powerd crowdrousing they’re smarter at it than the oafish Bushmen.
    You and I may think that engaging Assad is a reasonable thing based on the realities in Syria, but that doesn’t mean anything to them. They, like the Bushmen before them, try to reshape reality and in that new reality deposing Assad will result in a Free Syria, rid of the tyrrant Assad, and in which from the ashes a western style liberal democracy will emerge in which the Islamists will commit themselves to pluralism. And blossoms will blooom and everybody will live happily everafter.
    Of course, just as with Bush, the Likundiks among them pursue, on the side, their own delusions here, one of them being that weak arab neighbours make Israel stronger in relation (inevitably, and correctly), and by extension safer (and that’s where they drift into the delusional, given that Assad’s most potent opposition is Sunni Jihadis).
    The Bushmen and the R2Pers are utopians all the same and that is what makes them so prone to messy, dangerous and harmful policies that tend to needlessly get a lot of people killed.
    The destruction of Iraq under Bush or Libya under Obama come to mind. … Mr. Polk put it well when he alluded to Humpty Dumpty’s fate:
    Humpty Dumpty sat on a wall,
    Humpty Dumpty had a great fall,:
    All the King’s horses and all the King’s men,
    Couldn’t put Humpty together again.
    Regime change as a surrogate for a policy that adreses reality has always enjoyed bipatisan support in the US. I wonder the apparent thaw in US-Iranian relations is a sigh for change. I sure hope so. Except for that encouraging sign, there still has not been a reassessment of its efficacy.
    I think that European support for such policies, in places like Syria and, to my horror, in Ukraine – and that is a belated response to some of Babak’s earlier questions from other threads – is the result of transatlantic consensus building among elites, rathern than an outflow of actual police (re)considerations in Europe.

  47. steve says:

    @ Babak Makinejad
    “when did Syria become an enemy to the Europeans?”
    As far as I know, Syria was not an enemy to the Americans either. In fact, Syria cooperated with US policy against Al-Qaeda in the aftermath of 9-11. Beyond that, Assad consistently sought to ease tensions with both the US and Israel on a number of occasions, only to be rebuffed.

  48. confusedponderer says:

    is that report publicly acessible?

  49. Fred says:

    “consistent with the safety of those who disabuse.”
    Didn’t we just spend a decade trying that in Iraq and Afghanistan? I think the US should get out of the proselyting business.

  50. CP! Yes the report is available to all and can be retrieved virtually from the GAO.gov website. You might also subscribe to Steve Aftergood’s list-serve entitle SECRECY NEWS! Steve and the list-serve is sponored by the FAS [Federation of American Scientists]. In a recent post Steve gave some analysis of the recent GAO report.

  51. Babak Makkinejad says:

    If the old histories are to be believed; there were 4000 Hafiz-al Quran (Keepers of the Quran) among the soldiers of Al Ma’awiyah fighting Imam Ali.
    I suppose history is repeating itself again…

  52. Charles I says:

    Thanks for the SN reference, never heard of it.

  53. fanto says:

    CP, your thoughts are very similiar if not identic with the ones by Bacevich in his ‘Washington rules’ – he calls the american unwillingness to engage with the rest of the world – the ‘american provincionalism’. I also see similarities in your comment with the writings of Peter Scholl Latour, who’s writings I am sure you know better than me. I am thankful for this post and the great comments. Keep it up – maybe the rulers or their advisors will learn and follow the good sense coming from Colonels blog. For my part, I am spreading the word..

  54. Mark Kolmar says:

    Fred, Col. Lang, FB Ali, others —
    If the goal is to remove the threat of individual jihadis and Islamist totalitarianism generally, I simply mean that killing when it’s necessary still seems like the last option, and a failure in itself. I agree with the way FB Ali distinguishes between the hardcore, and others who are mixed up in a group or cause. These bad actors would be eliminated as a threat when captured. Others could have the potential to redeem themselves in some way or deprogram, and a few might even be turned into useful assets.

  55. turcopolier says:

    Mark Kolmar
    All the jihadis in Syria are hard core. pl

  56. Secrecy News is highly regarded on both a bipartisan and non-partisan basis.
    Disclosure: Steve and FAS maintain a website for me
    concerning Emergency Management and its historical development in the USA in the form of original documents. For a definition of EM see my permanent website at http://www.vacationlanegrp.com
    The FAS/FEMA link is:
    My interest in EM has consumed a lifetime of effort as I believe how the world’s oldest and richest democracy still existing conveys important messages to the rest of the world. BTW England experiencing several flooding now!

  57. Fred says:

    Are you volunteering to do the ‘deprogramming’ or to guard those you want to do the capturing, sorting and guarding for said deprogramming? I for one don’t think that is worth a single American life.

  58. CP!
    Eisenhower and JFK started the ball rolling!
    Iran and Viet Nam!

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