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Parry writes: "Official Washington's ever-influential neoconservatives and their 'liberal interventionist' allies see President Barack Obama's decision to extend U.S. airstrikes against Islamic State terrorists into Syria as a new chance to achieve the long-treasured neocon goal of 'regime change' in Damascus."

Senators McCain and Graham held hearings on regime change in Syria. (photo: Getty Images)
Senators McCain and Graham held hearings on regime change in Syria. (photo: Getty Images)

Neocons Revive Syria 'Regime Change' Plan

By Robert Parry, Consortium News

12 September 14


fficial Washington’s ever-influential neoconservatives and their “liberal interventionist” allies see President Barack Obama’s decision to extend U.S. airstrikes against Islamic State terrorists into Syria as a new chance to achieve the long-treasured neocon goal of “regime change” in Damascus.

On the surface, Obama’s extraordinary plan to ignore Syrian sovereignty and attack across the border has been viewed as a unilateral U.S. action to strike at the terrorist Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS), but it could easily evolve into a renewed effort to overthrow Bashar al-Assad’s government, ironically one of ISIS’s principal goals.

ISIS began as part of the Sunni resistance to George W. Bush’s invasion of Iraq which had elevated Iraq’s Shiite majority to power. Then known as “al-Qaeda in Iraq,” the terrorist group stoked a sectarian war by slaughtering Shiites and bombing their mosques.

Changing its name to ISIS, the group shifted to Syria where it joined with U.S.-backed rebels seeking to overthrow Assad’s regime which was dominated by Alawites, a branch of Shiite Islam. Then, this summer, ISIS returned to Iraq where it routed Iraqi government forces in a series of battles and conducted public executions, including beheading two U.S. journalists.

In his national address Wednesday, Obama said he will order U.S. air attacks across Syria’s border without any coordination with the Syrian government, a proposition that Damascus has denounced as a violation of its sovereignty. Thus, the argument will surely soon be heard in Washington that Assad’s government must be removed as a military prerequisite so the attacks on ISIS can proceed. Otherwise, there could be a threat to U.S. aircraft from Syria’s air defenses.

That would get the neocons back on their original track of forcing “regime change” in countries seen as hostile to Israel. The first target was Iraq with Syria and Iran to follow. The goal was to deprive Israel’s close-in enemies, Lebanon’s Hezbollah and Palestine’s Hamas, of crucial support. The neocon vision got knocked off track when Bush’s Iraq War derailed and the American people balked at the idea of extending the conflict to Syria and Iran.

But the neocons never gave up on their vision. They simply kept at it, clinging to key positions inside Official Washington and recruiting “liberal interventionists” to the “regime change” cause. The neocons remained focused on Syria and Iran with hopes of getting U.S. bombing campaigns going against both countries.

The neocons’ new hope has now arrived with the public outrage over ISIS’s atrocities. Yet, while pushing to get this new war going, the neocons have downplayed their “regime change” agenda, getting Obama to agree only to extend his anti-ISIS bombing campaign from Iraq into Syria. But “regime change” in Damascus has remained a top neocon priority.

In a New York Times op-ed on Aug. 29, neocon Senators John McCain and Lindsey Graham avoided the “r-c” phrase couching their words about Syria’s civil war in the vague language of resolving the conflict, but clearly meaning that Assad must go.

The hawkish pair wrote that thwarting ISIS “requires an end to the [civil] conflict in Syria, and a political transition there, because the regime of President Bashar al-Assad will never be a reliable partner against ISIS; in fact, it has abetted the rise of ISIS, just as it facilitated the terrorism of ISIS’ predecessor, Al Qaeda in Iraq.”

Though the McCain-Graham depiction of Assad’s relationship to ISIS and al-Qaeda is a distortion at best – in fact, Assad’s army has been the most effective force in pushing back against the Sunni terrorist groups that have come to dominate the Western-backed rebel movement – the op-ed’s underlying point is obvious: an initial step in the U.S. military operation against ISIS must be “regime change” in Damascus.

Neocon Sleight-of-Hand

The neocons are also back to their old sleight-of-hand conflating the terrorists fighting the Assad government with the Assad government. In the op-ed, McCain and Graham cite Secretary of Homeland Security Jeh Johnson supposedly calling “Syria ‘a matter of homeland security’” – when he actually said in the linked speech from last February:

“We are very focused on foreign fighters heading to Syria. Based on our work and the work of our international partners, we know individuals from the U.S., Canada and Europe are traveling to Syria to fight in the conflict. At the same time, extremists are actively trying to recruit Westerners, indoctrinate them, and see them return to their home countries with an extremist mission.”

In other words, “Syria” was not the problem cited by Johnson but rather the “foreign fighters heading to Syria” and the possibility that they might “return to their home countries with an extremist mission.” The distinction is important, but McCain and Graham want to blur the threat to confuse Americans into seeing “Syria” as the problem, not the extremists.

A similar approach was taken by Ambassador to the United Nations Samantha Power, one of the Obama administration’s top liberal war hawks. On Sept. 4, she sought to conflate recent allegations that Assad may not have surrendered all his chemical weapons with the possibility that any remaining weapons might fall into the hands of ISIS terrorists.

“Certainly if there are chemical weapons left in Syria, there will be a risk” that they could end up in the hands of ISIS, Power said. “And we can only imagine what a group like that would do if in possession of such a weapon.”

If any of these rhetorical tactics are ringing a bell, it’s because they are reminiscent of how the neocons frightened the American people into supporting the Iraq War in 2002-03. Back then, Bush administration officials blended unsubstantiated claims about Iraq’s WMDs with the prospect of them being shared with al-Qaeda.

In both cases – Iraq then and Syria now – the existence of those dangerous chemical weapons was in serious doubt and, even if they did exist, the two governments – of Saddam Hussein then and Bashar al-Assad now – were hostile to the Sunni fundamentalists in al-Qaeda and now its spinoff, ISIS.

Yet, this effort to confuse the American public – by manipulating their lack of knowledge about the power relationships in the Middle East – might work once more, by putting “black hats” on both Assad and ISIS and blurring the fact that they are bitter enemies.

In the weeks ahead, Assad also will surely be portrayed as obstructing the U.S. attacks on ISIS. He likely will be blamed for a lack of cooperation with the airstrikes even though it was the Obama administration that refused to coordinate with Assad’s government.


Among anti-neocon “realists” inside the U.S. intelligence community, the concern about how these airstrikes into Syria might lead to dangerous mission creep is so great that I’m told that some senior analysts are even suspicious of President Obama’s repeated use of the acronym “ISIL” – for the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant – instead of the more common “ISIS,” referring only to Iraq and Syria.

The concern is that “the Levant” suggests a larger area including all “Mediterranean lands east of Italy,” that theoretically could include everything from Turkey to Palestine and Jordan to parts of Egypt. One source said inclusion of the phrase “ISIL,” instead of “ISIS,” in any “use of force” resolution could be significant by creating a possibility of a much wider war.

In his speech to the nation on Wednesday, Obama continued to use the acronym “ISIL” but his references to U.S. military operations were limited to Iraq and Syria.

The most controversial part of Obama’s speech was his open declaration to conduct cross-border attacks into Syria in clear violation of international law. He also vowed to increase military support for rebels fighting to overthrow the Assad government.

Obama declared that “we have ramped up our military assistance to the Syrian opposition” and he requested additional resources from Congress. He added: “We must strengthen the opposition as the best counterweight to extremists like ISIL, while pursuing the political solution necessary to solve Syria’s crisis once and for all,” a further suggestion that “regime change” is again in play.

Exactly what Obama thinks he can get from the Syrian opposition is a mystery, since he himself stated in an interview just last month that the notion that arming the supposedly “moderate” rebels would have made a difference in Syria has “always been a fantasy.”

He told the New York Times’ Thomas L. Friedman: “This idea that we could provide some light arms or even more sophisticated arms to what was essentially an opposition made up of former doctors, farmers, pharmacists and so forth, and that they were going to be able to battle not only a well-armed state but also a well-armed state backed by Russia, backed by Iran, a battle-hardened Hezbollah, that was never in the cards.”

Nevertheless, Obama has now trotted out that old “fantasy” in connection with his plan to extend the war against ISIS into Syria. Obama also knows that many of the previous Syrian “moderates” who received U.S. weapons later unveiled themselves to be Islamists who repudiated the U.S.-backed opposition and allied themselves with al-Qaeda’s affiliate in Syria, al-Nusra Front.

What’s Up?

Given that record – and Obama’s knowledge of it – what is one to make of the deceptive formulation that he presented to the American people on Wednesday night?

One explanation could be that Obama plans a more direct – albeit secretive – U.S. role in removing Assad and putting a new regime into power in Damascus. Or Obama might be simply pandering to the neocons and liberal hawks who would have gone berserk if he had acknowledged the obvious, that the smart play is to work quietly with Assad to defeat ISIS and al-Nusra Front.

The other smart play might be for Obama to resume his behind-the-scenes cooperation with Russian President Vladimir Putin who helped engineer Syria’s agreement to surrender its chemical weapons arsenal last year and who could presumably broker a quiet agreement between Obama and Assad to allow the U.S. airstrikes now.

Though the U.S. neocons and “liberal interventionists” exploited the Ukraine crisis to drive a wedge between the two leaders, Obama might want to reconsider that estrangement and accept the help of Russia – as well as Iran – in achieving a goal that they all agree on: defeating ISIS and other Sunni terrorist groups.

Yet, in Wednesday’s speech, Obama seemed to go out of his way to insult Putin by decrying “Russian aggression” in Ukraine where the U.S. government has accused Moscow of violating Ukraine’s sovereignty by crossing the border into eastern Ukraine and aiding ethnic Russian rebels.Obama claimed that Washington’s own intervention in Ukraine was “in support of the Ukrainian peoples’ right to determine their own destiny.”

Yet the realities in Kiev, whose government is backed by the U.S., and in Damascus, whose government is despised by Washington, have eerie parallels. In Syria, Assad, a longtime dictator, won a recent election that was truncated by civil strife. In Ukraine, the current government was established by a February coup d’etat that overthrew an elected president and is now headed by a president elected by only a portion of the population, excluding much of the rebellious east.

Yet, in one country – Ukraine – the United States says outside intervention even by a neighbor to protect a population under military assault is illegal “aggression,” while in the other country – Syria – it is entirely okay for the United States to send its military halfway around the world, cross Syria’s borders to carry out bombing raids while also arming militants to overthrow the internationally recognized government.

Typically, neither Obama nor the U.S. mainstream press made note of the hypocrisy. But the bigger question now is will the neocons hijack Obama’s bombing campaign against ISIS in Syria to achieve one of their most beloved goals, regime change in Damascus. your social media marketing partner


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+23 # Maturus 2014-09-12 11:39
The US has only one policy: 'do as we say'. This policy removes any possibility of being accused of hypocrisy and does not require any degree of consistency. It is, of course, the policy of world fascism.
+8 # Douglas Jack 2014-09-12 15:37
Carla Del Ponte chief UN weapons inspector in Syria found only western supported 'mercenaries' used Sarin-gas in False-Flag deception against civilians for western MSM info-tainment. US, Canada, NATO, Israel & Saudi as financiers of ISIS, are war-crime accomplices.

Western psychotic self-justified murder is a world crisis. Obama is a puppet-characte r, completely malleable in the hands of Finance-Media-M ilitary-Industr ial-Legislative -Complex trillionaire oligarchs who finance western atrocities & wars.

ISIL as an acronym including Levant, targets Israel, an ill conceived faux-pas against it's major arms merchant-suppli er, so thus change of name to ISIS targeting Syria. Western war oligarchs including Israel are destabilizing all Muslim nations so are willing in the short term to finance enemies if they can destroy organized secular governments. Even NATO surveys give Assad 75% popular support, which the last election confirmed.

US funded Mujahideen led to Al-CIAda leads to ISIL/ISIS. All are our destabilization proxies. The Infamous "Oded Yinon Plan". Introduction by Michel Chossudovsky

Humanity must require all in & behind conflict to meet perceived enemies in open publicized Both-sides, equal-time, recorded & published dialogues where truth can give us all a path forward.
+23 # torch and pitchfork 2014-09-12 13:36
When are these neocons going to realize that as long as we continue to plot "regime change" in their lands, they'll do the same to us.
+13 # Radscal 2014-09-12 15:17
The NeoCons have known this all along. It's part of their business plan.
+24 # arquebus 2014-09-12 13:46
A bit of real politik here....we should ally with Assad and the Iranians...if they put the end to ISIS. Then come home.
+10 # Citizen Mike 2014-09-12 18:53
Quoting arquebus:
A bit of real politik here....we should ally with Assad and the Iranians...if they put the end to ISIS. Then come home.

I agree completely, this is what I would have said.
+24 # LeeBlack 2014-09-12 13:53
Neocons took us into war in Iraq which is why we have the current Middle East situation. They should, like old soldiers, just fade away. The fact that the news media is giving them voice and credibility is ludicrous and disappointing.
+10 # Kev C 2014-09-12 13:57
Knew they would find an alternative way to force regime change on Syria. Then its non stop for Iran and their oil. After all Syria and Iran are friend nations. And the neocons have shares in the military industrial complex and the US military is the biggest single consumer of oil derived products in the world and the neocons have shares in that too. Hence the oil in Iran.
-20 # hannibal 2014-09-12 14:13
...and what is wrong supporting Israel which is the only democracy in the region and despite the political arguments that may fly back and forth between the US and Israel, A VERY strong alley and a fervent supporter of the US.

In addition, many new products and drugs are coming out of this country because of all the brain power it has. This has been recognized by the US silicon valley by the Israeli version of it which contains almost the very same organizations. If Israel were not important to the well being of all those companies, do you think they would be there?

Without Israel exactly where it is, The US and the world would be far worse off than it is now and even more so in the future.

The amount of aide we give Israel is a paultry sum of our GDP and gets back a huge interest in both intellectual property and a scientific and medical bonanza.
+9 # Maturus 2014-09-12 14:29
Israel as "A VERY strong alley" is a dead-end as far as the rest of the world is concerned.

And no offence, Hannibal, but I would hazard a guess that a "paultry sum" was spent on your English lessons.
+10 # jdd 2014-09-12 17:09
Nothing wrong with supporting the right of Israel to exist as a nation. However, that does not mean supporting its takeover of Palestnian land, genocide against an occupied people, support for reactionary monarchies, arming of jihadists, and subversion of stable Arab nationalist governments, or does it?

PS Isarel is the largest recipient of US foreign, the use to which it wasut was recently shown to the world in Gaza. The yearly sum exceeds the total of Obama's much ballyhooed "race to the Top" education fund. Paultry indeed.
+2 # Douglas Jack 2014-09-13 10:40
jdd. Good statement but you'll be sad to know that your description of what apartheid Israel, USA, Canada & NATO countries do as colonies is exactly what hannibal means by "democracy".
BTW The semitic Hebrew & Phoenician word 'Hannibal' means Punic Hannibha'al, literally "my favor is with Baal" Baal extends back to the 14th century BCE among the ancient Semitic peoples, the descendants of Shem, the oldest son of Biblical Noah. Semitic is more of a linguistic classification than a racial one. Thus, people speaking the same or similar languages first worshiped Baal in his many forms. The word 'Baal' means "master" or "owner". In ancient religions the name denoted sun, lord or god.
+15 # harleysch 2014-09-12 14:32
I think it is about time for Mr. Parry to stop trying to distinguish between Obama and the neo-cons. Whatever masturbatory fantasies dominate the neo-cons love of war, it would matter very little, if the President stood up against them.

The reality is that he does not. Regime change in Syria has been Obama's policy for 3 years. In his Wednesday night speech, he again went out of his way -- as Parry notes -- to call the removal of Assad a U.S. goal, i.e., regime change.

It is clear, Mr. Parry, that you know that Obama is a liar, and that there is no difference between the rantings of McCain, the "neo-con", and Power, the "liberal interventionist ." Were Obama really opposed to war, he could have crushed the neo-cons the day he came into office, when he was riding high, and they were weighted down by the crimes of Bush and Cheney.

Sadly, that did not occur.
+10 # Archie1954 2014-09-12 14:34
This article is the first of many I hope that will cut through the gross hypocrisy and relate the truth of the machinations behind the various confrontations taking place around the World. The only common thread in all of these violent situations is the US throwing its weight around. Doesn't that sound familiar?
+12 # Radscal 2014-09-12 15:16
Quote from article:
"Obama declared that “we have ramped up our military assistance to the Syrian opposition” and he requested additional resources from Congress.

There is no longer any doubt that there has never been a line demarcating the "moderate rebels" from ISIL/ISIS/IS/al Nusra. The U.S. has been funding, arming and training these same Sunni "extremists" since Afghanistan, starting in 1979.

We create an insurgency, it serves our realpolitik goals, and we exterminate the cannon fodder.

Brilliant propaganda produced by ISIS and marketed in the corporate media has shifted public opinion from solid refusal to engage in more military adventures to a blood-thirsty demand to "do something."
+10 # Philothustra 2014-09-12 15:24
The US cannot "force regime change in Syria." The idea that Syria's battle-hardened army, after five decades of war with Israel, with an air force, tanks and chemical weapons, could be quickly displaced by a ragtag Sunni opposition was idiotic.

US "grand strategy" has blundered again, cementing Assad in power and strengthening the hand of Al-Qaeda/ISIS rebel forces, giving birth to the new black flag state in Iraq/northern Syria.\

Equally ridiculous is the proposed alliance of Iran, Syria, Baghdad and (yes!) the US in a "unity government" that will fight ISIS!

Every US war since Korea has backfired. Yet we still see idiot TV pundits from think tanks, and neocon lapdogs like McCain and Graham, explaining how we need another war.

Why? The arms industry, Halliburton "reconstruction " racketeers, and the Republican base directly benefit from having a gung-ho war project that employs dolts likely to vote for more military spending. Factcheck

"A Pew survey released last year showed post-9/11 veterans’ political leanings are the reverse of the public they’re serving: 36% described themselves as Republicans..."

US interference has destabilized Libya, Egypt, Syria and Iraq, fomenting global hatred of the US and Israel, and damaging US prestige around the world. In short, the US military project is treason. When traitors like Clapper and the CIA spy on allie, they humiliate & betray their own country. Obama's a helpless puppet of these racketeers.
+7 # AlWight 2014-09-12 21:34
As usual, Parry is right on, but how can the message get through to Obama. The hawks seem to have his ear, and are insulating him from sensible advice. We need to stay out of Syria until we know what is happening there. If Assad were overthrown, how would the new Sunni government treat the Alawites and other minorities? To defeat ISIS, we need a cooperative effort of the countries in the region, focusing on negotiation rather than the military. The U.S should not be perceived as taking the lead, expecting other nations to follow.
+4 # geraldom 2014-09-12 21:42
I don't believe that the Syrian government perpetrated the Sarin gas attack in the Ghouta area of Damascus on August 21, 2013, but a false-flag event perpetrated by the rebels with the full knowledge and backing of the United States in order to justify a U.S./NATO attack on Syria to force regime change, to oust Bashar Assad and replace him with an American puppet as we did in both Iraq and in Afghanistan.

There were enough citizens, not only in the U.S. but in many other countries, especially in the UK, who were so dead set against another war with another Mideast country that Obama had to accept the suggestion by Putin that Syria destroy all of the chemical weapons.

But, Syria was stupid to do so, especially if they were not the perpetrators of the Sarin gas attack. Now they have no real defense against an attack by the U.S and NATO unless Putin actually grows some real huevos and puts the Russian military between the U.S./NATO forces and Syria to protect one of its few allies it has left in the Middle East.
+2 # Activista 2014-09-13 11:51
SYria/Golan Heights: "“The attack on the Quneitra crossing wouldn’t have been possible had it not been for the alliance between Jabhat al-Nusra and the other armed groups. Israel has always paved the way for insurgent attacks, under the pretext of responding to fire from the Syrian army, by bombing the army’s sites in Tel Abu al-Nada and Tall Abu al-Faras to the south,” Kayal said.
" ..“Israel [is not targeting Syrian army positions] out of love for the opposition fighters. It only seeks to undermine the Syrian army in this region. Both Israel and the armed groups would benefit from international agreements that would limit the Syrian army military buildup and its use of air forces. "
aka Israel is supporting ISIL - to destroy Assad and Iran .. their sick enemy of my enemy is my friend ...
+1 # Activista 2014-09-14 11:55
Do NOT trust USraeli/ Peter Baker of The New York Times/Tel Aviv war propaganda - where is a video of Obama saying these words? Remember NYT forcing to invade Iraq as AIPAC ordered? Now it is war on Iran (that is fighting ISIS militants) as ordered from Tel Aviv.
"President Barack Obama would seek to overthrow the regime of Bashar al-Assad if American planes were attacked upon entering Syrian air space, Peter Baker of The New York Times reports .
If Assad's troops fired at American planes entering Syrian airspace, "Obama said he would order American forces to wipe out Syria’s air defense system," Baker reports. "He went on to say that such an action by Mr. Assad would lead to his overthrow, according to one account."
+1 # Activista 2014-09-14 11:58
Obama and Syrian rebels are friendly, and now the Syrian rebels and ISIS have signed an alliance against Assad....
Seems like a trap on Obama to destroy Syria and then Iran ...
0 # Douglas Jack 2014-09-14 20:19
Activista, Thank you for these pieces of information on this quickly evolving situation of American & Israeli aggression. This strategy of decoy aggression to cause Syria to protect its citizens & destabilization , which you are outlining is a violation of everything human.

This is a strong case of western intellectual-co wardice. At any time the west can invite ISIS to Both-sides, equal-time, recorded & published dialogue/debate with Iraq, Syria, US, Israel & Western leaders. The problem being the west's covert worldwide destabilization practices will not expose themselves to open public communications for the world to see. The west has so many skeletons in its closet including the financing & arming of ISIS as mercenaries.

ISIS being a western creation is a mirror of us in their violence although they are nowhere near to killing as many millions of people as we do in cold PNAC & Mossad blood for colonial geopolitical control.

Afghanistan Invasion 10th Anniversary: 5.6 Million War-related Deaths By Dr Gideon Polya Countercurrents .org

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