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Parry writes: "A problem with President Obama's plan to expand the war against ISIS into Syria was always the risk that Syrian air defenses might fire on U.S. warplanes, but now a source says Syria's President Assad has quietly agreed to permit strikes in some parts of Syria."

President Obama. (photo: AP)
President Obama. (photo: AP)

Reported US-Syrian Accord on Air Strikes

By Robert Parry, Consortium News

19 September 14


he Obama administration, working through the Russian government, has secured an agreement from the Syrian regime of Bashar al-Assad to permit U.S. airstrikes against Islamic State targets in parts of Syria, according to a source briefed on the secret arrangements.

The reported agreement would clear away one of the chief obstacles to President Barack Obama’s plan to authorize U.S. warplanes to cross into Syria to attack Islamic State forces – the concern that entering Syrian territory might prompt anti-aircraft fire from the Syrian government’s missile batteries.

The usual protocol for the U.S. military – when operating in territory without a government’s permission – is to destroy the air defenses prior to conducting airstrikes so as to protect American pilots and aircraft, as was done with Libya in 2011. However, in other cases, U.S. intelligence agencies have arranged for secret permission from governments for such attacks, creating a public ambiguity usually for the benefit of the foreign leaders while gaining the necessary U.S. military assurances.

In essence, that appears to be what is happening behind the scenes in Syria despite the hostility between the Obama administration and the Assad government. Obama has called for the removal of Assad but the two leaders find themselves on the same side in the fight against the Islamic State terrorists who have battled Assad’s forces while also attacking the U.S.-supported Iraqi government and beheading two American journalists.

In a national address last week, Obama vowed to order U.S. air attacks across Syria’s border without any coordination with the Syrian government, a proposition that Damascus denounced as a violation of its sovereignty. So, in this case, Syria’s behind-the-scenes acquiescence also might provide some politically useful ambiguity for Obama as well as Assad.

Yet, this secret collaboration may go even further and include Syrian government assistance in the targeting of the U.S. attacks, according to the source who spoke on condition of anonymity. That is another feature of U.S. military protocol in conducting air strikes – to have some on-the-ground help in pinpointing the attacks.

As part of its public pronouncements about the future Syrian attacks, the Obama administration sought $500 million to train “vetted” Syrian rebels to handle the targeting tasks inside Syria as well as to carry out military ground attacks. But that approach – while popular on Capitol Hill – could delay any U.S. airstrikes into Syria for months and could possibly negate Assad’s quiet acceptance of the U.S. attacks, since the U.S.-backed rebels share one key goal of the Islamic State, the overthrow of Assad’s relatively secular regime.

Just last month, Obama himself termed the strategy of arming supposedly “moderate” Syrian rebels “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.”

Obama’s point would seem to apply at least as much to having the “moderate” rebels face down the ruthless Islamic State jihadists who engage in suicide bombings and slaughter their captives without mercy. But this “fantasy” of the “moderate” rebels has a big following in Congress and on the major U.S. op-ed pages, so Obama has included the $500 million in his war plan despite the risk it poses to Assad’s acquiescence to American air attacks.

Neocon Wish List

Without Assad’s consent, the U.S. airstrikes might require a much wider U.S. bombing campaign to first target Syrian government defenses, a development long sought by Official Washington’s influential neoconservatives who have kept “regime change” in Syria near the top of their international wish list.

For the past several years, the Israeli government also has sought the overthrow of Assad, even at the risk of Islamic extremists gaining power. The Israeli thinking had been that Assad, as an ally of Iran, represented a greater threat to Israel because his government was at the center of the so-called Shiite crescent reaching from Tehran through Damascus to Beirut and southern Lebanon, the base for Hezbollah.

The thinking was that if Assad’s government could be pulled down, Iran and Hezbollah – two of Israel’s principal “enemies” – would be badly damaged. A year ago, then-Israeli Ambassador to the United States Michael Oren articulated this geopolitical position in an interview with the Jerusalem Post.

“The greatest danger to Israel is by the strategic arc that extends from Tehran, to Damascus to Beirut. And we saw the Assad regime as the keystone in that arc,” Oren said. “We always wanted Bashar Assad to go, we always preferred the bad guys who weren’t backed by Iran to the bad guys who were backed by Iran.” He said this was the case even if the other “bad guys” were affiliated with al-Qaeda.

More recently, however, with the al-Qaeda-connected Nusra Front having seized Syrian territory adjacent to the Israeli-occupied Golan Heights – forcing the withdrawal of UN peacekeepers – the balance of Israeli interests may be tipping in favor of preferring Assad to having Islamic extremists possibly penetrating directly into Israeli territory.

Direct attacks on Israel would be a temptation to al-Nusra Front, which is competing for the allegiance of young jihadists with the Islamic State. While the Islamic State, known by the acronyms ISIS or ISIL, has captured the imaginations of many youthful extremists by declaring the creation of a “caliphate” with the goal of driving Western interests from the Middle East, al-Nusra could trump that appeal by actually going on the offensive against one of the jihadists’ principal targets, Israel.

Yet, despite Israel’s apparent rethinking of its priorities, America’s neocons appear focused still on their long-held strategy of using violent “regime change” in the Middle East to eliminate governments that have been major supporters of Lebanon’s Hezbollah and Palestine’s Hamas, i.e. Syria and Iran.

One reason why Obama may have opted for a secretive overture to the Assad regime, using intelligence channels with the Russians as the middlemen, is that otherwise the U.S. neocons and their “liberal interventionist” allies would have howled in protest.

The Russian Hand

Besides the tactical significance of U.S. intelligence agencies arranging Assad’s tacit acceptance of U.S. airstrikes over Syrian territory, the reported arrangement is also significant because of the role of Russian intelligence serving as the intermediary.

That suggests that despite the U.S.-Russian estrangement over the Ukraine crisis, the cooperation between President Obama and Russian President Vladimir Putin has not been extinguished; it has instead just gone further underground.

Last year, this subterranean collaboration between Obama and Putin represented a potential tectonic geopolitical shift in the Middle East. In the short term, their teamwork produced agreements that averted a U.S. military strike against Syria last September (by getting Assad to surrender his chemical weapons arsenal) and struck a tentative deal with Iran to constrain but not eliminate its nuclear program.

In the longer term, by working together to create political solutions to various Mideast crises, the Obama-Putin cooperation threatened to destroy the neocons’ preferred strategy of escalating U.S. military involvement in the region. There was the prospect, too, that the U.S.-Russian tag team might strong-arm Israel into a peace agreement with the Palestinians.

So, starting last September – almost immediately after Putin helped avert a U.S. air war against Syria – key neocons began taking aim at Ukraine as a potential sore point for Putin. A leading neocon, Carl Gershman, president of the U.S.-government-funded National Endowment for Democracy, took to the op-ed pages of the neocon Washington Post to identify Ukraine as “the biggest prize” and explaining how its targeting could undermine Putin’s political standing inside Russia.

“Ukraine’s choice to join Europe will accelerate the demise of the ideology of Russian imperialism that Putin represents,” Gershman wrote. “Russians, too, face a choice, and Putin may find himself on the losing end not just in the near abroad but within Russia itself.” At the time, Gershman’s NED was funding scores of political and media projects inside Ukraine.

By early 2014, American neocons and their “liberal interventionist” pals were conspiring “to midwife” a coup to overthrow Ukraine’s elected President Viktor Yanukovych, according to a phrase used by U.S. Ambassador Geoffrey Pyatt in an intercepted phone conversation with Assistant Secretary of State for European Affairs Victoria Nuland, who was busy handpicking leaders to replace Yanukovych.

A neocon holdover from George W. Bush’s administration, Nuland had been a top aide to Vice President Dick Cheney and is married to prominent neocon Robert Kagan, a co-founder of the Project for a New American Century which prepared the blueprint for the neocon strategy of “regime change” starting with the 2003 U.S.-led invasion of Iraq.

The U.S.-backed coup ousted Yanukovych on Feb. 22 and sparked a bloody civil war, leaving thousands dead, mostly ethnic Russians in eastern Ukraine. But the Gershman-Nuland strategy also drove a deep wedge between Obama and Putin, seeming to destroy the possibility that their peace-seeking collaboration would continue in the Middle East.

New Hope for ‘Regime Change’

The surprise success of Islamic State terrorists in striking deep inside Iraq during the summer revived neocon hopes that their “regime change” strategy in Syria might also be resurrected. By baiting Obama to react with military force not only in Iraq but across the border in Syria, neocons like Sens. John McCain and Lindsey Graham put the ouster of Assad back in play.

In a New York Times op-ed on Aug. 29, McCain and Graham used vague language about resolving the Syrian civil war, but clearly implied that Assad must go. They 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 was 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: a necessary step in the U.S. military operation against ISIS must be “regime change” in Damascus.

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 always meant to follow. The idea was to deprive Israel’s close-in enemies, Lebanon’s Hezbollah and Palestine’s Hamas, of crucial support. But the neocon vision got knocked off track when Bush’s Iraq War derailed and the American people balked at extending the conflict to Syria and Iran.

Still, the neocons retained their vision even after Bush and Cheney departed. They remained influential by holding onto key positions inside Official Washington – at think tanks, within major news outlets and even inside the Obama administration. They also built a crucial alliance with “liberal interventionists” who had Obama’s ear.

The neocons’ new hope 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 it was hard to envision expanding the war into Syria without ousting Assad.

Now, however, if the source’s account is correct regarding Assad’s quiet assent to U.S. airstrikes, Obama may have devised a way around the need to bomb Assad’s military, a maneuver that might again frustrate the neocons’ beloved goal of “regime change. your social media marketing partner


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+26 # Radscal 2014-09-19 15:30
I suspect the NeoCons and Israel will continue to work to overthrow the Assad government. Mr. Parry has provided some of the best journalism in the States on what's really been happening in Ukraine, but unlike Mr. Parry, I do not believe that President Obama is a naive innocent who is consistently out-smarted by those NeoCons. Observe how Mr. Parry once again implies such:

"A neocon holdover from George W. Bush’s administration, Nuland had been a top aide to Vice President Dick Cheney and is married to prominent neocon Robert Kagan…"

Yes, Vickie "Yats is the guy" Nuland had been in the Bush II Administration and is as intimately tied to the NeoCons as is possible, but a "holdover?" No, she was not "held over." She was no longer in the Executive office after Obama took office, but was appointed to a new position as Asst. Sec. of State BY Pres. Obama, on the recommendation of Ms. Clinton.

Refusing to accept the Obama Administration ties to the NeoCons allowed them to "regime change" 3 of the 7 countries Rumsfeld planned in 2002 without outrage by the "liberals," and will guarantee that Syria is the next on that list to fall, leaving only Iran left to "Mission Accomplish."
+15 # wantrealdemocracy 2014-09-19 19:27
The extent of the "Mission Accomplish" has extended since the 2002 list to include Russia---and then China. The United States wants to be the super power for ever and will attempt to knock down any nation that has a chance of replacing the US as the Hegemonic New World Order. What do you think all these lies about the Russians shooting down a plane are about if not a reason to attack Russia who did not invade Ukraine. What is the 'pivot to the east' if it is not in preparation for a war against China?

We must get our government under the control of the people of this nation before they start World War III which will be the end of us all.
+15 # Radscal 2014-09-19 19:54
Yep. In a way, the NeoCon agenda was "thinking small" in focusing on the Muslim world. Brzezenski, Kissinger, et al had been laying out the plans to marginalize Russia and then "Balkanize" it, and finally to contain China. And that is exactly what we see happening.

If it's still possible to take the country peacefully, I think the key is eliminating the bribery systemic to our politics. Short of that, I don't see the current owners changing course.
+4 # ritawalpoleague 2014-09-20 04:23
Obama and his administration: the...


Let's not put yet another bought off pol. puppet clown, Hill the Shill, into office to keep in place this evil mess. Naïve and/or innocent is this pres. I now call OH BOMB AH? Hell no !!!
+1 # RobertMStahl 2014-09-20 09:55
Don't forget, this is about the dollar versus the BRICS, where the bleeding ulcer of internal corruption within Russia is what may bring down the BRICS as a whole, thus the attack on Ukraine and Putin, the lies and the forgeries, the expansion of NATO in terms of nuclear war hegemony. This is what this insanity pivots on.

Anyone following the manipulation of the marketplace vis-a-vis the manipulation of gold/silver naked shorts?
+2 # Radscal 2014-09-20 11:09
Yeah, attempting to establish a multinational trade currency to compete with the Federal Reserve petrodollar has never been welcomed by the US.
+2 # motamanx 2014-09-20 12:38
Have you already forgotten the Republican dweebs (some might even say criminals) who inhabited the White House just one administration ago, whose lies got us into this mess?
+4 # Terry5135 2014-09-20 06:29
Quoting Radscal:
...but unlike Mr. Parry, I do not believe that President Obama is a naive innocent who is consistently out-smarted by those NeoCons.

That's very reminiscent of the PM of Serbia prior to WWI having such strong ties with the regicical group, "the Black Hand", but at an arms length. That was the group that armed, trained, and facilitated border crossing for a team of assassins to go after the Archduke Ferdinand in Sarajevo. One of their leaders was a ranking military officer, nicknamed Apis, who held a government position. Of course, the PM, Pasic, denied any foreknowledge of an assassination plot and there was no investigation on the Serbian side of the border; plus France and Russia had already decided, before the investigation going on in Sarajevo, had even come close to being completed, that Serbia had nothing to do with it (they made it clear that any contrary findings would be disbelieved, in advance) and that if Austria-Hungary acted aggressively toward Serbia, they'd consider it cause for war.

Of course, they got their war, they got Yugoslavia out of it and to add irony to irony, in 1917, Apis and a couple of others were put to death (after a joke of a show trial from which most members went free). So, don't despair, maybe some leading neocons will be executed three years from now, after the war with Russia starts. I know who they can start with!

Pasic knew very well who they were...out of space, but I agree with you about Obama.
+2 # Radscal 2014-09-20 11:11
Interesting. Thanks for the info/analysis.
+6 # jamander4 2014-09-19 18:54
The real news is the US asked Assad before bombing Syria. If you want to talk about someone keeping this quiet look at the Obama administration. If similar quiet arraigments can be made with the Russians and Iraians there is a small chance that Obamas plan will work.
-13 # margpark 2014-09-19 19:28
Why on earth can't we just let the Syrian army and ISIS kill each other? If we bomb ISIS in Syria we are on Assad's side. Only we have always been on the side of the revolution.
+12 # Radscal 2014-09-19 20:04
If the U.S. hadn't fomented the "Civil War" in Syria when Ambassador Robert Ford arrived in 2011, and then shipped arms, and "rebels" from Libya there would be no ISIL nor a war against Syria.
+19 # REDPILLED 2014-09-19 20:23
"Only we have always been on the side of the revolution."

PLEASE, PLEASE read some true history!!! The U.S. has been the most anti-democratic , counter-revolut ionary Empire in history!

First, see this: Overthrowing other people’s governments: The Master List – William Blum

Then read books by William Blum, Noam Chomsky, Chalmers Johnson, John Perkins, and John Pilger exposing how the U.s., since the late 19th century, has overthrown elected governments and expanded its oppressive world empire.
0 # BKnowswhitt 2014-09-20 21:17
That would be good. However Isis became so big and powerful they took over the cities in Iraq killing all innocents in their path. Obama is the best politician and best we have given the current environment .. he helped get rid of Ghadafi post the Arab Spring and now waited until public opinion drove him to do the present .. he's laid off the debacle in Syria amidst the cries of the Neocons .. He can't diminish Isis without hitting the Syrian version as well .. brilliant politically .. and morally he's on solid ground .. they were going to slaughter thousands without the US intervention .. and I personally don't see this as somehow Obama or USA is supporting the regime of Assad .. hey they'll get out of our way or then we'll take out their bases first ...
+9 # RMDC 2014-09-19 20:16
We will see pretty soon if this report turns out to be true. Obama and his European colonialists have made it very clear that they are still committed to regime change in Syria and they are not fighting ISIS because in order to help Syria.

My bet is that the US DOES bomb Syria's defenses and within a very short time becomes ISIS's air force, giving them cover for a ground assault on Damascus. This is what happened in Libya. In Yugoslavia, the US became the KLA's air force.

But we will have to see.

If ISIS is defeated and all killed as Obama has been saying, then Syria should have no trouble wiping out the rest of the "rebels" (i.e., terrorists). Obama does not want that.

Obama is insane. He can stand up on TV and promise to kill outright about 20,000 people. What makes him any better than ISIS or any mass murderer from history? I clearly hate ISIS but I can't have any respect for someone who pledged to kill them all. After all, ISIS is Obama's proxy army.
+7 # fredboy 2014-09-19 21:03
Got to admit this is fascinating. Syria was the enemy, and now it's the ally. Switching back and forth, we almost need a score sheet to keep up with all this.
+6 # shraeve 2014-09-19 23:43
You never read "1984"?
+5 # Walter J Smith 2014-09-20 07:30
This is an appropriate question. After all, the GWB-Cheney liars seduced Judith Miller into believing their fairy tales and a host of other competent reporters.
0 # RMDC 2014-09-21 06:16
shraeve -- oh, you mean the neo-con bible. Everyone has read it but only the neo-cons take it literally.
+3 # Walter J Smith 2014-09-20 07:29
Machiavelli wrote effectively about smart diplomacy a few centuries ago.
+6 # Walter J Smith 2014-09-20 07:28
If Robert Parry hasn't been taken in by some smooth talking Obama folks, this is impressive. It suggests that Obama is finally finding out that obediently following the advice of the stupid neoconazis is not always wise.

And, if that is an appropriate interpretation of the events, it is about time. After all, Obama began following the neoconazis when he appointed Rahm Emmanuel his first Chief of Staff, and, following RE's advice, threw the entire US Treasury at the Wall Street thugs. Obama thereby prevented the US economy from recovering, and wasted his enormous political capital along the way.

From this he may not ever recover his self respect until after the US has followed the GOP crazies for another while.

It was the Clinton's who saturated the upper tiers of the D party with neoconazis. And it behooves us all to pay attention to that.

It is the neoconazis who pushed the D Party candidate out of the Kansas Senate race, so their money grubber could win against the GOP thug there.
+3 # motamanx 2014-09-20 12:33
If some mean, masked vigilantes in, say, Arizona organized a series of raids on, say, New Mexico or Utah--would the Syrian air force fly over and bomb them?
+5 # RMDC 2014-09-20 13:53
motamanx -- Syria would have every right to. Remmber the principle supported by the UN Security Council following a US proposal about the Responsibility to Protect -- R2P. All nations have the responsibility and right to protect people who have been attacked by a vicious force, even their own government. Hell, I think the Syrians had a responsiblity to bomb the Ferguson police department.
+3 # PABLO DIABLO 2014-09-20 13:57
Get the neocons out of "our" government. They and their corporate sponsors make money off of war. We pay.
THANK YOU Robert Parry for all you have given us. Let's hear more about natural gas pipelines.
+1 # elizabethblock 2014-09-20 15:26
Remember when Dubya said he wanted a democratic, pro-America government in Iraq? It was an oxymoron then, and it's one now.
As for R2P, I don't call it Responsibility to Protect. I call it Permission to Invade.
+3 # elizabethblock 2014-09-20 15:26
And I offer, for the use of anyone who wants to use it, a new acronym (just what we need!): FTL, Frequently Told Lies.
0 # A.E. Newman 2014-09-21 07:37
Parry is an excellent writer and always has an interesting angle, but, as in the Sy Hersh school of spoofy journalism, you rarely get a look at his sources. One would have to be pretty much a total sucker to buy into an unsourced story, no matter how skilled the writing is or how sound the logic seems. This is all Judith Miller style reporting favored by FOX.

Parry and the entire online/offline universe of writers have totally ignored the main Assad-is-a-boge y-man meme that has been used by Obama and the neocons to call for Assad’s removal – and that is the alleged sarin attack allegedly carried out by Assad in Ghouta a year ago that allegedly killed hundreds of children and 2000 in total. Just a year ago Obama and Kerry were going red in the face calling Assad a “monster” for “gassing his own people,” and that graphic meme is now the elephant in the room that everybody ignores. Parry is telling us that Obama is going to make nice with the monster who gassed his own people? How will that play out in the neo-con press: “Obama climbs into bed with monster who gassed hundreds of Syrian kids.” I don’t think so.
+1 # A.E. Newman 2014-09-21 07:41
If Obama is going to get into bed with Assad to take out ISIS, the first indication we should see will be the administration reversing itself on the Ghouta allegations. It looks like that is already happening. Read between the lines – or rather, look at what lines are missing in Obama’s present justification for going into Syria. After months and months of sarin-centered vitriol last year, there has not been a word out of the administration about Ghouta in the last few months. Not even the rabid McCain and Graham are beating that dead horse at this point.

The pharmacological /toxicological evidence is very clear: Assad did not gas those people in Ghouta. They were gassed by the opposition/insu rgents using carbon monoxide and/or cyanide. Obama knows that, and before he tag-teams with Assad against ISIS, Obama’s people are going to have to set that record straight, which means eating big-time crow.

If Parry is right and there will be an Obama/Assad collusion against ISIS, then Obama has two options: 1) be seen as climbing into bed with a vile kiddie-killer; or, 2) execute a serious flip-flop on who was responsible for the Ghouta Massacre and lay the blame where it belongs; i.e., on the vile Insurgent Salafists in Syria aka ISIS.

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