US Ruling Circles Split On Use of Jihadists in Syria

Executive editor and founder of Black Agenda Report Glen Ford says that objections to Russia’s bombing of Syria expose policy rifts within the U.S. ruling elite

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Story Transcript

JARED BALL, PRODUCER, TRNN: Welcome, everyone, back to the Real News Network. I’m Jared Ball here in Baltimore.

According to a report today from the BBC, NATO is now calling for Russia to end its days-long run of air strikes against Syria, saying that while Moscow claims to be targeting only the Islamic State and other Islamist positions it is, according to U.S.-led allies, opponents to Syria’s government who are Russia’s real targets. To help clarify some of what’s going on here and some of the political and historical context to this situation is Glen Ford in this edition of the Ford Report. Glen is executive editor and founder of BlackAgendaReport.com, and we welcome him back to the Real News. Glen, welcome back.

GLEN FORD, EXEC. EDITOR, BLACK AGENDA REPORT: Thank you for the opportunity.

BALL: So what is going on here? It almost sounds like a neo-Cold War indirect conflict of superpowers vying for colonial control over their property, or a fight over whose anti-Assad allies should be supported. What is going on?

FORD: Well, the United States and its allies are speaking gobbledygook, and Russia is speaking straight up plain international law truth. They’ve come to the aid of the recognized government of Syria, which is being attacked by proxies of other countries, the U.S., the Saudis, other Gulf states, and Turkey, in violation of international law. And the Russians say that they are not just defending the government that they have had relations with for decades. They are defending principles of international law. And the U.S. and its allies are violating international law, and the U.S. and its allies cannot draw some kind of red line around ISIS, the wayward jihadists that don’t want to take orders, and expect the Russians to only discipline their little bad boys and leave the other jihadists alone. That only makes sense to idiots like the New York Times and CNN and the rest.

BALL: But again, for those of us who have varying understandings of what’s happening here, it would seem like the U.S. would not have a problem with Assad’s territory being bombed, given that the U.S. and Obama’s administration in particular is no fan of Bashar al-Assad and his leadership there in Syria. Why then are they having a problem with what Russia’s doing, and to what extent are the problems that are claimed to be addressed there actually caused in their origin by the United States and its policies?

FORD: Well, the United States has, and Obama knows the United States has, problems that go beyond the Russian intervention. They have problems with their own policy, which has brought them to this state of affairs. And in a way the Russian military intervention against the jihadists in Syria has given the Obama administration another chance to back off of that decades-long policy of using Islamic jihadists as footsoldiers for imperialism in the Muslim world.

And the reason that I say another chance is because it was the Russians back in 2012 who gave President Obama a similar opportunity to re-think that jihadist 35-year-old policy when they proposed that the international community supervise the destruction of Syria’s chemical weapons. That was back in 2012. And that allowed President Obama to back off from his threat to attack Syria, to bomb the Syrian government. I think that President Obama backed off on that threat not because of domestic or international opposition. The United States acts unilaterally all the time, I think he could have gotten away with it. I think that Obama was genuinely afraid of what would happen if the Syrian government collapsed. And make no mistake about it, if the United States had attacked the Syrian government directly the dynamic of the situation would have compelled the United States to keep on attacking until that government was totally destroyed, just like they did to Col. Gaddafi’s government in Libya only one year before.

But it is very clear, now quite clear in hindsight but I think it was visible back then, that there was a growing split in the U.S. government in ruling circles, in the intelligence agencies, even three years ago. And there was a fear that the jihadists would have, were developing their own kind of agenda. And there’s nothing that U.S. imperialists dislike more than people who have their own agenda. And we know now that in August of 2012, we know this because of a memo that came to light this year, that analysts for the Defense and Intelligence Agency were warning that the jihadists, the people who would become the Islamic State, were likely to declare their own caliphate. And that would mean that they would have their own policies and they would fight their own war, not the war that the United States wanted them to fight.

And although that warning didn’t cause the U.S. to reverse its long policy of supporting jihadists, it did I think make Obama much more cautious, and I think that’s why he backed off from bombing Syria that same year. The same Defense Intelligence Agency analysts are now screaming that the top Pentagon brass are lying about the kinds of reports that they’ve been given, reports about the growing strength of ISIS. And that argument in itself is signs of a real split in the intelligence agencies, a split in the U.S. military, a split in the Obama administration itself. A split that was evident when Hillary Clinton was secretary of state.

So the Russian intervention is now forcing Obama’s hand. He’s going to have to decide if he’s going to continue this policy with the jihadists, or if he’s going to go for some kind of containment or stabilization of the battle lines in Syria. We know it’s quite obvious that Turkey and Saudi Arabia and the Gulf states wanted an all-out offensive to take out the Assad government once and for all, but that has been checked definitively by the Russians. And that gives Obama another chance to cooperate with the people in the region, with Syria and with Iran, and with the government of Iraq, as well as with the Russians. He has that chance again, if he takes it.

BALL: Glen Ford, thanks again for joining us here at the Real News.

FORD: Thank you.

BALL: And thank you for joining us here at the Real News. And for all involved, again I’m Jared Ball here in Baltimore saying as always, as Fred Hampton used to say, to you we say peace if you’re willing to fight for it. So peace, everybody, and we’ll catch you in the whirlwind.

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