How David Petraeus and Vladimir Putin Are Risking a Syrian Armageddon
October 30, 2016
Steve Weissman / Reader Supported News & International Peace Bureau
Whatever one may think of Petraeus -- or of Putin -- the danger is all too real. Until now, the US and Russia have engaged in a proxy war. An American-imposed no-fly zone risks a direct military confrontation between two nuclear-armed powers. Neither side wants a nuclear war. But the more the US and Russia confront each other militarily, the greater the threat that Syria will become an Atomic Armageddon.
(October 28, 2016) -- "We did a no-fly zone to support the Iraqi Kurds for the better part of a decade or so following the Gulf War until we ultimately went into Iraq to take down Saddam Hussein," Gen. David Petraeus explained in September in an interview with Charlie Rose.
A major figure in America's winless wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, Petraeus went on to serve as Obama's CIA director until he was forced to resign for revealing high-level classified information to his mistress and then lying about it to the FBI.
"It's not too late to declare a safe zone" in Syria, he said. "It's not too late to declare a no-fly zone. And indeed if the regime air force, for example, bombs folks we are supporting or we're concerned about, we tell them we're going to ground your air force."
"You don't even have to enter their airspace, although we're already there. You can do it with cruise missiles, air launched, sea launched and others."
Petraeus was not talking about shooting down a lone Russian plane, which Hillary Clinton did not want to talk about in the third debate. Petraeus is calling for using cruise missiles against Assad's air force bases, planes, runways, radar, other air defenses and infrastructure.
In his time as CIA director, Petraeus backed the so-called moderate rebels backed by Qatar and Saudi Arabia, and he now defends a no-fly zone and safe havens as a way to protect those rebels and their families. Like Hillary and to a lesser degree President Obama, he backs the Saudi and Qatari effort to overthrow the Assad regime. This ensures that the civil war -- and the slaughter -- will go on and on.
Petraeus spoke only of taking out Assad's air force, and said that he did not want to "provoke some war with the Russians." But the cruise missiles would kill Russians and wreck their aircraft, since they share military bases with the Syrians. They also have their own long-distance missiles, and their lone aircraft carrier and flagship, the Admiral Kuznetsov, and other ships are now steaming toward Syria.
"You can't pretend you can go to war against Assad and not go to war against the Russians," a senior administration official told the Washington Post.
Whatever one may think of Petraeus -- or of Putin -- the danger is all too real. Until now, the US and Russia have engaged in a proxy war. An American-imposed no-fly zone risks a direct military confrontation between two nuclear-armed powers. Neither side wants a nuclear war. But the more the US and Russia confront each other militarily, the greater the threat that Syria will become an atomic Armageddon.
What, then, of Russia's role?
Over a year ago, I challenged the small minority of Russia's supporters on the American left with a simple question: "Is Bombing Syria Any Better if Putin Drops the Bombs?" Aleppo answers the question, full stop.
No matter that Assad heads Syria's legitimate government and has every right in international law to invite the Russians to come to his aid. International law did not stop the Americans from covertly putting together the coup in Kiev that overthrew the legitimately elected government of Ukraine's pro-Russian president Viktor Yanukovych, with hands-on help from Hillary and Bill Clinton. Nor did international law and explicit treaty obligations stop Putin from annexing Crimea.
Both the US and Russia play by the rules when it suits them. Both are rattling nuclear sabers, and not just in Syria. Both refuse to take their first-strike nuclear option off the table. And both are playing an imperial role in Syria, as are the Saudis, Qataris, Turks, and Iranians.
As I previously quoted journalist Patrick Cockburn, the conflict in Syria is infinitely complex, much like three-dimensional chess played by nine players and with no rules.
Is there a solution? The only one I can see would be a grand bargain among all the imperialists. Nothing short of that will work in the long term, and I frankly don't think the players are ready for anything close. I hope it won't take a nuclear blast to open their minds to change.
In the near term, the American people need to push President Hillary to stop open and covert support for the Saudi and Qatari-backed rebels, drop any idea of an American-imposed no-fly zone, back away from her Cold War, anti-Russian thinking, and look for new agreements of mutual interest similar to the one that removed most, though not all, of Bashar Assad's chemical weapons.
Putin was more than open to that agreement. Washington needs to work with him to look for others.
Pushing Clinton will not be easy. Neither were the movements for civil rights and against the war in Vietnam.
A veteran of the Berkeley Free Speech Movement and the New Left monthly Ramparts, Steve Weissman lived for many years in London, working as a magazine writer and television producer. He now lives and works in France, where he is researching a new book, Big Money and the Corporate State: How Global Banks, Corporations, and Speculators Rule and How to Nonviolently Break Their Hold.
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