Solidifying behind Clinton, foreign policy establishment gins up a cold war with Russia/Iran

Middle East
on 55 Comments

The foreign policy establishment is realigning itself in anticipation, and support, of a Hillary Clinton administration. With Donald Trump self-destructing at last, this process involves a rightwing-center solidification upon the belief that Russia is the new American enemy in the Middle East. A couple of Clinton endorsers have all but called for war with Russia and Iran, one of them saying the U.S. should be killing Russians in Syria.

Here are manifestations of this realignment and the new cold war with Russia– and of that traditional pattern among 9/11 hawks, conflating American and Israeli interests.

Fifty Republican former security officials published a letter saying Donald Trump would be the “most reckless” president in history, and that he has “little understanding” of the country’s “indispensable alliances.” The signatories include many neoconservatives, including Eliot Cohen, Eric Edelman, Aaron Friedberg, and Dov Zakheim. Trump’s warmth toward Russia and “abandonment” of NATO motivated some signatories, reports the The New York Times. Democratic neocons are also lining up behind Clinton: this morning, Joe Lieberman.

Taking on Russia is now part of the consensus of many on the right and center who are getting ready for the Clinton administration. That consensus is, dangerously, making President Obama and Secretary of State John Kerry onlookers at the very time that they are trying to reach a deal with the Russians to end hostilities in Syria.  The new foreign policy establishment-in-formation regards the Iran-Assad-Putin axis as a serious threat to U.S. interests, and to Israel’s ability to fight off everything from Hezbollah and Hamas to the French peace initiative and international delegitimization efforts (Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions; labeling of goods from the West Bank; anti-Zionism).

A few days ago in the New York Times, longtime peace processor Dennis Ross and another expert at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy, which has close ties to the Israeli security establishment, called for abandoning the US-Russia talks and instead “bombing Assad” positions in Syria.

Ross and his co-author Andrew J. Tabler asserted that Obama’s own administration doesn’t want the US and Russia to get along. This line is about the deep state:

the Obama administration’s plan, opposed by many within the C.I.A., the State Department and the Pentagon, is flawed.

Ross and Tabler characterized Hezbollah, Israel’s enemy, as a “brutal sectarian” force, and all but sided with the Nusra front, the al-Qaeda spinoff that has been a key part of the Assad opposition. The end of their article is a drumbeat for war.

Mr. Obama and Mr. Kerry have long said there is no military solution to the Syrian conflict. Unfortunately, Russia and Iran seem to think there is — or at least that no acceptable political outcome is possible without diminishing the rebels and strengthening the Syrian government. It is time for the United States to speak the language that Mr. Assad and Mr. Putin understand.

(The piece might be seen as Ross’s application for high position in a Clinton administration; though Ross will have to overcome his remarks to a synagogue audience that American Jews must not advocate for Palestinians but for Israel: “Plenty of others are advocates for the Palestinians… We need to be advocates for Israel.”)

On National Public Radio last weekend, Ross said that Obama’s diplomacy isn’t working, And seeming to relish a new cold war with Russia, he said that the U.S. has good motives and the Russians have imperial ones:

I think that we have an interest in bringing this to an end and focusing on the Islamic State, on ISIL. I think the Russians have an interest in demonstrating that they are the arbiter of events in Syria. Now, if what we’re doing is consistent with that, that’s fine from their standpoint. But if what we’re doing doesn’t fit with that, they will continue to exert pressure on the ground and continue to change the realities on the ground, the balance of power on the ground. And that’s what we’ve seen the Russians do.

A friend explains that Ross is cloaking Russia’s better aims in Syria.

The most predictable element in Ross’s comments is the Cold War revivalism – “I think the Russians have an interest in demonstrating that they are the arbiter of events in Syria.” How we need that old enemy!

The truth he want to hide is that the Russians and Assad are aiming to retake Aleppo from ISIS, al-Nusra and the less well known Salafist organizations and if they can do it the war will be effectively over, Russia will then press Assad to make a gradual and dignified withdrawal and will have shown policy more coherent and far less reckless than any emanating from the US in a generation. The US, Turkey, and the Saudis want to call it a stalemate before the fall of Aleppo and demand that their original ultimatum, i.e. “Assad must go” immediately, was right and can now be obeyed.

Next, here is Michael Morell, a former acting director of the CIA who served in the Bush and Obama administrations, saying he’s for Hillary Clinton, in The New York Times. And again, the theme is a hawkish policy on Russia and Syria. Trump is Russia’s big mole:

During the early debates about how we should respond to the Syrian civil war, [Clinton] was a strong proponent of a more aggressive approach, one that might have prevented the Islamic State from gaining a foothold in Syria…

President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia was a career intelligence officer, trained to identify vulnerabilities in an individual and to exploit them. That is exactly what he did early in the primaries. Mr. Putin played upon Mr. Trump’s vulnerabilities by complimenting him. He responded just as Mr. Putin had calculated.

Mr. Putin is a great leader, Mr. Trump says, ignoring that he has killed and jailed journalists and political opponents, has invaded two of his neighbors and is driving his economy to ruin. Mr. Trump has also taken policy positions consistent with Russian, not American, interests …

In the intelligence business, we would say that Mr. Putin had recruited Mr. Trump as an unwitting agent of the Russian Federation.

At the Intercept, Murtaza Hussain says that Morell went on the Charlie Rose show and called for the killing of Russians and Iranians in Syria:

“What they need is to have the Russians and Iranians pay a little price,” Morell said. “When we were in Iraq, the Iranians were giving weapons to the Shia militia, who were killing American soldiers, right? The Iranians were making us pay a price. We need to make the Iranians pay a price in Syria. We need to make the Russians pay a price.”

Morell said the killing of Russians and Iranians should be undertaken “covertly, so you don’t tell the world about it, you don’t stand up at the Pentagon and say ‘we did this.’ But you make sure they know it in Moscow and Tehran.”

That’s a declaration of war, on the most questionable of grounds. Philip Giraldi at the Unz Review says that Morell is a member of a military-industrial elite that has positioned itself, along with the neocons, to preserve its access to power and employment by selling a “largely fabricated narrative regarding the war on terror and diversified foreign threats… and the Russians and Iranians are inevitably behind it all.”

Now that group is ready to serve Clinton:

When not fronting as a handsomely paid national security consultant for the CBS television network, Morell is employed by Beacon Global Strategies as a Senior Counselor, a company co-founded by Andrew Shapiro and Philippe Reines, members of the Clinton inner circle. As he has no experience in financial markets, he presumably spends his time warning well-heeled clients to watch out for random terrorists and Russians seeking to acquire “unwitting agents.” The clients might also want to consider that unless Morell is being illegally fed classified information by former colleagues his access to valuable insider information ended three years ago when he retired from CIA.

The national security industry that Morell is part of runs on fear. His current lifestyle and substantial emoluments depend on people being afraid of terrorism and foreigners in general, compelling them to turn to a designated expert like him to ask serious questions that he will answer in a serious way, sometimes suggesting that Islamic militants could potentially bring about some kind of global apocalypse if one does not seek knowledgeable counsel from firms like Beacon Global Strategies. And the Russians and Iranians are inevitably behind it all.

Morell, also a CIA torture apologist and a George Tenet protégé, was deeply involved in many of the intelligence failures that preceded and followed 9/11.

Beacon Global Strategies is a Clintonite/liberal interventionist/neoconservative consulting shop in Washington. Its principals include Philippe Reines, Hillary Clinton’s schmoozer-intriguer at State; and on its advisory board is Edelman, who served in the Bush administration and was also advising Marco Rubio and Ted Cruz, and who signed the Trump “would be the most reckless” president letter.

Co-founder Andrew Shapiro is a former Clinton State Department official who has said that Zionism goes back to John Quincy Adams and Abraham Lincoln. (Herzl and Weizmann and Brandeis– chopped liver.)

A lot of the rhetoric is imperialist. A friend reports on watching CNN:

One of the 50  Republican security people who came out publicly for Hillary was on CNN this AM and I saw him say she would be so much better than Trump because she understands the importance of minding “the perimeter of the empire.” He must have meant those worthless sand bars the Chinese are claiming in the South China Sea, and Ukraine. Ukraine! as the perimeter of the American Empire; which means Poland, Estonia etc. are now considered by people like him to be part of the empire. We are living at a time of deep insanity.

James Bamford at Reuters points out that many offenses we are accusing the Russians of– including hacking the Democratic National Committee emails– we do ourselves. And did during the great cold war:

leaked top-secret National Security Agency documents show that the Obama administration has long been involved in major bugging operations against the election campaigns — and the presidents — of even its closest allies.

The United States is, by far, the world’s most aggressive nation when it comes to cyberspying and cyberwarfare. The National Security Agency has been eavesdropping on foreign cities, politicians, elections and entire countries since it first turned on its receivers in 1952. Just as other countries, including Russia, attempt to do to the United States…

There is a strange irony in this. Russia, if it is actually involved in the hacking of the computers of the Democratic National Committee, could be attempting to influence a U.S. election by leaking to the American public the falsehoods of its leaders. This is a tactic Washington used against the Soviet Union and other countries during the Cold War…

Yet the American public manages to be “shocked, shocked” that a foreign country would attempt to conduct cyberespionage on the United States.

The New York Times acknowledges this. We spy deeply into Russia’s daily life, David Sanger reported in the New York Times:

Even if officials gather the proof [of Russian hacking], they may not be able to make their evidence public without tipping off Russia, or its proxies in cyberspace, about how deeply the National Security Agency has penetrated that country’s networks. And designing a response that will send a clear message, without prompting escalation or undermining efforts to work with Russia in places like Syria, where Russia is simultaneously an adversary and a partner, is even harder.

 The Russians tried to make it tougher still on Saturday when they declared that they had found evidence of American activity in their government systems.

It was hardly a shocking revelation; anyone who leafed through Edward J. Snowden’s revelations saw evidence of daily efforts to break into Russian spy agencies, nuclear installations and leadership compounds.

Two more voices on the new consensus. First, Gareth Porter writes at antiwar.com that the Nusra front in Syria changed its name just so that it would be even more amenable to the foreign policy establishment that wants to work with it against Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, and thereby undermine the Obama administration’s talks with the Russians. The group changed its name, Porter says,

in part on the hope that the US bureaucratic and political elite, who are lining up against a new US-Russian agreement, may block or reverse the Obama administration’s intention to target the al-Qaeda franchise in Syria….

[I]t was obviously a blow to Nusra hopes when the US-Russian negotiations on a joint military effort against the group were revealed. But the deal still has not been completed, and Nusra Front leaders knew from the Washington Post that Pentagon and CIA officials were strongly opposed to US cooperation with Russia in Syria against their group. They knew the argument against such an agreement was that it would play into the hands of the Russians and their Syrian client by weakening the main source of military pressure on Assad.

In fact, most of the news media, think tank specialists on the Middle East, and the Democratic Party political elite aligned with Hillary Clinton, now lean toward treating al-Qaeda’s Syrian affiliate as a strategic asset rather than a security threat.

Finally, Stephen Walt at Foreign Policy, takes a middle path. He disparages Trump’s bromance with Putin and though he expresses concern about the emerging Clinton consensus, he says, She’s not going to go to war.

Americans ought to look askance at Trump’s fondness for foreign dictators, most notably Vladimir Putin. I’m a realist, and I recognize that Washington has to do business with plenty of countries that don’t share its particular political values, such as Saudi Arabia, Pakistan, China, Singapore, and many, many others. But Trump’s open admiration for Putin — and, even worse, his invitation for a foreign government to illegally interfere in a U.S. election by hacking the Democrats’ computers — is almost too bizarre to believe. It suggests a man bereft of any genuine commitment to America’s own democratic principles…

Indeed, some insiders think she’ll be quick to abandon Obama’s somewhat more cautious attitude and take a more interventionist approach to trouble spots like Syria.

Maybe, but I’m not so sure. The days when the United States could manage most of the globe simultaneously are behind us…

To be continued!

Thanks to Todd Pierce, Donald Johnson, and Susie Kneedler. 

About Philip Weiss

Philip Weiss is Founder and Co-Editor of Mondoweiss.net.

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55 Responses

  1. pabelmont
    August 10, 2016, 12:52 pm

    Another reason to vote in November for Jill Stein (Green Party). Peaceniks must “send a message” by the only means (contributing $37 to Bernie no longer making much sense) still available, refusing “lesser-evil-ism” and voting for “greater-good”. How else will the once decent (but now lizard-like) Democratic Party learn its lesson?

    Douglas Adams
    “It comes from a very ancient democracy, you see…”
    “You mean, it comes from a world of lizards?”
    “No,” said Ford, who by this time was a little more rational and coherent than he had been, having finally had the coffee forced down him, “nothing so simple. Nothing anything like so straightforward. On its world, the people are people. The leaders are lizards. The people hate the lizards and the lizards rule the people.”
    “Odd,” said Arthur, “I thought you said it was a democracy.”
    “I did,” said Ford. “It is.”
    “So,” said Arthur, hoping he wasn’t sounding ridiculously obtuse, “why don’t people get rid of the lizards?”
    “It honestly doesn’t occur to them,” said Ford. “They’ve all got the vote, so they all pretty much assume that the government they’ve voted in more or less approximates to the government they want.”
    “You mean they actually vote for the lizards?”
    “Oh yes,” said Ford with a shrug, “of course.”
    “But,” said Arthur, going for the big one again, “why?”
    “Because if they didn’t vote for a lizard,” said Ford, “the wrong lizard might get in. Got any gin?”
    “What?”
    “I said,” said Ford, with an increasing air of urgency creeping into his voice, “have you got any gin?”
    “I’ll look. Tell me about the lizards.”
    Ford shrugged again.
    “Some people say that the lizards are the best thing that ever happenned to them,” he said. “They’re completely wrong of course, completely and utterly wrong, but someone’s got to say it.”
    “But that’s terrible,” said Arthur.
    “Listen, bud,” said Ford, “if I had one Altairian dollar for every time I heard one bit of the Universe look at another bit of the Universe and say ‘That’s terrible’ I wouldn’t be sitting here like a lemon looking for a gin.”

    https://www.goodreads.com/quotes/162557-it-comes-from-a-very-ancient-democracy-you-see-you

  2. Jane Porter
    August 10, 2016, 1:45 pm

    What a nightmare, this Clinton and her associates!!
    Yes, let’s hope that Ms. Stein will have enough votes to block these psychopaths.
    OTHERWISE the USA goes to suicide with a department of state
    beeing a department of war….

  3. Annie Robbins
    August 10, 2016, 3:31 pm

    phil, i fail to see how killing russians and iranians in syria amounts to ginning up a “cold” war:

    “a state of political hostility between countries characterized by threats, propaganda, and other measures short of open warfare, in particular.”

    • inbound39
      August 11, 2016, 6:09 pm

      What it’s doing again is committing American service personnel to fight wars in Israel’s interest so it can dictate to Arabs. The Arabs have woken up to that fact and the more America sides with Isreal in its ambition for hegemony over the Middle East the more dangerous the World gets for Americans. Meanwhile Israel can continue unhindered in clearing Palestinians out of Palestine while America prepares Syria for settlement. Iran gets targeted because militarily,though it has conventional weapons in sheer manpower and its arsenal of missiles being so extensive it could weather any type of battle with Israel and reduce Israel to rubble so it needs America to attack Iran because to many people in the IDF would die if Israel fought its own battles it creates. Israel wants ALL the Middle East or at the very least wants it subservient to Israel. Bottom line it wants British and American troops to die to achieve it.

  4. Annie Robbins
    August 10, 2016, 3:58 pm

    The truth he want to hide is that the Russians and Assad are aiming to retake Aleppo from ISIS, al-Nusra and the less well known Salafist organizations and if they can do it the war will be effectively over, Russia will then press Assad to make a gradual and dignified withdrawal and will have shown policy more coherent and far less reckless than any emanating from the US in a generation. The US, Turkey, and the Saudis want to call it a stalemate before the fall of Aleppo and demand that their original ultimatum, i.e. “Assad must go” immediately, was right and can now be obeyed.

    your friend is right. i’ve been closely following events in aleppo this last week and it’s hard to get info from US msm that’s accurate because there’s so much hope and support from our press, neocon think tanks and their western politicos this recent unified front from team ‘rebel’ will prevail there, but i don’t think they have a chance. and turkey and russia are possibly in rapprochement , see BBC’s

    Putin mends broken relations with Turkey’s Erdogan >>> http://www.bbc.com/news/world-europe-37018562

    so this is not good news for the neocons…

    Gareth Porter writes at antiwar.com that the Nusra front in Syria changed its name just so that it would be even more amenable to the foreign policy establishment that wants to work with it against Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, and thereby undermine the Obama administration’s talks with the Russians.

    oh heck yes this news of nusra becoming moderate with the blessing of al qeada last week was all over every frigging msm, cnn and all of them! what a joke! hey, we’re now moderate and can be part of the negotiations!! haaretz headline “”Nusra Front Eyes Legitimacy in Syria After Amicable Split With Al-Qaida” and a reporters were having a field day pressing kirby about it at the WH press briefing the next morning:

    http://www.state.gov/r/pa/prs/dpb/2016/07/260631.htm

    QUESTION: Syria – the leader of Syria’s Nusrah Front says that it is breaking ties with al-Qaida. Do you still regard – they’ve also adopted – they say they’ve adopted a new name. Do you still regard the group by another name as a terrorist – foreign terrorist organization? And from your point of view, are they still a legitimate target in Syria?

    MR KIRBY: Well, look, Arshad, this alleged announcement here of their new name and potentially new affiliation is, what, minutes old here. So I think, as you well know, we judge any organization, including this one, much more by its actions, its ideology, its goals. Affiliations may be a factor, but ultimately it’s their actions, ideology, and goals that matter the most. And that’s how we’re going to judge going forward, as we have in the past. Certainly, thus far – and again, this announcement is, what, less than an hour old – we certainly see no reason to believe that their actions or their objectives are any different, and they are still considered a foreign terrorist organization.

    QUESTION: Have there been any messages sent to the Administration or to your interlocutors, whether it’s in the Arab world or Staffan de Mistura, in this vein that along with this affiliation could come some kind of more moderate position that they’d be interested in?

    MR KIRBY: No. I mean, again, they just made this announcement, so —

    QUESTION: I understand, but they didn’t just do it out of a hat. Like, obviously it’s something that’s been considered for – they didn’t just wake up this morning and say, “We have a new name.” This has obviously been —

    MR KIRBY: Then you have more insight into their thinking than I do. I don’t know —

    QUESTION: Well, I mean, it didn’t just come out of thin air. I mean, obviously this was a considered decision of at least 24 hours, I would think.

    MR KIRBY: You’d have to ask them, Elise.

    QUESTION: So I’m just wondering, have you —

    MR KIRBY: There has been no communication that I’m aware of that would – that would indicate any sort of a different approach to this group at this point. This announcement just got made. And again, we judge an organization by its actions, its ideologies, its objectives. And we see nothing —

    more at the link. i read yesterday (i think it was financial times –but not sure, but they had a good article on it), nusra was 85% of the fighting force in aleppo this week.

    i predict russia/iran/SAA will prevail in aleppo. wouldn’t it be heaven if they wraped this up before clinton gets in office? oh please oh please oh please!

    • Spring Renouncer
      August 10, 2016, 11:08 pm

      OMG I was thinking the same Annie! If the Syrian government and its allies succeed in firmly securing Aleppo and the countryside near Idlib before Clinton takes over, Syria may be safe from the possibility of a US intervention. I’m sure that Assad, Russia and Iran sense this urgency, which could have compelled Russia to allow a thaw in relations with Turkey. The thaw also suggests that Turkey may take a relatively neutral stance on Syria. Meanwhile we see Saudi and Israeli leaders cozying up; expect Israel, Saudi Arabia and the Gulf States to try their hardest to derail the unification of Syria before Novenber. I will be so relieved if their efforts fail.

      • Annie Robbins
        August 11, 2016, 12:26 am

        think we’re on the same page spring.

        The thaw also suggests that Turkey may take a relatively neutral stance on Syria.

        logistically turkey is a (very) key player.

      • rhkroell
        August 11, 2016, 3:49 pm

        I agree. Also, I was thinking it may be easier to understand the U.S.’ so-called “war on terror” as part of the Pentagon’s 21st-century strategy of achieving full-spectrum dominance and control of the entire planet, cyberspace, the electromagnetic sphere and space itself.

        The Pentagon defines “battlespace” as “the limitless battlefield of post-modern war . . . the environment, factors and conditions that must be understood to successfully apply combat power, protect the force or complete the mission. This includes the air, land, sea, space, and the included enemy and friendly forces; facilities; weather; terrain; the electromagnetic spectrum; and the information environment within the operational areas and areas of interest” (U.S. Department of Defense, Dictionary of Military and Associated Terms. Washington, DC: Department of Defense, 2004, p. 64).

        Over the past thirty years, “it has become increasingly clear that the nature of warfare is undergoing a radical change. Enormous battles between two regular, mechanized, and well-equipped armed forces of the industrial age have become a thing of the past. In fact, the Yom Kippur War in 1973 was the last time classic battles of this kind were fought, either in this region [the Middle East] or beyond. Other types of warfare, of an absolutely different kind, have taken their place” (Yiftah Shapir, “Trends in Military Buildup in the Middle East,” Shlomo Brom and Anat Kurtz (eds.). Strategic Survey for Israel 2009. Tel Aviv: The Institute for National Security Studies, 2009, p. 112).

        “One type, commonly called the Revolution in Military Affairs (RMA), rests on three main components: the use of precision guided, long range weapons; absolute intelligence superiority throughout the battle arena; and systems of Command, Control, Communications, Computers, and Intelligence . . . that allow for integration of all the other elements. The war in Iraq in 2003 proved the absolute superiority of a military that adopted this approach over traditional mechanized military” (Brom and Kurtz [eds.], p.112).

        There are at least four different types of warfare needed today, two of which the U.S. can employ and two Israeli “niche” systems: 1) “focused logistics,” and 2) “full dimensional force protection” (Halper, Jeff. War Against the People: Israel, the Palestinians and Global Pacification. London: Pluto Press, 2015, pp. 75-76).

        The U.S. and Israel’s “military-industrial-security complexes are integrated to a degree ‘that it might now be reasonable to consider them as a single diversified, transnational entity . . . [f]ueled by the two states’ similar ideologies of permanent war’” (Graham, Stephen, Cities Under Siege: The New Military Urbanism. London: Verso, 2020, p.259, qtd. in The War Against the People, p. 72).

        Syria — with the help of Russia, Iran and Turkey — may be able to foil the Pentagon’s 21st-century strategy of achieving full-spectrum dominance and control of the entire planet, cyberspace, the electromagnetic sphere and space itself.

    • Marnie
      August 11, 2016, 3:59 am

      “i predict russia/iran/SAA will prevail in aleppo. wouldn’t it be heaven if they wraped this up before clinton gets in office? oh please oh please oh please!”

      That would be awesome for peace, so sad for war-mongers! Thanks for all your information and insight Annie!

      • rhkroell
        August 12, 2016, 1:30 pm

        Correction: The book Cities Under Siege: The New Military Urbanism. London: Verso — cited in my post above — was published in 2010 (not as incorrectly recorded: to be published in the future: 2020).

    • ToivoS
      August 11, 2016, 4:13 pm

      Great comment Annie. It is imperative that the Syrian government complete the elimination of the al Qaida forces in East Aleppo before HRC assumes power in January. The Russians and Iranians know this more clearly than we do. The neocons inside the Clinton campaign (Morrel, Flouney and those 51 State Dept officials calling for more active US involvement in Syria) also know what the game is. They are out there threatening Russia and Syria and trying to encourage Obama to intervene now to protect those al Qaida forces trapped in East Aleppo.

      For the sake of sanity it is important that those terrorists forces are destroyed in the next 6 months. If so, then all of these psychopaths that are joining the HRC campaign will not be able to set off WWIII when they assume power in January.

      • inbound39
        August 12, 2016, 9:38 am

        I thought it was rather telling when Russia parked its latest Guided Missile Destroyers off Syria and told America it wasn’t allowed to bomb Syria as it planned and Obama backed off then America stood gobsmacked as Russia gave a demonstration of how efficient and accurate its cruise missiles were.

      • ToivoS
        August 13, 2016, 12:47 am

        inbound I think Obama realizes that the Russians are not bluffing. The problem is that Hillary (and her crew of neocon advisers) seem to believe that the US can force the Russians to back down with a show of “determination”. That way leads to a major military confrontation with Russia. The problem is that Russia has sufficient conventional weapons in Syria and the Eastern Mediterranean to sink US warships. What happens if that were to happen? Hillary in a fit of rage would likely escalate the conflict in such a way that could lead to an nuclear exchange.

  5. HarryLaw
    August 10, 2016, 6:21 pm

    Morell advocates arming local groups and instructing them to kill Iranian and Russian personnel in the country.

    This is the definition of terrorism. It violates the UN charter, he is advocating a grave war crime.
    Morell said the killing of Russians and Iranians should be undertaken “covertly, so you don’t tell the world about it, you don’t stand up at the Pentagon and say ‘we did this.’ But you make sure they know it in Moscow and Tehran.” No you just go on the Charlie Rose show and tell the whole world what you are going to do, and hope the Russians and Syrians are as stupid as Morell looks. What a moron.

    • inbound39
      August 12, 2016, 9:43 am

      Tend to agree with you there Harry. Russia has quietly been renovating its military weaponry and some of what it has displayed in Syria since its ships and aircraft have been up there has been pretty impressive. If America wasn’t spending so much money on its worthless and unappreciated special relationship with Israel it might not be so far behind the eight ball.

  6. Keith
    August 10, 2016, 6:35 pm

    PHIL- “That’s a declaration of war….”

    I certainly hope that “liberal” Democrats re-evaluate their knee-jerk “Hillary is the lesser evil” mantra. She is not. Trump is a jerk, no argument, however, it should be obvious to anyone except the willfully blind that a Hillary Clinton administration (she is a shoo-in) is going to be a neocon dominated war administration. No, I am not suggesting a vote for the loathsome Donald Trump. I am voting for Jill Stein, you all do what you want. Something unusual, a quote from my blogspot followed by a link to the fuller discussion.

    ” A Hillary Clinton administration will likely represent a neocon dominated war administration, the militarists throwing caution to the wind as they seek to remake the Middle East, weaken or destroy Russia and contain China thereby securing complete hegemony for the U.S. led global corporate/financial empire. The risk of a nuclear holocaust has never been higher. How this can be described as a lesser evil is beyond comprehension.” http://saskck.blogspot.com/2016/08/lesser-evilism.html

  7. Felipe
    August 10, 2016, 6:40 pm

    I do have a bit of a quibble with Prof. Walt’s analysis in the first pragraph of the excerpt quoted by Phil.

    Trump’s “fondness” for foreign dictators is certainly not a new or strange phenomenom in American politics. Let’s not play dumb. There are plenty of instances in modern and contemporary history where American politicians, sitting vice-presidents and PRESIDENTS from BOTH parties have praised and/or expressed sympathy/admiration for foreign dictators who served American geopolitical interests regardless of how corrupt or brutal their regimes happened to be.

    From FDR’s support of Rafael Trujillo in Dominican Republic and his support AND praise of the elder Somoza in Nicaragua in the 1930s; Carter’s praise of Reza Pahlavi and his Iranian “Island of Stability”; Reagan’s praise and support for Ferdinand Marcos in the Phillipines, Zial ul-Haq in Pakistan, Mobutu Sese Seko in Zaire and Augusto Pinochet in Chile, all these ruthless and/or kleptocratic strongmen where considered reliable bastions of anticommunism, therefore open praise/admiration was not only permited but encouraged in Washington political circles.

    Obviously, Putin’s great sin is not his authoritarian rule or penchant for intimidation or brutality. it’s the fact that he’s not in Washington’s pocket and does not serve Washington’s interests.

    As to having to “do business” with countries that do not share particular American “political values” ( assumming he reffers to rule of law, free speech and human rights), Prof. Walt again sounds a little too disingenous for a man of his knowledge. The US doesn’t just “do business” with some of the countries he mentioned, it provides military and economic support to the tune of billions of taxpayer dollars, as well as diplomatic inmmunity that makes it next to impossible for these regimes to be held accountable on the international stage for their crimes and abuses, whether it be at the UN or other world bodies. The Egyptian military coup against Morsi, Israel’s Gaza massacres and the US-backed Saudi war in Yemen come to mind.

    Despite all his brilliance and insight, it seems Prof. Walt is not fully honest in providing an accurate geopolitical background, neccessary for a better appraisal of current electoral politics.

    • ToivoS
      August 11, 2016, 4:40 pm

      I too was struck by Walt’s statements. His comments reported here are at odds with much of his writing in FP over the last decade. I think he is trying to gain some credibility with incoming HRC administration. I doubt that will work, his book with Mearsheimer burned those bridges to any Democratic administration. We should simply accept that the US (either led by Republicans or Democrats) will threaten WWIII if Israel’s right to annex the West Bank is threatened.

      • Keith
        August 11, 2016, 8:50 pm

        TOIVOS- “I too was struck by Walt’s statements. His comments reported here are at odds with much of his writing in FP over the last decade.”

        Curiously, he isn’t the only one sounding strange. William Blum recently posted a strange sounding anti-ISIS screed on his Anti-Empire report which sounded a lot like the clash of civilizations meme downplaying imperial support for these terrorist assets. I am not sure what is going on, however, the anti-Trump, anti-Putin, let us intervene bandwagon has reached surreal proportions. There is a totalitarian uniformity to this which fills me with dark foreboding.

      • ToivoS
        August 12, 2016, 4:55 am

        Keith There is a totalitarian uniformity to this which fills me with dark foreboding.

        Absolutely agree. I have been very active in the Democratic Party for the last 20 years. I am seeing among many of my colleagues that define solid liberal Democrats an anti-Russian attitude that is all out of proportion. The Hillary campaign is stirring up pro war sentiments among those people that is down right scary. Once she assumes office she will have millions of liberals ready to support war against Russia. These are people who joined in demonstrations to oppose the Iraq war. Little did I realize at the time they only opposed wars led by Republicans. When Hillary assumes office she will have bipartisan support for war with Russia. If Morrel and Flourney are given high level appointments in Hillary’s admin then things could go bad very fast.

      • inbound39
        August 12, 2016, 9:51 am

        I cannot see Russia backing off from the USA or Israel….no love loss with them at all.Putin knows he can give both a bloody nose and that Iran and Hezbollah et al will side with Russia so annexing the West Bank is still not viable and it would threaten Americas global support markedly. Palestinians have more support globally than Israel.

      • Keith
        August 12, 2016, 1:52 pm

        TOIVOS- “Little did I realize at the time they only opposed wars led by Republicans.”

        This harkens back to the Bill Clinton administration and the “humanitarian” intervention in the former Yugoslavia. This was an imperial intervention designed to break up Yugoslavia and convert NATO into a US controlled out of area imperial strike force. The propaganda campaign to demonize the Serbs was the most monolithic and effective I had ever seen, similar to what is happening now against Putin, et al. The “liberal” Democrats just ate it all up. As a consequence, the Democrats have demonstrated that they are the more effective implementers of the elite agenda from trade deals to neoliberal globalization to war. Lesser evil my you-know-what.

      • Mooser
        August 12, 2016, 1:52 pm

        As the Clintons gain to the right, they discard to the left.

      • Keith
        August 12, 2016, 1:56 pm

        INBOUND39- “Palestinians have more support globally than Israel.”

        Public opinion counts for little in the corridors of power where Israel has overwhelming support and the Palestinians little, if any.

  8. Vera Gottlieb
    August 11, 2016, 9:30 am

    It ain’t over until it is over! Many things can still happen from now until Nov. 8 elections. There seems to be a rush towards having a war. If it comes, the US should also feel the pain by having it on it’s own territory.

    • inbound39
      August 12, 2016, 8:41 pm

      Keith….public opinion counts when it comes to election of representatives. If Pro Israel politicians lose favour as is happening then the change of public opinion can severely blunt Israel’s ability to remain impune. It’s a numbers game fella.

      • Keith
        August 13, 2016, 10:05 am

        INBOUND39- “Keith….public opinion counts when it comes to election of representatives.”

        Public opinion is rather easily manipulated if you have the campaign funding and the support of the MSM. That is why politicians grovel in front of AIPAC with little concern for negative consequences. For cry sakes, look at Hillary Clinton’s positions on the Middle East and then tell me that public opinion has had a big effect on either her positions or her electability.

  9. James Michie
    August 11, 2016, 9:38 am

    “Gins up a cold war”? Mike Morell is a latecomer, Phil. Obama and his neo-cons renewed the cold war with Russia when he executed that coup in Ukraine, financing it with $5-billion; and then activated the NATO war mongers to “gin up” more sales for the arms/munitions manufacturers in the ugly old USA (yuuuuuuuuge contributors to both the corrupt Republican and Democrat parties and their lackeys).

  10. gdstark
    August 11, 2016, 10:48 am

    I don’t see either candidate having a coherent foreign policy plan. One wants to continue down the same path (which has only made the world MORE dangerous) and the other want’s to “rebuild” the military, as if we haven’t been spending enough (we have). I’m looking for something more like this…

  11. James Canning
    August 11, 2016, 1:24 pm

    The catastrophe in Syria arose in part due to ill-considered sanctions against the Syrian government. Another factor, of course, was the idiotic US invasion of Iraq.

    Dennis Ross is quite wrong to urge the US to attack the Syrian government’s forces.

    • inbound39
      August 11, 2016, 6:17 pm

      Dennis Ross is a snake oil saleman from way back. Everytime his lips move he lies and Netanyahu’s hand is pulling his strings currently.

  12. ToivoS
    August 11, 2016, 4:27 pm

    Congratulations Phil. It looks like you are beginning to realize that the Israel-Palestinian conflict is part of a much larger geopolitical situation. I must say that I was very disappointed a few years back when those Mondoweiss articles backing the “democratic” opposition movements against the Syrian and Libyan governments appeared at the beginning of the Arab spring. At that time it was clear within a few weeks that those movements were led Wahabbi inspired jihadists (i.e. backed by Saudi Arabia and Qatar that are US allies). Not just that but the weapons these “peaceful” demonstrators were using were directly being supplied by the US via the CIA.

  13. mcohen.
    August 11, 2016, 4:55 pm

    toivos

    all depends on the crimea and ukraine.looks to me that european armies and nato are about to make a move on this chess board of green and red.turkey will not survive this endgame unless erdogan changes course in syria.
    7 falling stars coming

  14. Scott
    August 11, 2016, 6:44 pm

    Great informative piece, pulling together relevant strands that many sensed, but hadn’t pulled together. I wonder if Obama had urged Biden to run, might have avoided this. Steve Walt should realize Trump was joking. The kind of faux literalness of media and many commentators is distressing, somewhat disingenuous. Not to deny that Trump is self-destructing, though.

  15. JLewisDickerson
    August 12, 2016, 2:36 am

    RE: Fifty Republican former security officials published a letter saying Donald Trump would be the ‘most reckless’ president in history, and that he has ‘little understanding’ of the country’s “indispensable alliances.” ~ Weiss

    MY COMMENT: Among the signatories was John Negroponte; and where John Negroponte goes, death squads are sure to follow!

    Noam Chomsky on John Negroponte’s Career From the Death Squads of Honduras to the U.S. Embassy in Baghdad. ~ http://www.democracynow.org/2004/6/24/noam_chomsky_on_john_negropontes_career

    • JLewisDickerson
      August 12, 2016, 2:39 am

      P.S.
      John Negroponte: Democracy is a threat to America

    • JLewisDickerson
      August 12, 2016, 3:00 am

      P.P.S.
      ■ JOHN NEGROPONTE & THE DEATH-SQUAD CONNECTION ~ http://countervortex.org/node/379

      ■ THE HORROR OF JOHN DIMITRI NEGROPONTE AND EVERYTHING HE REPRESENTS ~ http://www.antipasministries.com/html/file0000117.htm

      Terrorism with a “Human Face”: The History of America’s Death Squads ~ http://www.globalresearch.ca/terrorism-with-a-human-face-the-history-of-americas-death-squads/5317564

      Negroponte’s Time In Honduras at Issue (washingtonpost.com) ~ http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/articles/A52001-2005Mar20.html

      Who is John Negroponte? – Counterpunch ~ http://www.counterpunch.org/2004/06/04/who-is-john-negroponte/

      Our Man in Honduras by Stephen Kinzer ~ http://www.nybooks.com/articles/2001/09/20/our-man-in-honduras/

      P.P.P.S. I read somewhere that John Negroponte was spotted in Honduras just before the 2009 coup that occurred there while Hillary Clinton was Secretary of State!

      Hillary Clinton’s dodgy answers on Honduras coup ~ https://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/post-partisan/wp/2016/04/19/hillary-clintons-dodgy-answers-on-honduras-coup/?utm_term=.ff6c84f795df

      • JLewisDickerson
        August 12, 2016, 3:34 am

        P.P.P.P.S.
        Clinton Embraces Endorsement of John Negroponte
        AUGUST 11, 2016 HEADLINES

        Meanwhile, Hillary Clinton has embraced her recent endorsement by John Negroponte, the former director of national intelligence. The President George W. Bush official also served as U.S. ambassador to Honduras, which was the staging ground for the U.S.-backed Contras in Nicaragua. Hillary Clinton has faced questions on the campaign trail about her own role in Honduras as secretary of state, including legitimizing the 2009 coup in Honduras.

        SOURCE ~ http://www.democracynow.org/2016/8/11/headlines/clinton_embraces_endorsement_of_john_negroponte

      • JLewisDickerson
        August 12, 2016, 3:47 am

        P.P.P.P.P.S.
        “Why Is Hillary Clinton Bragging About This Endorsement?”
        BY CHARLES P. PIERCE ~ AUG 10, 2016

        In her continuing tour of the dingier side of the 20th Century American diplomatic elite, Hillary Rodham Clinton picked up the endorsement on Wednesday of one John Negroponte. As Fox News reports:

        In a statement provided by the Clinton campaign, Negroponte touted the former secretary of state’s “leadership qualities” in his decision. “She will bring to the Presidency the skill, experience and wisdom that is needed in a President and Commander in Chief,” he said. “Having myself served in numerous diplomatic and national security positions starting in 1960, I am convinced that Secretary Clinton has the leadership qualities that far and away qualify her best to be our next President.”

        Well, that’s special, isn’t it? And what did Negroponte do while serving “in numerous diplomatic and national security positions starting in 1960”? I’m glad you asked.

        In the 1980s, he served as the U.S. ambassador to Honduras. In addition to (at best) covering for that country’s murderous autocrats, he also served the Reagan Administration by helping to turn Honduras into a staging area for American-trained death squads in places like El Salvador and Guatemala. . .

        CONTINUED AT – http://www.esquire.com/news-politics/politics/news/a47517/hillary-clinton-john-negroponte-endorsement/

      • JLewisDickerson
        August 12, 2016, 4:07 am

        P.P.P.P.P.P.S. Negroponte is a deal-breaker for me. Now there is absolutely no way I can vote for Clinton, even if my state of Georgia is in play on election day!

      • JLewisDickerson
        August 12, 2016, 5:06 am

        ■ Who Should Bernie Voters Support Now? Robert Reich vs. Chris Hedges on Tackling the Neoliberal Order ~ Democracy Now!

        AUGUST 10, 2016
        “Let the Battle of the Lesser Evils Commence”
        by MICHAEL HUDSON – SHARMINI PERIES

        . . . MICHAEL HUDSON: I believe Hillary’s the greater evil, not Trump, because Trump is incompetent and doesn’t have the staff around him, or the political support that Hilary has. I think Bernie missed his chance to take this party and develop it very quickly, just like George Wallace could have done back in the 1960s when he had a chance. I think Chris Hedges and other people have made this point with you. I have no idea what Bernie’s idea of a revolution is, if he’s going to try to do it within the Democratic Party that’s just stamped on him again and again, you’re simply not going to have a revolution within the Democratic party.

        PERIES: Well, I think you’re making a very strong point in terms of Hillary Clinton’s hawkish foreign policy and her being the candidate of the Wall Street hawks. I also do think that Donald Trump’s unknown factors in terms of how he will fall on some of the very important critical issues out there still remain a problem, because we actually don’t know how he will act. So advocating that he might be the lesser of two evils might be problematic too, no? Michael?

        HUDSON: I think there’s a difference in unknown factors. I think in Trump’s case, he doesn’t know what policy he’ll do. I think he hasn’t thought it through yet. So we don’t know. Whatever policy he has, I don’t think he could get it through Congress. And the president can’t do all that much without congressional approval.

        PERIES: So you think he’ll be ineffective? You think he’ll be ineffective and won’t be able to–

        HUDSON: And that’s what America needs. America needs an ineffective president. That’s much better than an effective president that’s going to go to war with Russia, that’s going to push for the Trans-Pacific Partnership, that’s going to protect Wall Street, and that’s going to oppose neoliberal austerity. I would much rather have an ineffective president than someone who’s going to do these bad things that I fear is going to come from Hillary and the Democratic Party. It’s a counter-revolution, not a revolution.

        ENTIRE INTERVIEW – http://www.counterpunch.org/2016/08/10/let-the-battle-of-the-lesser-evils-commence/

        ANDREW LEVINE:

        . . . The odd thing, though, is that Trump isn’t that bad – not compared to Ted Cruz or his other rivals for the Republican nomination, and not compared to Hillary.

        On trade, infrastructure and job creation, and, most important of all, on matters of war and peace – especially, but not only, with the Muslim world and Russia – he is actually the more progressive of the two. This is why hardcore neocons hate him and love her. . .

        SOURCE – http://www.counterpunch.org/2016/08/05/could-hillary-lose/

    • Keith
      August 12, 2016, 5:35 pm

      JLEWISDICKERSON- “Among the signatories was John Negroponte; and where John Negroponte goes, death squads are sure to follow!”

      You got that right! Negroponte’s main “diplomatic” mission appears to be organizing death squads. Once Negroponte took over the embassy in Bagdad he brought in, among others, Col. (ret) James Steele who actually organized and ran these death squads which were referred to as the “Salvadoran option.” Steele had done this before for Negroponte in Central America. And people complain about Jihadists? Key-riced, Uncle Sam is a serial killer! Couple of quotes and a link.

      “US sponsored death squads were recruited in Iraq starting in 2004-2005 in an initiative launched under the helm of the US Ambassador John Negroponte, [image: right] who was dispatched to Baghdad by the US State Department in June 2004.

      ….

      Under the “Salvador Option,” “Negroponte had assistance from his colleague from his days in Central America during the 1980′s, Ret. Col James Steele. Steele, whose title in Baghdad was Counselor for Iraqi Security Forces supervised the selection and training of members of the Badr Organization and Mehdi Army, the two largest Shi’ite militias in Iraq, in order to target the leadership and support networks of a primarily Sunni resistance. Planned or not, these death squads promptly spiralled out of control to become the leading cause of death in Iraq.” (Michel Chossudovsky) http://www.globalresearch.ca/terrorism-with-a-human-face-the-history-of-americas-death-squads/5317564

      • JLewisDickerson
        August 21, 2016, 4:57 am

        I can imagine John Negroponte being at a meeting of Team Hillary and Hillary bowing her head and wistfully saying “will no one rid me of this troublesome [insert identity of person, group, organization, etc.]”?
        Within 90 minutes John Negroponte has “squads” on CIA planes being flown up from Honduras, Guatemala, Nicauaga and El Salvador. A couple of Mossad teams with specialized training in emergency extraction sit in a plane on a secluded runway in Costa Rica. The plane is nondescript except for the logo “Sands” written in script with the upper part of the ‘d’ curving/stretching almost back to the “S”.

  16. JLewisDickerson
    August 12, 2016, 2:38 am
  17. JLewisDickerson
    August 12, 2016, 3:24 am

    Perhaps what we are seeing is the death of the Republican Party, with the Democratic Party being entirely taken over by right-wing elements.
    Hopefully, a new progressive party will emerge at some point to challenge the rightist-dominated Democratic Party.

    • Keith
      August 12, 2016, 5:01 pm

      JLEWISDICKERSON- “Hopefully, a new progressive party will emerge at some point to challenge the rightist-dominated Democratic Party.”

      And how will this “new progressive party” of your dreams differ from the current U.S. Green Party?

  18. RoHa
    August 12, 2016, 6:41 am

    “Hopefully, a new progressive party will emerge at some point …”

    Was there an old one?

  19. yonah fredman
    August 12, 2016, 9:39 am

    Where my biases are: The US armed power was a force of good in the world during WWII and the cold war (European front. not such a force of good in other parts of the world, but nonetheless the defeat of the Soviet Union was a worldwide effort and my biases are in favor of the resulting “freedom” for eastern Europe).

    I am sort of biased against Ukraine because of Chmelnitsky and the experiences of my grandparents and because of that I work against that bias and want Ukraine to be as free as possible from Russian intervention and invasion and coercion.

    I think the Assad regime in Syria was one of the most repressive regimes in the world before the civil war started.

    Not a bias, but an adjustment: The rebels against Assad may be worse than Assad.

    Not a bias, but an adjustment: The US public feels that the war against Iraq was a waste. And President Obama’s stepping back from the red line (vis a vis Syria) that he drew was a reflection of that attitude of the vast American public. Hillary’s stepping towards making war is not part of the desire of the American public.

    I think Putin is a thug, but an assessment of what should be done in the world should reflect: 1. the will of the American people and secondly 2. the assessment of the foreign policy experts and Putin’s thugness has zero effect on the will of the American people and foreign policy experts will certainly factor in Putin’s thugness when considering their game plans, but an emotional reaction to Putin’s character is not appropriate.

    I have not read enough to come across a game plan vis a vis Syria that has impressed me as wise and I am not sure where wisdom and discretion would lead in terms of an optimal US reaction to the situation of Russia vs Ukraine.

    • Mooser
      August 12, 2016, 3:37 pm

      “Where my biases are”

      Oh, on the side of the angels, naturally, who are disco-dancing for you on the point of a pin-head..

    • Brewer
      August 12, 2016, 8:21 pm

      I have seen no evidence of Putin’s thuggery. To the contrary, his every comment is measured and conciliatory. Suggest you read transcripts of his speeches or listen to him carefully rather than accepting the creative interpretations made by the usual suspects.
      https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8XPFUYRQsUI
      http://valdaiclub.com/opinion/highlights/vladimir-putin-meets-with-members-of-the-valdai-discussion-club-transcript-of-the-final-plenary-sess/
      Consider, for a moment, what the outcry would be if he or one of his close associates had uttered something like this against the U.S.:

      Rose: “We make them pay the price by killing Russians?”

      Morell: “Yeah.”

      Rose: “And killing Iranians?”

      Morell: “Yes … You don’t tell the world about it. … But you make sure they know it in Moscow and Tehran.”
      https://consortiumnews.com/2016/08/12/mike-morells-kill-russians-advice/

      Killing people to “send a message” is the very definition of extreme thuggery.

      Re Hillary, Trump and the Neo-Cons, it seems we are between a rock and a hard place. This surfaced yesterday:
      “HH: But if John Bolton said yes, he would consolidate and telegraph seriousness and expansive knowledge. If Jim Talent said yes, you’d get all of his experience on the Quadrennial Commission/Review Board. I mean, those two guys would make Team Trump look massively experienced right away, and the Too Dangerous argument goes away.

      DT: Well, I think that’s true. I think John Bolton’s a good man. I watched him yesterday, actually, and he was very good in defending me in some of my views, and very, very strong. And I’ve always liked John Bolton. Well, we are thinking about it, Hugh. I will say that. We are thinking about it. I mean, the negative is what I told you. But we are seriously thinking about it.”

      It seems the Neo-Cons are covering all the bases.

      • inbound39
        August 12, 2016, 9:44 pm

        I think what Putin is doing is declaring Russia has interests in the Middle East and he is as big as the US. He is not interested in what Israel wants….he tolerates Israel but since the S400 launchers arrived in Syria the Israeli’s have not been so bomb happy and it has curbed their air of being able to go wherever they want.Putin has also declared he supports a Palestinian State and that it is vital for overall Middle East peace.

  20. Scott
    August 12, 2016, 3:29 pm

    Terrific set of comments above. JLD especially but not only

  21. MHughes976
    August 12, 2016, 3:57 pm

    I thought Walt’s remarks were quite sensible. He was not moving into the liberal interventionist camp as far as I could see.

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