Mike Whitney — The Unz Review April 18, 2018
The April 14 missile attacks on Syria were a politically-motivated fireworks display that was largely designed to silence Trump’s critics. The attacks– which were coordinated with Moscow– did not kill any Russian, Syrian, Iranian or Hezbollah combat troops. They did not kill any Syrian civilians. They did not impede the Syrian Army’s ongoing military offensive or roll back any of the recent territorial gains in East Ghouta. They did not destroy any critical infrastructure nor did they undermine the determination of the Russian-led coalition to continue to prosecute the 7 year-long war against CIA-backed terrorists who are responsible for the deaths of 500,000 Syrians and the displacement of 7 million others. In short, the attacks accomplished nothing except, perhaps, to temporarily mollify the warmongering western media and their bloodthirsty puppetmasters in the foreign policy establishment.
The fact that Trump felt compelled to launch the attacks before the chemical weapons inspectors from the OPCW had even touched down in Damascus, shows that Washington is not interested in providing justifications for its criminal aggression. Similar to claims of Russia hacking the 2016 US elections or the alleged use of toxic nerve agent in the Skripal incident, the case against Syrian President Bashar al Assad was based on the thin gruel of uncorroborated allegations by jihadist-linked organizations on the ground whose long history of staging provocative incidents to foment a crisis is part of the public record. We’re not going to waste our time on that nonsense here. Suffice it to say, that the information from these US-funded organizations is invariably unreliable. Their sole task is to create a justification for more carnage.
As for Assad’s chemical weapons: The entire stockpile was destroyed in 2014 as per an agreement between the US and Syria. According to Ahmet Uzumcu, director general of the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons:
“Never before has an entire arsenal of a category of weapons of mass destruction been removed from a country experiencing a state of internal armed conflict, and this has been accomplished within very demanding and tight timeframes.”
In other words, Assad’s chemical weapons are as fictitious as Saddam’s WMD or Iran’s imaginary nuclear weapons program. All three are mere inventions of western elites looking for a rationale to plunder and control strategically-located nations in the Middle East.
Some readers will remember that Trump tacitly revealed his motivation for the attacks in a tweet he delivered just days before the incident. Here’s what he said on April 11:
“Much of the bad blood with Russia is caused by the Fake & Corrupt Russia Investigation, headed up by the all-Democrat loyalists, or people that worked for Obama. Mueller is most conflicted of all (except Rosenstein who signed FISA & Comey letter). No Collusion, so they go crazy!” The Real Donald Trump
What Trump is saying is that his real enemy is Mueller, not Putin. It’s Mueller, the bigwig Dems and the media that are fomenting this Russophobic hysteria and trying to destroy Trump. And that’s what precipitated the ‘wag the dog’ scenario that unfolded on April 14th. Trump was trying to get his enemies off his back by incinerating a few empty buildings in Syria. And, it almost worked, but now information is beginning to leak-out that could be damaging to both Trump and his chief lieutenants.
The information from a Pentagon probe into the effectiveness of the missile strikes. The Top Brass is apparently concerned about reports from Moscow that Russian air defenses intercepted 71 of the 103 missiles fired. Here’s a clip from an article at Southfront:
“Informed sources close to the Pentagon say that the US military is about to launch an internal probe in order to get a true picture of the situation, a real number of missiles, which had hit their targets, the reasons behind a minor damage delivered by the strike and the explanations how the Syrian Air Defense Forces had been able to intercept a part of the missiles using their old-fashioned air defense systems.” (“Pentagon Is Concerned About Results Of Syria Strike, Prepares To Launch Internal Probe”, South Front)
More disturbing, is the news that the Pentagon coordinated with Moscow on the sites that would be targeted in the attack. (which would explain why there were no casualties.) Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman Gen. Joseph Dunford has denied the charge, but there are numerous claims circulating on the Internet that sound credible. Check out this excerpt from an article at The Hill:
“The United States used its deconfliction phone line with Russia prior to Friday’s airstrikes in Syria, but did not tell the Russians what the United States was targeting, the U.S. military’s top general said Friday night.
“We specifically identified these targets to mitigate the risk of Russian forces being involved, and we used our normal deconfliction channels — those were active this week — to work through the airspace issues and so forth,” Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman Gen. Joseph Dunford said at a Pentagon briefing. “We did not do any coordination with the Russians on the strikes, nor did we pre-notify them….
“The only communications that took place specifically associated with this operation before the targets were struck was the normal deconfliction of the airspace, the procedures that are in place for all of our operations in Syria,” he said. “We did not coordinate targets or any planning with the Russians.” (The Hill)
Really? The Russians were not pre-notified?? Then how does one explain this tidbit from RT:
“Before we took the action, the United States communicated with the Russian Federation to reduce the danger of any Russian or civilian casualties,” (US Ambassador to Russia) Jon Huntsman said, claiming that “all the targets were linked with the Assad regime’s illegal chemical weapons program.”…
The US ambassador to Russia said that the US strikes were coordinated with Russia to avoid a great power confrontation.” (RT)
Military analyst Publius Tacitus is even more explicit in a post at Colonel Pat Lang’s website, Sic Semper Tyrannis. He says:
“Russia was told where we were going to strike. Russia, in turn, warned the Syrians. Both the Syrians and the Russians evacuated key personnel and equipment from the target sites. Any claim by the United States that we caused devastating damage or destroyed essential capabilities is total fantasy.” (Trump’s big Flop in Syria”, Publius Tacitus, Sic semper Tyrannis)
There were also a number of comments on Twitter from usually-reliable sources that #Russia was informed ahead of time” or this from Maxim A. Suchkov, political analyst and Russian editor at Al-Monitor:
“U.S. publicly claims that no advanced warning was given to Russians, but Russian (absence of) response indicates otherwise since Russia has personnel in Damascus but didn’t activate air defenses. This suggests RU knew of the location of precision strikes.” (Twitter)
Or this from the Russian Insider:
“Americans and Russians are talking. Intensely. Putin’s spokesman has told the press the hotline the two militaries established to “deconflict” their parallel Syria interventions against ISIS, is still active and “being used by both sides”, which sounds like both sides are interested in talking….
As per Suchkov’s report above… the two (sides) are actually haggling over the details of the US giving target locations to the Russians in advance …That is quite unlike any war the US has recently fought…
Both sides have drawn their lines and neither is enthusiastic about losing face. Trump has vowed missiles are coming and Russia’s chief general Gerasimov vowed he’ll fire at any ship or aircraft that puts his men at risk.
In such circumstances negotiating the details of the coming strike in advance is as wise as it is cynical….. it may be the only and best way to avoid this blowing up into something even far nastier….That is something we should all be thankful for…..”(“US and Russia Are Talking Around the Clock to Choreograph Trump’s Coming Syria Strikes”, Russia Insider)
I entirely agree with the author on this point. If Dunford took the initiative and collaborated with Russia on what targets to bomb, then we all owe him a debt of gratitude. He may have prevented another World War. I just hope his role in this matter is not exposed in the upcoming Pentagon investigation. If that happens, he will certainly face severe punishment.
In any event, we can see that the April 14 missile attacks were largely a symbolic muscle-flexing exercise that was aimed at pacifying Trump’s domestic rivals rather than punishing Assad for crimes he never committed. (It is worth mentioning that there have been many credible reports that the US used banned substances in its siege of Raqqa last year.) The fact that Putin limited his response to a perfunctory denunciation, suggests that Trump achieved his objectives. (In other words, he avoided WW3) Here’s part of what Putin said:
“Russia condemns in the strongest possible terms the attack against Syria, where Russian military personnel are assisting the legitimate government in its counterterrorism efforts.
Through its actions, the US makes the already catastrophic humanitarian situation in Syria even worse and brings suffering to civilians. In fact, the US panders to the terrorists who have been tormenting the Syrian people for seven years, leading to a wave of refugees fleeing this country and the region.
The current escalation around Syria is destructive for the entire system of international relations.” (Kremlin, RU)
Putin is right. Washington’s support for the Sunni extremists in Syria has prolonged the war and turned the country into a smoldering wasteland. Unfortunately, it does not look like the US is going to throw in the towel anytime soon. In fact, the appointments of warhawks John Bolton and Mike Pompeo to the national security team, suggests that Trump may be planning a major escalation in the near future. The president has aligned himself with a Zionist right-wing fringe who see the conflict as a proxy-war with Iran that must be won in order to establish US-Israeli regional hegemony and maintain a stranglehold on vital resources and pipeline corridors. Trump’s missile attack is just a minor skirmish in that much larger war.