This eminently Bushist Obama "red line" business, applied to Syria, Iran or both, is becoming a tad ridiculous.
Take Pentagon head Chuck Hagel's tour of Israel and the "friendly" GCC (the de facto Gulf Counter-revolution Club) last week. US defense contractors had the Moet flowing as Hagel merrily congregated with that prodigy of democracy – United Arab Emirates (UAE) Crown Prince Mohammed bin Zayed – to celebrate the sale of 25 F-16 fighter jets.
There's more on the way; 48 Terminal High Altitude Area Defense, or THAAD missile interceptors, at a cool US$1 billion. The Pentagon is sending one of its only two of such systems to Guam this month to counter that other threat – missiles from North Korea.
The weaponizing free fest to Israel and the Gulf petro-monarchies – missile defense, fighter jets, mega-bombs – could not but be duly hailed as the proverbial "message" to "counter Iran's nuclear ambitions", or "the air and missile threat posed by Iran", or the general "worry about Iran's pursuit of a nuclear weapon" or "Washington's determination to stop Iran from acquiring nuclear weapons."
There's no "red line" here; just hardcore weaponizing of Israel and the GCC. Any doubts, blame it on Iran. And this while Saudi-controlled media in the Middle East – roughly everything except al-Jazeera – was breathlessly spinning that Tel Aviv is pursuing a deal to use Turkish soil for an attack on Iran.
Wait; there's more weaponizing on the way – bound to neighboring latitudes. Kraus-Maffei Wegmann (KMW) from Germany closed another $2.48 billion deal with Qatar – five years in the making – to deliver 62 Leopard 2 tanks and 24 self-propelled howitzers. Qatar is not exactly using them for the 2022 FIFA World Cup; they are bound to "friendly groups in other countries" – as in Syria's "rebels", via Turkey.
Ask the Nenets
Now take the Syria chemical weapons charade. The White House now seems to be convinced that the CIA believes, with "varying degrees of confidence", that the Syrian government has used chemical weapons. Secretary of State John Kerry – an "intervention" cheerleader posing as a dove – was already convinced.
But then Hagel said, "Suspicions are one thing; evidence is another." Just to flip-flop a little while later, during his visit to Israel, he became convinced Bashar al-Assad was using sarin gas. Of course; after all, Hagel finally had unimpeded access to Israeli – not US – intel.
And now for the beauty of Hagel's marketing; what about embarking as a traveling salesman to "our bastards" with a sales pitch of " Look, Iran and Syria are both crazy, you might consider stacking up on this, this and this."
The Nenets of Siberia – crossing the Ob river to enter the Arctic Circle – could teach a thing or two about real strategy to those limping armchair warriors in US Think Tankland. Even the Nenets would know that the current chemical weapons hysteria is a total fabrication by the CIA, MI6 and Israeli intelligence – corroborated by zero evidence. Still, the prevailing Washington "wisdom" is that a "red line" must be enforced over Syria so a "red line" must be enforced on Iran.
The fact is that the al-Assad government initially accused the "rebels" of using chemical weapons – and asked the United Nations for an official investigation.
Even the New York Times was forced, grudgingly, to admit the "rebels" acknowledged an attack happened in territory controlled by the government, with 16 Syrian Army dead, plus 10 civilians and over a hundred injured. But then the "rebels" changed the narrative, blaming Damascus of bombing their own soldiers. It was Moscow that introduced a measure of reality, detailing how Washington was stalling the UN investigation.
Our Nenets of Siberia would also know there's hardly anything secular leading the "rebels" in Syria; it's a motley crew of varying degrees of fanaticism. Once again, the Nenets would not need to freeze to death reading the New York Times to find out that the CIA is "secretly" funneling a free for all weaponizing to the "rebels" via Saudi Arabia and Qatar. Still the Obama administration peddles the fiction that Washington only supplies "non lethal" aid as Capitol Hill nutters keep insisting that Obama install a "no fly zone" over Syria – as in Libya-style NATO war remix.
Follow-on strike package, anyone?
US Think Tankland nonetheless is ecstatic that the GCC petro-monarchies now have access to precision-guided munitions to "strike Iranian targets".
But nothing compares to the cheerleading of Israel's new access to KC-135 aerial refueling tankers – or Stratotankers. Then there's the imminent transfer of anti-radiation missiles as well – advanced versions of the AGM-88 HARM missiles. These toys will "reduce the threat to Israel's follow-on strike package."
No, this is not exactly about "US circumspection", or "US resolve in the campaign against Iranian nuclear weapons"; it's unqualified Dog of War barking.
Meanwhile, that police state run by King Playstation, also known as Jordan, has opened its airspace to Israeli drones now engaged in "monitoring" Syria.
As Asia Times Online has repeatedly warned, Obama in Syria is fast becoming a remix of Reagan in 1980s Afghanistan. We all know what came out of those "freedom fighters" afterwards. In this context, Robert Ford, Obama's alleged Syria expert, telling the Senate Foreign Relations Committee that it's important for Washington to "weigh in" to affect "the internal balance of power in Syria" qualifies as a joke line, not a red line.
There's wild speculation that after the Boston bombing Obama and Russia's Vladimir Putin made a deal; Washington lets Moscow do whatever it wants in Chechnya like, forever, but gets a nod to install a "no-fly zone" and further mayhem in Syria. There's no evidence to that. What a geopolitically savvy Putin wants to know is what does he get out of Syria in practical terms (and Obama does not have a clue). Crumbs from a NATO banquet don't apply.
As for allowing Syria to become a "Western-friendly" Wahhabi emirate or yet another failed Muslim Brotherhood fiefdom, one needs to go no further than Hezbollah's Sheikh Nasrallah … "the goal of anyone standing behind the war in Syria, is destroying Syria so that a strong, centralized state would not be established in it, and so that it would become too weak to take decisions related to its oil, sea, or borders."
Now that's what a red line is all about.
Pepe Escobar is the author of Globalistan: How the Globalized World is Dissolving into Liquid War (Nimble Books, 2007) and Red Zone Blues: a snapshot of Baghdad during the surge. His new book, just out, is Obama does Globalistan (Nimble Books, 2009).
He may be reached at [email protected].
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