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Hawks rising: Dozens of State Dept officials
call for US strikes against Assad in Syria

(RT) ~ Bucking current U.S. policy, dozens of State Department officials have reportedly signed an internal document calling for military action and regime change in Syria, claiming it is the only way to defeat Islamic State and end the war.

The dissenting document was transmitted internally and signed by about 50 mid- to high-level department officials, according to the Associated Press. The agency said it has since been classified.

“The moral rationale for taking steps to end the deaths and suffering in Syria, after five years of brutal war, is evident and unquestionable,” the New York Times quoted the document as saying. “The status quo in Syria will continue to present increasingly dire, if not disastrous, humanitarian, diplomatic and terrorism-related challenges.”

The document is alleged to have expressed frustration with America’s inability to halt a civil war in Syria that has killed around half a million people and contributed to a worldwide refugee crisis.

The New York Times and the Wall Street Journal both quoted from the document on Thursday, saying they had seen or obtained copies.

A section of the document cited by the Times said that American policy has been “overwhelmed by the unrelenting violence in Syria,” while calling for a “judicious use of stand-off and air weapons, which would undergird and drive a more focused and hard-nosed US-led diplomatic process.”

The Wall Street Journal report said that the document repeatedly called for “targeted air strikes”against the Syrian government in light of the collapse of the ceasefire brokered earlier this year.

The memo was filed in the department’s “dissent channel,” which was created during the Vietnam War as a way for employees who had disagreements with State Department policy to register their protest with the secretary of state.

State Department spokesman John Kirby said the department was reviewing the cable.

“We do not know, nor are we particularly interested”how the contents of the message ended up public, Kirby told reporters Friday.

“People can react to it as they wish,” Kirby said, adding that Secretary of State John Kerry would continue pursuing the current policy of ending the Syrian civil war through a political transition.

Kerry, who is visiting Denmark, commented that the internal memo from American diplomats is an“important statement” he will be discussing upon returning to Washington.

“It’s an important statement and I respect the process, very, very much. I will … have a chance to meet with people when I get back,” Kerry told Reuters in Copenhagen.

Secretary Kerry has hinted at the possibility of the US undertaking a more robust intervention in Syria more than once. While President Obama has openly called for regime change in Syria, current US policy and military funding is directed towards a campaign to defeat Islamic State (IS, formerly ISIS/ISIL).

While the US and other Western and Middle Eastern countries continue to support anti-government groups fighting Syrian President Bashar Assad’s forces, an open intervention was prevented in 2013 in the wake of chemical attacks in Syria thanks to Russia’s diplomatic efforts and Damascus’ willingness to cooperate and destroy all of its chemical arms.

While the American public remains opposed to involvement in another Middle Eastern war, Washington has backed rebel groups in Syria and continued to insist that President Assad must leave power, blaming him for the rise of IS.

Several US military commanders have expressed concern about a lack of a clear alternative to Assad who could unify the country and advance US national security interests, however, and Moscow has repeatedly stressed that removing Assad and effectively letting Islamist groups take control would send the country into chaos.

The Debate – U.S. Syria Role

Press TV has conducted an interview with James Jatras, a former US Senate foreign policy analyst, and Kenneth Katzman, a specialist in Middle East affairs at the Congressional Research Service, both from Washington, to discuss a call by US State Department officials for strikes against Syrian government forces who are succeeding in the fight against Daesh.


Former US State Department official, Ann Wright:
“Despite 400,000 civilians killed in Syria,
US State Dept wants military action against Assad”

(RT) ~ Fifty-one State Department officials are pushing for military operations rather than diplomacy and working with the Russian government to achieve peace in Syria, former US State Department official Ann Wright told RT.

Dozens of US state department officials have signed an internal memo calling on Barack Obama to carry out strikes against Syrian President Bashar Assad.

The memo signed by 51 staff members apparently calls for a judicious use of air and standoff weapons against Assad’s forces to boost the diplomatic process. It’s also said that it doesn’t provide a scenario for a post-Assad Syria.

Smoke and flame rise after what fighters of the Syria Democratic Forces said were U.S.-led air strikes on the mills of Manbij, where Islamic State militants are positioned, in Aleppo Governorate, Syria. REUTERS/Rodi Said

Aleppo Governorate, Syria (REUTERS/RODI SAID)

RT: What does this memo indicate about the current stance of the Obama administration on Syria?

Ann Wright: I am very intrigued with this memo – 51 State Department officials saying that there should be military action to force Assad to the negotiating table. I was a diplomat. I wrote a dissent channel cable just like these 51 did, but in mine, in 2003, it was to stop any military actions on Iraq, stop the overthrow of Iraq. And I am afraid that these 51 State Department officials are encouraging military operations rather than continued diplomacy and working with the Russian government to continue to put pressure on Assad for the ultimate purposes of peace in that country. There is no indication at all of any sort of a plan for post-Assad Syria, which was exactly the problem for post-war Iraq.

RT: But shouldn’t it be a bombing campaign against ISIS and not Assad?

AW: Well, indeed. When you are looking at all of the parties that are wreaking havoc upon the citizens of Syria – whether it be the Assad government that’s dropping barrel bombs on civilians, whether it is ISIS, whether it is the various militias groups or whether it is the US – the bottom line is that the level of violence on the civilian community is abhorrent. We have 400,000 people already killed in Syria, and we have diplomats saying ”Let’s kill a few more and that will bring Assad to the negotiating table,” I’m afraid that doesn’t make any sense at all to me.

RT: Do you think the next US presidential administration that will come to power in less than a year could toughen the stance?

AW: Unfortunately, I think from the rhetoric of Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton and their known stances on the use of military power to resolve essentially political issues, I think both of them will be strong for military operations in Syria to affect the change and that would be the overthrow of the Assad government. The US government still has major policies to overthrow other people’s governments. And we can certainly see that that does not result in peace and tranquility for the civilian population, whether it was in Iraq, whether it is in Syria, and it will not be that way for Syria.

RT: According to the Washington Examiner, three committees in the House of Representatives are launching concurrent investigations into allegations the White House manipulated intelligence reports from Syria and Iraq, ultimately allowing the Islamic State to thrive indirectly. What are your comments?

AW: I certainly hope that is not true. The issue of how the US is supporting rebel factions wherever it is, that is always dangerous. When the US decides it is going to back certain groups in the overthrow of governments; we know for sure the Republican lead in the House of Representatives will be trying to do everything they can do to discredit the Obama administration in every way possible. That said I am hesitant to say that there may not be some level of truth to that because I don’t think our government knows exactly who they are giving the weapons to and where they actually end up, and some of them probably have ended up in the hands of ISIS.


Peter Ford, former UK ambassador to Syria:
“US effectively siding with Al-Qaeda
in desire to get rid of Assad” 

(RT) ~ The US is “ready to de facto ally” with its archenemies from Al-Qaeda’s branch in Syria as part of its “obsession” by using “so-called moderate” groups to overthrow the Syrian government, former UK ambassador to Syria, Peter Ford, told RT in an exclusive interview.

The US “is effectively siding with a branch of Al-Qaeda” in Syria, Peter Ford told RT, speaking of Washington’s recent request to Moscow not to target Al-Nusra positions with air strikes for the sake of moderate opposition groups located in the same area.

The former ambassador denounced the move as “not reasonable at all” and “grotesque.” He also sharply criticized the US for their “obsession with getting rid of Assad and the secular government in Syria” that leads them right to the alliance with “their arch-enemies”and to the loss of “all moral and practical competence.”

“We can only hope that it is a temporary aberration and they will soon return to their senses,” Ford told RT, urging the US government to abandon their policy of de facto aiding Al-Qaeda’s affiliate. He also expressed his support for Russia’s “very reasonable demand that the forces of the so-called moderate opposition disentangle themselves from the embraces of Al-Nusra and allow Al-Nusra to be bombed.”

The former ambassador also stressed that there is “virtually no difference” between Al-Nusra and such groups as Jaish al-Islam, Ahrar al-Sham and Jaish al-Fatah as they are “indistinguishable” in terms of ideology, sectarian bias and their practical methods consisting of “massacres and ruthlessness.”

He also emphasized that the only difference between Al-Nusra and other groups that western countries, including the US, portray as “moderate opposition” lies in the field of tactics.

“The so-called moderate groups pay lip service to the idea that Syria might end up with a secular system after negotiations provided only that Assad will go. They pay lip service to this but anyone, who believes it must be a fool but the Americans use this as a reason or the pretext not to go after these groups,” Ford said.

The former ambassador denounced the US’ “obsession with getting rid of Assad, which they euphemistically call ‘transition’ in the context of the negotiations” as an attempt to carry out another regime change as they previously did in Iraq and Libya.

“They are keen, it seems, to repeat the same mistakes in Damascus,” Ford said, commenting on the US continuous efforts to oust the Syrian President Bashar Assad from power.

At the same time, he warned that “it is really dangerous to mainstream these jihadi groups with a handful of genuinely democratic secular oppositionists, who are the tiny minority of the opposition on the ground,” referring to such groups as Jaish al-Islam and Ahrar al-Sham, which the US, France, the UK, and Ukraine refused to designate as terrorist organizations and add them to a UN Security Council (UNSC) blacklist.

On June 5, the Syrian Foreign Ministry sent a letter to the UN, in which it alleged that some of the so-called “moderate” opposition groups had been shelling residential areas in Aleppo, Syria, alongside Al-Nusra Front. The ministry also accused some regional powers, including Turkey, Saudi Arabia, and Qatar, of “sponsoring terrorists” and attempting to derail the peace negotiations in Geneva.

The letter designated such groups as Jaish al-Islam, Ahrar al-Sham, and Jaish al-Fatah as Al Nusra’s “affiliates” and criticized some members of the UNSC for their refusal to add them to the UN list of terrorist groups.

In the meantime, terrorist shellings of Syrian cities have resulted in the deaths of more than 270 civilians within the last 24 hours, Russia’s Defense Ministry said. Al-Nusra and Ahrar al-Sham have also conducted joint attacks in the Kurdish-controlled Sheikh Maqsood neighborhood in the northern part of Aleppo that particularly left 40 people dead.

These shelling and attacks, according to the Russian Ministry of Defense, became possible due to the fact that the terrorists’ positions were not targeted for some time by Russian air forces at the request of the United States. According to Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov, Washington asked Russia not to target Al-Nusra Front precisely because the terrorist group is sharing territory with some “moderate” opposition groups that might also potentially be hit in airstrikes.


Russian defense minister meets Assad,
inspects Khmeimim airbase in Syria

(RT) ~ Russia’s Defense Minister Sergey Shoigu has visited Syria where he met with President Bashar Assad and inspected the Khmeimim air base, the Russian military said on Saturday. Shoigu and Assad discussed military cooperation and fight against terrorism.

Shoigu has met with the Syrian leader upon the request of Russian President Vladimir Putin, Defense Ministry’s spokesman Major-General Igor Konashenkov said in a statement.

“Topical issues concerning military cooperation between the two countries’ defense ministries, as well as certain aspects of cooperation in the fight against terror groups that are active on Syrian territory, were discussed at the meeting,” Konashenkov said.


Maria Zakharova, Russia’s Foreign Ministry spokesperson:
“Western politicians lost reality about Russia”

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