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Testifying Tuesday before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, Secretary of State John Kerry faced intensely hostile questioning as he defended a Syrian “cessation of hostilities” reached with Moscow that is supposed to go into effect this weekend.
Democratic Senator Barbara Boxer of California suggested that the agreement might be little more than a “rope-a-dope” deal, while the committee’s Republican chairman, Senator Bob Corker of Tennessee, warned that Russia would “continue to kill the folks that are our friends and allies.”
Kerry responded by stressing that there was a “significant discussion taking place now about a Plan B,” presumably entailing a major escalation of the US military intervention in Syria and a potential armed confrontation with Russia, should the truce deal fail to further Washington’s aims.
The key sticking point in the US-Russian deal is precisely the status of those to whom Senator Corker referred as “the folks that are our friends and allies.” He, like the Obama administration, the Pentagon, the CIA, and the entire political and media establishment, carefully avoided any precise identification of these “folks.”
The dirty secret they are all doing their best to conceal is that Washington’s most important “friend” and “ally” in the war for regime change in Syria has been, since its inception nearly five years ago, Al Qaeda. It is this criminal relationship that is at the heart of the difficulties in brokering any kind of negotiated halt to the grinding sectarian war that has killed more than a quarter of a million Syrians and turned 11 million more into homeless refugees.
The cessation of hostilities that is supposed to take place on Saturday specifically excludes both the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS), a split-off from Al Qaeda, and the al-Nusra Front, Al Qaeda’s designated Syrian franchise. The High Negotiations Committee, the Syrian “rebel” front cobbled together by the Saudi monarchy for the purpose of UN-sponsored negotiations, has rejected any ceasefire that fails to protect al-Nusra.
US intelligence analysts have warned that al-Nusra and the so-called “moderate” terrorists promoted by Washington are “intermingled.” Brett McGurk, the Obama administration’s envoy to the “coalition” participating in the US-led war in Iraq and Syria, told a White House press briefing Tuesday that the supposed moderates and the Al Qaeda group “are marbled together”.