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Attack On Syria: U.S. Has Returned To “Business As Usual”

U.S. Pres. Donald Trump may, on April 7, 2017, have sacrificed the direction and goals of his Presidency in order to calm domestic critics.

He authorized the firing, by two U.S. Navy destroyers in the Eastern Mediterranean, of 60 BGM-109B unitary warhead and BGM-109D cluster munition Tomahawk land-attack cruise missiles (TLAM) at the Syrian Air Force base at al-Shayrat; 58 of the TLAMs hit designated targets.

The incident may well be as strategically pivotal — domestically as well as internationally — as the de-cision in January 2002 by U.S. Pres. George W. Bush to attack Iraq.

It portends, among other things:

• Intended: Sent a signal to domestic political and media in the U.S. that Pres. Trump was not a friend of Russian Pres. Vladimir Putin, to dampen opposition groups at home alleging political ties between Presidents Trump and Putin;

• Intended: Sent a signal to North Korea (DPRK) that the U.S. would act militarily and decisively to assert its authority. It was not accidental that the strike occurred while People’s Republic of China Pres. Xi Jinping was visiting Pres. Trump at Mar-a-Lago, in Florida;

• Unintended (or unavoidable byproduct): Provided a pronounced strengthening of the posi-tion of Turkish Pres. Reçep Tayyip Erdo?an in the run-up to the April 19, 2017, referendum to give him absolute power in Turkey and the opportunity to expand its military presence in Syr-ia;

• Unintended (or unavoidable byproduct): Served to end Trump Administration hopes for a Western rapprochement with Russia, thereby driving Russia more deeply into a strategic rela-tionship with the People’s Republic of China (PRC), Iran, and Syria, and pushing Moscow to strengthen its attempts to contain Turkey. Constrained U.S. options in the Middle East;

• Unintended (or unavoidable byproduct): Served to harden the divide between the U.S. and the emerging PRC-dominated strategic bloc;

• Unintended (or unavoidable byproduct): Supported activist Sunni states Saudi Arabia, Qatar, and Turkey in their resolve to confront Iran (and Syria), and severely distracted the U.S. and the Western coalition from their ability to actually fight against DI’ISH (asad-Dawlah al-Islamiyah fi al-‘Iraq wash-Sham, aka Islamic State) and jihadist movements in Syria and Iraq by giving more breathing space for support/tolerance by the Sunni triumvirate;

• Unintended (or unavoidable byproduct): Ensured a cooling of U.S. relations with Egypt in deep terms, despite the superficial need for both countries to work together. Pres. Trump’s Syria move — especially if it was to be continued — was seen as inimical to Egypt’s interests. It was also inimical to Israel’s interests. Related: Petrobras Reports 2.74M Bpd Daily Output For March

The U.S. attack authorized by Pres. Trump was in response to an alleged attack by Syrian Air Force air-craft on the north-western Syrian town of Khan Sheikhoun, in southern Idlib province, supposedly us-ing chemical-payload bombs. Despite U.S. Government claims of irrefutable evidence that the Al Quwwat al Jawwiya al Arabiya as Souriya (Syrian Arab Air Force) had used chemical weapons, no evi-dence was provided that the Syrian Government was involved in the use of chemical weapons.

The U.S. claims, when examined, are all based on reports from partisan sources within the Syrian op-position and from the Turkish Government, and not a single piece of evidence was from direct report-ing by any U.S. military or intelligence officer with an understanding of chemical weapons.

Site investigations of the alleged attacks, in fact, revealed cratering from BM21 122mm Grad rocket launcher munitions, not aircraft-delivered munitions. Several of BM21 systems — including long-range versions — were brought in from Turkey to jihadist groups operating in Idlib province shortly before the alleged “Syrian attack”, roughly about the same time that U.S. Ambassador to the UN, Nikki Haley, and Secretary of State Rex Tillerson stated that the removal of Syrian Pres. Assad was not (then) a U.S. priority.

Again, about the same time, jihadist groups operating in the area of Khan Sheikhoun had blogged their complaints about the lack of water and electricity in the area. And yet, suddenly, there was ample wa-ter to wash down victims of the chemical attack, and plenty of power for the cameras, etc., of those providing “evidence” of the attack. Even more, the so-called Syrian Civil Defense (the “White Hel-mets”) units, which disappeared after the jihadists’ loss of Aleppo, suddenly reappeared in Khan Sheikhun just as the “chemical attack” occurred, with fresh uniforms and new gear.

Why there? And why then?

What is clear is the reality that every time the U.S. has indicated that it no longer saw the removal of Syrian Pres. Bashar al-Assad as an absolute goal, Turkey and its allies (including jihadist and “Syrian op-position” groups) have produced “evidence” that the Syrian Government had used chemical weapons against its own people.

The model for the release of such “evidence” has been virtually identical in all cases, and mirrors the Bosnian Islamists’ use of a false-flag attack at the Markale Marketplace in Sarajevo, during the break-up of Yugoslavia, on February 5, 1994, and August 28, 1995, in order to discredit the Serbs who were at that time close to a diplomatic breakthrough with the West.

In the case of the Khan Sheikhoun attack on April 4, 2017, some 70 deaths and many injuries were re-ported by jihadist groups and by the Turkish Government, with the deaths and injuries allegedly caused by exposure to the nerve agent, sarin. Sarin (GB) has been the chemical weapon of choice by terrorist groups linked to Saudi Arabia and Turkey in the past in the Syrian conflict, not just the August 21, 2013, now-verified false-flag attack on the Damascus suburb, Ghouta by Saudi-backed jihadis with the knowledge of the U.S. Intelligence Community. However, jihadist groups have also imported mus-tard agent from Libyan stockpiles.

Chemical analysis of the sarin residue found at Khan Sheikhun indicated that it was made to the same recipe as the sarin used in the Ghouta attack in 2013, which has been absolutely and independently confirmed to have been used by Saudi-backed jihadis in that attack. It is explicitly not military-grade sarin and not of the type which had been used by the Syrian Armed Forces before the internationally-monitored disposal of Syrian chemical weapons stockpiles.

So evidence of the alleged Syrian use of chemical weapons on April 4, 2017, for which the U.S. stand-off attack was ostensibly made in response, is not verifiable, and the claims came from highly-prejudiced sources, including the Turkish Government. It is probable that the Trump White House was aware that the evidence to support the claims of Syrian Government use of chemical weapons was questionable, tainted, and based on mere allegations.

However, domestic political pressures in the U.S. — coupled with a U.S. media outcry at the reports — gave the President a chance to calm his critics at home by appearing strong internationally. Indeed, given the U.S. Intelligence Community (IC) active involvement, during the previous Barack Obama Administration, in orchestrating false-flag chemical weapons incidents in Syria (particularly in Ghouta), there is a strong motivation in some U.S. IC circles to continue toward the goal in which they believed: the removal of Pres. Assad.


As a parallel, some U.S. analysts have consistently claimed that a number of Pakistani Inter-Service In-telligence (ISI) officers had continued supporting the Afghan Taliban and other Afghan jihadist move-ments long after the Pakistan Government had officially terminated that policy (which had been initi-ated at the request of the U.S. Ronald Reagan Administration). The same rationale applies to some U.S. IC members and their continued support for the jihadist allies of the ancien regime. There is no doubt that some U.S. IC officers and military, who had been committed into the support of the Syrian opposition groups under the Obama Administration, were reluctant to abandon the personal links they had built with their proxy allies. Related: Oil Prices Rally Amid Rising Rig Count

But most of this was a side issue for the Trump White House. What was critical was to address the do-mestic political impasse revolving around alleged Trump team links with Russia in the run-up to the November 2016 elections, and also to demonstrate strength and decisiveness to both the PRC and DPRK.

Former U.S. Central Intelligence Agency officer and advisor to Egyptian Pres. Gamal Abdul Nasser not-ed in his seminal book, The Game of Nations: The Amorality of Power Politics (1970), that U.S. foreign policy was merely domestic politics played out abroad, without the legal and political penalties for bold action within the U.S.

Trump’s move silenced Republican hawks Senators John McCain and Lindsay Graham and drew sup-port from highly-critical opponent, Democratic House of Representatives leader Nancy Pelosi, and other Democrats and the media, a signal in itself that Trump had embraced the Washington establish-ment.

The question remained open as to whether he had abandoned his “war against the Washington estab-lishment”. He may not think so, but, to a large extent, Mr. Trump has found that he has been forced to accept the bureaucratic norms on much foreign policy and national security decision making.

Already, as well, his attempts to cut U.S. funding to the United Nations were being circumvented by bureaucratic maneuvering within the State Department.

By Gregory Copley via Defense & Foreign Affairs

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  • Douglas Houck on April 15 2017 said:
    Interesting article for Oilprice. Thanks

    I'd like to add a couple of comments on the April 4th, false-flag neurological gas attack that occurred in the Idlib town of Khan Sheikhoun.

    The US has tried to show that only the Assad government had both the means and motive to launch such an attack.

    The US has always contended that sarin is very hard to weaponize (which up to this point has been true) and only nation-states have both the technology and manufacturing abilities to take the highly corrosive liquid sarin and turn it into a fine mist without vaporizing it. From their viewpoint only the Syrians and not the jihadist have that type of technology. They cite the failed attempt of the Japanese Doomsday cult group Aum Shinrikyo to weaponize sarin even though they had both money and technically competent persons as the basis for their argument. After several failed attempts to weaponize sarin, they ended up using plastic bags filled with sarin that they poked with small holes once inside the subway cars.

    MIT Prof. Theodore Postol in his recent analysis of the attack points out that the 122 mm pipe found in the small crater in the middle of a street (the one and only site of any sarin explosion) was crushed from an outside force and not pushed outward from an expected explosion of a gas rocket. Further, you can tell it was capped on both ends. It appears that the pipe was laid down and an explosive charge was placed on top of it, causing it to rupture similar to stepping on a tube of toothpaste. Essentially, a small pipe bomb, that just about anyone can do.

    The US has never been able to articulate a viable motive for the Assad government.

    The reason originally given by the US government was that the Syrian forces were about to lose the Hamma Military Airport and panicked. This is not even close to being true. Two weeks ago started the annual spring jihadist offensives and while the jihadists did make some advances, by the first of April the Syrian Arab Army (SAA) and allies had recovered almost all the lost territory and the front lines were miles to the north. Neither the city nor the military airport were ever in danger of being overrun and taken.

    Since the summer of last year the Syrian government has been consistently winning throughout Syria, including the retaking of east Aleppo. Just two days before the neurological gas attack, the US had come out saying they no longer desired President Al-Assad's removal. Finally, at no time, when faced with strong jihadist fighting such as the recent attacks on Deir-Ezzor or the Christian town of Mahardah (NW of Hamma), where there was real concern about being overrun has the Assad government used any chemical weapons. There is no rational reason(s) for the Syrian government to use sarin.

    The town of Khan Sheikhoun is militarily insignificant, nor would such an attack (which was quite small; ~10 liters of sarin), change anything on the ground as regards to the war with the jihadists. Unlike the Syrian government, the Al-Qaeda jihadists (who now call themselves Hayat Tahrir Al-Sham (HTS)), and the Saudi backed High Negotiations Committee (HNC) would and will benefit from the change(s) in the Trump administration position to the Syrian War. The HNC at the recent UN peace talks still demand that President Al-Assad step down before any free-and-fair elections are held.

    Something to think about.

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