Saturday, April 01, 2017
America, rogue nation
Via Al Jazeera:
The United States has said that it is no longer focused on ousting President Bashar al-Assad as it seeks a new strategy to end Syria's civil war.
American officials have been shifting away for some time from their former insistence that he must go, but now they have made it explicit.
In New York on Thursday, the US ambassador to the United Nations, Nikki Haley, condemned Assad's history of human rights abuses against his own people.
But she said Washington would focus on working with powers such as Turkey and Russia to seek a political settlement, rather than focusing on Assad.
"You pick and choose your battles," Haley told reporters.
"And when we're looking at this, it's about changing up priorities and our priority is no longer to sit and focus on getting Assad out."
Shortly after Haley briefed a small group of journalists, US officials tried to clarify her comments.
A US mission official told Al Jazeera that while the US does not believe that Assad is a legitimate leader of Syria, his future is not the country's only concern.
The official said the US is also very interested in trying to create the conditions so that the Syrian people themselves can pick their new government, one without Assad.
Other aims of the US in Syria are to get rid of the threat from ISIL and to curb Iranian influence, the official said.
US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson also addressed the future of Assad at a news conference in Turkey.
"I think the ... longer-term status of President Assad will be decided by the Syrian people," Tillerson said, standing alongside Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu.
The comment reflected language long used by Assad's ally Russia, whose assistance Washington is courting.
I have heard people saying that this is simply saying out loud what has been obvious for some time. There's no use worrying about Assad, he's safe,let's justa join hands with him and Vlad and call it a day. That's certainly Trump's view. He could not care less about Assad, if he even knows who he is.
There are reasons why the previous administration didn't outright back Assad even beyond odious Real Politik.
The Syrian opposition, whose cooperation will be needed in any negotiated solution, reacted furiously to the US shift in stance.
"The opposition will never accept any role for Bashar al-Assad at any phase," said Monzer Makhos, a spokesman for the High Negotiations Committee, which represents the opposition in negotiations over Syria's war.
"There will be no change in our position," he warned.
Under Barack Obama's administration, the US made Assad's departure a key goal, but new president Donald Trump has put the accent on defeating the Islamic State of Iraq of the Levant group, known as ISIL or ISIS.
"Our priority is to really look at how do we get things done. Who do we need to work with to really make a difference for the people in Syria?" Haley said...
So do actions. This story by the AP shows reveals that just as he told ICE and the Border Patrol to take off the gloves, he's done the same thing with the military:
Week by week, country by country, the Pentagon is quietly seizing more control over warfighting decisions, sending hundreds more troops to war with little public debate and seeking greater authority to battle extremists across the Middle East and Africa.
This week it was Somalia, where President Donald Trump gave the U.S. military more authority to conduct offensive airstrikes on al-Qaida-linked militants. Next week it could be Yemen, where military leaders want to provide more help for the United Arab Emirates' battle against Iranian-backed rebels. Key decisions on Iraq, Syria and Afghanistan are looming, from ending troop number limits to loosening rules that guide commanders in the field.
The changes in President Donald Trump's first two months in office underscore his willingness to let the Pentagon manage its own day-to-day combat. Under the Obama administration, military leaders chafed about micromanagement that included commanders needing approval for routine tactical decisions about targets and personnel moves.
But delegating more authority to the Pentagon — and combat decisions to lower level officers — carries its own military and political risks. Casualties, of civilians and American service members, may be the biggest.
The deepening involvement in counterinsurgency battles, from the street-by-street battles being fought in Iraq right now to clandestine raids in Yemen and elsewhere, increases the chances of U.S. troops dying. Such tragedies could raise the ire of the American public and create political trouble with Congress at a time when the Trump administration is trying to finish off the Islamic State group in Iraq and Syria and broaden efforts against similarly inspired groups.
Similarly, allowing lower level commanders to make more timely airstrike decisions in densely populated areas like the streets of Mosul, Iraq, can result in more civilian deaths. The U.S. military already is investigating several bombings in Mosul in mid-March that witnesses say killed at least 100 people. And it is considering new tactics and precautions amid evidence suggesting extremists are smuggling civilians into buildings and then baiting the U.S.-led coalition into attacking.
Alice Hunt Friend, a senior fellow at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, cited yet another concern: Military operations becoming "divorced from overall foreign policy" could make both civilian leaders and the military vulnerable to runaway events.
"Political leaders can lose control of military campaigns," she warned.
(For more on this, read this tweetstorm.)
Trump said he was going to bomb the shit out of them and that you have to take out the families. He's keeping his word on that.
These are very scary developments. Trump is begging for terrorist escalation and looking for an excuse to go heavy into the middle east (and possibly China.) He truly believes that making America great again means dominating the world --- with economic bullying and violence if necessary. That's his worldview. He didn't keep it a secret and it was part of what his voters liked about him.
digby 4/01/2017 04:30:00 PM