Right Web

Tracking militarists’ efforts to influence U.S. foreign policy

U.S. Neocon Hawks Take Flight Over Syria

A similar cast of neocons and hardliners who pushed for U.S. military intervention in Iraq and Libya is pressing the Obama administration to attack Syria.

Print Friendly

Inter Press Service

In an echo of the tactics they used to promote U.S. intervention in the Balkans, Iraq and Libya, a familiar clutch of neo-conservatives has published a letter urging President Barack Obama to go far beyond limited military strikes against Syria in retaliation for its government’s alleged use of chemical weapons that reportedly killed hundreds of people.

Signed by 66 former government officials and “foreign policy experts” – almost all of them strongly pro-Israel neo-conservatives – the letter, which was released by the Foreign Policy Initiative (FPI), called for Washington “and other willing nations [to] consider direct military strikes against the pillars of the Assad regime” as part of more ambitious strategy to support “moderate” Syrian rebels and dissuade Iran from developing nuclear weapons.

Any military action should aim to ensure that the government of President Bashar al-Assad will be unable to use chemical weapons and should deter or destroy its “airpower and other conventional military means of committing atrocities against civilian non-combatants,” according to the letter.

The letter’s most prominent signatories included several senior officials of the George W. Bush administration, such as his top Middle East aide, Elliott Abrams, former Undersecretary of Defence Eric Edelman and former Vice President Dick Cheney’s national security adviser, John Hannah, and was given a bipartisan gloss with the inclusion of former Democratic Senator Joseph Lieberman and several liberal interventionist commentators identified with the Democratic party who signed previous statements by the FPI and its predecessor, the Project for a New American Century (PNAC).

The letter also called on Obama to “accelerate efforts to vet, train, and arm moderate elements of Syria’s armed opposition” to help them prevail against both Assad and growing Al Qaeda-affiliated or extremist factions. It was released amidst growing indications that the Obama administration, which called the alleged attack a “moral obscenity”, is determined to take limited military action – most likely through cruise-missile strikes launched from naval vessels based in the eastern Mediterranean – against selected targets in Syria for up to three days, possibly as early as this weekend.

It is expected that Britain and France and possibly Turkey will also take part in operations under a NATO mandate and with the support of the Arab League which, meeting in Cairo, blamed Syria for the attack and called for its perpetrators to be brought to justice.

Despite the fact that U.N. inspectors, who recently visited the site of the alleged attack outside Damascus and took blood and tissue samples from some victims, have not yet submitted their findings, administration officials said they had concluded that the attack did take place and that government forces were responsible.

At the White House, spokesman Jay Carney said the administration will release a report detailing the basis for its conclusions and that Obama was currently considering various options prepared by the Pentagon, although he also insisted that any action taken by the United States will not be intended to achieve “regime change” in Damascus.

That assurance will no doubt frustrate neo-conservatives, many of whom have long held the Assad dynasty in their sights and who had hoped that the 2003 invasion of Iraq – which they promoted through organisations like PNAC, the American Enterprise Institute (AEI), and the Foundation for Defense of Democracies (FDD) – would lay the foundations for Assad’s ouster, too.

Indeed, a number of neo-conservatives, including signatories of the FPI letter, are insisting that U.S. action aim to end Assad’s regime.

One, Eliot Cohen, argued in a Washington Post op-ed that “a bout of therapeutic bombing is an even more feckless course of action than a principled refusal to act altogether,” a point echoed on the Wall Street Journal‘s editorial page – a favourite neo-conservative forum.

Another signatory, Reuel Marc Gerecht, who promoted the Iraq war at AEI and is now based at FDD, called for a “devastating” attack targeting “elite military units, aircraft, armour and artillery; all weapons-depots; the myriad organisations of the secret police; the ruling elite’s residences; and other critical Alawite infrastructure” in a New York Times op-ed.

Founded by two prominent neo-conservatives in 1997, Bill Kristol and Robert Kagan, PNAC published a series of letters and manifestos that helped shape the foreign policy trajectory, especially regarding the Middle East, of Bush’s first term. Among its charter members are eight men who held key posts under Bush, including Cheney; his chief of staff, I. Lewis “Scooter” Libby; Defence Secretary Donald Rumsfeld; his deputy, Paul Wolfowitz; Abrams and the Pentagon’s foreign policy chief, Peter Rodman.

In 1998, PNAC published letters favouring legislation adopting “regime change” as official U.S. policy toward Iraq that was eventually signed into law by then-President Bill Clinton. Nine days after 9/11, it published another letter to Bush signed by 41 policy analysts – virtually all neo-conservatives – that laid out an ambitious agenda for his “global war on terror”.

It insisted that failure to remove Iraq’s Saddam Hussein from power “will constitute an early and perhaps decisive surrender in the war on international terrorism.” It also urged that Bush “should consider appropriate measures of retaliation” against Iran and Syria if they refused to comply with demands that they cease support for Lebanon’s Hezbollah.

PNAC faded into oblivion by the beginning of Bush’s second term as the situation in Iraq deteriorated and neo-conservatives lost influence. In early 2009, however, Kagan and Kristol founded FPI and were joined as directors there by Edelman and Dan Senor, a former spokesman for the Coalition Provisional Authority (CPA) in Iraq.

In January 2011, FPI published a letter signed by 40 policy analysts, including more than a dozen former Bush administration officials, calling on Obama to press NATO to establish a no-fly zone over Libya and the country’s naval vessels.

By the following summer, it joined with FDD in calling for tough economic sanctions against Syria and the creation of no-fly or no-go zones in Syrian territory to protect civilians, and in December 2011, it released a letter signed by 58 individuals – most of whom also signed the most recent letter – calling for military aid to opposition forces “whose political goals accord with U.S. national security interests”.

Among the more notable signatories of the most recent letter are French writer Bernard-Henri Levy, who played a key role in mobilising international support for the NATO intervention in Libya; Christian Right activist Gary Bauer, who, with Kristol, was a founding board member of the Emergency Committee for Israel; Bush political adviser Karl Rove; the former head of the Committee to Liberate Iraq, Randy Scheunemann; and former CPA chief, L. Paul Bremer, as well as Kagan and Kristol.

Surprisingly absent from the list were some of the most visible and controversial architects and supporters of the Iraq war and those who had previously associated themselves with PNAC or FPI, such as Cheney, Wolfowitz, Libby, former CIA director James Woolsey, and AEI’s Richard Perle, who chaired the Defence Policy Board under Rumsfeld.

Share RightWeb

Featured Profiles

John Bolton, the notorious hardliner who served as President Bush’s UN ambassador, is chairman of the “Islamophobic” Gatestone Institute and a senior fellow at the neoconservative American Enterprise Institute.


J.D. Crouch II is a former deputy national security adviser and assistant to President George W. Bush who helped develop the “troop surge” in Iraq.


Elliott Abrams is an ideological neoconservative based at the Council on Foreign Relations whose track record includes a criminal conviction for lying to Congress during the Reagan-era Iran-Contra affair.


Michael Flynn is a former Trump administration National Security Advisor who was forced to step down only weeks on the job because of his controversial contacts with Russian officials before Trump took office.


Victoria Coates, member of Donald Trump’s National Security Council and former adviser to Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX), has a long track record of working with hardline foreign policy hawks.


Joe Lieberman, the neoconservative Democrat from Connecticut who retired from the Senate in 2013, co-chairs a foreign policy project at the American Enterprise Institute.


Founded shortly after 9/11, the now defunct Americans for Victory over Terrorism championed “victory” in the “war on terrorism,” in part by promoting “research about Islam and Islamism” and “attacking those who would blame America first.”


For media inquiries,
email rightwebproject@gmail.com

From the Wires

Print Friendly

If, as reported, KT McFarland was allowed to choose John Bolton as her boss at the National Security Agency, it should scare the hell out of everyone.


Print Friendly

Benjamin Netanyahu’s meeting with Donald Trump was overshadowed by unsettling events that preceded and followed their bizarre press conference.


Print Friendly

The meeting between President Donald Trump and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu provided the clearest indication yet that the United States will support Netanyahu in stepping back from the two-state solution.


Print Friendly

Will President Donald Trump name Elliott Abrams deputy secretary of state? Although a knowledgeable and capable operator, Abrams is better known for being convicted on charges of withholding information from Congress about the Iran-Contra scandal, smearing those with whom he disagrees with charges of anti-Semitism, and defending perpetrators of mass human rights violations, including in particular people accused of genocide in the Central American conflicts of the 1980s.


Print Friendly

Reports the the United States plans ti impose new sanctions on “Iranian entities” appears to indicate the the start of a systematic effort by the Trump administration to abrogate the Iran nuclear deal.


Print Friendly

Trump’s support for a Muslim ban are connected to his embrace of an unscientific poll undertaken by one of his top advisors (who claims that she disseminates “alternative facts”) and commissioned by a renowned anti-Muslim conspiracy theorist.


Print Friendly

The people who are expected to have the biggest impact on Donald Trump’s foreign policy collectively have no experience at all in this issue.


RightWeb
share