FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

Neocons vs. the ‘Arab Spring’

by RAMZY BAROUD

The neoconservatives are back with a vengeance. While popular uprisings in Tunisia, Egypt, Yemen and other Arab countries had briefly rendered them irrelevant in the region, Western intervention in Libya signaled a new opportunity. Now Syria promises to usher a full return of neoconservatives into the Middle East fray.

“Washington must stop subcontracting Syria policy to the Turks, Saudis and Qataris. They are clearly part of the anti-Assad effort, but the United States cannot tolerate Syria becoming a proxy state for yet another regional power,” wrote Danielle Pletka, vice president of foreign and defense policy studies at the American Enterprise Institute (Washington Post, July 20).

Pletka, like many of her peers from neoconservative, pro-Israeli ‘think tanks’, should be a familiar name among Arab reporters, who are also well aware of the level of destruction brought to the Middle East as a result of neoconservative wisdom and policies. Rarely though are such infamous names evoked when the ongoing conflict in Syria is reported – as if the main powers responsible for redrawing the geopolitical maps of the region are suddenly insignificant.

Pletka was the biggest supporter of Ahmad Chalabi, the once exiled Iraqi, who she once described as “a trusted associate of the Central Intelligence Agency (and) the key player in a unsuccessful coup to overthrow Saddam Hussein” in the 1990s (LA Times, June 4, 2004). Chalabi led the Iraqi National Congress, which was falsely slated as an authentic Iraqi national initiative. Eventually, members of the council, composed mostly of Iraqi exiles with links to the CIA and other Western intelligences, managed to sway the pendulum their way, and Iraq was destroyed.

Although the destruction of an Arab country is not a moral issue as far as the neocons are concerned, the chaos and subsequent violence that followed the US war in 2003 made it impossible for warring ‘intellectuals’ to promote their ideas with the same language of old. Some reinvention was now necessary. Discredited organizations were shut down and new ones were hastily founded. One such platform was the Foreign Policy Initiative, which was founded by neoconservatives who cleverly reworded old slogans. Matt Duss, wrote in ThinkProgress.org about the Foreign
Policy Initiative inaugural conference on Afghanistan in March 2009: “I was struck by how very little that was said was controversial,” he wrote. “And that’s really the point — in the wake of Iraq debacle, for which the neocons are widely and rightly held responsible, it simply won’t do to bang the drum for American military maximalism. One has to be a bit slicker than that. And these guys are nothing if not slick.”

Slick, indeed, as neoconservatives are now trying to weasel in their version of an endgame in Syria. Their efforts are extremely focused and well-coordinated, making impressive use of their direct ties with the Israeli lobby, major US media and Syrian leaders in exile. They are being referred to as ‘foreign policy experts’, although their ‘expertise’ is merely confined to their ability to destroy and remake countries to their own liking – and even these are unmitigated failures.

Writing in CNN online, Elise Labott reported on a recent neoconservative push to upgrade American involvement in Syria: “Foreign policy experts on Wednesday (August 1) urged the Obama administration to increase its support of the armed opposition.” The ‘experts’ included Andrew Tabler of the Washington Institute for Near East Policy (WINEP), another pro-Israel conduit in Washington. It was established in 1985 as a research department for the influential Israeli lobby group, AIPAC, yet since then it managed to rebrand itself as an American organization concerned with advancing “a balanced and realistic understanding of American interests in the Middle East.”

Obama, of course, obliged under pressure from the ‘experts’. According to CNN, he signed a secret order “referred to as an intelligence ‘finding,’ allow[ing] for clandestine support by the CIA and other agencies.”

Still, the neocons want much more. The bloodbath in Syria has devastated not only Syrian society, it also brought to a halt the collective campaigns in Arab societies which called for democracy on their own terms. The protracted conflict in Syria, and the involvement of various regional players made it unbearable for the neoconservatives to hide behind their new brand and slowly plot a comeback. For them, it was now or never.

On July 31, AIPAC wrote all members of Congress urging them to sign on a bill introduced by Ileana Ros-Lehtinen and Howard Berman. Entitled ‘The Iran Threat Reduction and Syria Human Rights Act (H.R.1905)’, the bill, if passed, “will establish virtual state of war with Iran,” according to the Council for the National Interest.  The old neoconservative wisdom arguing for an unavoidable link between Syria, Iran and their allies in the region is now being exploited to the maximum.

A few days earlier, on July 27, fifty-six leading ‘conservative foreign-policy experts’ had urged Obama to intervene directly in Syria. “Unless the United States takes the lead and acts, either individually or in concert with like-minded nations, thousands of additional Syrian civilians will likely die, and the emerging civil war in Syria will likely ignite wider instability in the Middle East.”

The timing of the letter, partly organized by the Foreign Policy Initiative, was hardly random. It was published one day before the first ‘Friends of Syria’ contact-group meeting in Tunisia, which suggests that it was aimed to help define the American agenda regarding Syria. Signatories included familiar names associated with the Iraq war narrative – Paul Bremer, Elizabeth Cheney, Eric Edelman, William Kristol, and, of course, Danielle Pletka.

With the absence of a clear US strategy regarding Syria, the ever-organized neoconservatives seem to be the only ones with a clear plan, however damaging. In her Washington Post piece, Pletka’s argument for intervention, bridging countries, peoples, sects and groups of all kinds – as if the Middle East is but a chess game governed by delusional but persistent ambitions. In one single paragraph, she made mention of Iran, Hezbollah, Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps, terrorists aimed at destabilizing Iraq, “puppet governments in Beirut” and “Palestinian terror groups dedicated to Israel’s destruction.”

Yet, it is this sort of ‘political expertise’ that governed US foreign policy in the Middle East for nearly two decades. Now that the short respite is over, the neoconservatives are back with their bizarre maps, bleak visions, and a fail-proof recipe for perpetual conflict.

Ramzy Baroud is editor of PalestineChronicle.com. He is the author of The Second Palestinian Intifada: A Chronicle of a People’s Struggle  and  “My Father Was a Freedom Fighter: Gaza’s Untold Story” (Pluto Press, London).





Dr. Ramzy Baroud has been writing about the Middle East for over 20 years. He is an internationally-syndicated columnist, a media consultant, an author of several books and the founder of PalestineChronicle.com. His latest book is My Father Was a Freedom Fighter: Gaza’s Untold Story (Pluto Press, London). His website is: ramzybaroud.net

More articles by:
July 27, 2016
Richard Moser
The Party’s Over
M. G. Piety
Smoke and Mirrors in Philadelphia
Jeffrey St. Clair
The Humiliation Games: Notes on the Democratic Convention
Arun Gupta
Bernie Sanders’ Political Revolution Splinters Apart
John Eskow
The Loneliness of the American Leftist
Guillermo R. Gil
A Metaphoric Short Circuit: On Michelle Obama’s Speech at the DNC
Norman Pollack
Sanders, Our Tony Blair: A Defamation of Socialism
Claire Rater, Carol Spiegel and Jim Goodman
Consumers Can Stop the Overuse of Antibiotics on Factory Farms
Guy D. Nave
Make America Great Again?
Sam Husseini
Why Sarah Silverman is a Comedienne
Dave Lindorff
No Crooked Sociopaths in the White House
Dan Bacher
The Hired Gun: Jerry Brown Snags Bruce Babbitt as New Point Man For Delta Tunnels
Peter Lee
Trumputin! And the DNC Leak(s)
David Macaray
Interns Are Exploited and Discriminated Against
Brett Warnke
Storm Clouds Over Philly
Ann Garrison
Rwanda, the Clinton Dynasty, and the Case of Dr. Léopold Munyakazi
Chris Zinda
Snakes of Deseret
July 26, 2016
Andrew Levine
Pillory Hillary Now
Kshama Sawant
A Call to Action: Walk Out from the Democratic National Convention!
Russell Mokhiber
The Rabble Rise Together Against Bernie, Barney, Elizabeth and Hillary
Jeffrey St. Clair
Don’t Cry For Me, DNC: Notes From the Democratic Convention
Angie Beeman
Why Doesn’t Middle America Trust Hillary? She Thinks She’s Better Than Us and We Know It
Paul Street
An Update on the Hate…
Fran Shor
Beyond Trump vs Clinton
Ellen Brown
Japan’s “Helicopter Money” Play: Road to Hyperinflation or Cure for Debt Deflation?
Richard W. Behan
The Banana Republic of America: Democracy Be Damned
Binoy Kampmark
Undermining Bernie Sanders: the DNC Campaign, WikiLeaks and Russia
Arun Gupta
Trickledown Revenge: the Racial Politics of Donald Trump
Sen. Bernard Sanders
What This Election is About: Speech to DNC Convention
David Swanson
DNC Now Less Popular Than Atheism
Linn Washington Jr.
‘Clintonville’ Reflects True Horror of Poverty in US
Deepak Tripathi
Britain in the Doldrums After the Brexit Vote
Louisa Willcox
Grizzly Threats: Arbitrary Lines on Political Maps
Robert J. Gould
Proactive Philanthropy: Don’t Wait, Reach Out!
Victor Grossman
Horror and Sorrow in Germany
Nyla Ali Khan
Regionalism, Ethnicity, and Trifurcation: All in the Name of National Integration
Andrew Feinberg
The Good TPP
400 US Academics
Letter to US Government Officials Concerning Recent Events in Turkey
July 25, 2016
Sharmini Peries - Michael Hudson
As the Election Turns: Trump the Anti-Neocon, Hillary the New Darling of the Neocons
Ted Rall
Hillary’s Strategy: Snub Liberal Democrats, Move Right to Nab Anti-Trump Republicans
William K. Black
Doubling Down on Wall Street: Hillary and Tim Kaine
Russell Mokhiber
Bernie Delegates Take on Bernie Sanders
Quincy Saul
Resurgent Mexico
Andy Thayer
Letter to a Bernie Activist
Patrick Cockburn
Erdogan is Strengthened by the Failed Coup, But Turkey is the Loser
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail