Pro-Israel neocon hawk Michael Weiss brags, in a new piece in Foreign Affairs Magazine, that he has drafted a blueprint adopted by the Syrian opposition, which includes a call for foreign military intervention:
…The SNC [Syrian National Council] launched its official Web site [which], drawing on a blueprint I prepared…[made an] aggressive call for foreign military intervention…
Frankly, I find it astonishing that the Syrian resistance would allow such a Perle-Wolfowitz-type character to influence its strategic deliberations. In fact, if these people don’t realize, they’re giving pro-regime forces a perfect opportunity to smear them with the charge of being lackeys of the Israel lobby, which is clearly a role that Weiss plays and relishes doing so. In fact, one of the major themes of Assad’s most recent TV address to the nation was the foreign cabals conspiring to take him down and replace him with a foreign-friendly puppet regime. I hate to say this, but he may be right if Michael Weiss has anything to say about it.
Foreign Affairs has given the pro-Israel pro-interventionist neocon lobby a post-New Year’s gift by publishing his screed advocating violent regime change in Syria. Moon of Alabama has exposed some of Weiss’ neocon roots and his Perle-Wolfowitz like relationships in the Chalabi-like Syrian-exile nether world. The critique of the Weiss article notes his peeved view of those in the Syrian opposition who remain opposed to intervention. Notice in this passage from Weiss that he manages to smear those forces by implying that they are lackeys of the Assad regime:
Making matters worse, in the last two weeks, the SNC has further embarrassed itself by sending mixed messages about its real intentions. First, the group said that it was in favor of foreign military intervention. But on December 30, 2011, reports swirled that Ghalioun and a handful of senior SNC figures had inked a unity agreement with the anti-interventionist National Coordination Body for Democratic Change, a domestic opposition group that activists suspect is a cover organization pushing reconciliation with Assad’s regime.
In fact, in this passage which Moon of Alabama notes, Weiss writes a major portion of the Syrian opposition still opposed to military intervention completely out of the resistance movement:
Nevertheless, there are signs of progress…Now that the SNC has endorsed foreign intervention, bringing it in line with what all factions of the Syrian insurgency have advocated for months, there is a greater likelihood that the various political and military arms of the opposition will unite, if only out of their shared desperation over the unabated carnage. If this happens, then there is a path to Western interdiction in Syria…
The very specificity of the proposals that Weiss advances and the detailed blueprint he offers indicates the intensity of his coordination with the pro-interventionist Syrian forces. Among the leadership of this group is Ausama Monajed who, MoA notes, is the former director of a Syrian opposition TV station. It was operated by the Movement for Justice and Development, a Syrian exile group which Wikileaks revealed as recipient of a $6-million State Department grant. In fact, the original position paper Weiss wrote, on which the FP article is based, was commissioned by the Strategic Research & Communication Centre, a group founded by Monajed.
What concerns me is that FP may’ve allowed itself to be co-opted by forces which have their own particular agenda, about which they aren’t being as transparent as they should. For example, in his FP bio it only notes his affiliation with the Henry Jackson Society. It does not note that HJS has close affiliations with such pro-Israel neocon enterprises as BICOM (UK’s version of Aipac) and the Harry’s Place blog. He is director of yet another pro-Israel advocacy group, Just Journalism, which is a CAMERA-like pressure group which hectors “anti-Israel” or “delegitmizing” media outlets like the Guardian when their work is insufficiently supportive of the “Jewish State.”
He also pens a blog at pro-Tory Telegraph, which is replete with anti-Muslim agitprop. In fact, his Syrian ex-pat friends might want to do a closer examination of some of his Islamophobic effusions before making common cause with him. Can any Syrian Muslim unite with a pro-Israel Jew who harbors such anger and hatred for Islam? Among Weiss’ latest targets was Sheikh Raed Salah, which whom Weiss, BICOM and the British foreign ministry colluded, so far unsuccessfully, to have the Israeli Muslim leader excluded from the UK as an undesirable figure. Similarly, the Bush administration excluded Tariq Ramadan six years ago. Before he moved to Britain, Weiss wrote a blog for the Jewish neocon-funded, The Tablet.
For the sake of journalistic transparency, I want to know what is Weiss’ precise relationship with Ausama Monajed and any organization or entity with which the latter is affiliated. Is the journalist a consultant? Is he being paid? If so, by whom and how much? And where is the funding organization getting its own funding? I only wished Foreign Policy had asked such questions before publishing him and giving him a platform to incite for potentially catastrophic mayhem in Syria.
One has to ask what Weiss’ interests are in the Syrian cause. Of course there is a Lawrence of Arabia wannabe element–bringing democracy to the huddled Arab masses yearning to breathe free and all that. But one shouldn’t discount Weiss’ close collaboration with pro-Israel elements as well. Israel, as a frontline neighboring state, has a strong interest in the kind of regime that replaces Assad. It would like nothing more than to see a replacement that minds its own business and allows Israel to pursue its own interests in the region unfettered. That would mean bringing to power those who would renounce Syria’s current alliance with Iran and Hezbollah.
Israel is certainly not above meddling in Syria’s affairs to attain such a result. It did so for decades in southern Lebanon before being attrited to death by Hezbollah’s attacks. Though Israel would likely realize that it’s fingerprints must not be seen in order not to tarnish the reputations of those with whom it is doing business. That’s why Weiss could serve as such a useful intermediary. He is one of the pro-Israel crowd, but not an Israeli. So his associations and affiliations will not be as easily deciphered and exposed (which is why I’m writing this).
I’m laughing at IDF chief of staff’s offer made last week to a Knesset committee to take in Syrian refugees after the Assad regime falls. First, can you imagine Israel, which mowed down like flies Syrians who crossed the Golan border only last year, taking in Assad’s refugees? Second, can you imagine any Syrian nationalist in their right mind accepting such an offer of refuge from Israel? They’d be branded for life as a collaborator. Syrians would rightly suspect any such offer as having the smell of underhanded self-interest to it.
Now to Weiss’ formula for intervention. He begins by calling for military forces from “the west and Turkey” to establish a “corridor” for refugees. This would serve a sa beachhead from which a full-scale military revolution would spread throughout the country to topple the regime. The notion that western military forces could enter Syria for any purpose at all is laughable, especially not as part of plan for regime change.
It is entirely possible that Turkey might send its military if the situation became grim enough. But that would be an intervention of a totally different nature since it would be a neighboring Muslim state. Further, if Turkey intervened, all bets would be off as to what form of government would replace Assad. Turkey would have little interest in installing an Israel-friendly puppet regime of the sort that Weiss undoubtedly dreams. Turkey, if it were smart, would pick a Syrian leadership with authentic nationalist roots and with strong support on the ground. Even Weiss admits that the Syrian expat horses on which he’s betting have no Syrian street cred, since they’ve spent the past few decades sittin’ fat and pretty in Knightsbridge and other watering holes of the wealthy.
To be clear, I am not endorsing the Assad regime. It is a brutal regime on the order of those toppled in Egypt and Tunisia. The world and the Middle East would be far better off without Assad in power. But the question is how to remove him and what takes his place. First and foremost, the Syrian people, that is those battling this regime every day in the streets of that country’s major cities, deserve the clear and final voice on who will lead them. Such decisions must not be made top-down by a bunch of ex-pats funded by the U.S. State Department and guided by a pro-Israel neocon huckster.
If there is intervention it must be done extremely carefully and with due consideration to how least to provoke the Syrian people. In other words, Turkey will probably have to take the lead on this. If the west tries to muck around here as Weiss is, it will only end up getting bitten. What we should avoid most of all is a type of intractable Iraq-Afghanistan-type resistance to foreign military occupation. This is precisely the sort of mess that Weiss’ manipulations could induce and he even concedes this possibility in his essay.
So hands off USA. Hands off Clinton-Obama. Hands off Cameron. Hands off Sarkozy. Syria doesn’t need your “interdiction.” If you want to support the Syrian resistance, figure out ways of doing it within Syria and stay away from the Syrian Chalabis only too eager to accept your lucre and claim they represent the real Syrian people.
It’s incredibly ironic that Weiss advises interventionist powers to circumvent a virtually certain Russian Security Council veto of a pro-regime change resolution by bypassing it and going to the General Assembly via a Uniting for Peace resolution, which would enable action with a two-thirds vote. Of course, this is precisely the route the Palestinians were planning to use in getting UN recognition of statehood. This was the tactic about Israel and the U.S. were so up in arms. Now apparently, the western interventionists find the same tactic quite convenient. I find mystifying Weiss’ belief that his Syrian ex-pat friends could get the support of that large a percentage of the GA given the neocon inspiration for so much of the tactics and strategy for intervention.
Also interesting is Weiss’ cavalier suggestion that the U.S. Sixth Fleet could enforce a blockade and no-fly zone in Syria. In case he doesn’t realize it, the blockade of a foreign country is an act of war. Syrian loyalists could easily take their fight outside of Syria and seek revenge against American interests in the region or outside it. As if we don’t have enough already on our plate with a potentially imminent war against Iran which would occupy our Fifth Fleet. Do we want two theaters of operation in a single geographic region for U.S. forces?
It’s cute that Weiss mouths the rhetoric of Israeli and U.S. anti-Iran hawks who repeat like a church choir the chorus: “force is a last resort, force is a last resort.” Yet no one is fooled. He devoted a few thousands words to painting a scenario for military intervention. A single sentence stating the opposite point of view is completely unconvincing.
Silverstein has published Tikun Olam since 2003, It exposes the secrets of the Israeli national security state. He lives in Seattle, but his heart is in the east. He publishes regularly at Middle East Eye, the New Arab, and Jacobin Magazine. His work has also appeared in Al Jazeera English, The Nation, Truthout and other outlets.