En Español



Very usefull links



PW
Bookstore





Institutional
links


OPEC
\





 




PW
Business Partners

 


IRAQ OIL

THE FORUM

 


Blogspots

FxHQ Forex News

The Global Barrel

Tiempo Cultural

Gustavo Coronel

Iran Watch.org

Le Blog des
Energies Nouvelles

News Links

AP

AFP

Aljazeera

Dow Jones

Reuters


Bloomberg

Views and News
from
Norway

 

 

 

Lagniappe


Robin Wright: Former Ambassador Robert Ford
on the State Department mutiny on Syria


Smart policy should be thinking about how to make that a positive
process, through negotiations rather than through ethnic fighting.

The Obama Administration has long been divided over what to do about Syria. The crisis produced one of the biggest differences between President Obama and Hillary Clinton, his first Secretary of State. The policy chasm has only deepened during the five years of conflict, which has now reportedly claimed almost half a million lives. The State Department acknowledged tersely on Friday that more than fifty American diplomats had recently submitted a letter of complaint about U.S. policy in Syria through its Dissent Channel, a sort of complaint box through which employees can voice their disagreement with official policy without fear of reprisal. Travelling in Europe, Secretary John Kerry told reporters, “I think it's an important statement and I respect the process very, very much, and I will probably meet with people or have a chance to talk when we get back.”

Robert Ford was the last American ambassador to serve in war-torn Syria. After the uprising erupted, in 2011, Ford dared to visit opposition areas, meet with demonstrators, and pay a condolence call on the family of a slain activist. Ford was pulled out of Damascus over security concerns after the civil war broke out later that year. The State Department charged the regime of President Bashar al-Assad with incitement against Ford. In June, 2012, the Geneva I Conference on Syria agreed on the need for a transition government, including the government and opposition. Among the participants were Secretary of State Clinton and Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov. But in 2014, the Syrian civil war became even more complex with the emergence of the Islamic State, an extremist movement that has since seized a large chunk of northern Syria, including Raqqa, the capital of its caliphate, as well as Deir ez-Zor, Syria's seventh-largest city, and other strategic areas.

In 2014, Ford received the Secretary's Service Award, the highest honor bestowed by the State Department. A long-time Middle East specialist, he continued to work on the Syria crisis from Washington until 2014, when he quit the Foreign Service in frustration over the Administration's reluctance to provide greater support to the Syrian opposition. “I could no longer defend U.S. policy,” he told me. Ford, who is now a senior fellow at the Middle East Institute, in Washington, D.C., discussed the Syria quagmire with me on Friday. The interview has been condensed and edited for clarity.

What does the letter of dissent reflect?

Frustration at the State Department has come to a boil. People don't write in the Dissent Channel every day. The cessation of hostilities in Syria has broken down completely. The bombings of hospitals in Aleppo and Idlib are a violation of every human norm—and that's not including the barrel bombs and the chemical weapons. The effort to get a political deal is going nowhere. The Assad government has refused to make any serious concessions. It won't let in food aid, in violation of U.N. resolutions. And the Americans are watching it all happen. So the Dissent Channel message is a reflection of frustration by the people who are responsible for conducting policy on the ground. I felt that way when I left—and that was after Geneva II, in January-February, 2014.

The existing policy is failing and will continue to fail. Why? I don't sense, in the message, dissent from the strategic objective, which is a negotiated settlement of the Syrian civil war, but I sense a sharp disagreement with the tactics the Administration is or is not using. The dissent message says that, without greater pressure on the Assad government, it will be impossible to secure the compromises necessary to win a political agreement and end the war. The message says that the Administration needs to reconsider tactics to generate that pressure.

We all learned from Iraq that regime change is not the way to bring about positive political change. In the case of civil war, there needs to be negotiation between the opposition and the government. The question is how you increase the likelihood that it will succeed. And ever since Secretary Clinton and Sergei Lavrov concluded the communiqué, in June, 2012, Administration policy has failed to create the conditions necessary to succeed.

Do you blame President Obama?

I don't want to assign blame to any individual. There have long been disagreements in the Administration about how to proceed in Syria. The President is not the only one who has been reluctant to use all tools available to create pressure. One of the things we have seen in the Dissent Channel is frustration that those who advocate continuing the course keep calling for a strategic objective, but don't put forward a means to attain it. Hope is not a policy. It can't be the only basis of policy if there are major political consequences in nato countries. The policy of the U.S. government since the end of the Second World War has been that Europe needs to unify to be strong and to avoid more internal conflicts. This goes back to Harry Truman's time—to be strong, to resist pressure from Moscow, and to avoid falling into more world wars. Now the very unity of Europe is being called into question, in no small part because of the refugee problem out of Syria. This is beyond Syria. That we did not expect in 2012.

I had no disagreements with John Kerry. He understands that there needs to be more pressure on Assad. Hillary Clinton supported doing more with the opposition as a means of getting to a political deal. That dates back to 2012.

What impact is the letter likely to have?

I see no indication from the long interviews by President Obama or [Deputy National Security Adviser] Ben Rhodes that they are prepared to do a deep rethink on the Syria question. So the impact of the letter may not be so great.

Five years later, what is the state of play in Syria?

The war has spiralled from a popular uprising demanding changes in the Syrian security establishments to an international conflict that has drawn in regional and international powers and destroyed large portions of Syria. It has also destabilized countries in Europe as well as spawned the most virulent form of Islamist extremism yet seen.

Back in 2012, we in the State Department anticipated that the war was going to become nastier and ever more sectarian, but no one understood how far the Syrian government was willing to go to maintain its control in Damascus. No one foresaw that half the country would be displaced from their homes. No one foresaw that huge refugee flows would become issues for our European allies. We didn't anticipate that the Al Qaeda organization would split and produce an even more virulent form—that a more extreme form would come to control the eastern portion of Syria going into Iraq.

What would you advocate?

A reinvigorated effort to secure negotiations for a new government with strategic patience in the fight against the Islamic State. The Administration has relied on Kurds, which will pay short-term dividends in recapturing some territory from the Islamic State. That is good. But it will also sow certain seeds of future ethnic conflict between Syrian Arabs and Syrian Kurds.

The dissent message makes clear that the focus on the Islamic State will not win the hearts and minds of enough Syrian Sunni Arabs to provide a long-term, sustainable solution to the Islamic State challenge in Syria. The Syrian Sunni Arab community views the Assad government as a greater problem than the Islamic State. Syrian human-rights organizations have pointed out that that government has killed seven times more civilians than isis has.

Fast-forward two years. In 2018, Raqqa may be retaken. isis may lose Deir ez-Zor. Will the Islamic State still be there? Yes, but as an insurgency.

The danger is that, just as the Palestinian center collapsed, so will the moderate Syrian center collapse. That's the message from the Dissent Channel. It says we have to win over the Sunni Arab community to defeat isis .

Do you really think Assad is willing to negotiate a political transition?

No, as long as he thinks he can win militarily, even it takes twenty years.

Eleven months ago, in July, 2015, it was different. Assad gave a speech to the nation. He said the Army is tired. We don't have enough soldiers. A lot of soldiers have dodged the draft. We don't have enough forces to defend all places and we are having to withdraw. His forces were retreating in northwest Syria and southern Syria—not in front of the Islamic State but in front of the more moderate opposition and the Nusra Front. Even the Alawite heartland [of Assad's sectarian faction] was coming under fire. He was bitter about that. The speech showed he understood that he was losing on the ground–and only when he had the mentality that losing would he be willing to make compromises.

When Russian intervention began, five weeks after that speech, his position changed a hundred and eighty degrees. He said, “We will not negotiate with terrorists—and all armed opposition are terrorists. We will retake every inch of territory. We will fight on until total victory.”

The issue is how to get Assad back to the mentality of July, 2015, so we can get a ceasefire that is durable.

Do you think the opposition is capable of winning?

The real question is: Can they be unified enough to present a relevant and cogent program and alternative? There are many indications that they can. But it also requires that foreign patrons of different groups agree themselves on how a unified command should operate. It doesn't help for us to increase aid to some groups, with other countries aiding different groups, so they don't coördinate.

Will this conflict change the face of the Middle East?

We haven't got to the point that the breakup of countries is a certain outcome. But it's gotten to the point that it's becoming increasingly difficult to see how countries like Syria and Iraq will be able to maintain their unity. And the starting point for that will be an independent Kurdish state. Smart policy should be thinking about how to make that a positive process, through negotiations rather than through ethnic fighting.

 

Robin Wright is a contributing writer for newyorker.com, and has written for the magazine since 1988. Her first piece on Iran won the National Magazine Award for best reporting. A former correspondent for the Washington  Post , CBS News, the Los Angeles  Times,  and the  Sunday Times  of London, she has reported from more than a hundred and forty countries. She is currently a joint fellow at the U.S. Institute of Peace and the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars. Petroleumworld does not necessarily share these views

Editor's Note: This commentary was originally published by The New Yorker, on June 17, 2016. Petroleumworld reprint this article in the interest of our readers.

All comments posted and published on Petroleumworld, do not reflect either for or against the opinion expressed in the comment as an endorsement of Petroleumworld. All comments expressed are private comments and do not necessary reflect the view of this website. All comments are posted and published without liability to Petroleumworld.

Use Notice:This site contains copyrighted material the use of which has not always been specifically authorized by the copyright owner. We are making such material available in our efforts to advance understanding of issues of environmental and humanitarian significance. We believe this constitutes a 'fair use' of any such copyrighted material as provided for in section 107 of the US Copyright Law. In accordance with Title 17 U.S.C. Section 107. For more information go to: http://www.law.cornell.edu/uscode/17/107.shtml.

All works published by Petroleumworld are in accordance with Title 17 U.S.C. Section 107, this material is distributed without profit to those who have expressed a prior interest in receiving the included information for research and educational purposes.Petroleumworld has no affiliation whatsoever with the originator of this article nor is Petroleumworld endorsed or sponsored by theoriginator.
Petroleumworld encourages persons to reproduce, reprint, or broadcast Petroleumworld articles provided that any such reproduction identify the original source, http://www.petroleumworld.com or else and it is done within the fair use as provided for in section 107 of the US Copyright Law.

If you wish to use copyrighted material from this site for purposes of your own that go beyond 'fair use', you must obtain permission from the copyright owner. Internet web links to http://www.petroleumworld.com are appreciated

Copyright© 1999-2009 Petroleumworld or respective author or news agency. All rights reserved.

We welcome the use of Petroleumworld™ stories by anyone provided it mentions Petroleumworld.com as the source. Other stories you have to get authorization by its authors.Internet web links to http://www.petroleumworld.com are appreciated

Petroleumworld welcomes your feedback and comments,
share your thoughts on this article, your feed. back is important to us!

Petroleumworld News 06/20/2016

 

We invite all our readers to share with us
their views and comments about this article.

Follow us in : twitter / Facebook

Send this story to a friend

Write to editor@petroleumworld.com

By using this link, you agree to allow PW
to publish your comments on our letters page.

Any question or suggestions,
please write to: editor@petroleumworld.com

Best Viewed with IE 5.01+ Windows NT 4.0, '95,
'98,ME,XP, Vista, Windows 7,8 +/ 800x600 pixels

 

 

 



TOP

Editor & Publisher:Elio Ohep Fitzgerald./Contact Email: editor@petroleumworld.com

Contact:
editor@petroleumworld.com/ phone: Office (58 212) 635 7252,
or Cel (58 412) 996 3730 / (58 414) 276 3041 / (58  412) 952 5301


CopyRight © 1999-2010, Elio Ohep Fitzgerald.- All Rights Reserved. Legal Information

- CCS Office Tele
phone/Teléfonos Oficina: (58 212) 635 7252

PW in Top 100 Energy Sites


Technorati Profile


CopyRight © 1999-2016 Elio Ohep Fitzgerald. - All Rights Reserved.
This material may not be published, broadcast, posted online, rewritten or redistributed by any type of means, except with permission of the author/s

The information in this web site is proprietary and is protected under United States and International Copyright and Trademark laws. No part of this web site may be reproduced or transmitted in any form by any means whatsoever, except with permission of the author/s..

Petroleumworld encourages persons to reproduce, reprint, or broadcast Petroleumworld articles provided that any such reproduction identify the original source, http://www.petroleumworld.com or else and it is done within the fair use as provided for in section 107 of the US Copyright Law. If you wish to use copyrighted material from this site for purposes of your own that go beyond
'fair use', you must obtain permission from the copyright owner.
Any use of this site or its material, in any form, without the express prior written consent of the author, is prohibited by law and is subject to legal action. Legal Information

Top 100+

Technorati Profile
Fair use notice of copyrighted material:

This site is a public free site and it contains copyrighted material the use of which has not always been specifically authorized by the copyright owner.We are making such material available in our efforts to advance understanding of business, environmental, political, human rights, economic, democracy, scientific, and social justice issues, etc. We believe this constitutes a 'fair use' of any such copyrighted material as provided for in section 107 of the US Copyright Law. In accordance with Title 17 U.S.C. Section 107, the material on this site is distributed without profit to those who have chosen to view the included information for research, information, and educational purposes. For more information go to: http://www.law.cornell.edu/uscode/17/107.shtml. If you wish to use copyrighted material from this site for purposes of your own that go beyond 'fair use', you must obtain permission from Petroleumworld or
the copyright owner of the material.