MARK KARLIN, EDITOR OF BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT
In a rare moment of diplomatic candor, US Secretary of State John Kerry told a congressional hearing Wednesday that oil sheiks have offered to pay the United States to unseat Bashar al-Assad as Syrian strong man. The surprising admission came in response to congressional pressure on the administration to explain how yet another military operation would be paid for during a period of prolonged budgetary sequestration.
Apparently trying to assuage concerns about billions and billions of taxpayer dollars financing a "punishment strike" that most legislators know in their guts is the opening salvo in another Libyan style war of degrading the Syrian military (while untold numbers of civilians are also killed in the process), Kerry, according to The Washington Post, revealed more than he probably meant to:
Secretary of State John Kerry said at Wednesday’s hearing that Arab countries have offered to pay for the entirety of unseating President Bashar al-Assad if the United States took the lead militarily.
“With respect to Arab countries offering to bear costs and to assess, the answer is profoundly yes,” Kerry said. “They have. That offer is on the table.”
Asked by Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-Fla.) about how much those countries would contribute, Kerry said they have offered to pay for all of a full invasion.
“In fact, some of them have said that if the United States is prepared to go do the whole thing the way we’ve done it previously in other places, they’ll carry that cost,” Kerry said. “That’s how dedicated they are at this. That’s not in the cards, and nobody’s talking about it, but they’re talking in serious ways about getting this done."
The conundrum for Kerry is that you can't say "nobody's talking about it" when you've just said that an offer is on the table in case the Syrian conflict becomes a full-fledged Libyan style regime replacement operation.
Scared by the Arab Spring and the Arab Street, the Saudis, the Gulf States, and the other remaining dicator oil barons now are even reportedly willing to work with Israel to remove the threat of activism percolating over into their countries. Since Syria, given its increasing isolation, has become more dependent upon Iran, the conservative Arab states want to prevent a Persian fundamentalist state from extending its influence over the region.
The result is that conservative states such as Saudi Arabia that have paid Al-Qaeda "protection money" as long as they didn't try and unseat the monarchy are now frightened that populist movements, including Islamic fundamentalism, have gotten too out of hand.
Given that these nations that Kerry says are willing to pay for the US to militarily go to war with Syria -- and these nations are the US's chief oil allies in the region -- well, just do the math.
The only thing that has been stopping the US up until now from dislodging Assad is that the Syrian rebels are split among many different ideological groups, with the most powerful segment perhaps being Al-Qaeda or Muslim Brotherhood sympathizers. So if Assad is overthrown, it could open the way for a pro-Iranian Islamic fundamentalist government. As a recent Reuters article notes:
Secretary of State John Kerry's public assertions that moderate Syrian opposition groups are growing in influence appear to be at odds with estimates by U.S. and European intelligence sources and nongovernmental experts, who say Islamic extremists remain by far the fiercest and best-organized rebel elements....
Experts agree that the Nusra Front, an offshoot of the group al Qaeda in Iraq, is among the most effective forces in Syria.
In a second hearing on Wednesday, Kerry was challenged by Representative Michael McCaul, Texas Republican.
"Who are the rebel forces? Who are they? I ask that in my briefings all the time," McCaul said. "And every time I get briefed on this it gets worse and worse, because the majority now of these rebel forces - and I say majority now - are radical Islamists pouring in from all over the world."
So what's the end game? That's the question that has everyone scratching their heads in Washington. If Obama is authorized to strike Syria to punish Assad and the military for an alleged chemical attack, what will be the targets? They can't be the chemical weapons themselves because that would cause a dispersement that would probably kill tens of thousands of civilians.
What could the US military do that would actually deter the Syrian army from using chemical weapons, if they were the ones that actually did? And what would prevent the "radical" Islamic forces from seizing the chemical weapons (the largest stockpile in the world, according to President Obama) amidst the chaos created by a "shock and awe" attack. Then who might the chemical weapons be used against, us?
So much for protecting Americans.
If the oil sheiks dripping with petrodollars want to finance something, how about the rebuilding of America's infrastructure, revitalizing Detroit, or alternative energy to wean this nation off of wars for oil?