Monday, February 25, 2013

We Warned You Eliot Engel Isn't Fit To Lead House Democrats On The Foreign Relations Committee


Eliot Engel represents AIPAC in Congress, which means he puts Israel's interests above America's. He shouldn't be in Congress to begin with but he certainly should not be the ranking Democrat on the House Foreign Affairs Committee.

Back in 2002 when Bush was looking for backing for his plans for unprovoked war against Iraq, he knew he couldn't do it without bipartisan support. He literally couldn't do it in the House, where he didn't have enough Republican votes. But he found 81 Democrats to rubber stamp his decision. Most Democrats-- 126 + Independent Bernie Sanders-- voted against the war. Eliot Engel joined other Democrats who put the Likud's extreme demands ahead of what was right for America. And now Engel has been made the top Democrat on the House Foreign Affairs Committee-- a post for which he was pushed by Republican allies. There is no light between reactionary GOP warmonger Ed Royce, the committee chair, and Engel.

And yesterday Engel was on ABC's This Week pushing the knee-jerk bloodthirsty John McCain/Lindsey Graham/AIPAC position for Syria, namely that the U.S. should arm the rebels and encourage the further destruction of one of Israel's most implacable regional foes. ABC's man on the ground, Terry Moran, a This Week host George Stephanopoulos questioned Engel about the Syrian situation:
Moran: The United States has a choice: arm the rebels, engage even more deeply in what is becoming a chaotic and dangerous war to this region or broker a peace, probably with Russia, give the Syrian people an opportunity to determine their future and at least in the first stages, Bashar Assad is likely to be part of that process.

Stephanopoulos: Congressman Engel is that the choice?

Engel: I think it’s the choice and I will be introducing legislation to allow the President to arm the rebels. I think it’s time to do that. I think the Free Syria Army needs help. We know who they are and I think it’s time we make that move.
The problem with an Israeli agent inside the U.S. government-- like Engel-- is that his first concern is never America. Obama has played a very careful hand because, despite Engel's assertions that "we know who they are," we can't predict if the post-Assad situation in Syria will be even worse than the staus quo ante. Al Qaeda is playing a heavy hand in Syria now and Engel may be bungling into bringing them to power. Engel isn't just a viper, he's a stupid viper and the ramifications of his solution-- the creation of an actual terrorist state in Syria-- is more of a threat to U.S. interests and allies (including Israel, as well as Turkey, Jordan and, of course, Lebanon). Israel and American right-wing fundamentalists hoping for the End Times (as well as McCain) are giddy at the prospect of the Alawites and the al Qaeda-backed Sunni extremists fighting a civil war of extermination.
Stopping jihadis from taking over Syria could represent the only common goal between Syria’s ruling Alawites and the secular Sunni rebels. Shiite-related Alawites rightly fear an al Qaeda-like triumph in Syria as the worst possible outcome. There can be no doubt in their minds that Sunni extremists would make the mass killing of Alawites their number one priority. The secular leaders of the Syrian rebels, clustered in the exile group known as the Syrian National Council, also must worry about the extremist threat they themselves would face if the Assad government fell now. Remember, most Syrian Sunnis don’t have a history of religious radicalism. They don’t want rule by shari’a law any more than the Alawites do.

U.S. strategy must focus on building this common ground. Washington should want to ensure that neither its European nor its regional allies gave arms to groups suspected of being even slightly jihadi in nature. In particular, our Arab friends already sending arms must err even further on the side of great caution. Such restraint on our part would show the Alawites we care about their safety, a critical signal. Our negotiating efforts would follow along similar lines: yes, Assad would have to go. Yes, secular rebel leaders and the remaining Alawite leaders would agree to freeze the jihadis out of negotiations and governmental power. And yes, both secular Sunni and Alawite leaders would agree to share governmental power and to protect their own respective communities for the indefinite future. It’s not pretty or easy, but it is common ground.

There are two good reasons to try this strategy, however messy it may be. First, it zooms right in on what most worries the United States and its principal allies neighboring Syria-- namely, the prospect of Syria becoming an al Qaeda den. The terrorists would have a ready-made storehouse of modern armaments, i.e. chemical weapons and sophisticated anti-aircraft missiles and radars. Washington is well aware of the dangers, but focused not nearly enough on prevention.

Second, the anti-jihadi strategy just makes more practical sense than the policy ideas now dominating public debate. One favorite is that the U.S. should be promoting negotiations between the rebels and the government. But rebel leaders in Turkey are nearly powerless and with little control of the fighting rebels inside Syria. Of equal importance, there’s nothing on the negotiating table now to sway the Alawites to ditch Assad. Apart from saving lives, we haven’t given either side a good argument for making peace-- and obviously, neither side is too concerned with saving lives right now, or they would have stopped killing each other long ago. The negotiating track hasn’t worked, and won’t-- unless we get the Alawites and secular Sunnis to focus on common political interests. The UN can keep sending representatives to talk to the rivals, and Secretary of State John Kerry can visit the neighborhood. Alas, none of this will amount to a hill of beans.

The other “solution” gaining ground [the one embraced by Engelon TV yesterday], especially here in the United States, is for the U.S. to arm the rebels for military victory. That’s much easier said than done; advocates need only stop and imagine our limitations in being able to distinguish between good and bad rebels. Arabs all look alike to Americans, even CIA operatives. Only ignoramuses don’t fret about arms falling into the wrong hands. Proponents of arming the rebels might also note a telling fact-- namely, that those Arab states already arming rebels, like Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, and Qatar, have limited their own distributions. They realize that even if they know the rebels better than Americans do, they don’t know them well enough to give them sophisticated arms. So, if those who know the rebels best can’t figure out whom to arm, and with what, how can Americans do better?

A key dimension to an anti-jihadi strategy for the U.S. and its regional allies would be to help the secular rebels better compete for the hearts and minds of the Syrian people. Right now, jihadis are gaining popularity, as they often have elsewhere, by providing goods and services to the needy and by shunning corruption, at least for the moment. We have to convince the secular rebels to do as much and, if they demonstrate that they can deliver, give them the economic wherewithal to compete. Of course, our other humanitarian aid programs in Syria and border areas should continue and even increase. And indeed, we should make clear to the Syrians that we and their Arab brethren would make a major effort at economic reconstruction in Syria should the secular rebels and the Alawites forge a political compromise excluding the jihadis.

One further word about arming “the freedom fighters.” No one has come close to making a convincing case that doing so, even apart from mistakenly arming bad guys, would result in ending the war sooner or reducing killings. Rather, the pattern has been: the more lethal the rebels’ effort, the more violent Assad’s forces. And if the past is prologue, and more arms proved insufficient, advocates of arming the rebels would soon argue for direct U.S. intervention.

The only strategy that stands a chance-- and not even necessarily a very good one – is for the United States, the post-Assad Alawites, and the secular Syrian Sunnis to focus relentlessly on the common goal: stopping the victory of Islamic extremists.
The House Democrats could have done a lot better than picking Engel as their leader on the matter. Maybe if they had kept a record of how badly he's voted in the past-- whether for Bush's attack on Iraq or Tom DeLay's attack on Terri Schiavo-- it would have predicted what a terrible choice he was for the new position.

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At 7:38 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Oh, Israel and AIPAC do want al Qaeda to be a big force in Syria post-Assad, alright. That way they can bomb the shit out of it and sabotage it otherwise "justifiably". To Israel, and to the U.S., the Middle East is one big war of attrition, undermining all potential and real opponents of Israel by bringing them to their knees and causing them fight each other either as a civil war or through tribal constituent hostilites, as in Iraq (the U.S. GOP obliged Israel by destroying Iraq the American way personally. Obama's resisting going into Syria fully as the GOP would have him do. Obama's doing even less about Syria than Clinton did about Iraq when the GOP (Project for a New Century, et al) demanded he invade Iraq. Clinton didn't invade but did bomb it almost every day for eight years. You can be assured Obama's doing Something about Syria, but we don't know how much or exactly what. He's not just sitting on his hands, as he didn't just sit on his hands in Libya. So in summary, First Iraq, then Libya, now Syria, and next Iran. You can count on it, though we don't know exactly what or how. It's all clear now. It's like Cheney (was it?) said, describing a Middle East domino theory, and the U.S. and Israel would knock down the dominoes themselves via direct violence, economic violence, and subterfuge. Why? Because those countries have opposed outright U.S. and Israeli expansion, a geopolitical cardinal sin that can't go without punishment, and to make an example of them to other potential American Empire resisters. It's still the oil, baby; if not directly for the U.S., then because whomever controls the most oil still controls the world more or less.


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