Tel Hara, on the Golan Plain, Syria: The likely next American President, Hilary Clinton is fielding an array of foreign policy advisers, a few being sort of table scraps from the Bush administration and others having resigned from Obama’s. They are today preparing white papers on all manner of “adjustments” to what the presumed 45th American President reportedly believes was a weak and wrongheaded Obama Middle East policy, particularly with respect to the Syrian crisis and Hezbollah.
This according to sources at the Democratic National Committee’s (DNC) Judicial Council on which this observer served representing his State of Oregon many moons ago. One staffer reports that the Neocon-Zionist lobby has a Middle East Policy deal with the Clinton campaign as a linchpin of her pledge to “eternally cover Israel’s back.” The Clinton camp, which appears to be gaining adherents within the CIA, the State Department and the Pentagon, believes that the Obama administration’s policy toward Russia and Syria is badly flawed partly because, so they claim, Obama wrongly assumes that Russia wants to limit its involvement in Syria. Clinton advisers claim that, on the contrary, Putin’s key objectives include demonstrating that Russia is winning in Syria, that the US has become a paper tiger in the region, and that the Arab states best follow Russia’s lead as it dramatically returns to the region a la the former USSR.
To set the stage for the her administration, some would-be Clinton advisers such as WINEPS Dennis Ross, are counseling that she must increase political pressure now, as the clock runs out on the Obama administration, to dramatically beef up what they view as Obama’s weak “truce agreement” between Washington and Moscow. This as former Defense Secretary and Clinton adviser, Leon Panetta, is advocating that the next president increase US Special Forces in Syria and launch air strikes to shore up ‘moderates” fighting the Syrian government.Others are urging that after Clinton is sworn-in the US must ponce on all “truce violations” with drones and cruise missiles and target Syrian airbases and artillery positions, while simultaneously setting up safe areas for civilians, and if deemed necessary, no-fly zones.
Still others, including a dissenting internal memo last month signed by 51 State Department diplomats advocated attacks on Syrian government forces especially Hezbollah to end aggression against the country’s civilian population, to alter the military balance and bring about a negotiated political settlement. As Clinton’s Syrian policy is being formed, details will likely be kept out of the Presidential campaign, at least from her side, so as not to alienate the crucial Obama camp before November 8th.
There is reportedly one aspect of Clinton’s Middle East policy that has been detailed and is ready for implementation following her inauguration once details are coordinated with Israel, NATO and the six-member Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC). It is being advocated by AIPAC on Capitol Hill and among Clinton operatives at the DNC and details how the Clinton administration “must destroy Hezbollah and cut off Tehran’s anti-Arab, anti-Sunni and anti- Christian hegemonic lifeline for its rapidly escalating domination of the Middle East.”
Clinton’s Middle East foreign policy shift reportedly will focus on the complete destruction of Hezbollah. Rather than merely containment as Obama insists at meetings of his National Security Council. John Kerry, a rumored Clinton cabinet member refers to Hezbollah solely as “Iran’s Basij in Lebanon/Syria/Iraq/Yemen/Bahrain and you name it.” History may soon record whether the Clinton administration, breaking sharply with the Obama administration, is able to “reshape the region” as Israel’s Netanyahu is squeezing her to do, and destroy Hezbollah, and if necessary, Iran’s IRGC-Al Quds Force. The latter, according to Clinton’s advisers and US allies are active in all the countries on Kerry’s list and far beyond.
Destroying or severely crippling Hezbollah is also being advocated as a cheap throw-away ‘crowd-pleaser’ for the incoming Clinton administration, both in Congress where both sides of the aisle, Democrats and Republicans, would very likely applaud attacks on Hezbollah as part of a rejuvenated “manned-up” and expanding US-led War on Terrorism. The Israel lobby is expressing confidence on Capitol Hill that relentlessly targeting Hezbollah militarily and economically will please and embolden Washington’s friends who remain chagrined by Obama’s containment policy in Syria while this needed policy shift will be discomfiting to US adversaries. It is also being argued that the six GCC monarchies will welcome tough Clinton administration action and can be expected to redouble their funding to shore up the Syrian opposition while at the same time the Clinton administration will also demonstrate US resolve to renew Washington’s commitment to holding Hezbollah accountable for its claimed terrorism. All the above it is claimed would hasten an end to the war here in Syria and make a political settlement more likely.
One “emeritus” Clinton advisor is Amos Yadlin, Israel’s former Military Intelligence chief. Recently Yadlin has been arguing that Israel and the US need to intervene in Syria more actively with a policy, that leads to the defeat of the “our most bitter enemies:” Iran and Hezbollah.” Yadlin makes no secret of the fact that Israel will destroy Hezbollah ‘next time’ in Lebanon and that only the approaching date will not be revealed in advance.
Clinton supports the Hizbullah International Financing Prevention Act, signed by Obama on this past April. the U.S. Treasury Department’s Office of Foreign Assets Control, (OFAC) issued regulations aimed at implementing act. The latest U.S. regulations target those “knowingly facilitating a significant transaction or transactions for” Hezbollah and those “knowingly facilitating a significant transaction or transactions of a person identified on the List of Specially Designated Nationals (SDN’s) and Blocked persons.” OFAC’s list includes names of officials, businessmen and institutions that the U.S. says are linked to Hezbollah such as the group’s al-Manar TV and Al-Nour Radio. Clinton advisers argue that even more has to be done targeting Hezbollah.
Several hundred pages of ‘selling points’ circulating Capitol Hill and among EU countries are designed to build “an unshakable global commitment to destroy Hezbollah” according to one staffer on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. Also being distributed on Capitol Hill are “research papers” from a Iranian opposition group called Naame Shaam. One is titled “Iran in Syria: From an Ally of the Regime to an Occupying Force.” The 200-page report analyzes various aspects of the military, political and economic role played by Hezbollah and Iran since March 2011, following the outbreak of the Syrian conflict.
An Israeli Embassy brief targeting Hezbollah includes the following excerpt on the subject of claimed Hezbollah crimes against humanity and urges the US and the EU to intensify sanctions: “Contrary to claims by Hezbollah’s Sec-General Hassan Nasrallah and Iran’s “Supreme Leader” Ali Khameini, Hezbollah entered Syria in large numbers by April 2011 and started sniping at demonstrators and Syrian army soldiers who refused to shoot children. A July 2012 video taken by Hezbollah and published in July 2011 shows heavily armed Hezbollah fighters and a number of tanks in Horan near Deraa, the city where the uprising started. A report in January of 1212 by The Times, documented large numbers of Hezbollah and Iranian snipers were deployed “to shoot anti-regime protesters.” These reports were confirmed by scores of Deraa residents who have confirmed more than 200 eyewitness reports that Iran deployed Hezbollah fighters “to stand behind Syrian troops and kill Syrian soldiers immediately, if they refused to open fire on demonstrators.” Local residents have confirmed these reports as have some of the more three dozen Iranian and Hezbollah snipers who participated. Three months after the start of the March 2011 civilian protests, the first clashes were reported in June 2011 in al-Qusayr, in the countryside of Homs. By May 2012 Hezbollah, overran 10 of the 23 (Syria-Lebanon) border villages and established fortified bases exclusively for its use, at time expelling Syrian army troops in “their” area which led to the Syrian army killing of three Al Manar journalists at Ma’loula.”
The document, which includes satellite photos, continues, “Nasrallah explained to Lebanese media that ‘Hezbollah did not tell them what to do and this has nothing to do with the fighting in Syria. He omitted to mention that historically this area has been the main route for Iranian arms entering Lebanon and is located near Hezbollah arms depots in Lebanon’s Bekaa Valley.”
Another handout reads: “From the spring of 2011 until today, the Hezbollah’s siege, starving and slaughter of innocent women and children across Syria has continued to intensify despite, until recently, denial after denial. Hezbollah crimes have been extensively documented in an undisclosed European country bythe Independent International Commission of Inquiry on the Syrian Arab Republic, established on 22 August 2011 by the Human Rights Council through resolution S-17/1 adopted at its 17th special session with a mandate to investigate all alleged violations of international human rights law since March 2011 in the Syrian Arab Republic. Also gathering and documenting hundreds of cases of individuals committing crimes against humanity is the Commission for International Justice and Accountability.”
As the intense anti-Hezbollah campaign gets organized in Washington, Israel reportedly considers itself the winner to date in Syria, and expects to have much more influence and a green-light to destroy Hezbollah in a Clinton administration than was the case with Obama’s. Tel Aviv has to date been content to bide its time and simply deter Hezbollah in southern Syria/Lebanon and along the Golan Plain while recently occupying another roughly 20 by 12 miles strip of Syria territory. This latest land confiscation was done with impunity as UNDOF observers watched with binoculars. One reason UNDOF was impotent during the Israeli land grab was that a majority of them had relocated from the Syrian side to the Israeli side of the Golan ceasefire line in September 2014. UNDOF will not return until the Syrian war ends, if then.
Israel has made clear via its new Defense Minister, Avigdor Lieberman , leader of the fascist Yisrael Beiteinu party, that Israel will not return one centimeter of its recently occupied Syrian territory “until we sign a peace agreement with the new government of Syria. All Muslims must know that we Israelis are their friends and that we are on the right side of this Syrian war.”
Meanwhile Israel has an understanding with various rebel groups in Southern Syria including the newly re-named Jabhat al Nusra (The Front for the Defense of the Syrian People) now calling itself – Jabhat Fatah al-Sham (the Front for the Conquest of the Levant), giving food and medical treatment to anyone asking for assistance within its new zone. Israel is also reportedly recruiting ‘operatives’ from southern Syria militia around Quneitra, the largely destroyed and abandoned capital of the Quneitra Governorate. Similar recruitments from the local population to what its army undertook during its 22-year occupation of South Lebanon before it was liberated by Hezbollah. Israel is reportedly paying up to $ 1000 per month, “salaries”, (compared to the average monthly salary in Syria these days of approximately of $ 100). Israel offers even more for “special services” targeting Hezbollah. Israel is in the process of occupying, in one way or another, parts of southern Syria. And one can feel it in the air.
Whatever success the Clinton team will have with its goal of destroying Hezbollah and however one evaluates Obama’s policy, this region appears headed for yet more prolonged violence and many more deaths of innocent civilians.
Franklin Lamb is doing research in Syria and Lebanon. His new book, The Case for Palestinian Civil Rights in Lebanon is expected by late summer. He is reachable c/o email@example.com
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