Neocons’ Ukraine-Syria-Iran Gambit
March 19, 2014
Exclusive: The Ukraine crisis – in part stirred
up by U.S. neocons – has damaged prospects for peace not only on Russia’s
borders but in two Middle East hotspots, Syria and Iran, which may have been
exactly the point.
By Robert Parry
You might think that
policymakers with so many bloody fiascos on their résumés as the U.S. neocons,
including the catastrophic Iraq War, would admit their incompetence and return
home to sell insurance or maybe work in a fast-food restaurant. Anything but
directing the geopolitical decisions of the world’s leading superpower.
Washington’s neocons are nothing if not relentless and resilient. They are also
well-funded and well-connected. So they won’t do the honorable thing and
disappear. They keep hatching new schemes and strategies to keep the world
stirred up and to keep their vision of world domination – and particularly
“regime change” in the Middle East – alive.
|Sen. John McCain
appearing with Ukrainian rightist, Oleh
Tyahnybok at a rally in Kiev.|
Now, the neocons
have stoked a confrontation over Ukraine, involving two nuclear-armed states,
the United States and Russia. But – even if nuclear weapons don’t come into
play – the neocons have succeeded in estranging U.S. President Barack Obama
from Russian President Vladimir Putin and sabotaging the pair’s crucial
cooperation on Iran and Syria, which may have been the point all along.
Though the Ukraine
crisis has roots going back decades, the chronology of the recent uprising —
and the neocon interest in it – meshes neatly with neocon fury over Obama
and Putin working together to avert a U.S. military strike against Syria last summer
and then brokering an interim nuclear agreement with Iran last fall that
effectively took a U.S. bombing campaign against Iran off the table.
With those two top
Israeli priorities – U.S. military attacks on Syria and Iran – sidetracked, the
American neocons began activating their influential media and political
networks to counteract the Obama-Putin teamwork. The neocon wedge to splinter Obama
away from Putin was driven into Ukraine.
Operating out of
neocon enclaves in the U.S. State Department and at U.S.-funded
non-governmental organizations, led by the National Endowment for Democracy,
neocon operatives targeted Ukraine even before the recent political unrest
began shaking apart the country’s fragile ethnic and ideological cohesion.
September, as the prospects for a U.S. military strike against Syria were
fading thanks to Putin, NED president Carl Gershman, who is something of a
neocon paymaster controlling more than $100 million in congressionally approved
funding each year, took to the pages of the neocon-flagship Washington Post and
that Ukraine was now “the biggest prize.”
But Gershman added
that Ukraine was really only an interim step to an even bigger prize, the
removal of the strong-willed and independent-minded Putin, who, Gershman added,
“may find himself on the losing end not just in the near abroad [i.e. Ukraine]
but within Russia itself.” In other words, the new hope was for “regime change”
in Kiev and Moscow.
Putin had made
himself a major annoyance in Neocon World, particularly with his diplomacy on
Syria that defused a crisis over a Sarin attack outside Damascus on Aug. 21,
2013. Despite the attack’s mysterious origins – and the absence of any clear
evidence proving the Syrian government’s guilt – the U.S. State Department and
the U.S. news media rushed to the judgment that Syrian President Bashar
al-Assad did it.
|Syrian President Bashar
pundits baited Obama with claims that Assad had brazenly crossed Obama’s “red
line” by using chemical weapons and that U.S. “credibility” now demanded
military retaliation. A longtime Israeli/neocon goal, “regime change” in Syria,
seemed within reach.
But Putin brokered a
deal in which Assad agreed to surrender Syria’s chemical weapons arsenal (even
as he continued to deny any role in the Sarin attack). The arrangement was a
huge letdown for the neocons and Israeli officials who had been drooling over
the prospect that a U.S. bombing campaign would bring Assad to his knees and
deliver a strategic blow against Iran, Israel’s current chief enemy.
Putin then further
offended the neocons and the Israeli government by helping to facilitate an
interim nuclear deal with Iran, making another neocon/Israeli priority, a U.S.
war against Iran, less likely.
Putting Putin in Play
So, the troublesome
Putin had to be put in play. And, NED’s Gershman was quick to note a key
Russian vulnerability, neighboring Ukraine, where a democratically elected but
corrupt president, Viktor Yanukovych, was struggling with a terrible economy
and weighing whether to accept a European aid offer, which came with many
austerity strings attached, or work out a more generous deal with Russia.
There was already a
strong U.S.-organized political/media apparatus in place for destabilizing
Ukraine’s government. Gershman’s NED had 65 projects operating in the country
training “activists,” supporting “journalists” and organizing business groups, according
to its latest
. (NED was created in 1983 to do in relative openness what the CIA
had long done in secret, nurture pro-U.S. operatives under the umbrella of
So, when Yanukovych
opted for Russia’s more generous $15 billion aid package, the roof fell in on
him. In a speech to Ukrainian business leaders last December, Assistant
Secretary of State for European Affairs, Victoria Nuland, a neocon holdover and
the wife of prominent neocon Robert Kagan, reminded the group that the U.S. had
invested $5 billion in Ukraine’s “European aspirations.”
Then, urged on by
Nuland and neocon Sen. John McCain, protests in the capital of Kiev turned
increasingly violent with neo-Nazi militias moving to the fore. Unidentified
snipers opened fire on protesters and police, touching off fiery clashes that
killed some 80 people (including about a dozen police officers).
On Feb. 21, in a
desperate attempt to tamp down the violence, Yanukovych signed an agreement
brokered by European countries. He agreed to surrender many of his powers, to
hold early elections (so he could be voted out of office), and pull back the
police. That last step, however, opened the way for the neo-Nazi militias to
overrun government buildings and force Yanukovych to flee for his life.
modern-day storm troopers controlling key buildings – and brutalizing
Yanukovych supporters – a rump Ukrainian parliament voted, in an
extra-constitutional fashion, to remove Yanukovych from office. This
coup-installed regime, with far-right parties controlling four ministries
including defense, received immediate U.S. and European Union recognition as
Ukraine’s “legitimate” government.
This is Oleh
he has claimed a "Moscow-Jewish
mafia" rule Ukraine and that
"Germans, Kikes and other scum" want
to "take away our Ukrainian state."
As remarkable – and
newsworthy – as it was that a government on the European continent included
Nazis in the executive branch for the first time since World War II, the
U.S. news media performed as it did before the Iraq War and during various
other international crises. It essentially presented the neocon-preferred
narrative and treated the presence of the neo-Nazis as some kind of urban
Virtually across the
board, from Fox News to MSNBC, from the Washington Post to the New York Times,
the U.S. press corps fell in line, painting Yanukovych and Putin as the
“black-hat” villains and the coup regime as the “white-hat” good guys, which
required, of course, whiting out the neo-Nazi “brown shirts.”
defenders have challenged my reporting that U.S. neocons played a significant
role in the Ukrainian putsch. One argument is that the neocons, who regard the
U.S.-Israeli bond as inviolable, would not knowingly collaborate with neo-Nazis
given the history of the Holocaust (and indeed the role of Ukrainian Nazi
collaborators in extermination campaigns against Poles and Jews).
But the neocons have
frequently struck alliances of convenience with some of the most unsavory – and
indeed anti-Semitic – forces on earth, dating back to the Reagan administration
and its collaboration with Latin American “death squad” regimes, including work
with the World Anti-Communist League that included not only neo-Nazis but aging
|Saudi Arabia's King Abdullah|
More recently in
Syria, U.S. neocons (and Israeli leaders) are so focused on ousting Assad, an
ally of hated Iran, that they have cooperated with Saudi Arabia’s Sunni
monarchy (known for its gross anti-Semitism). Israeli officials have even
expressed a preference for Saudi-backed Sunni extremists winning in Syria if
that is the only way to get rid of Assad and hurt his allies in Iran and
Israel’s Ambassador to the United States Michael Oren told the Jerusalem Post
that Israel so wanted Assad out and his Iranian backers weakened, that Israel
would accept al-Qaeda operatives taking power in Syria.
|Michael Oren|| || |
“The greatest danger
to Israel is by the strategic arc that extends from Tehran, to Damascus to
Beirut. And we saw the Assad regime as the keystone in that arc,” Oren said in the
“We always wanted Bashar Assad to go, we always preferred the
bad guys who weren’t backed by Iran to the bad guys who were backed by Iran.”
Oren said that was
Israel’s view even if the other “bad guys” were affiliated with al-Qaeda.
Oren, who was
Israel’s point man in dealing with Official Washington’s neocons, is considered
very close to Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and reflects his views.
For decades, U.S. neocons have supported Netanyahu and his hardline Likud
Party, including as strategists on his 1996 campaign for prime minister when
neocons such as Richard Perle and Douglas Feith developed the original “regime
change” strategy. [For details, see Consortiumnews.com’s “The
Mysterious Why of the Iraq War
In other words,
Israel and its U.S. neocon supporters have been willing to collaborate with
extreme right-wing and even anti-Semitic forces if that advances their key
geopolitical goals, such as maneuvering the U.S. government into military
confrontations with Syria and Iran.
So, while it may be
fair to assume that neocons like Nuland and McCain would have preferred that
the Ukraine coup had been spearheaded by militants who weren’t neo-Nazis – or,
for that matter, that the Syrian rebels were not so dominated by al-Qaeda-affiliated
extremists – the neocons (and their Israeli allies) see these tactical
collaborations as sometimes necessary to achieve overarching strategic
And, since their
current strategic necessity is to scuttle the fragile negotiations over Syria
and Iran, which otherwise might negate the possibility of U.S. military
strikes against those two countries, the Putin-Obama collaboration had to go.
By spurring on the
violent overthrow of Ukraine’s elected president, the neocons helped touch off
a cascade of events – now including Crimea’s secession from Ukraine and its
annexation by Russia – that have raised tensions and provoked Western
retaliation against Russia. The crisis also has made the continued Obama-Putin
teamwork on Syria and Iran extremely difficult, if not impossible.
neocon-engineered schemes, there will surely be much collateral damage in this
latest one. For instance, if the tit-for-tat economic retaliations escalate –
and Russian gas supplies are disrupted – Europe’s fragile recovery could be
tipped back into recession, with harmful consequences for the U.S. economy,
There’s also the
certainty that congressional war hawks and neocon pundits will press for
increased U.S. military spending and aggressive tactics elsewhere in the world
to punish Putin, meaning even less money and attention for domestic programs or
deficit reduction. Obama’s “nation-building at home” will be forgotten.
But the neocons have
long made it clear that their vision for the world – one of America’s
“full-spectrum dominance” and “regime change” in Middle Eastern countries
opposed to Israel – overrides all other national priorities. And as long as the
neocons face no accountability for the havoc that they wreak, they will
continue working Washington’s corridors of power, not selling insurance or
|Sexy Sarah Gun Pose in Camo Bikini |