US Attack on Syria Result of Domestic Pressure on Trump: American Pundit
TEHRAN (Tasnim) – A former US Senate foreign policy analyst said President Donald Trump's recent order to attack Syria was an attempt to “relieve domestic political pressure” rather than a message to Russia and China.
"I think his (Trump’s) action was less determined to send a message to (Vladimir) Putin and Xi (Jinping) than to relieve domestic political pressure," Washington-based political analyst James Jatras said in an interview with the Tasnim News Agency.
"He (Trump) knew that if he even questioned supposed intelligence that concluded, without any investigation, with ‘a high level of confidence’ it was Assad, he would bring down on his head another avalanche of criticism," he noted.
James George Jatras is Deputy Director of the American Institute in Ukraine, a privately funded American NGO. Based in Washington, DC, he is a former US diplomat and adviser to the US Senate Republican leadership.
The full text of the interview with Jatras is as follows:
Tasnim: On Friday morning, the US attacked Syria without UN mandate under the pretext of a suspected chemical attack earlier in Syria’s Idlib province. The US military fired about 60 Tomahawk missiles at a Syrian airbase near Homs. “Tonight, I ordered a targeted military strike on the airfield in Syria from where the chemical attack was launched,” US President Donald Trump told reporters at his Mar-a-Lago resort in Florida. What do you think about these developments? Do not you think that US claims on the chemical attack are suspicious?
Jatras: It is more than suspicious. As has been noted by many commentators, Assad had no reason to launch such an attack. He is winning this war and was about to go into peace talks in a strong position. Washington had essentially disavowed regime change. Then, literally, in one day that was overturned. The terrorists had every reason to do that, Assad had none. It is well known the terrorists have a chemical capability. It is reliably believed the terrorists, not Assad, were behind the 2013 Ghouta “red line” sarin gas attack (though American media routinely still report it as a Syrian government use of chemical weapons). In crime, opportunity plus motive is powerful basis for suspicion. Instead, without evidence the blame was placed immediately on Assad and Putin. This points to political motivations. Here in Washington, it appears this was a reflection of Trump’s domestic weakness, with the Deep State, the media, all the Democrats, and many Republicans lined up against him – the very people now praising him for having attacked Syria.
Tasnim: Following the attack, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said Russian President Vladimir Putin regards the offensive as an act of “aggression against a sovereign nation,” which was carried out based on a “made-up pretext” and that it seriously hurt Russia-US relations. Also, the Chinese government said it is the Syrian nation which should determine the fate of Syrian President Bashar Assad. What do you think? What kind of message is Trump trying to convey, to Putin in particular, with Chinese President Xi Jinping sitting next to him?
Jatras: I think his action was less determined to send a message to Putin and Xi than to relieve domestic political pressure. He knew that if he even questioned supposed intelligence that concluded, without any investigation, with “a high level of confidence” it was Assad, he would bring down on his head another avalanche of criticism. (Ironically, the same intelligence agencies – which are also aiding the terrorists in Syria – saying Assad committed the chemical attack are the very ones claiming with “a high level of confidence” but no evidence that the Russians hacked the Democratic National Committee’s emails help put Trump into the White House and are spearheading the “soft coup” against him.) So Trump caved in the Deep State. To the extent the strike was designed also to impress the Chinese on Korea, I think it did but not the way expected. They will watch, like the Russians, what the US does next in Syria. If “Assad does it again” – in other words, another false flag -- and the US acts more forcefully to put the black flag over Damascus, they will both conclude the Deep State’s agenda cannot be derailed domestically in the US. A major war is unavoidable and they will plan accordingly. Or rather, continue with plans being made when they assumed Hillary Clinton was going to win but with Trump’s election hoped to be able to put away.
Tasnim: Furthermore, Russian warplanes heavily pounded terrorists’ positions in Idlib on Friday following the US attack. It seems that the situation is getting worse in the Middle East as well as the world. Do you believe that the US and Russia are on road to a final collision? Do you think that the US is beating drums of World War III?
Jatras: I hope they are not. My greatest fear is that with US officials threatening even more forceful action if Assad does it “again,” Washington has issued an open invitation to the terrorists to stage another provocation. We’re essentially saying to them, “OK, boys, you know what to do!” Even if that does not happen, much depends on what Tillerson says in Moscow next week. If he says, “Alright, we laid down our marker, we mean business, we’re not weak like Obama, now let’s talk mutual action against ISIS,” maybe there’s a chance to get things back on track. Or maybe the level of trust is such Moscow will not accept anything he says. On the other hand, if he comes in with the Deep State’s agenda and tries to dictate it to Moscow, we are in for very bad times. That diktat would likely give priority to blocking some mythical “Shia Crescent” to keep our Sunni “allies” and Israel happy: “defeat” ISIS with a blitzkrieg on Raqqa, but then create a “Sunnistan” (or maybe more than one) in eastern Syria, run by some hand-picked jihadi group friendly to Saudis - basically ISIS with new hats and flag. In short, partition. I don’t know how the Russians would respond.
Tasnim: Before the attack on Homs, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan had said his country would welcome a possible US military campaign in Syria in the wake of the chemical attack in the Arab country’s northwestern province of Idlib. What is your take on the role of Turkey?
Jatras: Turkey had been “broken” to Russia’s leadership since Erdogan came crawling to Putin a few months ago in the wake of the failed coup. Now he will feel he has other options, including a possible return to an American-led regime change in Damascus. He doesn’t like the US reliance on the Kurds or the possibility of an autonomous Kurdish entity in a partitioned Syria, like that in Iraq. He will count on the US to keep the Kurds in check. Meanwhile, he will want to consolidate a zone in northern Syria, maybe even declare a “Turkmen” statelet. Let’s also remember Ankara holds primary influence, with the CIA, over the al-Qaeda dominated area around Idlib. Bear in mind that according to Seymour Hersh, Turkish intelligence probably supplied the “kitchen sarin” used in the 2013 Ghouta false flag. In my opinion, they have to be high on the list of suspects for complicity in the event last week from their proxies in Idlib. Besides a directly administered Turkish, or Turkmen, zone, Ankara may be looking to sponsor a “Free Syrian Army” – in reality, an al-Qaeda – zone as well. None of this will sit well with Moscow and the Russia-Turkey entente may break up again, with Erdogan suddenly rediscovering how much he loves NATO.