Washington’s Agenda: One Item… No Solution!
Saad Saeb Saad Saeb

Washington’s Agenda: One Item… No Solution!

Those who have been following James Jeffrey’s statements and moves since he took office as US special envoy to Syria (August 2018), can assert that his “busy” agenda consists of just one item and one mission: sabotaging everything that the Russians do and closing the door to any path that could lead to ending the Syrian crisis.

Above all, it should be noted that Jeffrey’s media activity took the form of intermittent episodes of frenetic activity – as is the case these days – amid a general state of silence, hiding, and working behind the scenes.

Examining these “episodes” clearly shows that each of them was in response to a step forward that the Astana process, and in particular Russia, made – whether on the ground or politically.

Let us recall the series of press conferences and meetings that Jeffrey held – including the “clinically dead” mini-group meetings – in the context of responding to the Sochi Conference held in early 2018 – the aforementioned Conference laid the foundation for the formation of the Constitutional Committee. We can also recall another series of such press conferences and meetings at the end of 2018, when the Constitutional Committee was about to be formed, and it became necessary to revitalize US action to prevent its formation. The series was interrupted with Trump’s announcement of his intention to withdraw from Syria; at that time, Jeffrey disappeared for a few months before reappearing when full withdrawal was off the table.

This issue can be projected on a number of other issues that Jeffrey sabotaged by intervening therein, among those: Russia’s push for Syria’s return to the Arab League, serious dialogue between SDF and the regime, dialogue between Damascus and Ankara, resolving al-Nusra issue, and others.

On that last point, we should recall Jeffrey’s declaration on January 30, in one of his current “episodes” of activity, when he said: “We [the United States] recognize that there are terrorists in Idlib. There’s also a very large group, the al-Nusra or Hayat Tahrir al-Sham group, HTS, that is an al-Qaida offshoot.  It is considered a terrorist organization, but it is primarily focused on fighting the Assad regime.  It itself claims – we haven’t accepted that claim yet, but they do claim to be patriotic opposition fighters, not terrorists.  We have not seen them generate, for example, international threats for some time.”

This statement reveals the US’s insistence to prevent resolving al-Nusra issue, including reaching the point of hinting that it could be considered “patriotic opposition” and removing off of it the terrorist label. The general logic is that resolving al-Nusra issue would mean getting closer to ending the crisis. However, the more important unrevealed result is that ending al-Nusra will result in reopening the M4 and M5 highways and, with that, opening the door to reach a sufficient level of agreement between Syria and Turkey, which would allow transforming the US and Western sanctions into a useless tool in deepening the chaos and the threat to Syrian unity and fate. Furthermore, resolving al-Nusra issue will imply that the northeast and US presence therein will become superfluous and eligible to be resolved very quickly.

“We’re Not Asking for the Russians to Leave”

At a press conference in Washington on February 5, Jeffrey made a series of statements, some (but not many) repeated, and some new. Starting with the new, he said: “We’re not asking for the Russians to leave [Syria].” However, if we try to assemble the pieces of the picture made up of the US behavior towards Syria – trying to stop ending al-Nusra; trying to stop any settlement between SDF and the regime; hinting at a dialogue between SDF and Ankara instead of intra-Syrian dialogue; hinting at a dialogue between SDF and Arab states instead of a dialogue between Syria and those states; trying to stop a dialogue between Syria and Turkey; trying to stop Syria’s return to the Arab League; imposing sanctions, and continuing and tightening them; and in the end saying “we’re not asking for regime change”. Once we put all these pieces together, we can understand Jeffrey’s words differently. What Jeffrey is actually saying is not “we’re not asking for the Russians to leave,” but rather “we do not want the Russians to leave; it is not in our interest to remove the burden of the Syrian crisis off of the Russians; we want the crisis to continue, we want the war to continue, and we want to prolong draining the Russians.”

“We’re Not Asking for Regime Change”

The narrow-minded propaganda used by both the regime and the opposition – the hardliners among them in particular –sometimes says the US is hostile toward the Syrian regime, and at other times says the US supports the Syrian opposition and supports change. Looking beyond that propaganda, Washington’s behavior throughout the Syrian crisis – which has been hostile to the entire Syrian people, and absolutely loyal to the Zionist entity – does not have major problems either with the extremists within the regime or with the hardliners in the opposition, as long as their behavior contributes to prolonging and deepening of the crisis.

For that exact reason, Jeffrey is being truthful when he says that he is not calling for regime change; that is, the structure that is dominated by great corruption, follows the liberal and brutal approach, and stands stubbornly and with all the means it possesses against political solutions and the implementation of UNSCR 2254, is an ideal structure for prolonging the crisis, and therefore, what would be Washington’s interest in demanding a structure change?

It is worthwhile to note that it is not Washington’s right, nor others besides Washington, to demand change or demand no change; either things are equally a violation of Syria and the will of its people. However, the amount of public deceit by Washington motivates us to discuss what Washington declares it wants, starting from “Assad must leave” to “we’re not asking for regime change.”

Although over the last catastrophic decade, Washington has been moving from one rhetoric to another according to the same agenda of chaos, the essence of which has not changed in that it has been searching for a way to spread the largest, deepest, and longest-lasting chaos throughout our region, in the context of draining opponents and delaying the endorsement of the new international balance. Nevertheless, what is new in the matter – starting with the direct Russian involvement at the end of 2015, then with the formation and progress of the Astana track – is that the US agenda has become one of no initiative-taking, and has become much simpler than before – despite all its complexities. That is, as we indicated hereinabove, its agenda consists of only one item: we must work to sabotage any step toward a solution, and for this we must sabotage any effort by the Astana process, and we must fundamentally sabotage any steps by Russia.

Jeffrey Should Think Quickly of a New Position

One positive aspect of all of this is that the steps toward a solution, despite some obstacles, are moving along and being achieved against the will of the US. Furthermore, there is the positive aspect of the US compulsion to declare its real positions on terrorism, the solution, and the various Syrian parties. What is even more positive is that the accumulation of progress toward the solution is further weakening US ability to sabotage, which will soon irreversibly thwart Jeffrey’s single-item agenda; at which point, Jeffrey must look for a new mission and a new position, and we believe that it would be in his best interest to start looking for those soon.