Tuesday, September 17, 2013

The recent Kerry-Lavrov agreement - discussion part III (UPDATED!)

Before I begin this third installment of our collective analysis of the Kerry-Lavrov agreement I would ask everybody who has not already done so to first visit the blog of Alexander Mercouris and check out his excellent analysis of this agreement here: http://mercouris.wordpress.com/2013/09/15/the-lavrov-kerry-agreement/.  Since Alexander's reply to my initial analysis is the longest one I will also begin by replying to what he wrote.  I will then turn to the numerous comments made on this blog.

I must immediately say that Alexander's analysis is better than "rational" or "logical", it is a correct interpretation of the spirit of the Kerry-Lavrov agreement.  The problem, as I have already indicated several times, is that we are dealing with phenomenally dishonest crooks.  And these crooks are very very angry right now.  To illustrate this point, I will quote an article written by Ray McGovern for informationclearinghouse.info.  This is what he wrote: (excerpt - please do read the full article!)
As the march toward war began meandering off in unexpected directions, I was lucky enough to observe, up-close and personal, the angry reaction of some of Israel’s top American supporters on Monday evening. That was after Russia drew Obama a new map for how to reach the desired destination of removing chemical weapons from Assad’s arsenal without going to war.  After doing an interview on CNN International, I opened the studio door and almost knocked over a small fellow named Paul Wolfowitz, President George W. Bush’s former under-secretary of defense who in 2002-2003 had helped craft the fraudulent case for invading Iraq. And there standing next to him was former Sen. Joe Lieberman, the neocon from Connecticut who was a leading advocate for the Iraq War and pretty much every other potential war in the Middle East.  Finding myself in the same room with two gentlemen responsible for so much misery in the world, I fell back on my recent training in non-violence, as we watched Piers Morgan try earnestly to spin the day’s astounding events. On the tube earlier, Anderson Cooper sought counsel from Ari Fleischer, former spokesman for George W. Bush, and David Gergen, long-time White House PR guru.  Fleischer and Gergen were alternately downright furious over the Russian initiative to give peace a chance and disconsolate at seeing the prospect for U.S. military involvement in Syria disappear when we were oh so close. After some caustic and condescending outbursts, an almost surreally disconsolate mood set in. It looked like these fellas were not going to get their war.  Later remarks by Lieberman and Wolfowitz reflected a distinctly funereal atmosphere. I felt I had come to a wake with somberly dressed folks (no pastel ties this time) grieving for a recently, dearly-departed war.
Now keeping this in mind, I would like to now quote a very typical paragraph by Alexander Mercouris:
The part of the agreement that refers to “unfettered access” is an unavoidable part of an agreement of this sort. The inspectors have to have unfettered access if they are to do their work properly. If Russia were to seek to deny the inspectors unfettered access the US would quite rightly say that Russia was not negotiating in good faith. At that point the US would on past experience have simply walked away from the whole negotiation. Obama would in that case have been in a much stronger position to argue for a military strike than he was before the negotiation took place since he would have been in a position to say quite rightly that Russia’s stance had exposed the whole negotiation as a sham.
Can you argue with that?  No?!  Neither can I.  This is absolutely logical.  The problem is that your opinion and mine don't matter.  Now ask yourself this question: could Mr. Wolfowitz, Lieberman, Fleischer and Gergen argue with this?  Hell yeah!  Of course they could.  They would say something like this:

"Unfettered means unfettered and any attempts by this bloody dictator to set terms or to negotiate with the inspectors is a clear violation of the Kerry-Lavrov agreement.  We are shocked and disappointed that the Kremlin, which had agreed to these terms, is now reneging on its obligations and is attempting to re-interpret an agreement which was drafted using clear and ambiguous language.  The Russians are also obstructing the UNSC from taking the measures agreed upon  to force this bloody dictator to abide by the terms of this agreement which he accepted.  We have a responsibility to the international community and to the Syrian people not to let one party sabotage the role of the United Nations which, after all, is to maintain peace and protect innocent civilians for precisely the kind of dictators like the Butcher of Damascus.  The President has therefore ordered the Pentagon to....."

At which point absolutely nobody, and I mean nobody, will have the opportunity to challenge this absolutely ridiculous interpretation.  "Unfettered means unfettered" and to hell with logic or context!

First, when I read Alexander's analysis I thought that this was a case of the glass which he saw as half-full and I saw as half-empty (and I will readily admit that I am a pessimist by nature and by training).  But that is not that simple.  Alexander's point of view is the point of view of an honest and decent person whereas what I am focused is the sick and perverted mind of the Ziocrazies who already triggered pretty much all the wars for the past 20 years.

Here is another example.  Alexander writes:
In fact the decision to proceed by way of a Security Council Resolution reflects the Russian position not the US position in this crisis. It is Russia which throughout this crisis has insisted that it is the Security Council and the Security Council alone which is authorised to decide whether military action should or should not be taken against Syria. It is Russia which has insisted that it is the Security Council alone that is entitled to judge whether or not Syria is in breach of its treaty obligations. It is the United States, which by contrast has insisted and which continues to insist on its unfettered right to act unilaterally without reference to the Security Council in any circumstance where it judges it appropriate. By ensuring that the agreement is set out in a Resolution of the Security Council Russia has ensured that the agreement becomes the property of the Security Council and is subject to the supervision of the Security Council. That means that if there are any breaches of the agreement they must be referred to the Security Council, which Russia says can alone decide what to do. By contrast if there was no reference in the agreement to the Security Council and no Resolution by the Security Council setting out the agreement then this would simply be an agreement between Russia and the United States. The United States would in that case in conformity with its unilateralist doctrine consider itself free to decide without reference to the Security Council whether the agreement had been violated or not.
Again, this is logical and very much consistent with not only the letter but also the spirit of this agreement.   And yet, there is a problem with that.  By the mere fact of being a member of the United Nations the USA has ALREADY agreed that "the UNSC the Security Council alone which is authorised to decide whether military action should or should not be taken against Syria".  And that did not prevent them from attacking Kosovo and Iraq with no UNSC Resolution at all, and in Croatia, Bosnia and Libya by completely and deliberately mis-interpreting the relevant UNSC Resolutions.

Of course, at this point, this begs the obvious question: does it make sense to sign any agreement with the USA?  Again, a short overview of the history of the USA from the Indian Wars to our days would argue for a resounding "no".  This is not quite my position however.

I think that it is possible to sign an agreement with the USA but only one which contains only absolutely unambiguous language (such as "the USA commits not to seek a resolution of this issue outside the UN") combined with verifiable confidence and security building measures such as "the USA commits to withdraw is military forces to..." or "the USA agrees to suspend its current military aid to the opposition for as long as the UNSC find all parties in compliance with the agreement".  Of course, I understand that the USA would not be willing to sign any such text, but then allow me to ask this question: if the USA is unwilling to sign any text which would include a clear re-statement that the USA is accepting the role of the UNSC as the supreme arbiter of this conflict, what is the point of arriving to an agreement which leaves the US all its options including the one of illegally use force?  Why is Syria expected to obey the rules of international law but not the USA?

Besides, is it really a fact that the US will never sign a text with would force it to change its current policies towards Syria?

Think again!

Do you remember the G8 final communique after the Lough Erne summit?  Do you remember this sentence: (emphasis added)
We are deeply concerned by the growing threat from terrorism and extremism in Syria,and also by the increasingly sectarian nature of the conflict. Syria must belong to all Syrians, including its minorities and all religious groups. We call on the Syrian authorities and opposition at the Geneva Conference jointly to commit to destroying and expelling from Syria all organisations and individuals affiliated to Al Qaeda, and any other non-state actors linked to terrorism. We will support UN planning for Syria’s transition,recovery, and reconstruction needs, in particular by maintaining continuity of state institutions during transition and helping to ensure that the security forces are effective, accountable and able to deal with the threat of terrorism and extremism.
Now that text was, in my opinion, a true triumph for Russian diplomacy.  Why is it that none of this language found its way into the preamble to the Kerry-Lavrov agreement?  Because the Kerry-Lavrov agreement only deals with the chemical weapons issue?  Hardly - since at the very least it is quite obvious that as long as the al-Nusra crazies, now armed to the teeth by the USA, will be operating in many, if not most, part of Syria the inspectors will not have unfettered access.  And guess who will be blamed for that?

Let's set aside the official narrative and ask a simple question: who are the real parties to this conflict?  Officially, this is a civil war between Syrian insurgents and the Syrian government.  I think that everybody reading this blog will agree that this is laughable.  In reality, of course, we are dealing with, on one hand, the Syrian government and on the other the same multi-national "constellation" of Wahabi crazies which we already saw in action in Afghanistan, Bosnia, Kosovo, Chechnia, Iraq, Pakistan, Yemen, Algeria, Libya and other places.  These folks are federated by the CIA, financed by the House of Saud, and remote controlled by Israel.  Just to simplify things, I would submit that the real parties to this conflict are the Syrian government supported (by all accounts) by a majority of the Syrian people, and the Anglo-Zionist Empire.  Of course, the Russians will never put it this way, but what they could have done is to insist on an agreement between Kerry and Lavrov which would be compatible with this reality.  In other words, what the Kerry-Lavrov lacks is any explicit commitment by the USA to do or not do anything.  At the very best, if we follow Alexander's absolutely reasonable and logical interpretation, the USA should let the UN inspectors do their work and not misuse them to provoke the regime, the USA should submit any complaints it might have to the UNSC, the USA should also let the UNSC decide which measures, if any to adopt, and the USA should accept any decision of the UNSC not under Chapter 7 or, alternatively, the USA should accept any UNSC decision under Chapter 7 which does not allow for the use of military forces (Chapter 7 has 12 articles and they include other measures short of military force).

These are too many "shoulds" in particular when folks like Wolfowitz, Lieberman, Fleischer and Gergen get quasi-total media access to interpret what the USA should or should not do.

One side - the Syrians - must do everything exactly as they are told, while the other side - the US - has only many "shoulds" implied by a honest reading of the text.

My personal feeling is that the Russians are betting on the fact that these Neocons will only spew their views on the idiot tube, but that more rational people will make the actual decisions.  Maybe.  But when I hear the stream of bellicose rhetoric coming out of Obama and Kerry I am not reassured at all.

I honestly think that Alexander Mercouris and I want the same thing.  And maybe I am being too pessimistic.  I really sincerely hope that I am wrong and that he is right, and I very very much hope that this text will be sufficient to prevent a US attack or, at least, that it will contribute towards this objective.  And it might well be that our difference in perception is due to the fact that Alexander is in London, in a country whose House of Commons has just rejected any participation to an attack on Syria whereas I live in the USA were any notion of the USA being bound by the rules of international law is seen as quasi communist by a majority of the population.

What is certain is that we will get the answer very soon, within the next few months.

Now I would like to turn to some specific comments which I feel also deserve a decent reply.
"The only point where my emphasis diverges therefore, is in how Russia (or rather the Russian non-Atlanticist faction) judges the effect of this on its objective of multi-polarity - ie 'toppling the US from its current hegemonic role in the world'. The Zionist/Anglo/US objective remains pretty much cast in stone, ie to remain global hegemon. No matter this or that twist in diplomatic manouvers it has not changed substantially since the end of WWII and will not do so unless defeated militarily. The plain fact is that, should the Zionist/Anglo/US agenda emerge victorious from the current Syrian imbroglio, then Russian aspirations will be dealt a blow from which it will be near impossible to recover. My sense is that both the Putin faction and Iran probably DO see this as a sort of 'last chance saloon'. They most certainly do NOT want war, but may be left with no alternative."
This is a really scary thought.  I hate to admit it, but this is something which I cannot categorically exclude.  All I can say is that I am deeply convinced that the Russians will do everything, and I mean everything, in their power to avoid another world war.  If the US never had a modern war on its territory, the Russians did, and they really understand what this means.  Of course, if they are attacked they will fight back, with everything they have, because they will not surrender either.  It is however precisely to avoid being in this dilemma which is at the core of all of the Russian national security strategy and this is why the respect of International Law is so central to all their statements.  Simply put - the Russians have a strong belief that the only safe world for Russia is a multi-polar one which solves its inevitable disagreements through the rules of International Law.  The second pillar of their political philosophy is that security cannot be one-sided: you cannot be safe if I am not, and I cannot be safe if you are not.  According to the Russians, safety must, by its very nature, be equally shared between all nations to be effective.

So we do have a clash of civilizations here.  Not the one Huntington wrote about, but one between what Ed Luttwak used to call a "bellicose civilization" and a "post bellicose civilization".  And this is real, deep, reason why Russia is at the center/head of the Resistance against the Anglo-Zionist Empire.
"On a separate point the problem with the Anglo Zionist Empire is not that it is Anglo. The problem is the power. It would be dangerous for an archangel to have so much power. As the poet Blake said "The greatest poison ever known Came from Caesar's laurel crown  Any hegemon means tyranny. It doesn't matter who the hegemon is"
Exactly!  And this is why nobody should wish that Russia would become the next hegemon, world policeman or any such thing.  When the Russians did that in the past they were every bit as nasty and ugly as everybody else, and if Russia becomes tempted by this path in the future it will become every bit as nasty and ugly as the Ango-Zionist Empire is today.

The only way out here is NO Empire.  Only "regular" countries in a civilized multi-polar international system ruled by International Law.
Russia can not crawl into a shell. It just happens to be one of two countries that can obliterate the world, has independent means to develop technology, has a strong financial position and has the enviable asset of an increasingly stable and focused society.   They would be foolish beyond measure to believe that their interests stops at their border, international law guarantees justice or to unilaterally declare military force can only in response to a direct military attack.   The only way that the Anglo/Zionist Empire will stop its ceaseless attack is for Russia to disarm and place its population at the disposal of the Empire - something that they nearly achieved in the 90's  The Russians seem to be trying to create a framework of sanity to allow dismantling of the Empire without a military or economic catastrophe - much like defusing a bomb. So, it more than just the rule of international law as an abstract goal.
 This is an absolutely brilliant way of putting it!  By far the best metaphor I have ever seen.  You are, my friend, *SPOT ON*.  But then you ask this:
It is in Russia's best interest for Syria to survive as a sovereign state - for the sake of international law as means to curb the Empire, for Russia's own national security and development and to stop the suffering of millions of people.  I am surely overstating your position but I would like to know what you think would justify a military action by Russia short of a direct attack.
Currently Russia is on a HUGE increase of its military spending, all levels of the military are affected, from procurement, to training, to pensions, to salaries, to maneuvers, to deployments, etc.  Already at this point in time I would rate the Russian military as the most powerful on the Eurasian continent and yes, Russia still has the means to destroy the USA (and be destroyed in the process, of course).  So its not like the Russians are unaware of the very real threat of the Empire against them.  And I think that the current Russian policy towards Syria goes much further than just whining about International Law.  Even today Russia has dispatched yet another Large Amphibious Assault Ship to the eastern Mediterranean.  What do you think that this task force does off the coast of Syria - just observe and enjoy the sunny weather?  Of course not.  So Russia is already using a full-spectrum of means and tools to protect Syria, much much more than any other country on the planet and,  I would add, most definitely more than all the Muslim or Arab countries combined!  But even in this context, I still do not believe that Russia would do anything which could result in a direct Russian-US military clash - that is simply too dangerous not only for Russia but for the entire planet.  So to answer your question - no, I do not think that the Russians would engage in any military actions unless a) they are attacked first or b) they have a UNSC Resolution authorizing it.
However, and maybe this is just wishful thinking, the Russians must have gotten something valuable in return, such as a guarantee that the Americans will lean hard to stop the flow of Jihadis and their weapons. I'm reading a lot of reports that the SAA is renewing its offensive with gusto, so maybe that is possible.  If not, then I really don't see why Russia would bother with this agreement at all. I agree that Russia can't get into a war over Syria and they have no obligation to confront the US at every turn.
One word reply: momentum.  Even though I am critical of many aspects of the Kerry-Lavrov agreement, I cannot deny its main positive effect: it has totally stopped the momentum towards a US attack on Syria.  That is a huge achievement.  At the very least, this will buy a lot of very precious time for the Syrians to prepare for an eventual attack, and it will give the Russians a lot of very precious time to help the Syrians in these preparations.  Again, what do you think so many heavy transport ships of the Russian Navy are doing there - just enjoying the weather and good fishing?

This is, in my opinion, the biggest reason to welcome this agreement: it bought everybody much much needed time at a crucial moment.  Not only can Syria and Russia prepare, the anti-war movement can put more pressure on the politicians, the free media can research and find more evidence who really did use chemical weapons (we all understand that this was the insurgency) and it gives the international community more time to put more options on the table.  The Americans almost "had it" - they missed the window of opportunity by a few hours, no more, but now its lost and it will take time and a lot of thing to align right into place again before they can attack again.
Maybe time is the key to all of this. Sufficient delays, even by a few weeks, might be time enough for something to happen that will knock the teeth out of the war hounds, and the details and flaws in this agreement might then become moot.   Yes. I am an optimist.
And I am a pessimist.  But I fully agree :-)

Ok.  I am done for tonight.  I profusely apologize to those whose comments I did not address today, but I am exhausted, going in fumes really.  Likewise, forgive me for the typos, horrible grammar and distorted and cut sentences.  Even worse, I did not have the time to reply to many emails, I will do that later this week.  Right now I typed all of the above at warp-speed 10 and I won't even re-read it.  It's just a crazy week right now, but I hope that things will settle down by mid-week.

I will try to reply to comments as best as I can as soon as I can.

Kind regards and many thanks you to you, sorry for the hurry on my side, and good nite!

The Saker
UPDATE: well, I didn't take long, now did it?  See for yourself:

From AFP via InformationClearingHouse:
Russia: Western Threats Could "Wreck" Syria Peace Talks
Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov on Monday warned that talk by western countries on the adoption of a "threatening" United Nations resolution on Syria could wreck peace efforts.

He spoke after Britain, France and the United States at a Paris meeting agreed on the need for a "strong and binding" UN resolution on the transfer of Syria's chemical weapons to international control.

Lavrov said Russia opposed proposals by Western powers to swiftly pass a resolution including the use of force under Chapter Seven of the UN charter.

He called for the United States to adhere to the terms of the framework he and US Secretary of State John Kerry drew up in Geneva on Saturday.

Lavrov said that declarations "by some of our partners" that a resolution listing measures under Chapter Seven should be passed in the next few days "show lack of understanding of what we agreed on with John Kerry, and even unwillingness to read this document."

"Chapter Seven was the subject of fierce debates at the US-Russia talks. As a result, it is not in the final text, but our partners want to replay unilaterally what we agreed in Geneva with the Americans," Lavrov said.
QED.  I rest my case.

The Saker