cn. A group of ex-U.S. intelligence officials is warning President Obama to defuse growing tensions with Russia over Syria by reining in the demonization of President Putin and asserting White House civilian control over the Pentagon.
Our concern this time regards Syria. We are hoping that your President’s Daily Briefing tomorrow will give appropriate attention to Saturday’s warning by Russia’s Foreign Ministry spokesperson Maria Zakharova: “If the US launches a direct aggression against Damascus and the Syrian Army, it would cause a terrible, tectonic shift not only in the country, but in the entire region” on 1 October 2016.
Speaking on Russian TV, she warned of those whose “logic is ‘why do we need diplomacy’ … when there is power … and methods of resolving a problem by power. We already know this logic; there is nothing new about it. It usually ends with one thing – full-scale war.” [...]
It should not be attributed to paranoia on the Russians’ part that they suspect the Sept. 17 U.S. and Australian air attacks on Syrian army troops that killed 62 and wounded 100 was no “mistake,” but rather a deliberate attempt to scuttle the partial cease-fire Kerry and Lavrov had agreed on – with your approval and that of President Putin – that took effect just five days earlier.
In public remarks bordering on the insubordinate, senior Pentagon officials showed unusually open skepticism regarding key aspects of the Kerry-Lavrov deal. We can assume that what Lavrov has told his boss in private is close to his uncharacteristically blunt words on Russian NTV on Sept. 26:
“My good friend John Kerry … is under fierce criticism from the US military machine. Despite the fact that, as always, [they] made assurances that the US Commander in Chief, President Barack Obama, supported him in his contacts with Russia (he confirmed that during his meeting with President Vladimir Putin), apparently the military does not really listen to the Commander in Chief.”
Lavrov’s words are not mere rhetoric. He also criticized JCS Chairman Joseph Dunford for telling Congress that he opposed sharing intelligence with Russia, “after the agreements concluded on direct orders of Russian President Vladimir Putin and US President Barack Obama stipulated that they would share intelligence. … It is difficult to work with such partners. …” […]
The door to further negotiations remains ajar. In recent days, officials of the Russian foreign and defense ministries, as well as President Putin’s spokesman, have carefully avoided shutting that door, and we find it a good sign that Secretary Kerry has been on the phone with Foreign Minister Lavrov. And the Russians have also emphasized Moscow’s continued willingness to honor previous agreements on Syria.
In the Kremlin’s view, Russia has far more skin in the game than the U.S. does. Thousands of Russian dissident terrorists have found their way to Syria, where they obtain weapons, funding, and practical experience in waging violent insurgency. There is understandable worry on Moscow’s part over the threat they will pose when they come back home. In addition, President Putin can be assumed to be under the same kind of pressure you face from the military to order it to try to clean out the mess in Syria “once and for all,” regardless how dim the prospects for a military solution are for either side in Syria.
We are aware that many in Congress and the “mainstream” media are now calling on you to up the ante and respond – overtly or covertly or both – with more violence in Syria. […]
Incidentally, it would be helpful […] toward that end if you had one of your staffers tell the “mainstream” media to tone down it puerile, nasty – and for the most part unjustified and certainly unhelpful – personal vilification of President Putin. This is certainly not helpful.
Renewing direct dialogue with President Putin might well offer the best chance to ensure an end, finally, to unwanted “jamming.” We believe John Kerry is correct in emphasizing how frightfully complicated the disarray in Syria is amid the various vying interests and factions. At the same time, he has already done much of the necessary spadework and has found Lavrov for the most part, a helpful partner.
Still, in view of lingering Russian – and not only Russian – skepticism regarding the strength of your support for your secretary of state, we believe that discussions at the highest level would be the best way to prevent hotheads on either side from risking the kind of armed confrontation that nobody should want.
Therefore, we strongly recommend that you invite President Putin to meet with you in a mutually convenient place, in order to try to sort things out and prevent still worse for the people of Syria.
In the wake of the carnage of World War II, Winston Churchill made an observation that is equally applicable to our 21st Century: “To jaw, jaw, jaw, is better than to war, war, war.” [...]
* Veteran Intelligence Professionals for Sanity (VIPS) is a group of current and former officials of the United States Intelligence Community, including some from the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA), the U.S. State Department’s Intelligence Bureau (INR), and the Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA). It was formed in January 2003 as a coast-to-coast enterprise to protest the use of faulty intelligence upon which the US/UK invasion of Iraq was based. The group issued a letter before the 2003 invasion of Iraq stating that intelligence analysts were not being listened to by policy makers. In August 2010 it issued a memorandum to the White House warning of an imminent Israeli attack on Iran.
For the Steering Group, Veteran Intelligence Professionals for Sanity
William Binney, former Technical Director, World Geopolitical & Military Analysis, NSA; co-founder, SIGINT Automation Research Center (ret.)
Fred Costello, Former Russian Linguist, USAF
Mike Gravel, former Adjutant, top secret control officer, Communications Intelligence Services; special agent of the Counter Intelligence Corps and former United States Senator
Matthew Hoh, former Capt., USMC, Iraq & Foreign Service Officer, Afghanistan (associate VIPS)
Larry C. Johnson, CIA & State Department (ret.)
John Kiriakou, former CIA counterterrorism officer and former senior investigator, Senate Foreign Relations Committee
Linda Lewis, WMD preparedness policy analyst, USDA (ret.) (associate VIPS)
Edward Loomis, NSA, Cryptologic Computer Scientist (ret.)
Ray McGovern, former US Army infantry/intelligence officer & CIA analyst (ret.)
Elizabeth Murray, Deputy National Intelligence Officer for Middle East, CIA (ret.)
Todd Pierce, MAJ, US Army Judge Advocate (ret.)
Coleen Rowley, Division Counsel & Special Agent, FBI (ret.)
Kirk Wiebe, former Senior Analyst, SIGINT Automation Research Center, NSA, (ret.)
Robert Wing, former Foreign Service Officer (ret.)
Ann Wright, U.S. Army Reserve Colonel (ret.) and former U.S. Diplomat
Source: www.consortiumnews.com from 2 October 2016 (Excerpt)
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