U.S. Congress Passes Controversial Bill Dangerously Escalating Violence in Syria*
By Whitney Webb
Last week, the U.S. Congress suspended normal procedure to pass HR-5732, which will make diplomacy near impossible, escalate tensions with Iran and Russia, and pave the way for a no-fly zone, which – if implemented – would undoubtedly lead to a full-scale war.
With the aftermath of U.S. elections, the war against “fake news,” and new developments at the site of the Dakota Access pipeline dominating national headlines, the Syrian conflict has largely fallen off the radar. However, some American politicians are clearly focused on Syria, particularly on advancing the U.S.’ long-standing push for regime change within the secular, Middle Eastern nation. The U.S. Congress took advantage of national attention directed elsewhere to pass a controversial bill during a special session in which normal rules were suspended. This bill, House Resolution (HR) 5732, also known as the “Caesar Syria Civilian Protection Act,” calls for the intensification of sanctions against Syria and any nation that does business with them, undermines diplomacy efforts, and prepares for a “no fly zone.”
The most concerning part of is undoubtedly the preparation for a “no fly zone,” which would likely lead to full-scale war between the US and Russia over control of Syrian airspace. A “no fly zone” would prevent the Syrian Air Force or the Russian Air Force from flying in Syrian airspace and would be in clear violation of Syria’s national sovereignty. The term became infamous in 2011 when a U.S.-backed “no fly zone” allowed for the US-supported toppling of Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi, whose absence has led to a disastrous vacuum of power and transformed the once prosperous nation into a state of anarchy and poverty. Top U.S. generals and prominent journalists have all agreed that a “no fly zone” in Syria would necessitate a declaration of war with both Russia and Syria, a war which would undoubtedly quickly escalate into a disastrous, potentially nuclear global conflict.
Normally, Congress only suspends normal rules for “non-controversial” bills such as the naming of federal buildings and offices. The bill is definitely in “controversial” territory as even the Obama administration opposes it. In this case, Democratic Congressmen Eliot Engel (D-NY) said the bypass of normal rules was taking place because: “We cannot delay action on Syria any further. […] If we don’t get this legislation across the finish line in the next few weeks, we are back to square one.” This seems to be a veiled reference to President-Elect Trump’s opposition to a no-fly zone as well as the US policy of regime change abroad, though it remains to be seen if Trump will stand by this position upon becoming president.
In addition, the mention of the name “Caesar” in the bill is a reference to a Syrian “defector” whose exposé of the torture within Syria’s prisons was debunked by Human Rights Watch and other aid organizations. It was also later proven that Caesar’s exposé was linked to the CIA and that much of the photographic evidence provided by Caesar was either doctored or showed the opposite of his alleged accusations.
With only a handful of representatives present at the special Congressional session, the six Congressional members who engaged in “debate” for just 40 minutes used the time to spread similar Caesar-style misinformation regarding the Syrian crisis, justifying the need for direct U.S. involvement in yet another Middle Eastern nation. For example, Congressmen Engel claimed that Assad had killed millions of his citizens since the conflict began five years ago, though official estimates of civilians killed by both Assad, ISIS, and “moderate rebels” is between 89,000 and 100,000. It seems that some US politicians are hell-bent on dragging the U.S. into a dangerous conflict with Syria and nuclear-armed Russia, despite the wishes of the Americans they claim to represent.
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