Turnbull sidelines the neocons

From The Age:

Malcolm Turnbull believes “pragmatism and compromise” is the key to Syria and the terrorism it fuels, as an unstated international consensus emerges which could see a temporary reprieve for the brutal dictator President Bashar al-Assad, leaving him in place while a new power-sharing arrangement is constructed.

Assad’s removal had been a non-negotiable demand for the US and its allies engaged there, with Russia unofficially backing him as it seeks to extend its sphere of influence.

A possible compromise deal with the strongman accused of the most extensive war crimes since Hitler’s Nazi regime, including torture of foreigners and the slaughter of thousands of his own people including with barrel bombs, would anger many Syrians, and would be major step back by the US.

But in a slap-down to hawks including former prime minister Tony Abbott, Mr Turnbull said Syria was a “complete catastrophe” which needed a political solution and not a military invasion.

He said as a pre-requisite, the world should acknowledge the nature of Sunni grievances fuelling terrorism and recognise that stability in Syria once Islamic State is neutralised will inevitably involve power-sharing with unpalatable types including hardliners who support or even engage in terrorism.

It appears the Howard back flip from neoconservatism noted yesterday was not an off-the-cuff comment. After fifteen years of foreign policy radicalism the Liberal Party, as well as the wider Western world, is returning to the bastion of ‘realist’ policy in the Middle East.

It may not be ethical but foreign policy never is and it offers better outcomes than delusional notions of democracy at the point of a gun which only serve to unleash chaos and the very blow back it is supposed to fight.

It’s sad but that’s the world we live in.

David Llewellyn-Smith
Latest posts by David Llewellyn-Smith (see all)


      • Fyodor Dostoyevsky

        Since the mid 1960’s !!!

        “The First Anglo-Afghan War (also known as Auckland’s Folly) was fought between the British East India Company and Afghanistan from 1839 to 1842.”

        The British Mandate for Mesopotamia was drawn up in 1920

        British Mandate for Palestine 1922

        Ibn Saud signed the Treaty of Darin with the British government in 1915

        Etcetera, Etcetera – the middle east was drawn up by the British at the conclusion of the first world war.

        Not to mention partition in Pakistan of course.

      • Um Fyodor, what partition in Pakistan? You do mean partition of India don’t you? Giving birth to Pakistan and Bangladesh. As well as a still disputed Jammu & Kashmir area.

    • Maybe we should all stop ‘intervening ‘ in these countries full stop .

      We’ll keep intervening as long as our oil is under their sand. M’kay?

    • Well if it wasn’t for oil, most Westerners would now consider the Middle East a place where camels live.
      No Oil = Noone would give a stuff.
      The reality is that not only is Islam totally incompatible with the democratic West with its separation of church and state (well in theory and idealistically anyway) BUT Islam is at war with itself via the Sunni vs Shia divide.
      People need to actually read some history books and wake the hell up.

      • “The reality is that not only is Islam totally incompatible with the democratic West with its separation of church and state (well in theory and idealistically anyway) BUT Islam is at war with itself via the Sunni vs Shia divide.”

        So Christianity being at war with itself since about 4th century must not be in your history books, secular Islamic country was only an imagination (not a reality that exists today) and perhaps the core role Roman Catholic Church have had in the last 2 millenniums in the development of the “western Europe’s culture” is is not a sign of a deep religion/regime connection?

        Radical Islam is a byproduct of the imperialistic interests in the ME by a margin that dwarfs the other causes.

        Can you really define what this “democratic West” bull is?

      • Indonesia is a Muslim country and the world’s third-largest democracy, Promo.

        Not 100% perfect but compared to what it was only a generation ago, it’s a great success story and a bit of an inconvenience to your specious argument.

    • At first I laugh, then a nagging part of me worries that you may have developed Stockholm Syndrome Reusa…

  1. It does make interesting reading looking at my Facebook feed as the Liberal supporters’ heads explode. They don’t know how to deal with Turnbull and all his rational decision making.

    • It was much the same when Harold MacMillan, Britain’s best post war Prime Minister made his Winds of Change speech in South Africa in 1960, confirming the age of British colonial intervention and colonial rule in Africa was over. The imperialists in his party were outraged but it was reality. Just as this is reality in Syria. The imperialists in the modern Liberal Party and their neo-con friends in the Republican Party are faced with defeat. The dream of a pipeline for gas stretching from the UAE across Syria, into Turkey and then into Europe must be put on hold, at least temporarily. Dependence on gas supplies from Russia to continue.

      • I think the film about the Cuban missile crisis “Thirteen Days” is probably just as apt. “Rules of Engagement”, trying to be a credible deterrent and a non cooperative enemy have a way of sucking you in, deeper and deeper, into the mire of a conflict.

    • I’m sure Syria will test Turnbull’s resolve not to get involved militarily in the very near future. Even “No Troops on the Ground” Obama is starting to put troops on the ground, albeit in a very limited “training” capacity. Here’s hoping that Turnbull can find a way to keep the Australian Military out of it…

      • Fyodor Dostoyevsky

        The United States was training foreign jihadists in Syria three years ago.

        On the other hand Putin just sent in 150,000 troops with boots on the ground.

        Best of luck with sending in a couple of squads of tea makers and photocopier operators.

      • We need regular engagement of a proportion of all branches of our miitary in varied real wars of all types as a matter of having a well resourced and experienced military. It’s just real life in an uncertain world. Its the least prepared and experienced that are most often at risk.

      • Putin is getting a lot of kudos for going in hard two weeks after they took down one of his passenger jets, but think about what he has done.

        He has just jumped into the world’s biggest quagmire with both boots on.

        This is going to make the US in Iraq – which by no coincidence at all was also the reaction of a macho leader to a couple of plane attacks – look measured and well-planned by comparison.

  2. Its either the dictator you control or the dictator someone else controls. What happens to this whole scenario if as the IMF expects, Saudi Arabia runs out of foreign reserves in 3 years and oil prices have not recovered??????

    • John, That’s when the U.S will deal with the Saudi Regime once and for all. Those 9/11 terrorists were mostly Saudi citizens as was their crazy in chief. Saudi Arabia is behind most of these bat shit crazy terrorists. They export their puritanical version of Islam to the wider world.

      No one in our Govt ever mentions the bad shit the Saudi regime get up to. The behead people all the time as a public spectacle.

      • Rod77, you are ofcourse correct. They finance the construction of lavish mosques all across the globe in nations with growing muslim populations and use their money and influence to foster radicalism and radical teachings. They are rarely PROPERLY attacked in the Western media for this or their human rights records.

        Let me add to this, that the Saudis actually spend innumerable sums if money on PR firms and keeping all the sh*t they get up to out of the headlines.

      • You’re not talking about the Saudi Arabia that is the chair for the UN human rights council, are you?

      • Terror Australis, 10:34 am.

        It means the same way the west dealt with Libya although many many years after Lockerbie they eventually settled their account with him. Same with Saddam, when he was useful and Saddam accident fired on a U.S Warship killing several sailors and almost sinking it. That was an accident the yanks were happy to overlook. But when it suited them. they bombed his country and put him on trail then hung his ass.

        Same MO will apply to SA I suspect. Obomba said it himself. “The United States always settles its accounts”
        So when the time comes they will arm moderate rebels or Terrorists depending on your politics and turn the place into another failed state.

      • —So when the time comes they will arm moderate rebels or Terrorists depending on your politics and turn the place into another failed state.

        Yes – one of the few things the Yanks are good at is interfering/invading etc especially in 3rd World Countries who can’t fight back. Known cowards they have left well over a million civilians dead just over the past 25 years alone. When they F%^&K UP they run. Tell us more – – -?

  3. why is President Bashar al-Assad a brutal dictator? just because he opposes America and the Jews in New York and Washington? Its either his family and his kids would be wiped out liked the killings in Bataclan theatre or he kills the rebels. French and US has always support terrorist when it suits them, they promote so called freedom lovers like Dalai Lama whom is a CIA recruits with Chinese blood on his hands. US foreign policies are made up by the Jewish man in New York and Washington.

    • why is President Bashar al-Assad a brutal dictator?

      Uh, because he authorised and sanctioned the use of chemical weapons against his own people? Rather than negotiate and engage with the demonstrators at the start of the crisis, his regime opened fire. Assad’s not a good guy by any stretch..

      • Bad guy in a worse region. You pay the hand you’re dealt. He’s shown no worse behaviour than the so called civilised world. Under his rule, Syria was largely peaceful. Iran is largely peaceful. Iraq was largely peaceful internally.

        By trying to intervene against bad guys we’ve consistently made things far worse for many millions.

        We might be trying to do the ideal thing but our approach is clearly wrong.

        I think the process from dictatorship to democracy must be much slower. First, we must negotiate with the bad guys, the dictators. The main reason is that the structures of government must function. The legal system cannot be abandoned to chaos during bloody revolution.
        We must get them to agree to relinquish some small powers to the people. Something like council elections. That must run for a few cycles to iron out the kinks, bring transparency, and allow faith to grow in the process. At first, they must be short cycles. 1-2 years. People must watch the loss of office and the continuation of government.

        Then we go for state elections. Again, short cycles. Allow mistakes in voting to be undone quickly. The Egyptians set the cycle too long for their first crack. Re-revolution occurred because the people couldn’t wait.

        Then, in the same way the British did it, we must finally ask the dictator to become a figurehead for life. We must protect them. We must let them live in luxury as the one who signs laws. Finally, we go to elections on a short cycle. For the first 5 years, it’s one year tenure. The next 10 is 2. Then it spaces out to a normal 3-5 years.

        If we did this with Gaddafi, who was one of the nicer and more progressive dictators, Tunisia may have been a peaceful democracy by now. Mubarak may have agreed to similar terms once it was working. Who knows? Maybe Assad would have been one his way to pure figurehead by now.

        Instead of using the process which worked for the UK, we instead try for the French style, but largely externally driven.

        Are we retarded?

      • Whether a nation and it’s people are democratic or not is up to them. It certainly can’t be forced on the from the outside. But intervention in Syria had nothing to do with whether they were democratic or despotic, it was geopolitical about maintaining US hegemony and preventing Russia from expanding its influence in the region.

      • Might want to fact check your response. Barrel bombs yes, chemical weapons no. The attack that was supposed to drive Obama to invade Syria based on chemical weapon attacks was proven to be conducted by rebels not Syrian army.

      • Fyodor Dostoyevsky

        Ahh – the chemical weapons turned out to have been used by the rebels who had been trained in how to use them by the US and supplied by Saudi Arabia.

        The firing on his own people was initiated by jihiadists – who he fired back on. Syria had a referrndum and almost ALL of the points the people wanted were accepted completely by Assad and the actual PEOPLE of Syria were happy.

        Try and remember the people Assad is killing, and bombing are not his – they are foreigners. Its just that the US press does not distinguish this little important fact.

        This is what western backed regime change looks like.

      • Assad isn’t a hero or in the right by any means. He’s a dictator who inherited his position, and stomped out any resistance. Sure he was re-“elected” but only because there was no opposition with his Interior Ministry having dealt with them. The start of the civil war was not from jihadis or foreigners but the Sunni majority who were pissed that Assad (who is from a ‘heretic’ minority sect of Shia) was starting to impinge on their religious freedoms (banning facial covering of women, etc.).

        The first people to fund anyone in Syria were the Saudis, who didn’t want to see a ME country diminish the Sunni religion. The US tried to stop them behind closed doors but then changed their mind due to some sort of brain fart and decided to ‘help’ the situation by throwing their own petrol on the fire. Russia tries to defend its existing interest in the region which US tries to paint as aggression despite the fact that they’re the only party now that wants to maintain the status quo, while the US has been uncompromising in wanting to remove Assad.

        The whole thing is a total and utter clusterfuck.

    • Accusations are what the United States & it’s allies use for PR to justify their “scorched-earth” middle-east policy both to retain the petrodollar and Israel expansion……however we NEVER see any of these accusations proved in any court of law…..do we?

  4. It may not be ethical
    there is nothing worse that when word ethics or moral is being used anywhere close to foreign policy based on humanitarian bombings and and military humanism.

    We are talking about ethics in a policy that caused hundreds of thousands of deaths and 5 millions of refugees trying to remove from power a dictator who jailed and tortured political enemies and beaten students protesting for more freedom (keep in mind that atrocities against it’s own people started only after west backed upraise in 2011) ?
    Prior to civil war created by KSA and western powers, human right record in Syria was still among the best in the region. Even now he is not doing much worse than Saudi Arabia that ironically chairs United Nations Human Rights Council.
    Yet no king of KSA was ever mentioned to be “next to Hitler” by their western friends.

    Just as an example, In 2010, Assad banned face veils at universities (less of human right violation compared to France for example). And than following the “democratic” uprising he was forced to relaxed the veil ban.

    • doctorX, what everyone fails to realise is that Assad was once a Western poster boy, loved by the UK and USA. He followed some of their FP dictat in the region and even allowed extra judicial torture at Syrian black sites for Western security services. We loved him then. He was our democratically elected, secular educated Mid East leader with the beautiful, elegant, educated and classy wife.

      What changed? Well there is a few points:

      1. US foreign policy elites and their allies in KSA, Qatar and Turkey decided they needed to check Iran’s growing influence in the region. Ironically this is something that was exacerbated by the USA’s previous decision to destroy Iraq as a functioning nation state. It should be noted Israel is tacitly on board with this. These countries don’t want Iran’s influence to grow at the expense of theirs.

      2. Deposing Assad means Qatar, the biggest nat gas exporting country, gets to build its pipeline through Syria and into the European heartland to supply them with energy. They love this, it get’s them new markets and new money. The USA loves it even more as it lessens Russia’s stranglehold as Europe’s primary energy supplier, and therefore reduces their political influence and cements the USA’s control over the Atlantic. This is in keeping with their doctrines which states they won’t allow a challenger to their hegemony to arise. Russia in itself is not a challenger, but allied (truly allied) with Germany it would be.

      This is why South Stream in its initial form was retroactively sabotaged in a legal sense by the EU’s 3rd energy package. It is why Bulgaria was pressured by the USA to drop South Stream. It is why the pipeline had to be moved through a proposed Turkish route and hub, with Greece to connect at the border and the new route to run through Macedonia and Serbia. It is why KLA terrorists were recently activated in the Macedonian town of Kumanovo, a reminder to the govt. there should it allow a Russian pipeline to traverse their territory, Macedonia will once again see islamic mercs unleashed on its people.

      This is why the Turks and the neocons want no fly and safe zones in Syria – they are looking to break it into manageable pieces.

      • You should submit that to Fairfax as a opinion piece. But then it may actually start the conversation that the West uses Terrorists when it suits them. In Afgan/Soviet war, Central America, which you can finance by selling crack on streets of L.A.

      • Brilliant insights

        Behind all this human rights and dictator guff, it pays to remember it’s always energy or something more strategic

        I found Bill Blum’s tome on US incursions to be quite illuminating in this regard. As well as the guys on Stratfor.

    • Well, if Australia is successful in its attempt to gain a seat on the UN Human Rights Council from 2018 it will most certainly find itself in good (read ‘like’) company. Its already a rogues gallery…

  5. “delusional notions of democracy at the point of a gun”

    I think this can now be expanded to ‘forcing people to adopt democracy by any method’. It doesn’t work…

  6. rob barrattMEMBER

    We’re merely re-learning the lessons the West learned half a century ago. In states where there are high ethnic and religious tensions, only a dictatorship keeps order, the former Yugoslavia being a case in point. Unfortunately, attempts to evolve to democracy in Muslim majority countries end up being sabotaged by the clergy. It’s really no different to the things that happened in Europe while the Catholic church possessed great power.
    The lesson must be that politics and religion must never be allowed to mix. Having said that, you now have an intractable problem in Europe with those who believe they should and must mix: ie. in Sharia law…

  7. Hmmm how many international boarders need to be re arranged if we ignore matters VS how many international boarders need to be rearranged if we intervene. Make no mistake about this it’s WE (the westerners) that need a solution, we’re the ones that believe that putting a new man in charge will FIX the problem, that’s the reason we’re selecting the hardest bastard still alive and crowning him king. Trouble is we’re simply not addressing the broader social problems that are rife in the region. Youth unemployment is over 25% most ME countries. Across the whole region that equates to 10’s of millions of disaffected young in the prime of their lives, people that have been directed to the unemployment lines, dumped in some ghetto and left there to fester. Make no mistake ISIL is the physical manifestation of this social dysfunction.
    Personally I dont think there’s a damn thing we can do about it because in much the same way as economic stability creates economic instability, forced social stability creates social instability. We’ve had our extended period of social stability (hope you enjoyed it) so we’re over due an extended period of social instability. Which we’ll label Terrorism until such times as it morphs into some more organized form of warfare.
    Peace is not the by-product of calm minds, peace is a solution born out of the dysfunction of war.

    • The International Boarders are all at expensive Australian private schools buying several investment properties for their uncles! We may have to look at changing the borders however

      • Wait till you’re my age and trying to proof read the text on your phone in the back of a Shanghai taxi….Frankly (the way the last guy drove) I’m happy if I can just send the message before fate delivers a rather final reset.

    • “Trouble is we’re simply not addressing the broader social problems that are rife in the region”

      This is based on the assumption that we can address these “broader social problems” in the region. The truth is we can’t. Our job is to live with the consequences.

      It might also be worth pointing out that at the moment we are doing a pretty good job of dumping our young (and our not so young) on the unemployment queue.

  8. Fyodor Dostoyevsky

    ” delusional notions of democracy at the point of a gun”

    Absolutely no where in the middle east has the west tried to do this – not one single place. The entire purpose of their engagement has been purely regime change for compliant dictators and control, the notion that the west at any stage was intervening on benign grounds, freedom or democracy is just crap.

    The change in heart displayed towards Syria is because the people Assad were killing were not his “civilians” – what utter garbage, they were always known and acknowledged to be foreign jihadists backed by western interests along with their despotic allies in Saudi Arabia and Qatar.

    The change in heart is ENTIRELY due to the fact that Putin, who is not expanding his sphere of influence as Syria was ALREADY AN ALLY, is destroying the long term plans of the United States who are now in absolute panic and disarray with the absolute reality of the Sino-Russian alliance dominating the far east, but also the very real prospect of it dominating the middle east with Iran aligning themselves with their long term partners, but even worse the central Europe under the Sino-Russian alliance of the One Road isolating traditional powers from the long term growth region of the world.

    Democracy at the point of a gun – never laughed so hard.

    • There is no Russian-Chinese alliance in the Far East. The enemy of my enemy is my friend at the moment, but those two are in a deadly serious rivalry over Siberia. There is no love lost between them – it’s just business

      • But I thought CPC had shifted its focus to the creation of a NSC (New South China) Province at the welcoming invitation of the politicians and the wealth elite from that new province???

  9. Western countries (read USA) want to foist democracy on to countries that have never had it since the dawn of time and mostly have no real desire for it. It comes from the mistaken belief that democracy is ‘Christian’ or biblical. It isn’t. It is a recent invention and there are no democracies in the Bible at all.
    The best we can hope for in these countries is a benevolent dictator, or at the least a dictator who is only partly psychotic. American foreign policy has been so catastrophically, incomprehensively stupid the last 50 years it is staggering. Obama, the great love of the left world-wide has been a disaster as well.

    • “Western countries (read USA) want to foist democracy on to countries that have never had it since the dawn of time and mostly have no real desire for it”

      That’s a fallacy. Democracy and “values” are what they use to get the populaces consent at home. They don’t give two sh*ts about democracy – they want leaders they control, they want vassalage.

      • Looking at how the 2016 US Presidential Election is shaping I’m wondering whether its correct to continue to call the US a democracy. What started out as government of the people, by the people, for the people slowly turned into government of the 30%, by the 30%, for the 30% (in 1980 30% of the US population was close to 100million people). Now it appears to have morphed again into government of the 1%, by the 1%, for the 1% (today 1% of the US population is about 3million people). And Australia is rapidly and I think irreversibly heading the same way…

  10. People in the west whom watched Fox news and CNN has no comprehension of the pain that inflicted on the Iraqis, Libyan, Syrian, Egyptians by the Americans, all for what????? 200million people’s home land now destroyed just because US was looking for WMD that they are so sure Iraq has via Colin Powell’s presentation in UN, and to get rid of dictators in the region (for the jewish state)????? We are talking about more than 200millions people’s life and homeland that was destroyed by a handful of power broker in the Washington, and NY. Its like someone stir up your marriage and causing a divorce from your spouse, which left your kids psychologically broken for the rest of their life.

  11. “Assad’s removal had been a non-negotiable demand for the US and its allies engaged there, with Russia unofficially backing him as it seeks to extend its sphere of influence.”

    Silly statement without any context. The USA, Turkey, KSA, Qatar are the main actors seeking to expand their sphere of influence by deposing Assad.

    Why doesn’t this peanut actually do some investigative reporting and tell us all why Assad’s removal is non negotiable? Isn’t it democratic to allow the already democratically elected leader to stand again in an election – or do they fear the populace will elect him again?

    And please, let’s not have nonsense about him using chemical weapons. Why don’t they tell us who the alternatives to the secular and democratically elected current head of state are. The “moderates” who would butcher the nations Christians and minorities?

    The Western media narrative on this entire fiasco is beyond shameful!

    • Just because Assad was elected (and re-elected) doesn’t mean it was democratic. After all, his opposition was either sitting in cells or six feet under courtesy of the Interior Ministry.

  12. Jejune in the extreme. Won’t work. Not for any length of time in any case.

    Guess it allows intervention-weary Western Governments (who’ve suddenly awoken to the refugee crisis and how citizens want it dealt with) some illusion of control. And hey, power sharing in the ME is gonna be a hit, it’ll really take off after this.

    And KSA and Qatar? They’ll abandon Wahhabi Salafist desires quicker than Australia changes PMs. Yeah, right.

  13. Russian involvement in Syria goes back a very l o n g way ! Check this:

    “In 1893, a consular office of the Russian Empire was established in Damascus.[4] The October Revolution (1917), more or less the creation of the Soviet Union (1922–1991), essentially brought an end to Russian presence in Syria for a ” brief ” period.
    “The Syrian port city of Tartus hosts Russia’s only naval facility in the Mediterranean region and only remaining military facility outside the former USSR: the Russian naval facility in Tartus. The base was established during the Cold War to support the Soviet Navy’s fleet in the Mediterranean Sea, under a 1971 agreement with Syria”

    Vlad & his Russians have more history there than the Neocons running the USA ! (the real Terrorists)