JANUARY 9, 2019 INTERVIEW WITH
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Cindy Sheehan: Sarah Abed. Welcome back to Cindy Sheehan's Soapbox.
Sarah Abed: Thank you so much for having me again, Cindy.
Cindy Sheehan: Well, the show that you were on was December 30th, there was quite a bit to talk about in 30 minutes for sure, but I just wanted to have you back on. It was a really well received and listened to show. There's a dearth of true information about what's happening in Syria and that region. There's been a lot happening, just happening in like a week. I wanted to have you back on to give us an update about what's going on. So, please, the floor is yours now.
Sarah Abed: Absolutely. Okay. Now, last week, I had mentioned that, as a result of Trump's announcement to withdraw the US troops from Syria, that the leaders of the Kurdish militias were reconciling with the Syrian government, and they were asking for protection against a Turkish onslaught. They were actually even willing to give up some of their territory west of the Euphrates. But since then, there have been some changes. During the past week, the Syrian Democratic Forces, the SDF, which again is just a rebranding of the Kurdish YPG, and this was a request that was made by US officials. So now they had asked Germany and France for a no-fly zone over northeastern Syria. Now, this sort of a request is really unrealistic because, Germany and France, they're allies with Turkey and they're going to work within the framework of NATO. Also, Russia is not going to allow them to adopt any sort of plan that threatened Syria's territorial integrity.
Sarah Abed: Now, they had also asked France to replace the US troops that were leaving northeastern Syria with French forces. I'm not exactly sure if they're going to be increasing the forces there, but they did say that they are definitely going to be staying on the ground, even if the US forces were to leave. And that they're going to help the Kurdish militias to fight against ISIS. Now, what I've also heard is that a senior administration official had told NBC news on the 5th that the US might be keeping their forces in the Al-Tanf base, which is in southeastern Syria for an undetermined amount of time. That step is basically aimed at applying pressure on Syria and Iran, because that base, it's actually located on a very vital international highway that could link Tehran with Beirut through Baghdad and Damascus.
Sarah Abed: Now, what we're also hearing is that US officials are now saying that there's no real timeline for the withdrawal. Initially we had heard a couple of different dates, from 30 days to four months. Now they're saying it could be months or years. One thing that we do know is that this notion of a quick withdrawal, which is I think the impression that a lot of us, everyone, got from Trump, it's being manipulated by Washington. It's changed, it's no longer there. So now, Bolton and Pompeo, they're actually in the Middle East right now. They're visiting allies, including Israel, Turkey, Jordan and Egypt. And they're doing what some people are saying is "damage control."
Cindy Sheehan: Well, probably, huh?
Sarah Abed: After Trump withdrawal announcement. Yeah. So now Bolton was in Israel yesterday and he was saying that now there's going to be stipulations to the US troop withdraw. He's saying that there are two conditions, basically, that needs to be met. One of them is that the 17,000 remaining ISIS fighters in Syria, have to be completely defeated. And the second one, which again, that's a contradiction to what Trump had said. If you remember, he had said, "We defeated ISIS, we're leaving," which, even if it wasn't true, the fact that he just wanted to say something and leave, I thought that was perfectly fine.
Cindy Sheehan: Face saving.
Sarah Abed: Turkey has been a huge supporter of the armed militias and the terrorist groups in Syria, and since the beginning of the war. So, it's funny that they're asking them or trusting them to now fight against Daesh when they're the ones that are still backing the FSA, the Free Syrian Army, who are just basically the same thing under a different name. There's also been mentioned that Turkey is now asking for the US to provide them with substantial military support, including airstrikes, transport, logistics, so that they could fight against ISIS. That is showing us that they want them to stay for a longer period of time. The longer that they stay, the worst it is. I mean, Syrians want them out. One other thing I want to mention about Turkey, even though sometimes they have said that they care about Syria's sovereignty, about the territorial integrity and such, they've also, at other times, said that ultimately their longterm goal is expansion.
Sarah Abed: They want to go and they want to have certain parts of Syria and some of their neighboring countries. They're looking for this to increase the Ottoman Empire. It's an ideal that they have. That's something that we need to keep in mind that, Syrians are worried about what Turkey's longterm plans are there. Right now, I think the US one of their main concerns is that the Kurdish allies are going to switch sides which, like we had mentioned last time, they were starting to do. They were trying to work with the ... reconciling with the Syrian government and Russia. What Bolton actually did was, he urged them and he even told them, he said to stand fast and avoid any deals with Damascus. And this is basically until they come up with a plan. This, of course, is not helping to finish off the war either by them telling them not to reconcile with them. There's also been talks about, and this could be the phase two that we had touched on last time but information really wasn't out there.
Sarah Abed: But there's also talks that the US is considering a partition plan. Again, we don't know that much about it, it hasn't been published or anything, but it has been called the "Sykes-Picot on acid." It's a plan to partition Syria, which of course it's a really, really, really bad idea. Let's see how that plays out. Hopefully, maybe it's just a rumor, but there are talks that I've heard of that being in the plans. Basically what I'm hoping, is that the Kurdish militias are going to come to their senses and they're going to do really the only reasonable thing for them to do at this point, which is to reconcile with the Syrian government. To hand over their weapons, to reintegrate into the Syrian Army and work with them.
Sarah Abed: Also, I wanted to mention that, contrary to popular belief and what we've read, the majority of the fighting against Daesh, it's been done by the Syrian Arab Army and their allies. I mean, the Kurdish militias have, of course, assisted, but they are not the ones that have fought the most or made the most progress against them. That's just the common thing that's said by the US administration so that they can say, "This is why we support them, because they are the best fighters against Daesh." No, the Syrian Arab Army and Russia and Hezbollah and Iranian forces, they've all been doing the bulk of the work.
Sarah Abed: I mean, at this point, I guess we're just going to have to see what they decide to do. If they're going to continue to trust the US just because they're giving them ... I think they just sent them another shipment of trucks and weapons and everything, but if they're going to continue to trust them and then be left out in the mud again, like they were back in the Iran-Iraq war, like they were in [inaudible 00:09:05], like they are repeatedly being used as a tool by US, Israel and NATO, then this cycle of abuse is not going to end. I guess we're just going to have to wait and see what actually plays out. I mean, a lot of what's being said by Bolton right now, it could be to appease their allies, but I'm interested to see how much it's going to change the strategy to withdrawal the US troops from Syria.
Cindy Sheehan: Well, we know about Bolton have long been a bad actor in US foreign policy, but he also, I think, has also been a strong advocate for military action against Iran.
Sarah Abed: Absolutely. Huge critic of Iran. I mean that, yeah. And that's a huge excuse that's being used still. That, "Okay, well, we're not going to leave until the Iranians and the Russians leave. We don't want Iranian influence to increase in the region, so we are going to do this and that." I mean, one of the main reasons why they even started working with the Kurds, is so that they could have a place in the Middle East, where they can keep their eye on Iran and take care of Israel. That was a big a reason for them to even establish their, I think, dozen or I think the highest number I heard was 19 bases in Syria.
Cindy Sheehan: Also, it was about Matthis, who resigned right after Trump made the announcement, but it doesn't seem like that was legit because, like you said, Bolton and Pompeo are probably in the Middle East doing damage control. And Trump says a lot of things just like off-the-cuff that hasn't been followed through on. What's this about Matthis resigning because of that? It just doesn't make sense to me because, like you said, well as soon as I saw that he announced that US trips were leaving Syria, I was like, "Yeah, right. We'll see if that ever happens." But then all of a sudden Matthis resigns. What do you think that's about?
Sarah Abed: I mean, it could be that he truly just was taken off guard and that was the reaction that he had of, "Oh, okay, well, I don't agree with this," or, "I'm not going to stand by you." Because he even said, I remember reading that he said that Trump should have someone whose views are more aligned with his. I think if Matthis hadn't jumped the gun and had stuck it through, and not that I would want him to, I think I'd love for Pompeo and Bolton to follow, but I think if he had waited then he would have seen that, "Oh, things are not going to go the way Trump had initially planned," which is-
Cindy Sheehan: Well, he should know that anyway, because I knew that and I'm not the secretary of defense. My thing is, allegedly, now we all know that nothing works the way it appears to work in the US so called democracy. But allegedly, the secretaries are appointed by the president and they serve at the pleasure or whatever. That's what they call it. They serve at the pleasure of the president, they're not supposed to be the ones making policy. They're supposed to be carrying out policy.
Sarah Abed: Okay. Yeah.
Cindy Sheehan: Anyway, I don't know. I just find it interesting.
Sarah Abed: I mean, it could just be an excuse.
Cindy Sheehan: It could have just been an excuse, yeah.
Sarah Abed: Maybe he found this as, "Okay, this is my opportunity to leave. I can do it by saying that I oppose this new plan that Trump has." I mean, because from what I've read, it does sound like this was just made without anyone else pretty much knowing that it was going to happen. But I do think that, after Trump had spoken with Turkey's president, Erdogen, that that influenced it. Now, I don't know, maybe he had said something and Trump took it one way and now he's backtracking because for him to now say, "We need increased support, we want the US to help us out even more," that's a contradiction.
Sarah Abed: Before, he was just saying, "We want the Kurdish troops, the Kurdish militias to not be on our borders. We see them as a national security issue. We want them off our borders." Now, it's like, yeah ... I think now that they saw that the US was starting to back away from the Kurds, they're changing it, changing the script. This has just been very interesting to watch. Every day, there's new things that are coming out, and unfortunately, it does feel like we're getting farther and farther away from this proposed immediate, full troop withdrawal [inaudible 00:14:48] be going home. Because even what we've seen is some of the US troops that were taken out of Syria, that had left Syria, they were sent to Iraq.
Cindy Sheehan: Right. That's what I've said. It would just, would be a realignment anyway. The reassignment realignment. Yeah.
Sarah Abed: Yeah. They weren't even sent home.
Cindy Sheehan: So, what's coming out of Damascus?
Sarah Abed: What's coming on? I think right now, as far as Damascus, it's amazing. If you've seen the amount of progress that's being made, regardless of everything else that's going on with the US and what they're trying to do, Damascus is going full speed ahead trying to recover. Their different embassies are reopening again in Syria, they are reentering the Arab League after having not been in there for, I think, what was this? Six years or so. They're making a ton of progress. They're rebuilding. The people are returning to their lives and the vast majority of the country. I mean, you've only got Idlib, which we're still going to see what's going to happen with that.
Sarah Abed: That's where the militias were all sent, and they've actually been having a lot of infighting as well. So, terrorist organizations are fighting against each other. Damascus is trying to do a lot of recovery, repairing and the people are just trying to get back to their lives. I mean, the US, they could definitely help if that was their true mission by just withdrawing their troops. France, the same thing. Turkey, the same thing. And just let Syrians go back to how their lives were before. I mean, like we've mentioned before, this was never a civil war, so to say. This was never a revolution. This was completely foreign imposed. I know they wanted-
Cindy Sheehan: Well, we just have to thank goodness for the fact that Syria didn't become another Libya or Iraq or Afghanistan. That they fought back and hopefully will be, like you said, successful to rebuild their country and rebuild their lives. Unfortunately, should never have had to do that.
Sarah Abed: Absolutely. Absolutely. They are absolutely resilient, the people. I speak to them on a continuous basis and it's just amazing how much they're able to put what's happened behind them, and keep focusing on what's going to be in the future. What's going to happen in the future. It's amazing. I mean, if the people themselves weren't supportive of the Syrian government and the Syrian president, then everything would have fell apart. But they've stood against all of the foreign empires who have tried, tirelessly, to split the country up or bring them to their knees, they've stood against them united. The Syrian people, they want to have a normal, happy life. I mean, if you've seen what took place during the holidays, Christmas and New Year's, they celebrated more so than I think the majority in the West, right?
Cindy Sheehan: Yeah.
Sarah Abed: The Christmas tree's, the lights, the festivals, the festivities, people there, they want to live. They have a strong desire to live, to recover, to have a good life. And they're going to do whatever it takes. They are not going to just allow foreign powers to break them. They're not going to do that. So, I think that's a huge reason why almost eight years, in March 15th of this year, it's going to be eight years. Eight years of war. And we're talking from so many different nations against just one little country.
Cindy Sheehan: Well, thank you, Sarah. Is there something you'd like to add?
Sarah Abed: I think, I mean, we've covered it. Let's just see what happens. Each day we're learning new things. I want to see what happens with the rest of their Middle East trip that they're on right now, and see what else they're going to be coming up with. They're trying to reassure their allies and partners but I think it's making us feel pretty nervous that each day with a new thing that they're coming out with. We just want them to leave the Syrians alone and just let them go back to having a normal life. I think that's really the main thing that the majority of the people want.
Cindy Sheehan: Well, their major neo-cons, they're there to reassure Israel. That's exactly what they're doing. I would think John Bolton is a huge ... He signed the project for a new American century. I think you said on Facebook today, you hope he resigns. I think that this would be a good place to end. Anyway, Sarah, thank you. I'll get this put together and get it out as soon as possible.
Sarah Abed: Sounds good. Thank you so much, Cindy.
Cindy Sheehan: Oh, no. Now, I can hear you really good. Okay, dear. Okay, have a good evening.
Sarah Abed: You too. You too. Take care. Bye.