On Syria, Pat Lang is asking the right questions. And unfortunately, writing for The Nation, Sharif Abdel Kouddous is missing the point.

Yesterday, I blogged about the Obama administration’s regime-change-by-force campaign in Syria. (Not for the first time, as I’ve been writing.) The CIA, the State Department and the Pentagon are all involved, working with NATO’s Turkey and the kleptocrats in Saudi Arabia to overthrow President Assad. Why? Not because they care about Assad (or the Syrian people, for that matter) but because they want to give Iran a black eye. It’s all about Iran.

On his blog, Sic Semper Tyrannis, Lang—a former chief of intelligence for the Pentagon on Middle East affairs—questions the policy and legality of Obama’s blatant interference in Syria. Here’s what he says:

Why is the State Department leading in the conduct of this war? Does this strange situation reflect a dvision of opinion withing [sic] the Executive Branch? Do Panetta, the JCS [Joint Chiefs of Staff] and the CIA agree with what is being done or is HC [Hillary Clinton] leading the way because she and her allies among the neo-Wilsonians and neocons are the “pro” faction in such an argument?

What is [Obama’s] actual position in this matter? Is he so pre-occupied with the election in November that he is no longer really in charge?

What is the US intelligence community [IC] telling the WH about the composition and nature of the Syrian rebel groups? On FNS today McCain told the world that [Al Qaeda]  is increasingly present in Syria. He must have gotten that from the IC. What else is the IC saying about the rebels? … The Democrats should ask Clapper, Petraeus and Flynn the hard questions in open hearings.

What is the IC (particularly DIA) telling the WH about the actual course of the civil war in Syria? Has the message soaked in that the rebels are on the verge of defeat? If they lose in Aleppo, then their “sanctuaries” along the Turkish border will become vulnerable. Is that why there is now talk of a “no fly zone” over those parts of Syria. Will that be followed by a “no drive” zone? Such zones would require direct combat operations on the part of US and Turkish forces. Which US law would authorize that?

All good questions.

Meanwhile, Kouddous is writing on the ground from a town in Syria. His ground-truth reporting is good, but he doesn’t exactly provide a birds’-eye view. Is the story in Syria really one of heroic rebel fighters against a regime of monsters, without international implications? How did the rebels transubstantiate from defenseless protesters (à la Iran’s Green Movement in 2009), who were mowed down by the government’s security forces, into an armed revolutionary force, if not for the outside assistance of Turkey, Saudi Arabia and Qatar, along with the United States and NATO?

Kouddous quotes a Syrian fighter:

“The revolution became militarized,” says Mohammed Abo Khattab, a 24-year-old media activist. “People that were unarmed at first decided to arm themselves. The regime made this happen.”

Well, maybe the regime provoked it, but it was forces outside Syria who “made this happen.” It’s certainly true that early on, Assad did what Iran’s leaders in 2009 were too smart to do, namely, gun down unarmed protesters. (Even Assad, in a recent interview, admitted that shooting down protesters in Deraa early in the conflict was a huge mistake, and it’s at least open to question whether Assad himself have those early orders to fire on civilians, or whether it was local security-force hotheads.) But even then, there was a chance for a peaceful solution, and a big part of the reason it didn’t happen is because Obama and Hillary Clinton started demanding Assad’s head on a platter.

Back in 2009, Obama was right not to intervene in Iran or to egg on the Iranian Greens. Why did that change in Syria in 2011–12? Politics, maybe? Does the United States have the right to decide to force out of office anyone it doesn’t like? Or only the ones that the Israel Lobby wants to get rid of, in an election year?