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Topic: Syria (Read 2050 times)
Reply #50 on:
May 01, 2013, 04:03:14 PM »
Sounds fun, but haven't the Iranians put a lot of their facilities in civilian areas? Isn't the US track record on nuke weapon program detection a tad weak after Iraq?
Reply #51 on:
May 02, 2013, 11:34:56 AM »
"Isn't the US track record on nuke weapon program detection a tad weak after Iraq?"
The final word I read (Iraq Study Group) was that Saddam was 6 years away from being fully nuclear - 11 years ago. I don't know about our track record, but our credibility is gone. One of the stories from the WMD elusive stockpile hunt was that the chemical weapons were being trucked to Syria. If true, we were twiddling in meeting rooms with a seven month delay while they were moving, hiding, saving chemical weapons that perhaps still haunt us. We still don't know what happened. I don't hear anyone even ask the question now, where did Assad's chemical weapons originate?
If our President is planning to do nothing, drawing a lot of red lines for rogue states to cross isn't particularly helpful. 'If you gas your people one more time, we will, we will, we will help the rebels with bandages and medicine!'
Israel has a different way of expressing concern about Syrian weapons:
September 6, 2007, Operation Orchard was an Israeli airstrike on a nuclear reactor in the Deir ez-Zor region of Syria. The White House and Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) later confirmed that American intelligence had also indicated the site was a nuclear facility with a military purpose.
Jan 30, 2013, Israeli jets bombed a convoy near the Lebanese border, apparently hitting weapons destined for militant group Hezbollah.
Syria's Chemical weapons and locations?
Reply #52 on:
May 02, 2013, 01:19:06 PM »
Syria's Chemical weapons and locations?
A citizen journalism image provided by Aleppo Media Center AMC, which has been authenticated based on its contents and other AP reporting, shows black smoke rise from buildings due to government forces shelling in Aleppo, Syria, on March 19. (Aleppo Media Center/AP)
“We’ve lost track of lots of this stuff,” said one U.S. official. “We just don’t know where a lot of it is.”
July 13, 2012: U.S. Concerned as Syria Moves Chemical Stockpile
Pres. Obama Aug 19, 2012: “We have been very clear to the Assad regime, but also to other players on the ground, that a red line for us is, we start seeing a whole bunch of weapons moving around or being utilized.”
What is a "red line for us"? NY Times calls it "Mr. Obama’s first direct threat of force against Syria". Question remains, what is a "direct threat of force" translated from the original weasel-speak?
Obama's Director of National Intelligence, James Clapper of 'Muslim Brotherhood is largely secular' fame, clarifies: “It would be very, very situational dependent to render an assessment"
Stratfor: Israeli strike on Syria
Reply #53 on:
May 06, 2013, 09:20:58 AM »
Editor's Note: According to reports, Israel launched a second round of airstrikes May 5 against Damascus. Syrian officials say a military research facility was among the targets hit. Since the strike, Israel has deployed two of its Iron Dome defense systems and closed northern Israel's airspace until May 9, while the Syrian military is rumored to have deployed several missiles aimed at Israel.
A reported Israeli airstrike into Syria on either May 2 or May 3 is another spillover effect of the country's ongoing civil war. Details are still scarce on the alleged strike, with U.S. officials reporting somewhat contradictory information to different news outlets, but the primary target of the strike is believed to have been a weapons shipment to Hezbollah, likely in transit. The Lebanese Army had earlier reported increased Israeli Air Force activity over its airspace -- a total of 16 flights by Israeli warplanes between the evening of May 2 and the afternoon of May 3, particularly over Marjayoun, Al Khayyam and Bint Jbeil.
As the Syrian conflict intensifies, it will continue to draw in Syria's neighbors over concerns ranging from rising jihadist threats to weapons proliferation.
The airstrikes are not the first reported Israeli ones on Syria this year. In January 2013, the Israeli Air Force is believed to have struck a shipment of weapons bound for Hezbollah in Lebanon consisting of SA-8 Gecko and reportedly SA-17 Grizzly surface-to-air weapons systems. As is the case with this week's strikes, the Israeli aircraft reportedly did not penetrate Syrian airspace, likely attacking their target by using altitude and speed to lob weapons such as U.S.-supplied Joint Direct Attack Munitions across the border into Syria or by using self-powered munitions such as the Delilah cruise missile.
Israeli officials have privately stressed that Israel maintains its own specific redlines in the Syrian conflict and that despite U.S. President Barack Obama's reported stance, the use of chemical weapons against rebels is not one of them. Specifically, Israeli officials have stressed that they will not tolerate transfers of chemical weapons, ballistic missiles, advanced air-defense systems or sophisticated anti-ship missiles to Hezbollah -- or jihadist seizures of such weapons.
Over the past months, the Syrian regime has also effectively withdrawn its forces from the Golan Heights in order to use them against the rebel threat encroaching on Damascus. This has heightened Israeli concern that jihadists will take advantage of the security vacuum in the Golan Heights to begin staging attacks against Israeli units in the area. Israel has said such action will not be tolerated.
Countries near Syria are already feeling the effects of the war. A massive influx of refugees is adding further stress to the already unstable economies of Lebanon and Jordan, and earlier this week a Turkish guard was killed in a border dispute with armed Syrians. Iraq is seeing increased jihadist activity linked to the Syrian conflict. As the conflict in Syria continues to rage, the spillover effects from the civil war will continue to manifest themselves.
Read more: An Israeli Airstrike into Syria | Stratfor
Reply #54 on:
May 06, 2013, 01:32:44 PM »
second post of day
May 5, 2013 | 1511 GMT
According to Lebanon's Hezbollah-affiliated Almayadeen television channel, senior Syrian officials have said the Syrian military has deployed missile batteries aimed at Israel, Israel News reported May 5. The sources also allegedly said Syria is willing to equip the Lebanese resistance with new weaponry of all types. Israel, which maintains its own redlines in the Syrian conflict, has said it will not tolerate transfers of chemical weapons, ballistic missiles, advanced air-defense systems or sophisticated anti-ship missiles to Hezbollah.
Read more: Syria: Military Has Reportedly Deployed Missiles Aimed At Israel | Stratfor
The latest Israeli airstrikes on Syria were predicated on two key factors. First, the Syrian regime is weakening so much that it cannot control its territory and, by extension, its weapons stockpiles could fall into the hands of non-state actors such as Hezbollah and al Qaeda. Second, Israeli intelligence discovered that a shipment of Iranian-made Fateh-110 short-range tactical ballistic missiles was being delivered to Hezbollah. Logistically it is difficult to prevent advanced weapons systems, particularly chemical agents, from proliferating once a regime has lost control of them, so further preventive strikes can be expected.
For its part, Syria has responded by saying any additional attacks from Israel will incur immediate retaliation. Syrian President Bashar al Assad reportedly sent a message to Washington (via Moscow), in which he authorized the use of ground-to-ground and ground-to-air missiles in the event of such retaliation. However, Syria lacks the military capability to follow through on its threats.
Airstrikes on Syrian soil belie the fact that Israel is not taking sides in the Syrian civil war. As far as Israel is concerned, regime loyalists and the various rebel militias both threaten Israeli national security. And in some ways, it is in Israel's interest to prolong the collapse of the al Assad regime and to further the military stalemate: Doing so ensures that the conflict remains confined to Syria as much as possible.
But it is unclear whether Israel can actually achieve this. Even the United States, were it to get involved militarily, could not successfully confine the violence to Syria. Thus the limited airstrikes, which will likely continue as long as deemed necessary, are preventative measures rather than signs of assistance. Any future strikes likewise would be meant to mitigate risks as they appear.
However, any intervention that targets the Syrian regime and its allies has unintended consequences. For example, it enables al Assad and his allies to shape regional perceptions -- namely, that Israel and the rebels are fighting together. This complicates matters for rebels and their affiliate groups, which along with many Arab states have condemned the Israeli airstrikes.
The Syrian regime, Iran and Hezbollah would like to use this situation to their advantage. They believe drawing Israel into the conflict would be a useful way to ease the rebellion's pressure on them. Until these latest Israeli strikes, provoking Israel could also have been seen as too self-serving. But now that Israel has intervened on its own, there is an opportunity to escalate the situation and elicit a deeper Israeli involvement in Syria.
Their reasoning is that it would be difficult for the rebels to fight the Syrian regime if the country were under attack from Israel. But that calculation entails large risks, which would further undermine the already tenuous positions of Syria, Hezbollah and Iran. It is unclear whether the al Assad regime and its allies would be willing to take those risks.
They would like to see some Sunni jihadist groups operating in Syria begin targeting Israel in an effort to divide the rebels' attention. Whether that will happen remains unclear. But the Israeli strikes have created a situation in which the Syrian civil war, heretofore a regional sectarian struggle, could turn into a wider international conflict.
Read more: Syria: Unintended Consequences of Israeli Airstrikes | Stratfor
WSJ: Israel says Russkis about to sell major AA missile upgrade to Syria
Reply #55 on:
May 09, 2013, 08:59:10 AM »
By JAY SOLOMON, ADAM ENTOUS and JULIAN E. BARNES
WASHINGTON—Israel has warned the U.S. that a Russian deal is imminent to sell advanced ground-to-air missile systems to Syria, weapons that would significantly boost the regime's ability to stave off intervention in its civil war.
(A 2012 photo shows a Russian S-300 surface-to-air missile system during a parade rehearsal near Moscow.)
U.S. officials said on Wednesday that they are analyzing the information Israel provided about the suspected sale of S-300 missile batteries to Syria, but wouldn't comment on whether they believed such a transfer was near.
Russian officials didn't immediately return requests to comment. The Russian Embassy in Washington has said its policy is not to comment on arms sales or transfers between Russia and other countries.
The government of President Bashar al-Assad has been seeking to purchase S-300 missile batteries—which can intercept both manned aircraft and guided missiles—from Moscow going back to the George W. Bush administration, U.S. officials said. Western nations have lobbied President Vladimir Putin's government not to go ahead with the sale. If Syria were to acquire and deploy the systems, it would make any international intervention in Syria far more complicated, according to U.S. and Middle East-based officials.
According to the information the Israelis provided in recent days, Syria has been making payments on a 2010 agreement with Moscow to buy four batteries for $900 million. They cite financial transactions from the Syrian government, including one made this year through Russia's foreign-development bank, known as the VEB.
The package includes six launchers and 144 operational missiles, each with a range of 125 miles, according to the information the Israelis provided. The first shipment could come over the next three months, according to the Israelis' information, and be concluded by the end of the year. Russia is also expected to send two instruction teams to train Syria's military in operating the missile system, the Israelis say.
Russia has been Mr. Assad's most important international backer, outside of Iran, since the conflict in Syria started in March 2011, and supplies Syria with arms, funding and fuel. Russia maintains a naval port in Syria, its only outlet to the Mediterranean. Moscow also has publicly voiced worries that a collapsed Syria could fuel Islamist activities in its restive Caucasus regions.
Secretary of State John Kerry met with Mr. Putin on Tuesday in Moscow. The leaders said they would stage an international conference this month aimed at ending the civil war. U.S. officials couldn't say whether Messrs. Kerry and Putin or their teams discussed the arms sale.
British Prime Minister David Cameron is scheduled to visit Mr. Putin in Russia on Friday. The White House on Wednesday said Mr. Cameron would visit Washington on Monday to discuss issues including Syria's civil war and counterterrorism, plus trade and economic issues, with President Barack Obama.
The Obama administration has argued that Mr. Assad has to leave office as part of a political transition in Damascus. The Kremlin has maintained that he retains a large base of support and should be included in negotiations over a future Syrian government.
Should Mr. Putin's government go ahead with the sale, it would mark a significant escalation in the battle between Moscow and Washington over Syria. U.S. officials said they believe Russian technicians are already helping maintain the existing Syrian air-defense units.
The first air-defense deals between Russia and Syria date back decades. Russia in recent years has stepped up shipments to modernize Syria's targeting systems and make the air defenses mobile, and therefore much more difficult for Israel—and the U.S.—to overcome.
According to a U.S. intelligence assessment, Russia began shipping SA-22 Pantsir-S1 units to Syria in 2008. The system, a combination of surface-to-air missiles and 30mm antiaircraft guns, has a digital targeting system and is mounted on a combat vehicle, making it easy to move. Syria has 36 of the vehicles, according to the assessment.
In 2009, the Russians started upgrading Syria's outdated analog SA-3 surface-to-air missile systems, turning them into the SA-26 Pechora-2M system, which is mobile and digital, equipped with missiles with an operational range of 17 miles, according to the assessment.
The U.S. is particularly worried about another modernized system Moscow provides—the SA-5. With an operational range of 175 miles, SA-5 missiles could take out U.S. planes flying from Cyprus, a key North Atlantic Treaty Organization base that was used during Libya operations and would likely be vital in any Syrian operation.
The U.S. has stealth aircraft and ship-based, precision-guided missiles that could take out key air-defense sites. Gen. Martin Dempsey, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, has privately told the White House that shutting down the system could require weeks of bombing, putting U.S. fighter pilots in peril and diverting military resources from other priorities.
According to an analysis by the U.S. military's Joint Staff, Syrian air defenses are nearly five times more sophisticated than what existed in Libya before the NATO launched its air campaign there in 2011. Syrian air defenses are about 10 times more sophisticated than the system the U.S. and its allies faced in Serbia.
Write to Jay Solomon at
, Adam Entous at
and Julian E. Barnes at
Victor Davis Hanson: Count me out on Syria
Reply #56 on:
May 14, 2013, 08:33:55 AM »
I can't remember disagreeing with VDH.
Count Me Out on Syria by Victor Davis Hanson May 13th, 2013
There are good reasons to go into Syria, but far better ones to stay out.
Let us review a few of them. Syria is a humanitarian crisis with over one million refugees and 70,000 dead. But there are similar outrages in Mali, Somalia, and the Sudan. Why no calls to go there as well? Would U.S. troops, planes, or massive shipments of weapons stop the killing, or simply ensure endless cycles of death following the Assad departure? Will Syria’s Christians and other minorities become worse off with or without Assad?
More importantly, we do not at this late stage know which terrorist is a pro-Western Google-type, and which is a hard-core jihadist. The history of the Middle East in particular (see Iran in 1980) and world history in general (cf. France, 1794 or Russia, 1917) suggests that the more extreme, better organized revolutionary zealots, even when in the minority, usually win out over the moderate and sensible reformers in the post-war sorting out and sizing up. There are not many Washingtons, Jeffersons, or Madisons in the annals of revolutionary history.
When Assad goes, the postbellum mess will either go straight to the sham election of a Mohammed Morsi type, who will try to suspend the very constitution that brought him to power, or we will witness round two of Libyan-type violence. The bitter remedy for either, of course, is an Afghanistan or Iraq occupation, in which Americans spend blood and treasure to teach locals not to be their tribal selves. But that third alternative is absolutely politically unsustainable.
Of course, there are also strategic reasons for toppling Assad. How wonderful to see Hezbollah lose their Iranian-arms conduit, or to remove Syria from the Iran-Hezbollah axis. But is that not happening now anyway?
Apparently Israel thinks so. As I understand, their new cynical but strategically adept policy runs something like the following: now and then when Assad shows signs of recovery, or more bloodlust, or renewed interest in bringing down the region with him, bomb his assets just a little bit to refigure the score. That confuses everyone in Syria: do rebels damn or thank Israel, or both? Do Sunni nations smile or scowl? Does Assad retaliate and deplete his arsenal that is so critical to killing his fellow Arabs? Will rebels join with Assad against Israel, or remember that it helped them a bit when on the downside? In short, so far America has not intervened, and Syria, Iran, and Hezbollah are all three worse off for it.
Well apart from Benghazi, Susan Rice and Samantha Power’s Libya is a blueprint for nothing. This time around we will not get UN approval after assuring Russia and China last time that our “humanitarian aid” and “no-fly zones” did not entail ground support, which of course it immediately did. Do we want again to ignore the U.S. Congress and seek permission instead from the UN and Arab League? Was the murder of Americans in Benghazi preferable to the so-called “new Gaddafi,” whom everyone from John McCain to the Europeans were suddenly fond of as a “reformer” intent on handing power over to his Westernized progeny?
And who not long ago said Bashar al-Assad was a “reformer”?
And who visited Syria in 2007 while Americans were dying in Iraq from jihadists harbored in Syria? And who blasted Bush for alienating Syria by ostracizing such an otherwise eager interlocutor (“The road to Damascus is the road to peace”)?
Consistency Should Matter
I have another confession about why, as a supporter of removing Saddam Hussein, I did not favor either the Libyan bombing or the proposed Syria intervention. In short, I have no confidence in those now calling for intervention to be there should things not go as planned. More have been killed in Afghanistan during Obama’s 52 months than during Bush’s nearly seven years. Announcing simultaneous surges and withdrawal dates is not wise. After all the blood and treasure spent in Iraq, not leaving a tiny monitoring force was shortsighted. An administration that not only lied about Benghazi but knew it was lying does not inspire confidence, especially in its amoral calculus in promoting a pre-election narrative of a weakened al-Qaeda after the killing of bin Laden and a reforming Libya after the removal of Gaddafi over the interest of truth and the safety of our own in Benghazi.
Consistency of any sort should matter also. I admire those like a Max Boot who wanted to go into Iraq and supported the cause to the bitter end. I even sort of admire a Pat Buchanan who thought Iraq a folly, and as a useful idiot on MSNBC damned those like me who supported the occupation. And I even admire Dennis Kucinich-types who thought intervention was wrong and staying on worse, and were ridiculed when the statue fell and the “Mission Accomplished” euphoria persisted. But I have no admiration for the zealots who called for the attack, basked in the spectacular removal of the Hussein regime, and then peeled off as the violence spiked and the soldiers were more or less on their own.
Like most of you, I did not write a letter in 1998 calling for the preemptive removal of Saddam Hussein. Most of us were indifferent to Bill Clinton’s regime change act. And I think most of us did not even know about those who wrote another letter to George W. Bush after 9/11 calling for preemption in Iraq again. But most of us agreed with 70% of the people that the Congress had logic and morality in their 2002 23-writ resolution calling to oust Hussein. Colin Powell made a sincere, but flawed, presentation. (It was not just the faulty intelligence, but the failure to mention all of the congressional resolutions for war.)
Once we did go in — along with the widespread support of the American people — I vowed to support the American effort to rebuild the country to the bitter end. And the end was certainly bitter. But by 2009 the American role in the war was all but over, a plan for a residual force to ensure the peace was in place, and what happened after that was now up to a new administration. I think leaving in toto was a bitter mistake, but leave we did and as a nation we live with the consequences.
Most Who Called for Removal of Saddam Eventually Turned on Bush
Here is my point. Most of those who called for preemption between 1998 and 2001 eventually turned on Mr. Bush, who had listened to them. Almost all the liberal and conservative pundits of the New York Times and Washington Post who wanted intervention eventually bailed with the suspect excuse of something like “my three-week brilliant take-down, your stupid five-year occupation.” Some claimed missing WMD gave them an out (as if we suddenly also learned that Saddam had not posted rewards for suicide bombers, murdered thousands, tried to kill a U.S. president, harbored terrorists, broke UN resolutions, gassed his own people, etc.).
Those who once sung Bush’s praises the loudest and urged him onward (give him the Nobel Prize, nuke Saddam, “I wrote the Axis of Evil line,” sweep the Middle East) were always the most clever of critics, as if the more Hillary screamed or Harry Reid declared the surge lost, the more we would forget their October 2002 calls to arms.
If in 2002 Iraq was to be a “cakewalk,” by 2004 it was “Bush’s war.” To name just a few across the political spectrum in random order, I’m sure that a Francis Fukuyama, Fareed Zakaria, Andrew Sullivan, George Will, the late William F. Buckley, Jr., Thomas Friedman, John Kerry, and thousands of others all had legitimate reasons in abandoning the cause of Iraq. Lord knows it was unwise to let thousands of scattered Ba’athist soldiers roam the streets of Iraq unemployed. How stupid was it to focus only on WMD when the Congress gave lots of reasons to remove Saddam? More tragic still was pulling out of Fallujah in April 2004 only to have to retake it in November. Why was a junior three-star mediocrity like Ricardo Sanchez put in charge of ground troops in Iraq? Why did Tommy Franks just quit almost at the moment the three-week war stopped and the reckoning started? “Bring ‘em on” and “Mission Accomplished” are speaking loudly while carrying small sticks. The list of screw-ups goes on and on. But the fact remains that victory in war goes not to those who make no mistakes, but to those who learn the most quickly from them in order to ensure the fewest in the future.
I also grant that one can change one’s mind. But here is the point, to paraphrase Matthew Ridgway of the mess he inherited in Korea: the only worse thing for a great power with global responsibilities than fighting a poorly conducted war is losing one. I know too the age-old nostrums — that was then, this is now, things change, only with self-reflection comes wisdom, change is sometimes necessary, etc., etc.
But I have also lost all trust in the Democratic Senate, the commentariat, and the media to call for any U.S. intervention in the Middle East, given that there is a chance that it will go badly, the zealots will bail, and the soldiers alone will be stuck on the battlefield in a Middle East miasma, with little support at home — a Michael Moore lauding the enemy as “Minutemen,” a MoveOn.Org labeling Petraeus “General Betray Us,” an Alfred Knopf published novel imagining the assassination of a U.S. president, a prominent conservative confessing how he was “duped” by the “neo-cons,” and on and on. Again, been there, done that, sick of it.
One day drones and Guantanamo are war crimes originating from Afghanistan and Iraq, the next day they are … what, exactly? One day in 2004 Barack Obama has no problem with current U.S. policy in Iraq (“There’s not that much difference between my position and George Bush’s position at this stage”); one day in 2007 he wants all U.S. combat troops out by March 2008? In short, there is no evidence that either those in this administration or our elites in general are up for another bloody slog in the Middle East.
I also have only little sympathy now for “Arab reformers,” especially those ensconced at U.S. and European universities. Yes, Iraq was a mess. Bush was a twangy Texan, we know. I am sorry that we do not have mellifluous Martin Luther Kings or Abraham Lincolns around to send in F-16s. The fact remains that Bush was also an idealist, naïve maybe, but not an imperialist or colonialist. He was someone who really believed in establishing the chance of freedom in the Middle East, in the manner that he sought to provide cheap AIDS medication for Africa or expand Medicare prescription drugs, whether all on borrowed money or not. Hate him if you must for being a naïf, but not a British imperialist or Nixonian strategist.
Yes, call him dumb, naïve, amateurish, but not conniving or Kissengerian — as his realist critics, in fact, lamented. So the U.S. removed a monster who had killed a million. It stayed on at great cost. It took no oil. It took no territory. It ended up without even a base. After 9/11 it sought to remove a terrorist-subsidizing tyrant, end the no-fly zones, create something better, and spread constitutional governments in the wake. The Chinese, French, and Russians ended up profiting from U.S. blood and treasure.
Please, Spare Us Now “You Owe Us Help”
If Arab reformers ever wanted a shot at democracy, Iraq was still their golden opportunity. Instead, almost all damned the effort and caricatured Americans. I once in 2006 sat in a clinic in Tripoli listening to Arab intellectuals (or rather Gaddafi minders) explain to me the Jewish roots of the Iraqi war, and how Americans were siphoning oil off in the desert and flying it in tankers home. Finally, I could not even follow all the conspiracy theories concocted to explain how wicked the Maliki government was.
Please, spare us now “you owe us your help.” Al Jazeera one day magically can show videos of an IED tearing apart American soldiers, and the next day it is just a “media outlet” that gives Al Gore millions of its petrodollars for his access to cable TV. I’m sure it will advocate for Assad to go, for reformers to take his replace, and demonize the U.S. and “the Jews” all through the process.
We have been there, done that, and we have learned some great lessons about the 21st century, pre-modern Middle East, and any interventions into it: a) Arab reformers damn the U.S. for doing nothing, but they will damn it far more for doing something; b) interventionists believe that all success is their offspring, and failure is outsourced to someone else, usually the military or those who sent the military in; c) the Middle East lesson of Afghanistan, Iraq, and Libya is that only a huge U.S. ground presence, in the fashion of postwar Italy, Germany, or Japan, coupled with abject defeat of the enemy, can lead to any chance of consensual government.
Without bloody fighting and without massive U.S. aid either the enemy wins and takes over, or what replaces the enemy reverts to the mindset of the enemy. We can stand-off bomb as we did in the Balkans to bring something better, but the Balkans are in Europe, and we still have troops in the Balkans, and lots of those who pushed Clinton into bombing later wanted him to stop when it seemed all we could do was hit embassies and rest homes rather than missile sites.
Does this mean that under no circumstances should we ever bomb Iran, or take out a mass murderer with WMD? Perhaps not. But it does suggest that after Afghanistan, Iraq, and Libya, neither is the Middle East ready for U.S. invention nor is this generation of American elite leadership up for the task.
There is irony in seeing the opportunistic war critic Barack Obama out-drone Bush or be attacked on his Left by liberals, who rail at his callousness in not intervening in Syria. But there is not enough irony for schadenfreude — given that American soldiers might be sent into a theater by those who would support them only to the degree that they were deemed successful and blame their setbacks on everyone but themselves.
A nearly bankrupt and divided America after Afghanistan, Iraq, and Libya is not up for Syria — and an Arab Spring that on its own chose Winter does not deserve any more American blood.
Sorry, that’s just the way it is.
Reply #57 on:
May 14, 2013, 09:58:37 AM »
Quote from: DougMacG on May 01, 2013, 01:52:04 PM
My 3 point plan for no ground troops in Syria: Day 1) Take out the nuclear facilities in Iran with air strikes. Day 2) Take out the North Korean missile threat with air strikes. Day 3) Call Pres. Assad and ask if we can talk.
I like it.
Syrian rebel eats heart of soldier
Reply #58 on:
May 14, 2013, 02:56:53 PM »
The Challenges of US-Russian Diplomacy
Reply #59 on:
May 14, 2013, 05:40:55 PM »
A series of Russian diplomatic interactions with the United States, Israel and the United Kingdom over Syria are raising questions about whether Moscow is preparing to shift its position on Syria and to drop support for Syrian President Bashar al Assad's regime to facilitate a political transition in Damascus. The United States and Russia are now trying to co-host a peace conference, dubbed "Geneva 2," to reach a political solution to the conflict. A negotiated settlement on Syria involving Russia that extricates the al Assad regime without a U.S.-led military intervention is an ideal outcome for the United States, but such expectations amount to little more than wishful thinking.
The United States and Russia are still worlds apart on a number of broader issues in play. And though Russia has strong intelligence capabilities in Syria and a relationship with the al Assads, it cannot convince a minority regime to give up an existential struggle when its prospects for amnesty are so dim. Russia will make attention-grabbing moves on Syria to try to extract political concessions from the West, but the Kremlin is not prepared to sacrifice its Alawite allies in Damascus just yet. In fact, with a group of Russian warships heading to the Mediterranean Sea, Moscow is still trying to reinforce the embattled regime.
In a previously unscheduled visit, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin on May 14 in Sochi. Putin reportedly extended the invitation to Netanyahu because Israel had been growing concerned that Russia was preparing to transfer the S-300 air defense system to Syria within the next few months. Syria already has a relatively robust air defense system, but the addition of the S-300 air defense system would bolster its capabilities and augment the complexities attached to a potential military intervention. Also, Russian technicians would maintain and operate the air defense system, further complicating Israeli attempts to target these weapons systems without drawing itself into a broader conflict with Moscow. Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov denied that Russia had any intention to sell the S-300s to Syria. He did, however, claim that Russia was delivering an air defense package to Syria under a 2010 agreement without providing any details on whether the weapons package would include the S-300 system.
Russia typically threatens to sale sensitive weapons to countries branded as political pariahs by the West as a way to grab Washington's attention on issues that Moscow deems critical. This is an old game that Russia has played with the United States over the past decade, leaking potential sales of S-300 systems to Iran to demand a conversation with the United States on issues like U.S. ballistic missile defense plans in Europe. This time the original source of the leak was U.S. media, citing U.S. and Israeli defense officials. This would mark a departure from Russia's usual method in leaking such sales through Russian media or defense officials. It is possible that the United States and Israel raised the S-300 issue as a way to build up opposition to Russia and to cast Moscow as an irresponsible stakeholder in Syria. But the threat of Russian weapons sales to Syria alone appears to have been enough to compel a last minute meeting between the Israeli Prime Minister and Russian leader.
A day before Netanyahu traveled to Sochi, British Prime Minister David Cameron had some unusually optimistic things to say about Russian involvement in Syria. Cameron met with Putin in Sochi on May 10 and then met with U.S. President Barack Obama on May 12 in Washington to discuss Syria. Following his meeting with Putin, Cameron said that he believes Putin is "prepared to adopt a more flexible approach on Syria." Cameron admitted that Russia was far from abandoning its support for the al Assad regime but said that he was struck by Putin's willingness to consider the Western point of view on Syria.
The apparently positive response that Cameron was able to elicit from Putin stands in marked contrast to the United States' recent interactions with Russia. In the lead-up to U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry's visit to Moscow on May 6, speculation was building that the United States was going to try to come to an agreement with Russia on Syria, particularly since the threat of chemical weapons proliferation was filling the headlines at the time. But the meeting between Kerry and Putin was visibly strained. While in Moscow Kerry made a point to meet with Russian nongovernmental organizations -- some of which were anti-Kremlin. Putin also made Kerry wait for hours before meeting with him. Russia appears to be holding onto one of its main negotiating tools -- its weapons support for Syria -- to pressure the United States, while Washington is using its main leverage -- Western support of nongovernmental organizations in Russia -- to pressure Moscow. So far, this appears to fit into the pattern of U.S.-Russian retaliatory relations.
That Putin responded favorably to Cameron has more to do with Russia's strategic goals for Europe than it has to do with Syria. For the first time in two decades, we have seen a warming of relations between London and Moscow, driven primarily by the two countries' expanding energy relationship. Putin may have been willing to say the right things to Cameron to make the U.K. leader appear influential to Obama, but how far Russia is willing to go in cooperating with the West on Syria is another question.
Russia has a strategic interest in maintaining a naval presence in the Mediterranean at Syria's Tartus port. Even as Syria fragments along ethnic and sectarian lines, Tartus would still likely remain under Alawite control, making it imperative for Russia to maintain close ties with the ethnic minority when Moscow is already a clear adversary of the Sunni rebels. Moscow is one of the few countries that can hold a conversation with the United States, still has influence in the al Assad regime and has strong intelligence capabilities on the ground in Syria that could prove critical to Western attempts to seize and secure chemical weapons stockpiles. Russia may cooperate sporadically to entice the West, by restricting fuel shipments or certain weapons transfers, but as long as the United States acts disinterested, much less confrontational, with Russia, Moscow has little incentive to sacrifice its existing influence in Syria.
Currently, Russia is reinforcing its supply lines to Syria. It is deploying five to six warships with support ships from its Pacific fleet to establish a permanent presence in the Mediterranean Sea for the first time since the fall of the Soviet Union. A permanent command structure in the Mediterranean would oversee a constant presence of these ships that would be rotated in from different fleets. Critically, Russia's reinforced naval presence in the Mediterranean would not only entrench Russian interests in the region but could also provide a secure line of supply for the Alawites in Syria unless foreign groups want to risk a military conflict on the Mediterranean by trying to blockade these shipments.
Moreover, the conflict in Syria has likely surpassed diplomatic aspirations to negotiate a political exit for al Assad. The Alawites are engaged in an existential fight against Syria's Sunni majority, and their fate is joined by a substantial number of Shia in Lebanon and Iraq. In the absence of any legitimate offers for amnesty or protection for Alawites in Syria, there is little reason for them to give up the fight at this stage. On the other side of the conflict, Syria's Sunni population, emboldened by a broader Sunni regional effort to crack Iran's Shiite arc of influence, is not likely to cease fighting after a great deal of blood has already been shed, only to see a settlement in which power is shared with its sectarian adversaries. At most, the outside powers could attempt to come to an agreement to limit external support for both sides of the conflict.
But even if the United States and Russia can come to terms, which is looking unlikely, regional players like Saudi Arabia, Iran and Turkey have a vested interest in this fight and will also be driven by sectarian interests. The United States, Russia, the United Kingdom and others will continue to host conferences aiming for a political settlement to preclude the need for a foreign military intervention, but in the end, this is a struggle that will be decided on the battlefield in Syria, not in a diplomatic negotiation conducted by foreigners.
Read more: The Challenges of U.S.-Russian Diplomacy on Syria | Stratfor
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