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Author Topic: Syria  (Read 13385 times)
Crafty_Dog
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« on: February 16, 2012, 10:07:58 AM »

Syria gets its own thread:

http://www.nytimes.com/2012/02/16/world/middleeast/al-qaeda-influence-suspected-in-bombings-in-syria.html?nl=todaysheadlines&emc=tha22

WASHINGTON — Sunni extremists, including fighters linked to Al Qaeda’s franchise in neighboring Iraq, are likely responsible for two big recent bombings in the Syrian capital as well as attacks on Friday in Aleppo, the country’s largest city, American officials said Wednesday.

As the violence in Syria escalates, several analysts said, Al Qaeda is seeking to exploit the turmoil and reinvigorate its regional ambitions after being sidelined in the initial popular uprisings of the Arab Spring a year ago.

The precise role of the Iraqi branch of Al Qaeda in Syria is unclear. Some intelligence officials and diplomats in Washington, Baghdad and Beirut, Lebanon, said the Qaeda franchise was responsible for the deadly bombings in Aleppo last week and in Damascus, the capital, on Dec. 23 and Jan. 6, which killed scores of people. But they acknowledged that they did not have the forensic or electronic intercept evidence to prove it.

Other officials said Sunni fighters loosely affiliated with Al Qaeda but not directly controlled by the terrorist group may also have been involved, operating in common cause with but independently of pro-democracy forces seeking to topple the embattled government of President Bashar al-Assad.

“It appears to be a very complicated mixture of networks that are fighting the Syrian government, including individuals associated with Al Qaeda in Iraq,” said Seth G. Jones, a political scientist at the RAND Corporation and the author of the coming book “Hunting in the Shadows: The Pursuit of Al Qa’ida Since 9/11.”

Other experts agreed, saying Sunni extremists — some of whom have returned from Iraq to fight in Syria — also have the expertise to carry out large-scale bombings.

“There are plenty of people with that kind of know-how in Syria,” said Andrew Tabler, a fellow at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy and the author of a recent book on Syrian-American relations. “The Assad regime helped invent the car bomb, and they have used it brilliantly to pursue their foreign policy goals. It could be Al Qaeda or simply those with a similar background carrying it out.”

Or as Gen. Martin E. Dempsey, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, put it during Senate testimony on Tuesday, “Those who would like to foment a Sunni-Shia standoff — and you know who they are — are all weighing in in Syria.”

The Syrian government has always argued that it was fighting foreign terrorists, including some from Al Qaeda, a charge dismissed as propaganda by the Syrian activists leading the uprising.

But some American officials now say Al Qaeda in Iraq, whose membership has declined substantially in recent years, is trying to take advantage of the violence in Syria and perhaps even hijack the popular uprising against the Syrian government.

Al Qaeda was caught off guard by the Arab Spring’s largely nonviolent, secular revolutions fueled by social media. The death of Osama bin Laden in May dealt the organization another major blow, and it has been seeking a foothold ever since.

“It comes as no surprise that Al Qaeda’s Iraq affiliate, through its networks in Syria, might attempt to seem relevant by going after the Assad regime,” said an American official who spoke on the condition of anonymity because the assessment contained classified information. “It is opportunism, plain and simple.”

Indeed, Ayman al-Zawahri, who succeeded Bin Laden as the leader of Al Qaeda worldwide, issued a statement on Saturday urging Muslims in the region — he specifically mentioned Iraq — to support the uprising, according to the SITE Intelligence Group, which monitors jihadist communications.

The debate over Al Qaeda’s role in Syria came as the United States government on Wednesday offered to help any post-Assad government secure Syria’s stockpiles of chemical weapons and portable antiaircraft missiles.

With violence rising and the political outcome wholly uncertain, American officials acknowledged that the effort to secure Syria’s unconventional weapons remained speculative.

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Crafty_Dog
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« Reply #1 on: February 16, 2012, 03:28:27 PM »

Helping out GM with his thread selection , , ,
==========================================

**Who could have seen this coming?

http://blogs.the-american-interest.com/wrm/2012/02/16/arab-spring-bears-fruit-chemical-weapons-civil-war/

February 16, 2012


Arab Spring Bears Fruit: Chemical Weapons, Civil War


The Arab Spring is finally beginning to bear fruit. An article in today’s FT reports that Syria has a decades-old chemical weapons program that may fall into the hands of terrorist groups amidst the chaos of Syria’s civil war. Syrian stockpiles include significant amounts of nerve gas and “mustard blister agent,” and while they are apparently well-protected by the Assad regime, it’s anyone’s guess what could happen to them if the regime falls. The opposition group, like its counterparts in Libya, is difficult to pin down and is a diverse set of anti-Assad elements rather than a unified movement. Should Assad fall, the fate of the weapons would lie largely on which group took power and how quickly and effectively it could secure these stockpiles. With Hezbollah and al-Qaeda reportedly eyeing the country, this is a gamble few would be anxious to take.

During the halcyon days of the protests in Egypt’s Tahrir Square, Western media outlets were filled with lofty predictions: the end of autocracy in the Middle East, the rise of the Arab twitterati youth, and the emergence of a liberal majority in the Middle East that would wipe away decades of tyranny and oppression. One year later, with repression in Egypt, fighting in Libya, and civil war in Syria, these predictions have been revealed for what they were: wishful thinking marred by an absence of critical thought about the region and its history. The reality is much uglier.
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Crafty_Dog
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« Reply #2 on: May 31, 2012, 03:50:23 PM »

What Does the Syrian Opposition Believe?
A confidential survey of activists inside the country shows limited support for Islamists but high admiration for the U.S. and Turkey..Article Comments (21) more in Opinion | Find New $LINKTEXTFIND$ ».Email Print Save ↓ More .
.smaller Larger  By DAVID POLLOCK
There are increasing calls for international intervention in Syria after this weekend's massacre in Houla, where Syrian President Bashar al-Assad's forces murdered more than 100 civilians. Obstacles to intervention remain, however, especially concern that the opposition to Assad's regime is dominated by religious fundamentalists. Until recently, for example, the Syrian National Council, a group of exiled opponents of the regime, was led by Burhan Ghalioun, whose unwillingness to counter the Muslim Brotherhood was widely viewed in the West as a troubling sign of Islamist influence.

But a confidential survey of opposition activists living in Syria reveals that Islamists are only a minority among them. Domestic opponents of Assad, the survey indicates, look to Turkey as a model for Syrian governance—and even widely admire the United States.

Pechter Polls, which conducts opinion surveys in tough spots in the Middle East, Africa and Asia, completed the Syria opposition poll in December 2011. Respondents were contacted over a secure Skype connection by someone they could trust—all native Syrians—who asked them to fill out a short questionnaire anonymously in Arabic. Interviewers were selected from different social and political groups to ensure that respondents reflected a rough cross-section of overall opposition attitudes. To ensure confidentiality, the online survey could be accessed only through a series of proxy servers, bypassing the regime-controlled Internet.

Given the survey's unusual security requirements, respondents were selected by a referral (or "controlled snowball") technique, rather than in a purely random fashion. To be as representative as possible, the survey employed five different starting points for independent referral chains, all operating from different locations. The resulting sample consisted of 186 individuals in Syria identified as either opposition activists themselves (two-thirds of the total) or in contact with the opposition.

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Syrian anti-regime protesters waving pre-Baath Syrian flags in Talbisseh on May 25.
.What do these "inside" opposition supporters believe? Only about one-third expressed a favorable opinion of the Muslim Brotherhood. Almost half voiced a negative view, and the remainder were neutral. On this question, no significant differences emerged across regions.

Most of the survey's questions asked, "On a scale of 1 to 7, where 1 means the most negative and 7 the most positive, how would you rate your opinion of X?" Answers of 1 to 3 were considered negative, 4 as neutral, and 5 to 7 as positive.

While many respondents supported religious values in public life, only a small fraction strongly favored Shariah law, clerical influence in government, or heavy emphasis on Islamic education. A large majority (73%) said it was "important for the new Syrian government to protect the rights of Christians." Only 20% said that religious leaders have a great influence on their political views.

This broad rejection of Islamic fundamentalism was also reflected in the respondents' views on government. The poll asked each respondent what country he or she would "like to see Syria emulate politically," and which countries the respondent "would like to see Syria emulate economically." The poll listed 12 countries, each with a scale of 1 to 7. Just 5% had even a mildly positive view of Saudi Arabia as a political model. In contrast, 82% gave Turkey a favorable rating as both a political and economic model (including over 40% extremely favorable). The U.S. earned 69% favorable ratings as a political model, with France, Germany and Britain close behind. Tunisia rated only 37% and Egypt 22%.

Iran was rated lowest of any country included in the survey, including Russia and China: Not even 2% of respondents had positive views of Iran as a political model. Fully 90% expressed an unfavorable view of Hezbollah, including 78% with the most negative possible attitude.

One of the surprises in the results is the scope of the opposition's network inside Damascus, despite their difficulties in demonstrating publicly. One-third of the respondents, whether activists or sympathizers, said they live in the Syrian capital. (To protect their privacy, the survey did not ask for more precise identification.)

This "inside" opposition is well-educated, with just over half identifying as college graduates. The ratio of male to female respondents was approximately 3 to 1, and 86% were Sunni Arab.

Perhaps unsurprisingly, they were ambivalent about Syrian Kurdish demands for "political decentralization" (like autonomy). Views of "Kurdish parties" were evenly divided among negative, neutral and positive. (Such feelings are evidently mutual: In the six months since the survey was completed, Syrian Kurdish organizations have increasingly decided to go their own way, separate from the other opposition groups.)

Based on a statistical analysis of the survey, most secularists among the respondents prefer weak central government, presumably as a way to safeguard their personal freedoms. On the other hand, the one-third of respondents who support the Muslim Brotherhood also tend to have a favorable view of Hamas, despite the latter movement's previous association with the Assad regime.

The survey demonstrates that the core of the Syrian opposition inside the country is not made up of the Muslim Brotherhood or other fundamentalist forces, and certainly not of al Qaeda or other jihadi organizations. To be sure, a revolution started by secularists could pave the way for Islamists to win elections, as has occurred in Egypt. But the Syrian opposition is solidly favorable to the U.S. and overwhelmingly negative toward both Hezbollah and Iran.

Mr. Pollock is senior fellow at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy and a consultant to Pechter Polls.

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Crafty_Dog
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« Reply #3 on: June 01, 2012, 08:54:07 AM »



http://www.nytimes.com/2012/06/01/world/europe/russian-church-opposes-syrian-intervention.html?_r=1&nl=todaysheadlines&emc=edit_th_20120601
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Crafty_Dog
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« Reply #4 on: June 07, 2012, 09:56:39 AM »


By MARCO RUBIO
The world has watched for more than a year as the Assad regime in Syria has been slaughtering innocent civilians. The recent massacre in Houla—including of scores of children—is a reminder of why the United States must step up and lead an aggressive international campaign to hasten Bashar al-Assad's departure from power.

Several diplomatic actions are required immediately. Others, especially involving the Syrian opposition, should be incremental and seek to help anti-Assad forces get organized.

One immediately required action is to abandon any wishful thinking that the efforts of former United Nations Secretary-General Kofi Annan will help the situation, or that Russia's conscience will finally be shocked straight. The U.S. should urge Mr. Annan to condemn Assad and resign his job as envoy so that Syria's regime and other governments can no longer hide behind the facade of his mediation efforts.

Diplomacy doesn't stand a chance in Syria unless the military balance tips against Assad. With Iran and Hezbollah now directly involved in the conflict—sending soldiers and weapons into Syria—the U.S. must stop insisting that arming the opposition will only make the violence worse. The conflict is also attracting jihadis whose presence will only make an eventual reconciliation in Syria that much harder.

To address these problems, the U.S. should work with NATO, Turkey, Saudi Arabia, Jordan, Qatar and others to establish safe zones in Turkey and, eventually, in parts of Syria. This will help turn the opposition into a better-organized and viable force. The U.S. can provide valuable aid in the form of food, medicine, communications equipment, intelligence and logistical support.

Our allies in this mission should take the main responsibility for arming and training the most capable and trustworthy rebels now. But the U.S. should make clear that we stand ready to step in and fill key gaps between the rebels' military needs and our allies' capabilities. Empowering and supporting Syria's opposition today will give us our best chance of influencing it tomorrow, to ensure that revenge killings are rare in a post-Assad Syria and that a new government follows a moderate foreign policy.

Also crucial is helping secure Syria's chemical-weapons stockpile, which is the largest in the Middle East and poses a serious proliferation threat. Fostering a post-Assad government-in-waiting will help ensure that a plan is developed to prevent these weapons from falling into the wrong hands.

While we pursue these steps, we should also immediately pass additional sanctions against Assad. Unfortunately, the Democratic majority in the Senate has been reluctant to consider tough new sanctions legislation. I urge Majority Leader Harry Reid to take up the Syria Democracy Transition Act of 2012, which authorizes the president to impose crippling sanctions on the Syrian regime to cut off the financial lifeline that is helping keep Assad afloat.

Then there's the opportunity to assign Robert Ford, our former ambassador in Syria, as the envoy to the Syrian opposition, encouraging him to engage Jordan and Turkey and to lay the groundwork for a relationship with a post-Assad Syrian government. We can also pursue a commercial air embargo on Damascus, whereby no airport should facilitate flights to or from the Syrian capital.

By not pursuing a policy that takes bolder steps to stop Assad and assist the more pro-Western opposition leaders, we prolong this conflict and allow Syria to hurtle toward becoming a radicalized, failed state whose violence will spill over and threaten its neighbors. Such an outcome would damage American interests and delight Iran and Hezbollah.

Barack Obama is not the first president to face difficult choices about dealing with tyrants, and he won't be the last. As the Syrian ordeal reaches new levels of horror, we should take heed of Ronald Reagan's words: "It is a sad, undeniable fact of modern life that wishes are no substitute for national will. And wishful thinking only encourages the tyrants for whom human rights are as easily trampled as protesters in a city square."

America's Syria policy has been all wishful thinking and no national will. It has been based on the false hope that Assad will realize the error of his ways, that Russia and other unreliable nations will change, and that a positive outcome can be attained absent American leadership. Although U.S. policy has been that Assad must go, this demand has not been coupled with action. This devalues America's power and influence in the world, with disastrous and lasting consequences.

Mr. Rubio, a Republican, is a U.S. senator from Florida and a member of the Senate's Intelligence and Foreign Relations committees.

« Last Edit: June 07, 2012, 09:58:43 AM by Crafty_Dog » Logged
Crafty_Dog
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« Reply #5 on: June 15, 2012, 02:17:29 PM »

Marc:  I forget where, but I heard conversation recently that seemed reliable to me that pointed out that Assad has major chem-bio capabilities ready to use.  Whether he uses them or the Islamist fascist opposition gets ahold of them is a big deal-- something to think about.


Summary

 
D. Leal Olivas/AFP/GettyImages

Syrian opposition fighters on April 15

Numerous recent reports indicate that Syrian rebels have taken the April 12 cease-fire as an opportunity to regroup and rearm with weapons shipments organized, funded and transferred by other countries. The rebels claim that large numbers of assault rifles, machine guns, mortars, sniper rifles and anti-tank missiles have been smuggled into Syria in recent weeks. The weapons came to the rebels allegedly through Turkey, Lebanon and Iraq, predominantly from suppliers in Saudi Arabia and Qatar. With the rebels better armed and motivated and the Syrian regime determined to crush the opposition, the environment is right for the conflict to intensify.



Analysis

Supply lines through Lebanon have proved crucial, particularly because they are so close to Homs. But in the last few weeks, the number of weapons reportedly entering Syria from Turkey has increased dramatically. The Syrian rebel force in the Idlib governorate, which borders Turkey's Hatay province, is now reputed to be one of the strongest and best-equipped rebel forces in Syria and has said it is prepared to attack regime forces.

Because Hatay province is home to most of the Syrian refugee camps and serves as the Free Syrian Army's headquarters, accumulating rebel strength in Idlib makes strategic sense. Supply lines are shorter, and the rebels in Idlib have a path of retreat into Turkey in case of overwhelming pressure from government forces.

The sharp increase in the number of destroyed Syrian army tanks and armored fighting vehicles over the last month attests to the capability the rebels have gained with the new equipment, particularly with the anti-tank missiles. In addition, the Syrian rebels have been at war for more than a year now. With experience and aid from defecting Syrian troops, their fighting acumen has improved.

The influx of fighters and jihadists from other countries also bolsters the rebels. This influx includes experienced Syrian and Iraqi fighters who fought in the Iraq War against U.S. forces. Given the improvised explosive device tradecraft that these fighters have brought to Syria, they have had an enormous effect on the rebels' ability to inflict casualties and damage on the Syrian military.

The Syrian army has begun changing some of its tactics and operations to better fight an increasingly capable enemy. With Russian and Chinese diplomatic support, Damascus has grown confident that it can avoid foreign military intervention and is starting to rely more on artillery and even attack helicopter support. Artillery and aviation also allow the Syrian regime to largely avoid costly armored attacks on rebel-held urban positions where armor is more vulnerable.

Determined to prevent the rebels from acquiring and holding critical territory, the Syrian military is set to continue offensive operations with its main assault units (the 4th Armored Division, Republican Guard and 14th Special Forces). Damascus will rely more on the Shabiha, a local mercenary force, to hold territory and carry out less-demanding operations.

In a speech delivered June 14, U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton accused the Russians of delivering attack helicopters to the Syrian regime. It is not entirely clear whether she was referring to new or refurbished Syrian helicopters, but Moscow has admitted it is transferring weaponry to Syria, including relatively advanced Buk-M2E surface-to-air missile systems. The Russians have stated -- correctly -- that air defense equipment cannot be used against the rebels since they have no air capabilities. However, this equipment will strengthen Syria's air defense network, complicating any potential NATO intervention. Syria already has a sizable inventory of attack helicopters, including 35 to 50 Mi-24 series Hind gunships. More important than whether the Russians are sending more helicopters is Syria's recent decision to use the ones they have.

One of the first known instances of the Syrian regime's using helicopters was March 22, when an Mi-8/17 "Hip" was videoed using its side-mounted machine gun. Since then, numerous videos have emerged showing helicopters being used against the rebels, including videos of Mi-24s reportedly operating over Rastan and Farkia in recent weeks. These helicopters alone will not decide the outcome of the conflict, but they can be particularly devastating to ground forces without air defense equipment. They can also be instrumental in turning the tide in localized fighting, as seen in the June 5-13 Battle of Al-Haffah, during which heavy helicopter fire forced rebels to retreat.

Attack helicopters were of great use during the Soviet war in Afghanistan. The Soviet forces relied particularly on the Mi-24 to provide heavy fire support against the mujahideen, who nicknamed the aircraft "Satan's Chariot" and who were largely defenseless against it until they received FIM-92 Stinger man-portable air defense systems (MANPADS) from the CIA. Given that many members of the mujahideen became members of the Taliban and given the continuing U.S. concern about loose MANPADS, the United States and its allies would be very reluctant to deliver these weapons to the Syrian rebels.

The Syrian rebels could attempt to acquire Syrian army MANPADS, as they nearly did when they overran a Syrian surface-to-air missile site near Homs on June 10. The rebels claimed the base housed some Soviet-designed SA-7 MANPADS, but helicopter fire drove the rebels off before they could take the systems. Because Damascus is greatly intensifying its helicopter operations, Syrian military forces are likely to take considerable measure to secure their MANPADS.

Encouraged by an influx of weaponry and fighters, the Syrian rebels are becoming more confident and are determined to carry out further operations. The regime in response has escalated its crackdown and has intensified the use of helicopter gunships as well as artillery. Thus, the April 12 cease-fire is looking increasingly shaky. While the conflict is set to intensify, neither side has overcome its fundamental constraints and an end to the conflict is not yet in sight.


--------------------------------------------------------------------------------


Read more: Syria: The Military Nuances of the Conflict | Stratfor
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DougMacG
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« Reply #6 on: June 16, 2012, 05:59:55 PM »

"Marc:  I forget where, but I heard conversation recently that seemed reliable to me that pointed out that Assad has major chem-bio capabilities ready to use.  Whether he uses them or the Islamist fascist opposition gets ahold of them is a big deal-- something to think about."
-------------------

From unreliable sources, the WMD that disappeared out of Iraq was trucked into Syria. 

Largely unreported was the followup story from the Israeli strike on an alleged Syrian nuclear weapon facility:  http://www.ynetnews.com/articles/0,7340,L-4062001,00.html  If it takes 5 years to re-build, guess what, it has been 5 years.
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Crafty_Dog
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« Reply #7 on: June 16, 2012, 08:03:09 PM »

I gather however that the knowledge of a ready-to-use-right-now capability is a matter known beyond a reasonable doubt to all, though similar to Libyan weaponry in the final days of Kaddaffy most are avoiding talking about it-- though here the consequences are FAR more serious.  As bad as the manpads of Libya were-- and are!-- Islamofascists in Syria with chem bio on missiles and a hard on for Israel are true nightmare scenario material.

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Crafty_Dog
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« Reply #8 on: June 20, 2012, 09:04:47 AM »


Fouad Ajami: America, Russia and the Tragedy of Syria
By FOUAD AJAMI

The ordeal of Syria has been a rebuttal of what the diplomacy of Barack Obama once promised and stood for. It is largely forgotten now that Syria and Iran were the two regimes in the Greater Middle East that Mr. Obama had promised to "engage."

Back when he was redeemer in chief, Mr. Obama had been certain that the regime in Damascus would yield to his powers of persuasion. He cut Damascus a wide swath, stepped aside when the Syrian regime all but laid to waste the gains of the 2005 Cedar Revolution in Lebanon, assassinating and terrorizing its way back into its smaller neighbor.

When the storm that broke upon the Arabs in early 2011 hit Syria, the flaws of the Obama approach were laid bare. It took five months of hesitation and wishful thinking before Mr. Obama called on the Syrian ruler to relinquish power. That call made, he had hoped that the storm would die down, that the world's attention would drift from the sorrows of Syria.

But the intensifying barbarism of Bashar al-Assad's regime, the massacres and atrocities have given Mr. Obama nowhere to hide. A United Nations report recently determined that children as young as 9 have been subjected to "killing and maiming, arbitrary arrest, detention, torture and ill-treatment, including sexual violence, and use as human shields."

Enlarge Image

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Syrians gather around a U.N. observer vehicle in the northern town of Kfar Nebel, May 29.
.For months the abdication over Syria sought cover behind the diplomacy of Kofi Annan, the designated envoy of the Arab League and the U.N. But Mr. Annan has conceded that his diplomacy has been helpless before the violence. A regime built for a crisis such as this, fine-tuned by a ruling family and a dominant sect over the last four decades, had nothing but contempt for U.N. diplomacy. "And how many military divisions does this Mr. Annan command?" was, doubtless, the sentiment of Assad's henchmen.

Indeed, the U.N. monitors there came under attack last week. En route to the besieged town of Haffa, their convoy was shot at and set upon by thugs throwing stones and wielding metal rods. U.N. chief peacekeeper Hervé Ladsous described the situation on the ground well when he said, "Keeping a peacekeeping force when there is definitely no peace to observers—that summarizes the situation." Last Saturday's official suspension of that peacekeeping effort is an acknowledgment of that glaring reality.

Those hamlets of grief that came to fame in recent days, Houla, Qubair, sites of cruel massacres, tell us that the Assad regime is convinced that no outside intervention is on the horizon. Syria is in the midst of the sectarian war Assad sought all along. He has trapped his own Alawite community, implicating it in his crimes. In the recent massacres, Sunni areas have been sacked by neighboring Alawi villages. The army did the shelling, then the Alawi neighbors closed in and did the killing—women and children shot at close range, corpses burnt, crops and livestock and homes destroyed.

This sectarian slaughter is what the Assad tyranny had wrought, and what the abdication of the democracies had fed in the cruel, long year behind us. In this ordeal, there was always another appeal to the Russians. We ascribed to them powers they did not have because their obstructionism was useful. The Assad regime, long a Russian asset in the region, is a variation on the Russian autocracy of plunder and terror. By all accounts, there is glee in Moscow that Washington and the NATO powers pay tribute to Russia.

And why would Russian strongman Vladimir Putin do us any favors over Syria? Despite Mr. Obama's inane announcement Monday at the Group of 20 Summit that he and Mr. Putin "agreed that we need to see a cessation of the violence," Russia has come to believe the Syrian regime is engaged in a war with Islamist radicals much like its own against the Chechens. Grant Mr. Putin his due; the way he brushed aside Mr. Obama's pleas on Syria should lay to rest the fantasy of a Russian compromise.

Last week U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton announced that Russian attack helicopters are being delivered to Syria and warned that this "will escalate the conflict quite dramatically." It's a sad fact that the Obama administration isn't willing to see in Homs and Jisr al-Shughur reflections of our own belief in liberty.

Why can't this president simply state the truth, that the Syrian people are rising out of decades of servitude and fear to bid for a new political life? On a recent visit to Syrian refugee camps in Turkey, ordinary Syrians asked me why the U.S. is not more concerned with their fate. But they ask and anguish less and less over Mr. Obama, knowing that their sorrows have not stirred his conscience.

The Obama policy rests on a blissful belief that Syria will burn out without damage to American interests, and that the president himself can stay aloof from this crisis. By his lights, he has kept his compact with his progressive base—he liquidated the war in Iraq and has kept out of the conflict next door in Syria. It suffices that Osama bin Laden was killed, and drone attacks on al Qaeda continue apace.


The wider forces at play in the Greater Middle East do not detain this president. His political advisers have not walked into the Oval Office reporting that he'll win re-election if only he takes a more assertive stance toward the dictators in Damascus or Tehran. The world can wait—Syria has twisted for 15 months, and it is only five months until the election. And the amazing thing of it all is that Mr. Obama's Republican rival, Mitt Romney, cedes him the foreign policy domain, allowing him to pose as though all is well in the world beyond our shores.

Mr. Ajami is a senior fellow at Stanford University's Hoover Institution and the author most recently of "The Syrian Rebellion," just published by Hoover Press.

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Crafty_Dog
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« Reply #9 on: June 27, 2012, 11:40:43 AM »

http://pjmedia.com/blog/general-mood-two-versions-of-the-houla-massacre/
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Crafty_Dog
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« Reply #10 on: July 18, 2012, 09:02:31 PM »


Charles Krauthammer is correctly wondering WTF with Hillary-Baraq reaching out to the Russians in this moment to hammer our a solution.  The Russians have backed an evil and losing horse.  Why gift them a seat at the table for what happens from here?


================================ 
For over a year, we've heard from Obama Administration officials that Western intervention would push Syria into a civil war, kill thousands and put the Assad regime's stockpile of WMD at risk of falling into terrorist hands. The U.S. hasn't intervened, and all of this has happened.

The conflict has spread beyond rebel strongholds around Hama and Homs, with vicious fighting in the capital of Damascus for a third straight day Tuesday. The regime has started to move its sizeable cache of chemical weapons for unclear reasons. An estimated 17,000 are dead; the toll rises by the dozens, sometimes hundreds, weekly. The Red Cross on Sunday declared this a civil war, subject to the Geneva Conventions.

The Obama Administration has nonetheless stayed faithful to its preferred course of inaction—to take it to the United Nations. On Wednesday, the Security Council holds another debate, this one over extending the useless U.N. monitoring mission in Syria.

The debate is playing out like all the others. A U.S.-backed resolution proposes tough sanctions and opens a crack to possible military action. Russia then threatens a veto and the resolution gets watered down to nothing, or the Russians and Chinese veto.

On Monday Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov called the latest Western proposal "blackmail." In the next breath he expressed hope for a compromise "based on similar principles" to a Geneva agreement last month. That deal included no call for Bashar al-Assad's departure, no deadline to stop fighting, no enforcement mechanism and no threat of sanctions. It was tailor-made to buy Assad more time, and the U.S. agreed.

The Obama Administration touts its "smart diplomacy," but there must a Russian colloquialism for sucker. The U.S has turned a kleptocracy with oil and aging nukes into a diplomatic power broker in the Middle East with a veto over American action. The U.S. should at least call the Russian bluff and pull the U.N. mission out. Its mandate was to monitor a cease-fire, but there isn't one to monitor.

The cost of U.S. inaction carries a fast-rising price. Saudi Arabia and Qatar, two of our closer Arab partners, are arming the rebels and eager to see Assad go. They'd rather defer to American leadership but may be forced to act more robustly on their own. The same goes for Turkey, which must deal with a refugee flood. Israel worries about the loose WMD and may act to secure it. The longer we fail to step in, the harder it becomes to shape the outcome in Syria.

The U.S. has plenty of options short of sending in ground troops. The Sixth Fleet could be sent off the Syrian coast in concert with military exercises along Turkey's border. A show of preparation for intervention might prod Syria's officer corps to solve the Assad problem on their own. A no-fly zone would ground the regime's helicopters, which are being used in attacks on civilians.

The Administration's abdication to the U.N. reflects a desire to avoid conflict before the election as well as the worldview that the U.S. is a weakened power that needs the world's (which means Vladimir Putin's) approval to act. Syrians are now suffering the consequences, but the stability of the Middle East is also at risk.

« Last Edit: July 18, 2012, 09:24:37 PM by Crafty_Dog » Logged
bigdog
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« Reply #11 on: July 20, 2012, 07:14:19 AM »

http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424052702303644004577523251596963194.html?mod=djem_jiewr_PS_domainid

The country's undeclared stockpiles of sarin nerve agent, mustard gas and cyanide have long worried U.S. officials and their allies in the region, who have watched anxiously amid the conflict in Syria for any change in the status or location of the weapons.


Side note: Syria has a spokesman whose name is Jihad. I can't wait until "Holy War Johnson" is on American airwaves.
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« Reply #12 on: July 20, 2012, 09:24:54 AM »

I'm not seeing us a prepared for, or even thinking about becoming prepared for, use/movement of the Syrian WMD. 
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« Reply #13 on: July 20, 2012, 12:55:44 PM »

IBD Editorials
 
Syria's Chemical Weapons Came From Saddam's Iraq
Posted 07/19/2012 07:02 PM ET

War On Terror: As the regime of Bashar Assad disintegrates, the security of his chemical arsenal is in jeopardy. The No. 2 general in Saddam Hussein's air force says they were the WMDs we didn't find in Iraq.

King Abdullah of neighboring Jordan warned that a disintegrating Syria on the verge of civil war puts Syria's stockpile of chemical weapons at risk of falling into the hands of al-Qaida.

"One of the worst-case scenarios as we are obviously trying to look for a political solution would be if some of those chemical stockpiles were to fall into unfriendly hands," he said.

The irony here is that the chemical weapons stockpile of Syrian thug Assad may in large part be the legacy of weapons moved from Hussein's Iraq into Syria before Operation Iraqi Freedom.

If so, this may be the reason not much was found in the way of WMD by victorious U.S. forces in 2003.

In 2006, former Iraqi general Georges Sada, second in command of the Iraqi Air Force who served under Saddam Hussein before he defected, wrote a comprehensive book, "Saddam's Secrets."

It details how the Iraqi Revolutionary Guard moved weapons of mass destruction into Syria in advance of the U.S.-led action to eliminate Hussein's WMD threat.

As Sada told the New York Sun, two Iraqi Airways Boeings were converted to cargo planes by removing the seats, and special Republican Guard units loaded the planes with chemical weapons materials.
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There were 56 flights disguised as a relief effort after a 2002 Syrian dam collapse.

There were also truck convoys into Syria. Sada's comments came more than a month after Israel's top general during Operation Iraqi Freedom, Moshe Yaalon, told the Sun that Saddam "transferred the chemical agents from Iraq to Syria."

Both Israeli and U.S. intelligence observed large truck convoys leaving Iraq and entering Syria in the weeks and months before Operation Iraqi Freedom, John Shaw, former deputy undersecretary of defense for international technology security, told a private conference of former weapons inspectors and intelligence experts held in Arlington, Va., in 2006.

According to Shaw, ex-Russian intelligence chief Yevgeni Primakov, a KGB general with long-standing ties to Saddam, went to Iraq in December 2002 and stayed until just before the U.S.-led invasion in March 2003.

Anticipating the invasion, his job was to supervise the removal of such weapons and erase as much evidence of Russian involvement as possible.

http://news.investors.com/article/618875/201207191902/syria-chemical-weapons-came-from-iraq-.htm
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« Reply #14 on: July 20, 2012, 06:53:26 PM »




Syrian President Bashar al Assad's regime is facing collapse. Defections have escalated over the past month, but the magnitude of al Assad's problem became clear July 6 when the influential Tlass clan publicly broke ties with the al Assads. This signaled the unraveling of the Sunni patronage networks that have helped sustain the minority Alawite-dominated regime for more than four decades.

The next blow came July 18 with a bombing at the National Security headquarters in Damascus that eliminated several of the regime's top security bosses.

Those targeted in the bombing -- Syrian Defense Minister Dawoud Rajha, former Defense Minister Hassan Turkmani, Interior Minister Mohammad al-Shaar, National Security Council chief Hisham Biktyar and Deputy Defense Minister Assef Shawkat (the president's brother-in-law, who was rumored to have been killed by the regime prior to the blast) -- were top suspects in a palace coup scenario. The fate of the president's brother Republican Guard and Fourth Division Commander Maher al Assad after the blast remains a mystery, but his troops are still fighting in and around Damascus and have not shown signs of a breakdown in the army's command and control.

There are some vague indications that the bombing was a pre-emptive move by the al Assads to eliminate suspected coup plotters. Whether it was a deliberate action by the al Assads or a sign of the rebels' effectiveness in penetrating the regime, the bombing is a clear sign that the regime is falling apart.

There have been too many defections, arrests and assassinations for any regime member to be certain of his or her future with the al Assads. With the loss of certainty comes the loss of unity. The Syrian president faces two stark choices. He can either make an exit before his personal security is compromised, or he can try to hold out and regain control of the situation. Al Assad's reported appearance at the presidential palace in Damascus with his newly appointed defense minister July 19 indicates he is opting for the latter, but Stratfor does not believe he will succeed. The risks of sticking with the al Assad clan are surging, and the time has come for members of the regime to seek alternatives.

The Role of Foreign Interests
Foreign diplomacy surrounding the conflict, rather than the rebels fighting within Syria, will determine what the endgame looks like. Stratfor expects a scramble among the foreign stakeholders in Syria to protect their interests and emerge from the growing chaos with some degree of leverage.

The Iranians may have the most to lose. For decades, Iran has deployed a great deal of financial, military and intelligence assets to maintain its strategic foothold in the Levant. That investment evidently is not paying off. In addition, Iran is trapped by demographics. Alawite minority rule in Syria and the regime's extension in Lebanon is the key to Iranian access to the Mediterranean. The Syrian rebels would not have come this far without a regional campaign backed by the United States, Turkey and the Saudis to reverse Iran's geopolitical fortunes over the past decade through the resurrection of Sunni rule in Syria.

Iran is becoming desperate to secure a position at the negotiating table over the impending Syrian transition. Depending on who the perpetrators were, the July 18 bus bombing targeting Israeli tourists in Bulgaria and botched attack on Israeli tourists in Cyprus suggest that Iran is relying on its militant arm to intimidate its way into this negotiation by sending the message that the cost of excluding Iran is too high to bear. Stratfor reads this as more of a sign of desperation than confidence from Tehran.

Israel will prepare for the worst but is unlikely to get militarily involved in the north. Israel Defense Forces are already on high alert for fallout from the Syrian crisis, and the Israeli government is contemplating how to respond to the recent attacks on Israeli tourists. Iran could be attempting to use an Israeli-Hezbollah rematch to divert attention and force its way into a negotiation, but neither Israel nor Hezbollah is interested in a fight. Israel sees no need to get entangled in southern Lebanon when Hezbollah is already in crisis over the impending collapse of the Syrian regime. Indeed, Hezbollah has been telegraphing to Israel that it did not carry out the attack and that it wants to avoid a confrontation. This indicates that Iran may not be able to count on Hezbollah as a reliable proxy as Hezbollah recalibrates its position in Lebanon without a Syrian sponsor.

Turkey, the United States, Saudi Arabia and France will be trying to create an alternative regime that will ensure their interests against Iran. It is still very unclear which individuals from among the remnants of the regime and the rebel opposition will be able to come together and have a chance at unifying a demographically split military to stabilize the country and regain control of jihadists mixed in with the insurgents. Several of the inner-circle members these countries could have intended to work with perished in the July 18 bombing. There are also deep disagreements among the sponsors, former regime insiders and the various opposition factions over how far regime change should go and what the composition of a new regime should be. At this point, the degradation of the al Assad regime is outpacing the planning for a transition.

Russia's Importance
The key country to watch is Russia. The Kremlin has been coy over the past several weeks, refraining from dropping support for the Syrian regime altogether yet signaling that it is ready to deal with alternatives. So while Russia continues to adamantly reject U.N. Security Council sanctions against Syria, it is also meeting with opposition groups and selectively reducing military support for the regime. Russia thought it would be able to prolong the Syrian crisis for a while and thus keep the United States preoccupied with a stalemate between the regime and the rebels by playing both sides of the conflict. But like everyone else with an interest in Syria, Russia is being pushed into action.

Moscow can see that the al Assad regime is expiring, and the Kremlin does not want to miss an opportunity in this transition.

Russia has numerous important reasons to remain deeply involved in Syria. It needs access to a warm water port in the Mediterranean without having to access this body of water from the Black Sea through the Turkish Straits. Syria is also the seventh largest customer for the Russian military industrial complex.

The third reason is the most relevant to the current geopolitical environment. The Syria-Iran axis has given Russia a useful tool for dealing with the United States. Through its relationships with Syria and Iran, Russia can either pressure the United States or open the door for negotiations, depending on where Moscow and Washington stand in their crucial part of negotiations. Russia does not want to lose that leverage and so must find a way to use the Syrian transition to keep the United States dependent on Russian cooperation in this region.

Russia has a deep intelligence footprint in Syria that it has maintained since the Cold War. Stratfor expects Russia to use the relationships related to its intelligence presence to shape a non-al Assad alternative. Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan, French President Francois Hollande and U.S. President Barack Obama have all reached out to Russian President Vladimir Putin in the past week to consult on Syria. Clearly, these countries believe Russia has an important role to play in this transition, from deciding the fate of al Assad to piecing together a new regime.

Russia may have a different view of how this transition should play out, but it has to make itself appear indispensable to the process if it hopes to maintain a strong bargaining position with the United States. The pressure is on Moscow to demonstrate that indispensability -- assuming of course, that the intentions of the foreign stakeholders are not subsumed by the growing chaos in Syria.

Read more: The Endgame in Syria | Stratfor
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Crafty_Dog
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« Reply #15 on: July 20, 2012, 06:57:16 PM »

I'm not persuaded at all the keeping the Russians in play is a good idea.  Quite the contrary!  I'm with Krauthammer that this is quite foolish and that now is the time to get them out of there altogether.
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« Reply #16 on: October 25, 2012, 05:26:15 PM »

Exclusive: U.S. Rushes to Stop Syria from Expanding Chemical Weapon Stockpile
from Danger Room by Noah Shachtman

A U.S. Army chemical weapons crew takes samples from an M55 rocket. Photo: U.S. Army

The regime of embattled Syrian dictator Bashar Assad is actively working to enlarge its arsenal of chemical weapons, U.S. officials tell Danger Room. Assad’s operatives have tried repeatedly in recent months to buy up the precursor chemicals for deadly nerve agents like sarin, even as his country plunges further and further into a civil war. The U.S. and its allies have been able to block many of these sales. But that still leaves Assad’s scientists with hundreds of metric tons of dangerous chemicals that could be turned into some of the world’s most gruesome weapons.

“Assad is weathering everything the rebels throw at him. Business is continuing as usual,” one U.S. official privy to intelligence on Syria says. “They’ve been busy little bees.”

Back in July, the Assad regime publicly warned that it might just use chemical weapons to stop “external” forces from interfering in its bloody civil war. American policy-makers became deeply concerned that Damascus just might follow through on the threats. Since the July announcement, however, the world community — including Assad’s allies — have made it clear to Damascus that unleashing weapons of mass destruction was unacceptable. The message appears to have gotten through to Assad’s cadre, at least for now. Talk of direct U.S. intervention in Syria has largely subsided.

“There was a moment we thought they were going to use it — especially back in July,” says the U.S. official, referring to Syria’s chemical arsenal. “But we took a second look at the intelligence, and it was less urgent than we thought.”

That hardly means the danger surrounding Syria’s chemical weapons program has passed. More than 500 metric tons of nerve agent precursors, stored in binary form, are kept at upward of 25 locations scattered around the country. If any one of those sites falls into the wrong hands, it could become a massively lethal event. And in the meantime, Assad is looking to add to his already substantial stockpile.

“Damascus has continued its pursuit of chemical weapons despite the damage to its international reputation and the rising costs of evading international export control on chemical weapons materials,” the James Martin Center for Nonproliferation Studies, a leading think tank on weapons of mass destruction issues, noted in an August profile of Syria’s illicit arms activities.


Popout

Exactly why is unclear; Assad is perfectly capable of mass slaughter with more conventional means, like tanks and cluster bombs. Perhaps his chemical precursors are relatively unstable, and he needs fresh supplies; perhaps this is a late shopping spree before the international noose tightens completely; perhaps he wants to send a warning to potential adversaries in Jerusalem and Washington.

Whatever the rationale, Assad is continuing his attempts to buy the building blocks of nerve agents like sarin. The CIA and the U.S. State Department, working with allies in the region, have recently prevented sales to Syria of industrial quantities of isopronol. Popularly known as rubbing alcohol, it’s also one of the two main chemical precursors to sarin gas, one of the deadliest nerve agents in existence. The other precursor is methylphosphonyl difluoride, or DF. The Syrians were also recently blocked from acquiring the phosphorous compounds known as halides, some of which can be used to help make DF.

At a recent meeting of the Australia Group, an informal collection of international government officials dedicated the stopping the spread of weapons of mass destruction, participants “discussed the extensive tactics – including the use of front companies in third countries – [that] the Syrian government uses to obscure its efforts to obtain [regulated equipment], as well as other dual-use items, for proliferation purposes.” Bottom line: “Syria continues to be a country of proliferation concern, with active biological and chemical weapons programs.”

In June, Jane’s Defence Weekly reported that North Korean engineers were spotted in Syria working on Scud-D short-range ballistic missiles, which can carry chemical warheads. Two months later, witnesses tell the German magazine Der Spiegel, Syria test-fired several of its chemical-capable missiles at the al-Safirah research center east of Aleppo.

To Leonard Spector, deputy director of the James Martin Center, these reports are signs that “Syria has not stopped the weapons of mass destruction program.”

Among American policy-makers, there’s a growing sense (perhaps a bit wishful) that Damascus will eventually fall to the rebels — despite Assad’s brutal crackdown on the uprising, and despite an often-haphazard international campaign to help the rebellion. On Thursday, rebel group announced that they had seized two more districts in the city of Aleppo. U.S. intelligence agencies are believed to be helping with the training of opposition groups, while the Pentagon denies shipping arms to the rebels. In public, American aid has largely been limited to organizational advice (Washington is trying to set up a council of opposition leaders in Doha in the next few weeks, for instance) and technical assistance. Several hundred Syrian activists have traveled to Istanbul for training in secure communications, funded by the U.S. State Department. The rebel leaders received tips on how to leapfrog firewalls, encrypt their data, and use cellphones without getting caught, as Time magazine recently reported. Then they returned to Syria, many of them with new phones and satellite modems in hand.

In the background, the U.S. is also starting to strategize for how it should operate in a post-Assad Syria. And that includes scoping out plans for disposing of Assad’s stockpiles of nerve and mustard agents. It won’t be easy: Iraq’s former chemical bunkers are still toxic, a decade after Saddam’s overthrow. The U.S. recently said it won’t be done disposing of its Cold War chemical weapon arsenal until 2023.

Disposing of chemical weapons might not be as touchy a political issue in Syria as it is in America. But Assad’s nerve agents will still be tricky to render (relatively) safe — or “demilitarize,” in weapons jargon. DF, for example, can be turned into a somewhat non-toxic slurry, if combined properly with lye and water. The problem is that when DF reacts with water, it generates heat. And since DF has an extremely low boiling point — just 55.4 degrees Celsius — it means that the chances of accidentally releasing toxic gases are really high. “You could easily kill yourself during the demil,” one observer tells Danger Room.

Naturally, this process could only begin once the DF and the rubbing alcohol was gathered up from Assad’s couple dozen storage locations. Then, they’d have to be carted far, far out into the desert — to make sure no bystanders could be hurt — along with the enormous stirred-tank reactors needed to conduct the dangerous chemistry experiments. And when it was all done, there would the result would be a whole lot of hydrofluoric acid, which is itself a poison. In other words, even if the U.S. stops every one of Assad’s chemical weapon shipments from here on out, the legacy of his illicit weapons program will linger on for decades.

http://www.wired.com/dangerroom/2012/10/syria-chemical-weapons-2/
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« Reply #17 on: November 20, 2012, 11:13:18 AM »

Important implications here methinks , , ,

Islamists Reject Syria Rebel Group, as EU Embraces It .
By FARNAZ FASSIHI

Syrian Islamists fighting the Assad regime rejected a newly formed opposition umbrella group, raising questions about whether the new alliance can achieve its objective: to create a moderate force that can get funds and arms from foreign allies.

The umbrella group also got a boost Monday when the European Union labeled the coalition "legitimate representatives" of the Syrian people. The move stopped short of a French push for the EU to formally recognize the group, as did France, Qatar and Turkey earlier.

The National Coalition of Syrian Revolutionary and Opposition Forces, which was formed this month in Qatar with the backing of Western allies, was intended to diminish the influence of some of those same hard-line, ultraconservative Muslim militias that on Monday rejected the group.

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Associated Press
 
Syrian rebel fighters check a tank they say they took after storming a military base in Aleppo on Monday.
.Still, if the Islamist groups fight on as separate entities they pose a challenge to the unity of the opposition and its ability to challenge the regime of President Bashar al-Assad in a coordinated way.

"The situation is getting worse and more difficult for anyone to manage," said Radwan Ziadeh, a prominent opposition figure and director of Syrian Center for Political and Strategic Studies in Washington, D.C., who said the video was of concern to his group. "Bringing the [rebel Free Syrian Army] under one group is our biggest challenge."

Representatives from 13 Islamist factions, some dressed in military uniform, released a video statement of them rejecting the coalition. A Quran is prominently placed in front of a man reading the statement and on occasion the crowd breaks into chants of "Allah Akbar" or "God is Great." It wasn't clear how many fighters the factions represent, but they included one prominent militant group, Jabhat al-Nusra, an al Qaeda affiliate.

"We reached a consensus on the establishment of a just Islamic state and the rejection of any foreign plan from coalitions or councils imposed on those of us inside [Syria] no matter which side it [intervention] comes from," the man reading the statement said in the video, which was sent to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, an activist group based in London.

The council's supporters say that now is too early to judge whether the group is having impact over the war in Syria, but they assert their formation has given some members of the Free Syrian Army a moral boost. Many ordinary Syrians, opposition supporters say, are heartened to see the political leadership unify.

Meanwhile, EU diplomats said France had pushed European countries to recognize the council and to be invited to the next meeting of foreign ministers in December. Paris also raised the issue of peeling back the EU's arms embargo on Syria to allow the opposition to receive "defensive" weapons. No decisions were made on either issue.

For now, the war grinds on.

On Monday evening a bomb exploded on a minibus in Damascus that injured 10 people, said the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, which tallies victims in the conflict. The neighborhood houses low-ranking army officers.

After several days of fighting, the rebel Free Syrian Army said it appeared to be gaining the upper hand over the Special Forces 46th regiment, a well-trained army regiment in al-Atraib, southwest of the largest city of Aleppo. Opposition General Ahmed al-Faj, a field commander there, said his group of about 1,500 fighters had captured dozens of army hostages and controlled most of the 260-hectare headquarters.

The Syrian government didn't put out a statement on the fighting.

Meanwhile, Iran, which has staunchly backed Mr. Assad, hosted a two-day Syria conference called "No to violence, yes to people's rule" in Tehran that ended Monday. Iran's foreign ministry said about 200 people, including members of Syrian opposition and government, attended the event aimed at finding a non-violent solution to the Syrian crisis.

The meetings in Iran were held behind closed doors and Iranian media offered scarce coverage of its content. It was also not immediately clear which fringe factions of Syria's opposition had attended the conference and what they hoped to gain from the Islamic Republic, which has steadfastly backed Mr.Assad.

Syrian activists and opposition members from more mainstream groups said those who had traveled to Iran were not credible voices of Syria's opposition.
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« Reply #18 on: November 29, 2012, 12:24:45 PM »

The rebels have shot down a jet.  Rumor has it they used a MANPAD , , , just like the 20,000 or so that are unaccounted for in the aftermath of Kadaffy's overthrow and which are often said to be rattling around eastern Libya/Benghazi, which is where Amb. Stevens and the CIA were at work running guns via Turkey to Syria.

Now, this mornings Pravda on the Hudon reports that Team Baraq is considering increasing armed support for the Syrian rebels.

No doubt they will be surprised when Isreali jets start getting shot down in a few years (or sooner) when things come to a head there , , ,

Of course it will be a bigger surprise should any of our jets be shot down , ,,
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« Reply #19 on: November 29, 2012, 05:58:29 PM »

No worries, we've been assured that they are mostly secular and only want a triumph of democracy.



The rebels have shot down a jet.  Rumor has it they used a MANPAD , , , just like the 20,000 or so that are unaccounted for in the aftermath of Kadaffy's overthrow and which are often said to be rattling around eastern Libya/Benghazi, which is where Amb. Stevens and the CIA were at work running guns via Turkey to Syria.

Now, this mornings Pravda on the Hudon reports that Team Baraq is considering increasing armed support for the Syrian rebels.

No doubt they will be surprised when Isreali jets start getting shot down in a few years (or sooner) when things come to a head there , , ,

Of course it will be a bigger surprise should any of our jets be shot down , ,,
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bigdog
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« Reply #20 on: December 04, 2012, 04:39:24 AM »

http://www.cbsnews.com/8301-202_162-57556705/u.s--planning-to-take-action-if-syria-crosses-chemical-weapons-red-line/
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« Reply #21 on: December 04, 2012, 07:00:08 AM »


I remember when it was a bad thing to use military force on middle eastern dictators based on intel about WMD.
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« Reply #22 on: December 06, 2012, 08:19:28 AM »

As Syria's chem WMD grow in prominence on the radar screen, it is worth taking a moment to contemplate what the situation would be had Israel not taken out Syria's nuclear reactor from North Korea.
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« Reply #23 on: December 06, 2012, 12:29:08 PM »

Good point on the nuclear facility, (speaking of under-reported stories).  Likewise for the Osraik facility in Iraq.

On Chemical weapons:  Same people (roughly) who said it was a lie to have said there were chemical weapons in Iraq in 2002, that were (reportedly) trucked to Syria while we were debating the invasion, and not found in Iraq in 2003-2006 are now having to confront the danger they pose in Syria.  

Had we bypassed the UN and attacked Saddam sooner instead of  with 8 months notice to clean up and clear out, perhaps we wouldn't have falsely called Bush, Cheney, Powell, Condoleeza Rice liars then, saved thousands of Americans lives with a quicker war then, and the Syrian people might not be facing WMD attacks from their own government today.

Or is the Obama administration lying now about WMD - in order to, as Barack Obama said in 2002, "distract us from...a rise in the poverty rate, a drop in the median income, to distract us from ...scandals and [economic indicators] worst...since the Great Depression"?  http://usliberals.about.com/od/extraordinaryspeeches/a/Obama2002War.htm

At least we know he has given it some thought.

http://www.boston.com/news/nation/washington/2012/12/06/panetta-worries-about-syria-chemical-weapons/G3GhCWtRTFuEFunFjAJG4K/story.html
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Crafty_Dog
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« Reply #24 on: December 06, 2012, 03:05:38 PM »

Apart from the idea that Syria got its WMD from Saddam Hussein, what other theories/facts are there to explain how it is that it has them?
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« Reply #25 on: December 06, 2012, 04:18:36 PM »

Apart from the idea that Syria got its WMD from Saddam Hussein, what other theories/facts are there to explain how it is that it has them?

"High quality global journalism requires investment. Please share this article with others using the link below, do not cut & paste the article. See our Ts&Cs and Copyright Policy for more detail. Email ftsales.support@ft.com to buy additional rights. http://www.ft.com/cms/s/0/ce85929c-3e0f-11e2-93cb-00144feabdc0.html#ixzz2EJSWPnpl

Russia, which has stood firmly by Mr Assad, also has a responsibility to ensure the regime does not use WMD. The Soviet Union supplied Syria with much of its stocks. Moscow today has good knowledge of their location."

http://www.ft.com/cms/s/0/ce85929c-3e0f-11e2-93cb-00144feabdc0.html#axzz2EJSPLcoh
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« Reply #26 on: December 06, 2012, 05:20:58 PM »

http://archive.newsmax.com/archives/articles/2006/2/18/233023.shtml?s=lh

Ex-Official: Russia Moved Saddam's WMD
Kenneth R. Timmerman
Sunday, Feb. 19, 2006
 
 
 
A top Pentagon official who was responsible for tracking Saddam Hussein's weapons programs before and after the 2003 liberation of Iraq, has provided the first-ever account of how Saddam Hussein "cleaned up" his weapons of mass destruction stockpiles to prevent the United States from discovering them.

"The short answer to the question of where the WMD Saddam bought from the Russians went was that they went to Syria and Lebanon," former Deputy Undersecretary of Defense John A. Shaw told an audience Saturday at a privately sponsored "Intelligence Summit" in Alexandria, Va. (www.intelligencesummit.org).

"They were moved by Russian Spetsnaz (special forces) units out of uniform, that were specifically sent to Iraq to move the weaponry and eradicate any evidence of its existence," he said.

Shaw has dealt with weapons-related issues and export controls as a U.S. government official for 30 years, and was serving as deputy undersecretary of defense for international technology security when the events he described today occurred.

He called the evacuation of Saddam's WMD stockpiles "a well-orchestrated campaign using two neighboring client states with which the Russian leadership had a long time security relationship."




 

Shaw was initially tapped to make an inventory of Saddam's conventional weapons stockpiles, based on intelligence estimates of arms deals he had concluded with the former Soviet Union, China and France.

He estimated that Saddam had amassed 100 million tons of munitions - roughly 60 percent of the entire U.S. arsenal. "The origins of these weapons were Russian, Chinese and French in declining order of magnitude, with the Russians holding the lion's share and the Chinese just edging out the French for second place."

But as Shaw's office increasingly got involved in ongoing intelligence to identify Iraqi weapons programs before the war, he also got "a flow of information from British contacts on the ground at the Syrian border and from London" via non-U.S. government contacts.

"The intelligence included multiple sightings of truck convoys, convoys going north to the Syrian border and returning empty," he said.

Shaw worked closely with Julian Walker, a former British ambassador who had decades of experience in Iraq, and an unnamed Ukranian-American who was directly plugged in to the head of Ukraine's intelligence service.


The Ukrainians were eager to provide the United States with documents from their own archives on Soviet arms transfers to Iraq and on ongoing Russian assistance to Saddam, to thank America for its help in securing Ukraine's independence from the Soviet Union, Shaw said.

In addition to the convoys heading to Syria, Shaw said his contacts "provided information about steel drums with painted warnings that had been moved to a cellar of a hospital in Beirut."

But when Shaw passed on his information to the Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA) and others within the U.S. intelligence community, he was stunned by their response.

"My report on the convoys was brushed off as ‘Israeli disinformation,'" he said.

One month later, Shaw learned that the DIA general counsel complained to his own superiors that Shaw had eaten from the DIA "rice bowl." It was a Washington euphemism that meant he had commited the unpardonable sin of violating another agency's turf.

The CIA responded in even more diabolical fashion. "They trashed one of my Brits and tried to declare him persona non grata to the intelligence community," Shaw said. "We got constant indicators that Langley was aggressively trying to discredit both my Ukranian-American and me in Kiev," in addition to his other sources.

But Shaw's information had not originated from a casual contact. His Ukranian-American aid was a personal friend of David Nicholas, a Western ambassador in Kiev, and of Igor Smesko, head of Ukrainian intelligence.

Smesko had been a military attaché in Washington in the early 1990s when Ukraine first became independent and Dick Cheney was secretary of defense. "Smesko had told Cheney that when Ukraine became free of Russia he wanted to show his friendship for the United States."

Helping out on Iraq provided him with that occasion.

"Smesko had gotten to know Gen. James Clapper, now director of the Geospacial Intelligence Agency, but then head of DIA," Shaw said.

But it was Shaw's own friendship to the head of Britain's MI6 that brought it all together during a two-day meeting in London that included Smeshko's people, the MI6 contingent, and Clapper, who had been deputized by George Tenet to help work the issue of what happened to Iraq's WMD stockpiles.

In the end, here is what Shaw learned:


In December 2002, former Russian intelligence chief Yevgeni Primakov, a KGB general with long-standing ties to Saddam, came to Iraq and stayed until just before the U.S.-led invasion in March 2003.

Primakov supervised the execution of long-standing secret agreements, signed between Iraqi intelligence and the Russian GRU (military intelligence), that provided for clean-up operations to be conducted by Russian and Iraqi military personnel to remove WMDs, production materials and technical documentation from Iraq, so the regime could announce that Iraq was "WMD free."

Shaw said that this type GRU operation, known as "Sarandar," or "emergency exit," has long been familiar to U.S. intelligence officials from Soviet-bloc defectors as standard GRU practice.

In addition to the truck convoys, which carried Iraqi WMD to Syria and Lebanon in February and March 2003 "two Russian ships set sail from the (Iraqi) port of Umm Qasr headed for the Indian Ocean," where Shaw believes they "deep-sixed" additional stockpiles of Iraqi WMD from flooded bunkers in southern Iraq that were later discovered by U.S. military intelligence personnel.

The Russian "clean-up" operation was entrusted to a combination of GRU and Spetsnaz troops and Russian military and civilian personnel in Iraq "under the command of two experienced ex-Soviet generals, Colonel-General Vladislav Achatov and Colonel-General Igor Maltsev, both retired and posing as civilian commercial consultants."

Washington Times reporter Bill Gertz reported on Oct. 30, 2004, that Achatov and Maltsev had been photographed receiving medals from Iraqi Defense Minister Sultan Hashim Ahmed in a Baghdad building bombed by U.S. cruise missiles during the first U.S. air raids in early March 2003.

Shaw says he leaked the information about the two Russian generals and the clean-up operation to Gertz in October 2004 in an effort to "push back" against claims by Democrats that were orchestrated with CBS News to embarrass President Bush just one week before the November 2004 presidential election. The press sprang bogus claims that 377 tons of high explosives of use to Iraq's nuclear weapons program had "gone missing" after the U.S.-led liberation of Iraq, while ignoring intelligence of the Russian-orchestrated evacuation of Iraqi WMDs.

The two Russian generals "had visited Baghdad no fewer than 20 times in the preceding five to six years," Shaw revealed. U.S. intelligence knew "the identity and strength of the various Spetsnaz units, their dates of entry and exit in Iraq, and the fact that the effort (to clean up Iraq's WMD stockpiles) with a planning conference in Baku from which they flew to Baghdad."

The Baku conference, chaired by Russian Minister of Emergency Situations Sergei Shoigu, "laid out the plans for the Sarandar clean-up effort so that Shoigu could leave after the keynote speech for Baghdad to orchestrate the planning for the disposal of the WMD."

Subsequent intelligence reports showed that Russian Spetsnaz operatives "were now changing to civilian clothes from military/GRU garb," Shaw said. "The Russian denial of my revelations in late October 2004 included the statement that "only Russian civilians remained in Baghdad." That was the "only true statement" the Russians made, Shaw ironized.
The evacuation of Saddam's WMD to Syria and Lebanon "was an entirely controlled Russian GRU operation," Shaw said. "It was the brainchild of General Yevgenuy Primakov."

The goal of the clean-up was "to erase all trace of Russian involvement" in Saddam's WMD programs, and "was a masterpiece of military camouflage and deception."

Just as astonishing as the Russian clean-up operation were efforts by Bush administration appointees, including Defense Department spokesman Laurence DiRita, to smear Shaw and to cover up the intelligence information he brought to light.

"Larry DiRita made sure that this story would never grow legs," Shaw said. "He whispered sotto voce [quietly] to journalists that there was no substance to my information and that it was the product of an unbalanced mind."

Shaw suggested that the answer of why the Bush administration had systematically "ignored Russia's involvement" in evacuating Saddam's WMD stockpiles "could be much bigger than anyone has thought," but declined to speculate what exactly was involved.

Retired Air Force Lt. Gen. Thomas McInerney was less reticent. He thought the reason was Iran.

"With Iran moving faster than anyone thought in its nuclear programs," he told NewsMax, "the administration needed the Russians, the Chinese and the French, and was not interested in information that would make them look bad."

McInerney agreed that there was "clear evidence" that Saddam had WMD. "Jack Shaw showed when it left Iraq, and how."

Former Undersecretary of Defense Richard Perle, a strong supporter of the war against Saddam, blasted the CIA for orchestrating a smear campaign against the Bush White House and the war in Iraq.

"The CIA has been at war with the Bush administration almost from the beginning," he said in a keynote speech at the Intelligence Summit on Saturday.

He singled out recent comments by Paul Pillar, a former top CIA Middle East analyst, alleging that the Bush White House "cherry-picked" intelligence to make the case for war in Iraq.

"Mr. Pillar was in a very senior position and was able to make his views known, if that is indeed what he believed," Perle said.

"He (Pillar) briefed senior policy officials before the start of the Iraq war in 2003. If he had had reservations about the war, he could have voiced them at that time." But according to officials briefed by Pillar, Perle said, he never did.

Even more inexplicable, Perle said, were the millions of documents "that remain untranslated" among those seized from Saddam Hussein's intelligence services.

"I think the intelligence community does not want them to be exploited," he said.

Among those documents, presented Saturday at the conference by former FBI translator Bill Tierney, were transcripts of Saddam's palace conversations with top aides in which he discussed ongoing nuclear weapons plans in 2000, well after the U.N. arms inspectors believed he had ceased all nuclear weapons work.

"What was most disturbing in those tapes," Tierney said, "was the fact that the individuals briefing Saddam were totally unknown to the U.N. Special Commission."

In addition, Tierney said, the plasma uranium programs Saddam discussed with his aids as ongoing operations in 2000 had been dismissed as "old programs" disbanded years earlier, according to the final CIA report on Iraq's weapons programs, presented in 2004 by the Iraq Survey Group.

"When I first heard those tapes" about the uranium plasma program, "it completely floored me," Tierney said.

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« Reply #27 on: December 06, 2012, 08:10:23 PM »

Interesting points.

"The Soviet Union supplied Syria with much of its stocks. Moscow today has good knowledge of their location."

This seems contradictory, the Soviet Union ended 21 years ago.  The Russians are still moving them, inside Syria?  Chemical weapons tend to have a degradation quality / shelf life.  http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sarin#Degradation_and_shelf_life

It is Leon Panetta and Hillary Clinton claiming to have good knowledge.  Reminds me of another WMD chase. Will they go to congress and to the UN like Iraq, or handle it like Libya, Pakistan, Yemen?

Are American security interests at stake?  If so, is this any time to cut defense funding??
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« Reply #28 on: December 06, 2012, 08:20:02 PM »

Ummm wasn't there/isn;t there a treaty to which the Soviet Empire/Russia was/is a signatory prohibiting transfer of WMD?
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« Reply #29 on: December 12, 2012, 07:03:43 AM »

This is six days old, but still seems quite pertinent:

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Stratfor
 
By Omar Lamrani
 
The battle for Damascus is raging with increasing intensity while rebels continue to make substantial advances in Syria's north and east. Every new air base, city or town that falls to the rebels further underlines that Bashar al Assad's writ over the country is shrinking. It is no longer possible to accurately depict al Assad as the ruler of Syria. At this point, he is merely the head of a large and powerful armed force, albeit one that still controls a significant portion of the country.
 
The nature of the conflict has changed significantly since it began nearly two years ago. The rebels initially operated with meager resources and equipment, but bolstered by defections, some outside support and their demographic advantage, they have managed to gain ground on what was previously a far superior enemy. Even the regime's qualitative superiority in equipment is fast eroding as the rebels start to frequently utilize main battle tanks, infantry fighting vehicles, rocket and tube artillery and even man-portable air-defense systems captured from the regime's stockpiles.
 
Weary and stumbling, the regime is attempting to push back rebel forces in and near Damascus and to maintain a corridor to the Alawite coast while delaying rebel advances in the rest of the country. Al Assad and his allies will fight for every inch, fully aware that their power depends on the ability of the regime forces to hold ground.
 
The Battle for Damascus
 

Visit our Syria page for related analysis, videos, situation reports and maps.
 
It is important to remember that, despite considerable setbacks, al Assad's forces still control a sizable portion of Syria and its population centers. After failing to take Damascus in Operation Damascus Volcano in July, the rebels are again stepping up their efforts and operations in the Damascus area. However, unlike in their previous failed operation, this time the rebels are relying on an intensive guerrilla campaign to exhaust and degrade al Assad's substantial forces in Damascus and its countryside.
 
After the last surge in fighting around Damascus in July and August, the regime kept large numbers of troops in the area. These forces continued search and destroy operations near the capital despite the considerable pressure facing its forces in the rest of the country, including in Aleppo. Once the rebels began to make gains in the north and east, the regime was forced to dispatch some of its forces around Damascus to reinforce other fronts. Unfortunately for the regime, its operations in the capital area had not significantly degraded local rebel forces. Rebels in the area began intensifying their operations once more, forcing the regime to recall many of its units to Damascus.
 
Aware of the magnitude of the threat, the regime has reportedly shifted its strategy in the battle for Damascus to isolating the city proper from the numerous suburbs. The rebels have made considerable headway in the Damascus suburbs. For example, on Nov. 25 rebels overran the Marj al-Sultan military air base in eastern Ghouta, east of the capital. Rebel operations in the outskirts of Damascus have also interrupted the flow of goods to and from the city, causing the prices of basic staples such as bread to skyrocket.
 
Rebel Gains in the East and North
 
Damascus is not the only area where the regime is finding itself under considerable pressure. The rebels have made some major advances in the last month in the energy-rich Deir el-Zour governorate to the east. Having seized a number of towns, airfields and military bases, the rebels have also taken the majority of the oil fields in the governorate. They captured the Al-Ward oil field Nov. 4, the Conoco natural gas reserve Nov. 27 and, after al Assad's forces withdrew from it on Nov. 29, the Omar oil field north of the town of Mayadeen. Al Assad's forces now control only five oil fields, all located west of the city of Deir el-Zour. With the battle for the city and its associated airfield intensifying, even those remaining fields are at risk of falling into rebel hands.
 






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The rebel successes in Deir el-Zour have effectively cut the regime's ground lines of communication and supply to Iraq. They have also starved the regime of the vast majority of its oil revenue and affected its ability to fuel its war machine. At the same time, the rebels are reportedly already seeking to capitalize on their seizure of the eastern oil fields. According to reports, the rebels are smuggling oil to Turkey and Iraq and using the revenue to purchase arms. They are also reportedly using the oil and natural gas locally for power generators and fuel.
 
While all of eastern Syria may soon fall into rebel hands, rebels in the north have continued to isolate al Assad forces in Idlib and Aleppo governorates, particularly in the capital cities of those two provinces. After overrunning the 46th regiment near Atarib on Nov. 19 following a two-month siege, the rebels are now looking to further squeeze remaining regime forces in Aleppo by taking the Sheikh Suleiman base north of the 46th regiment's former base.
 
The Rebels' Improved Air Defense Capability
 
Isolated and surrounded, regime forces in the north are increasingly relying on air support for both defense and supply. However, this advantage is deteriorating every day and is increasingly threatened by the rebels' improved air defense arsenal and tactics.
 
The rebels first attempted to acquire air defense weaponry by seizing heavy machine guns and anti-aircraft artillery. They captured a number of air defense bases, taking 12.7 mm DShK heavy machine guns, 14.5 mm KPV heavy machine guns and even 23 mm ZU-23-2 autocannons. Over time, the rebels became more proficient with these weapons, and an increasing number of Syrian air force fixed-wing and rotary aircraft were shot down. The rebels also formed hunter-killer groups with air defense equipment mounted on flatbed trucks that provided them mobile platforms for targeting regime air and infantry units.
 
As more and more regime bases were taken, the rebels were able to bolster their air defense equipment through the capture of a number of man-portable air-defense systems. At the outset of the conflict, the Syrian military maintained a large inventory of shoulder-fired air-defense missiles, likely thousands of missiles ranging from early generation SA-7s to very advanced SA-24s. These missiles were stored in army bases across the country. There are also unconfirmed reports that Qatar and Saudi Arabia may have transferred some man-portable air-defense systems to the rebels through Turkey.
 
The rebels tallied their first confirmed kill with shoulder-fired air-defense missiles Nov. 27, when they shot down a Syrian Arab Air Force Mi-8/17 helicopter near Aleppo city. The weapon system used in the attack was likely an SA-7, SA-16 or SA-24 captured from the 46th regiment. The surface-to-air missiles are a serious upgrade in the rebels' air defense capability.
 
The Fight Continues
 
Having isolated al Assad's forces in the north and made substantial advances in the east, the rebels are poised to push farther into the Orontes River Valley to relieve the beleaguered rebel units in the Rastan, Homs and al-Qusayr areas of Homs governorate. For months, regime forces have sought to overwhelm the remaining rebel forces in Homs city, but the rebels have managed to hold out. The rebels are also set to begin pushing south along the main M5 thoroughfare to Khan Sheikhoun and the approaches to Hama. However, first they need to overwhelm the remaining regime forces in Wadi al-Dhaif near Maarrat al-Numan.
 
Alternatively, the regime is fighting hard to maintain its control over the Orontes River Valley around Homs in order to keep an open corridor linking Damascus to the mostly Alawite coast. Not only is this corridor at risk of eventually being cut off, but the regime is also facing a substantial push by rebel forces into northeastern Latakia governorate from Idlib. Rebels have advanced in the vicinity of the Turkman Mountain, have taken control of Bdama and are now fighting their way down in the direction of Latakia city.
 
While events in Damascus and Rif Damascus are increasingly worrisome for the regime, al Assad's forces in the rest of Syria are also under considerable pressure from rebel advances. It is by no means certain that al Assad's forces are under imminent threat of collapse because they still hold a great deal of territory and no major city has yet been completely taken by the rebels. The retreat and consolidation of al Assad's forces also allows them to maintain shorter and less vulnerable lines of supply. However, it is clear that the regime is very much on the defensive and has been forced to gradually contract its lines toward a core that now encompasses Damascus, the Orontes River Valley and the mostly Alawite coast. With the regime's situation rapidly deteriorating, even the attempt to stage a gradual withdrawal to the core is risky.


Read more: Al Assad's Last Stand | Stratfor
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Crafty_Dog
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« Reply #30 on: February 01, 2013, 02:32:56 PM »

A faction makes its case for guns and money from the US:

How the U.S. Can Help Avert A Failed State In Syria
Time to stop 'leading from behind' and get involved before Syria disintegrates..
Article Comments (11) more in Opinion | Find New $LINKTEXTFIND$ ».
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By NASER DANAN
AND LOUAY SAKKA
President Obama on Tuesday pledged an additional $155 million in humanitarian aid to the Syrian opposition and refugees fleeing the murderous regime of Bashar Assad, bringing the total over two years to $365 million. The president also pledged, as he has before, that "The Assad regime will come to an end. The Syrian people will have their chance to forge their own future. And they will continue to find a partner in the United States of America."

While the aid is welcome and the message hopeful, what is missing is any promise of military assistance for the Free Syrian Army. Although Washington has not provided money or weapons to the FSA, it has given a green light to such transfers from other countries (mainly in the Persian Gulf) and it has authorized our U.S.-based nonprofit, the Syrian Support Group, to collect money for vetted Free Syrian Army commanders. The Obama administration has also reportedly allowed some intelligence sharing with the FSA, via Turkish and Jordanian intelligence.

This tactic of "leading from behind" should end. What is now clear to Washington and to other players in the region is that a Syrian endgame is upon us. Bashar Assad has lost control over much of the country, including a number of key military bases and the main highways that provide the lifeline of support to his remaining, demoralized troops. All that Assad firmly controls is Damascus, and his air superiority has been limited by the FSA's growing antiaircraft defenses, acquired mainly from seized Syrian army depots.

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Reuters
 
Free Syrian Army fighters in Damascus on Thursday
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In desperation, the Syrian dictator has resorted to firing Scud missiles toward liberated areas in the north. He may also be transporting chemical weapons with a view to their possible use. Syrians and outside observers alike understand that a regime losing control of its highways, airports and military bases no longer controls the country and that its downfall is within sight.

What is most important now is to avert a failed state, akin to Somalia, that would provide militant extremists with a haven and possible access to chemical weapons in a key strategic location. This could also result in a wider sectarian conflict throughout the region. To assure this doesn't happen, the Obama administration should take these proactive steps:

• Greater support for the Syrian Opposition Coalition. Mr. Obama has already recognized the SOC as the sole representative of the Syrian people. Now is the time to extend significant financial, diplomatic and technical support so that it can continue to gain legitimacy and be ready to help negotiate a peaceful transition. Such support would include backing the creation of a representative interim government and permitting the interim government access to any frozen Syrian government funds.

• Greater support for the Free Syrian Army. Financial, diplomatic and technical support are needed if the FSA's new unified command, the Military Supreme Council, is to fill the security vacuum and secure chemical weapons stockpiles when the Assad regime falls, and serve to provide order and security to areas most vulnerable to potential revenge killings in a post-Assad era. This can be further facilitated by helping develop a core group of well-trained elite FSA forces. Such support would also help deter increasing extremism among some groups within the broader armed opposition and help further tip the military balance of power.

• Support a transitional justice plan. With the backing of Washington and the international community, a transitional justice plan would govern a truth-and-reconciliation process for the post-Assad period. But the establishment of such a plan now could also fast-track Assad's fall by providing incentives—including offers of amnesty—for the remaining members of Assad's inner circle to defect. The plan could also publicly target a fairly narrow list of gross perpetrators of war crimes, thus letting government officials who are not on the list know that they would not be arrested if they sought a way out of their predicament.

The United Nations recently estimated the death toll of Syria's civil war at more than 60,000. What began in March 2011 as a peaceful uprising against the Assad dictatorship has morphed into a bloody struggle for freedom, with the potential descent into a wider, sectarian war. Ultimately, the Syrian people will triumph. The U.S. can do more to help them.

Dr. Danan and Mr. Sakka are on the board of directors of the Syrian Support Group, a U.S. nonprofit organization dedicated to the establishment of a free, independent and democratic Syria.
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« Reply #31 on: February 01, 2013, 02:54:16 PM »

Ah, I'm sure they'll be "mostly secular" this  time, right?
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« Reply #32 on: February 03, 2013, 09:09:55 AM »

The Consequences of Intervening in Syria
 

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Stratfor
 
By Scott Stewart
Vice President of Analysis
 
The French military's current campaign to dislodge jihadist militants from northern Mali and the recent high-profile attack against a natural gas facility in Algeria are both directly linked to the foreign intervention in Libya that overthrew the Gadhafi regime. There is also a strong connection between these events and foreign powers' decision not to intervene in Mali when the military conducted a coup in March 2012. The coup occurred as thousands of heavily armed Tuareg tribesmen were returning home to northern Mali after serving in Moammar Gadhafi's military, and the confluence of these events resulted in an implosion of the Malian military and a power vacuum in the north. Al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb and other jihadists were able to take advantage of this situation to seize power in the northern part of the African nation.
 
As all these events transpire in northern Africa, another type of foreign intervention is occurring in Syria. Instead of direct foreign military intervention, like that taken against the Gadhafi regime in Libya in 2011, or the lack of intervention seen in Mali in March 2012, the West -- and its Middle Eastern partners -- have pursued a middle-ground approach in Syria. That is, these powers are providing logistical aid to the various Syrian rebel factions but are not intervening directly.
 
Just as there were repercussions for the decisions to conduct a direct intervention in Libya and not to intervene in Mali, there will be repercussions for the partial intervention approach in Syria. Those consequences are becoming more apparent as the crisis drags on.
 
Intervention in Syria
 
For more than a year now, countries such as the United States, Turkey, Saudi Arabia, Qatar and European states have been providing aid to the Syrian rebels. Much of this aid has been in the form of humanitarian assistance, providing things such as shelter, food and medical care for refugees. Other aid has helped provide the rebels with non-lethal military supplies such as radios and ballistic vests. But a review of the weapons spotted on the battlefield reveals that the rebels are also receiving an increasing number of lethal supplies.
 

Visit our Syria page for related analysis, videos, situation reports and maps.
 
For example, there have been numerous videos released showing Syrian rebels using weapons such as the M79 Osa rocket launcher, the RPG-22, the M-60 recoilless rifle and the RBG-6 multiple grenade launcher. The Syrian government has also released videos of these weapons after seizing them in arms caches. What is so interesting about these weapons is that they were not in the Syrian military's inventory prior to the crisis, and they all likely were purchased from Croatia. We have also seen many reports and photos of Syrian rebels carrying Austrian Steyr Aug rifles, and the Swiss government has complained that Swiss-made hand grenades sold to the United Arab Emirates are making their way to the Syrian rebels.
 
With the Syrian rebel groups using predominantly second-hand weapons from the region, weapons captured from the regime, or an assortment of odd ordnance they have manufactured themselves, the appearance and spread of these exogenous weapons in rebel arsenals over the past several months is at first glance evidence of external arms supply. The appearance of a single Steyr Aug or RBG-6 on the battlefield could be an interesting anomaly, but the variety and concentration of these weapons seen in Syria are well beyond the point where they could be considered coincidental.
 
This means that the current level of external intervention in Syria is similar to the level exercised against the Soviet Union and its communist proxies following the Soviet intervention in Afghanistan. The external supporters are providing not only training, intelligence and assistance, but also weapons -- exogenous weapons that make the external provision of weapons obvious to the world. It is also interesting that in Syria, like Afghanistan, two of the major external supporters are Washington and Riyadh -- though in Syria they are joined by regional powers such as Turkey, Jordan, Qatar and the United Arab Emirates, rather than Pakistan.
 
In Afghanistan, the Saudis and the Americans allowed their partners in Pakistan's Inter-Services Intelligence agency to determine which of the myriad militant groups in Afghanistan received the bulk of the funds and weapons they were providing. This resulted in two things. First, the Pakistanis funded and armed groups that they thought they could best use as surrogates in Afghanistan after the Soviet withdrawal. Second, they pragmatically tended to funnel cash and weapons to the groups that were the most successful on the battlefield -- groups such as those led by Gulbuddin Hekmatyar and Jalaluddin Haqqani, whose effectiveness on the battlefield was tied directly to their zealous theology that made waging jihad against the infidels a religious duty and death during such a struggle the ultimate accomplishment.
 
A similar process has been taking place for nearly two years in Syria. The opposition groups that have been the most effective on the battlefield have tended to be the jihadist-oriented groups such as Jabhat al-Nusra. Not surprisingly, one reason for their effectiveness was the skills and tactics they learned fighting the coalition forces in Iraq. Yet despite this, the Saudis -- along with the Qataris and the Emiratis -- have been arming and funding the jihadist groups in large part because of their success on the battlefield. As my colleague Kamran Bokhari noted in February 2012, the situation in Syria was providing an opportunity for jihadists, even without external support. In the fractured landscape of the Syrian opposition, the unity of purpose and battlefield effectiveness of the jihadists was in itself enough to ensure that these groups attracted a large number of new recruits.
 
But that is not the only factor conducive to the radicalization of Syrian rebels. First, war -- and particularly a brutal, drawn-out war -- tends to make extremists out of the fighters involved in it. Think Stalingrad, the Cold War struggles in Central America or the ethnic cleansing in the Balkans following the dissolution of Yugoslavia; this degree of struggle and suffering tends to make even non-ideological people ideological. In Syria, we have seen many secular Muslims become stringent jihadists. Second, the lack of hope for an intervention by the West removed any impetus for maintaining a secular narrative. Many fighters who had pinned their hopes on NATO were greatly disappointed and angered that their suffering was ignored. It is not unusual for Syrian fighters to say something akin to, "What has the West done for us? We now have only God."
 
When these ideological factors were combined with the infusion of money and arms that has been channeled to jihadist groups in Syria over the past year, the growth of Syrian jihadist groups accelerated dramatically. Not only are they a factor on the battlefield today, but they also will be a force to be reckoned with in the future.
 
The Saudi Gambit
 
Despite the jihadist blowback the Saudis experienced after the end of the war against the Soviets in Afghanistan -- and the current object lesson of the jihadists Syria sent to fight U.S. forces in Iraq now leading groups such as Jabhat al-Nusra -- the Saudi government has apparently calculated that its use of jihadist proxies in Syria is worth the inherent risk.
 
There are some immediate benefits for Riyadh. First, the Saudis hope to be able to break the arc of Shiite influence that reaches from Iran through Iraq and Syria to Lebanon. Having lost the Sunni counterweight to Iranian power in the region with the fall of Saddam Hussein in Iraq and the installation of a Shiite-led government friendly to Iran, the Saudis view the possibility of installing a friendly Sunni regime in Syria as a dramatic improvement to their national security.
 
Supporting the jihad in Syria as a weapon against Iranian influence also gives the Saudis a chance to burnish their Islamic credentials internally in an effort to help stave off criticism that they are too secular and Westernized. It allows the Saudi regime the opportunity to show that it is helping Muslims under assault by the vicious Syrian regime.
 
Supporting jihadists in Syria also gives the Saudis an opportunity to ship their own radicals to Syria, where they can fight and possibly die. With a large number of unemployed, underemployed and radicalized young men, the jihad in Syria provides a pressure valve similar to the past struggles in Iraq, Chechnya, Bosnia and Afghanistan. The Saudis are not only trying to winnow down their own troubled youth; we have received reports from a credible source that the Saudis are also facilitating the travel of Yemeni men to training camps in Turkey, where they are trained and equipped before being sent to Syria to fight. The reports also indicate that the young men are traveling for free and receiving a stipend for their service. These young radicals from Saudi Arabia and Yemen will even further strengthen the jihadist groups in Syria by providing them with fresh troops.
 
The Saudis are gaining temporary domestic benefits from supporting jihad in Syria, but the conflict will not last forever, nor will it result in the deaths of all the young men who go there to fight. This means that someday the men who survive will come back home, and through the process we refer to as "tactical Darwinism" the inept fighters will have been weeded out, leaving a core of competent militants that the Saudis will have to deal with.
 
But the problems posed by jihadist proxies in Syria will have effects beyond the House of Saud. The Syrian jihadists will pose a threat to the stability of Syria in much the same way the Afghan groups did in the civil war they launched for control of Afghanistan after the fall of the Najibullah regime. Indeed, the violence in Afghanistan got worse after Najibullah's fall in 1992, and the suffering endured by Afghan civilians in particular was egregious.
 
Now we are seeing that the jihadist militants in Libya pose a threat not only to the Libyan regime -- there are serious problems in eastern Libya -- but also to foreign interests in the country, as seen in the attack on the British ambassador and the U.S. diplomatic mission in Benghazi. Moreover, the events in Mali and Algeria in recent months show that Libya-based militants and the weapons they possess also pose a regional threat. Similar long-lasting and wide-ranging repercussions can be expected to flow from the intervention in Syria.
.

Read more: The Consequences of Intervening in Syria | Stratfor
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« Reply #33 on: February 08, 2013, 12:19:42 PM »

WSJ

WASHINGTON—A proposal to arm Syrian rebels was backed by the Pentagon, the State Department and the Central Intelligence Agency, but the White House decided not to act on the plan.

Defense Secretary Leon Panetta and Gen. Martin Dempsey, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, revealed publicly for the first time at a Senate hearing on Thursday that they supported the proposal last year by senior officials including then-Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and then-CIA director David Petraeus.

The officials came to favor the plan last year with the meltdown of an international diplomatic initiative to end the Syrian civil war, according to current and former officials involved in the deliberations.


The White House stalled the proposal because of lingering questions about which rebels could be trusted with the arms, whether the transfers would make a difference in the campaign to remove Syrian leader Bashar al-Assad and whether the weapons would add to the suffering, the U.S. officials said. A U.S. official cited the findings of a CIA team of analysts, which cast doubt on the impact of arming the rebels on the conflict.

The disclosures thrust a spotlight on the extent to which President Barack Obama charts his own course in the face of calls to action by members of his own team, and on the extent of his caution about entering a new conflict. The White House declined to comment on internal administration deliberations.

In the months after the start of the conflict in Syria in March 2011, the Pentagon, the State Department and the CIA began presenting the White House with multiple options for intervening with force, covert action or arms supplies. Options have included establishing a no-fly zone, bombing Syrian aircraft in their hangars, and funneling light arms and actionable intelligence to a select group of American-vetted rebels.

Gen. Dempsey, who is Mr. Obama's top military adviser, and other Pentagon leaders had long voiced caution about any military intervention, including a no-fly zone, because of Syria's advanced air defenses and concerns about upsetting Russia. Pentagon officials cited concerns Moscow could interfere with some U.S. supply lines to Afghanistan.

Pentagon officials, like others in the administration, were also wary of supporting rebels whose intentions and allegiances remained unclear, though CIA officers in the field had privately advocated providing arms to select rebels deemed friendly to the West, to build good will for the day when Mr. Assad is gone, according to U.S. officials.

A key turning point for many at the State Department came after a diplomatic initiative led by international envoy Kofi Annan broke down in June 2012, current and former officials said. The U.S. had seen the plan, which was supported by Russia and other major powers, as a breakthrough that would lead to a transitional governing body for Syria.

The deal's demise spurred support within the State Department for arming the rebels, according to U.S. officials. Mrs. Clinton joined forces with Mr. Petraeus to push for the administration to embrace a proposal for delivering arms.

Advocates said doing so would provide the U.S. with opportunities to shape events on the ground and build alliances.

As concern grew about Syrian unrest in the late summer and early fall, Mr. Panetta and Gen. Dempsey threw in their support, a position the two men kept private until Thursday's Senate hearing.

The proposal was also backed by the nation's top spy, James Clapper, the director of the National Intelligence, officials said.

Around the same time, in a reflection of the ongoing debate, a team of CIA intelligence analysts found that the introduction of U.S. arms wouldn't "materially" affect the situation on the ground or help the rebels overthrow Mr. Assad, a U.S. official said. The rebels were already getting substantial quantities of weapons from other countries, including U.S. allies in the Gulf, the official said. Other officials said such findings are advisory and carry far less weight than a formal intelligence assessment produced by the director of National Intelligence.

In another blow to the proposal, many of its leading advocates were poised to leave the administration. Mr. Petraeus resigned in November, over revelations that he had an extramarital affair.

Mr. Obama, in December, recognized a revamped Syrian opposition movement, but has since made no moves to introduce U.S.-supplied arms into the conflict.

The disclosures about the senior defense officials' support for the proposal came in response to sharp questions from Sen. John McCain (R., Ariz.) at a hearing on Thursday which was called to examine the military's response to the Sept. 11, 2012, attack on Americans in Benghazi, Libya, but which also delved into other foreign-policy challenges, including the conflict in Syria.

"How many more have to die before you recommend military action?" Sen. McCain asked Gen. Dempsey and Mr. Panetta, citing United Nations estimates that up to 60,000 people have been killed in the Syrian civil war. "And did you support the recommendation by…then-Secretary of State Clinton and then-head of CIA, Mr. Petraeus, that we provide weapons to the resistance in Syria?"

Both Gen. Dempsey and Mr. Panetta said they did.

Mr. Panetta said he agreed with Mrs. Clinton and Mr. Petraeus but also supported Mr. Obama's decision not to act on the proposal. "Obviously there were a number of factors that were involved here that ultimately led to the president's decision to make it nonlethal," Mr. Panetta said.

Mr. Panetta, who is preparing to step down from his post, "isn't committed to lethal aid now," and believes more study is required before proceeding, an official close to the defense secretary said.

Aides to Gen. Dempsey, Mrs. Clinton and Mr. Petraeus had no immediate comment on the officials' positions after the testimony.

In Syria, rebel groups had hoped that Mr. Obama's re-election would give him the political leeway to throw greater support behind the Syrian opposition. But current and former officials said the rebels misjudged the White House, which remains reluctant to enter a new conflict.

Current and former officials said the path forward for the administration remains unclear.

Mr. Kerry, the new secretary of State, and Chuck Hagel, Mr. Obama's nominee to succeed Mr. Panetta at the Pentagon, are seen as more closely aligned with Mr. Obama's cautious approach to intervention in Syria than their predecessors.

But officials said John Brennan, Mr. Obama's longtime counterterrorism chief and nominee to succeed Mr. Petraeus as CIA director, could embrace greater covert action in Syria. Mr. Brennan is close to Mr. Obama and has made clear his concern about al Qaeda's growing strength in Syria.

While Mr. Obama has avoided military involvement, he has authorized nonlethal support to the rebels as well as humanitarian assistance. In one possible exception, he has warned Mr. Assad that using chemical weapons would be a "red line" that could prompt an American response.

Write to Adam Entous at adam.entous@wsj.com
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« Reply #34 on: February 08, 2013, 12:23:39 PM »

I wonder....

WSJ

WASHINGTON—A proposal to arm Syrian rebels was backed by the Pentagon, the State Department and the Central Intelligence Agency, but the White House decided not to act on the plan.

Defense Secretary Leon Panetta and Gen. Martin Dempsey, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, revealed publicly for the first time at a Senate hearing on Thursday that they supported the proposal last year by senior officials including then-Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and then-CIA director David Petraeus.

The officials came to favor the plan last year with the meltdown of an international diplomatic initiative to end the Syrian civil war, according to current and former officials involved in the deliberations.


The White House stalled the proposal because of lingering questions about which rebels could be trusted with the arms, whether the transfers would make a difference in the campaign to remove Syrian leader Bashar al-Assad and whether the weapons would add to the suffering, the U.S. officials said. A U.S. official cited the findings of a CIA team of analysts, which cast doubt on the impact of arming the rebels on the conflict.

The disclosures thrust a spotlight on the extent to which President Barack Obama charts his own course in the face of calls to action by members of his own team, and on the extent of his caution about entering a new conflict. The White House declined to comment on internal administration deliberations.

In the months after the start of the conflict in Syria in March 2011, the Pentagon, the State Department and the CIA began presenting the White House with multiple options for intervening with force, covert action or arms supplies. Options have included establishing a no-fly zone, bombing Syrian aircraft in their hangars, and funneling light arms and actionable intelligence to a select group of American-vetted rebels.

Gen. Dempsey, who is Mr. Obama's top military adviser, and other Pentagon leaders had long voiced caution about any military intervention, including a no-fly zone, because of Syria's advanced air defenses and concerns about upsetting Russia. Pentagon officials cited concerns Moscow could interfere with some U.S. supply lines to Afghanistan.

Pentagon officials, like others in the administration, were also wary of supporting rebels whose intentions and allegiances remained unclear, though CIA officers in the field had privately advocated providing arms to select rebels deemed friendly to the West, to build good will for the day when Mr. Assad is gone, according to U.S. officials.

A key turning point for many at the State Department came after a diplomatic initiative led by international envoy Kofi Annan broke down in June 2012, current and former officials said. The U.S. had seen the plan, which was supported by Russia and other major powers, as a breakthrough that would lead to a transitional governing body for Syria.

The deal's demise spurred support within the State Department for arming the rebels, according to U.S. officials. Mrs. Clinton joined forces with Mr. Petraeus to push for the administration to embrace a proposal for delivering arms.

Advocates said doing so would provide the U.S. with opportunities to shape events on the ground and build alliances.

As concern grew about Syrian unrest in the late summer and early fall, Mr. Panetta and Gen. Dempsey threw in their support, a position the two men kept private until Thursday's Senate hearing.

The proposal was also backed by the nation's top spy, James Clapper, the director of the National Intelligence, officials said.

Around the same time, in a reflection of the ongoing debate, a team of CIA intelligence analysts found that the introduction of U.S. arms wouldn't "materially" affect the situation on the ground or help the rebels overthrow Mr. Assad, a U.S. official said. The rebels were already getting substantial quantities of weapons from other countries, including U.S. allies in the Gulf, the official said. Other officials said such findings are advisory and carry far less weight than a formal intelligence assessment produced by the director of National Intelligence.

In another blow to the proposal, many of its leading advocates were poised to leave the administration. Mr. Petraeus resigned in November, over revelations that he had an extramarital affair.

Mr. Obama, in December, recognized a revamped Syrian opposition movement, but has since made no moves to introduce U.S.-supplied arms into the conflict.

The disclosures about the senior defense officials' support for the proposal came in response to sharp questions from Sen. John McCain (R., Ariz.) at a hearing on Thursday which was called to examine the military's response to the Sept. 11, 2012, attack on Americans in Benghazi, Libya, but which also delved into other foreign-policy challenges, including the conflict in Syria.

"How many more have to die before you recommend military action?" Sen. McCain asked Gen. Dempsey and Mr. Panetta, citing United Nations estimates that up to 60,000 people have been killed in the Syrian civil war. "And did you support the recommendation by…then-Secretary of State Clinton and then-head of CIA, Mr. Petraeus, that we provide weapons to the resistance in Syria?"

Both Gen. Dempsey and Mr. Panetta said they did.

Mr. Panetta said he agreed with Mrs. Clinton and Mr. Petraeus but also supported Mr. Obama's decision not to act on the proposal. "Obviously there were a number of factors that were involved here that ultimately led to the president's decision to make it nonlethal," Mr. Panetta said.

Mr. Panetta, who is preparing to step down from his post, "isn't committed to lethal aid now," and believes more study is required before proceeding, an official close to the defense secretary said.

Aides to Gen. Dempsey, Mrs. Clinton and Mr. Petraeus had no immediate comment on the officials' positions after the testimony.

In Syria, rebel groups had hoped that Mr. Obama's re-election would give him the political leeway to throw greater support behind the Syrian opposition. But current and former officials said the rebels misjudged the White House, which remains reluctant to enter a new conflict.

Current and former officials said the path forward for the administration remains unclear.

Mr. Kerry, the new secretary of State, and Chuck Hagel, Mr. Obama's nominee to succeed Mr. Panetta at the Pentagon, are seen as more closely aligned with Mr. Obama's cautious approach to intervention in Syria than their predecessors.

But officials said John Brennan, Mr. Obama's longtime counterterrorism chief and nominee to succeed Mr. Petraeus as CIA director, could embrace greater covert action in Syria. Mr. Brennan is close to Mr. Obama and has made clear his concern about al Qaeda's growing strength in Syria.

While Mr. Obama has avoided military involvement, he has authorized nonlethal support to the rebels as well as humanitarian assistance. In one possible exception, he has warned Mr. Assad that using chemical weapons would be a "red line" that could prompt an American response.

Write to Adam Entous at adam.entous@wsj.com

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« Reply #35 on: February 18, 2013, 02:16:52 PM »

Summary
 


STR/AFP/GettyImages
 
Hezbollah militants during a funeral procession in the Lebanese city of Baalbek on Oct. 8.
 


A rumor is circulating in Lebanon that Hezbollah is recruiting specialized Syrian Alawite troops to leave Syria and join its organization. Meanwhile, Syrian rebel forces appear to be making tangible progress in their offensives against loyalist forces in the north around the city of Aleppo and in the south around Damascus. Though Alawite troops are well-equipped and dug in around the capital, they are outnumbered and facing an inevitable battle of attrition against an array of Sunni rebel groups.
 
At this stage of the conflict, Syria's remaining Alawite forces with the means to defect are each facing an existential choice: either stick with their fellow Alawites against growing odds in Syria or secure a personal exit strategy. Hezbollah's alleged poaching efforts suggest that individual interests may have begun to outweigh the collective interests of the Alawite and broader Shiite minority communities. Should specialized Alawite troops begin leaving for alternative careers in Lebanon, serious cracks in what is left of Syrian President Bashar al Assad's regime are likely to emerge, raising doubts about Alawite staying power in Damascus.
 


Analysis
 
Visit our Syria page for related analysis, videos, situation reports and maps.
 
 
Hezbollah has purportedly been reaching out to senior Alawite officers, including members of al Assad's Praetorian Guard from the Fourth Armored Division (commanded by the Syrian president's brother, Maher al Assad) and the Republican Guard. According to rumors, the Lebanese militant group has been offering housing in Beirut and employment within the organization should the Syrian regime face impending collapse, allowing such officers to avoid Sunni reprisal attacks, arrests and possible extradition to the International Criminal Court in The Hague. To support preparations for a Sunni challenge to its authority in Lebanon and possible Israeli strikes, the Shiite militant group is believed to be specifically targeting Alawite officers who would provide valuable expertise in operating advanced weaponry and communications systems, as well as lessons in fighting asymmetric conflicts.
 






.
 It is too early to tell how many Syrian Alawite officers have accepted Hezbollah's offers, but the alleged overtures highlight concerns about the al Assad regime's ability to stand its ground in Damascus. Hezbollah has already played a substantial role in helping Syrian Alawite forces repel Sunni rebels and sever opposition supply lines through Lebanon, but that support has come at a cost to the group's own capabilities and morale. Sunni militants in Lebanon, in coordination with local Sunni clerics, appear to be making progress in cutting off the Syrian regime's vital overland supply line through the Bekaa Valley along the Beirut-Damascus highway. Fighters from the rebel Free Syrian Army reportedly are operating in Sunni towns and villages in the Bekaa Valley, as well as in northern Lebanon, in support of these interdiction efforts. Sunni fighters have been particularly active in Mdairji, a town on the Beirut-Damascus highway in the western mountain range overlooking the Bekaa Valley.
 
Syrian and Lebanese Sunnis still face a substantial challenge in avoiding countermoves by the sizable pockets of Shiite and Christian forces that lack an interest in seeing a Sunni majority come to power in Syria. But the progress demonstrated by Sunni rebel forces in targeting regime supply lines between Lebanon and Damascus indicate that al Assad's minority allies in Lebanon are facing constraints in countering interdiction efforts, including the threat of some minority leaders striking deals with Sunni forces in pursuit of individual interests. One such leader to watch in this regard is Lebanese army commander Jean Kahwaji, a Maronite who is rumored to be considering a run for the presidency in 2014 and who may need to cooperate with local Sunnis.
 







VIDEO: Battle for the Damascus Suburbs
.
Whether evaluating the motives of the Hezbollah leadership, a war-weary Alawite commander in the Republican Guard or a Lebanese army general, at this stage of the Syrian conflict, actions taken on the assumption that the Syrian regime will collapse will likely become more common. This perception could have a substantial impact on the morale of remaining Alawite forces that are digging in for an intensifying battle for Damascus.


Read more: In Syria, a Possible Decision Point for Alawite Troops | Stratfor
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« Reply #36 on: February 28, 2013, 05:45:47 PM »

Summary
 


AAMIR QURESHI/AFP/Getty Images
 
Syrian anti-regime protesters wave a pre-Baath Syrian flag, now used by the Free Syrian Army, during a demonstration in Aleppo
 


Hezbollah is known to aid Alawite forces in Syria, and as the Syrian rebellion gains momentum, the rebel Free Syrian Army and allied Lebanese Sunni fighters are starting to challenge the Shiite militant group more directly. On Feb. 21, after issuing a flurry of threats against Hezbollah, the Free Syrian Army claimed to have attacked Hezbollah positions. Both sides subsequently denied those claims, but the day's events revealed both the inevitability of the Syrian conflict's spilling into Lebanon and the fears both sides have of prematurely precipitating such hostilities.
 


Analysis
 
The Free Syrian Army warned in a statement Feb. 21 that it would attack Hezbollah inside Lebanese territory if Hezbollah did not stop shelling Syrian villages from Lebanon within 48 hours. The Free Syrian Army then claimed to have attacked Hezbollah. In a first alleged attack, fighters supposedly targeted two Hezbollah vehicles in Syria's western al-Qusayr district with machine guns and anti-tank weaponry. A second attack allegedly struck northern Lebanon's Hermel province and consisted of several Free Syrian Army brigades launching mortar shells on a Hezbollah artillery position in the mostly Alawite village of Hosh al-Sayyed Ali. Later in the day, the Free Syrian Army denied attacking Hezbollah at all.
 
These events provide a glimpse into how Syria's Sunni rebellion will eventually challenge Hezbollah's position in Lebanon. Despite the Free Syrian Army's denial of involvement in the attacks, Stratfor has received information that the rebel group recently has tried to target Hezbollah. In addition to the alleged attack in Hermel province, three Hezbollah fighters were reportedly killed Feb. 20 in an attack on a Lebanese village in the northern Bekaa Valley.
 
 
 





.
 Clashes between Hezbollah and Sunni fighters on both sides of the Syria-Lebanon border are inevitable, and small-scale skirmishes have already taken place as both sides try to secure their own supply lines into Syria and interdict those of their adversary. Stratfor highlighted last year how Hezbollah fighters were particularly active in the Syrian town of Al-Qusayr, since controlling that bulge of the Orontes River Valley basin was crucial to the group's efforts to pool resources for an Alawite-Shiite enclave in the northern Bekaa Valley. Such an enclave will become particularly important when Alawite forces lose control of Damascus and when Syria disassembles into a patchwork of ethnic and religious territories. Hezbollah has already assumed control of several Shiite villages along the river basin and is trying to hold its position against encroaching Free Syrian Army rebels. Hezbollah's position in the Al-Qusayr region has been critical to helping the Syrian regime stabilize the Homs area and keep its supply lines to the coast and the north open. It therefore comes as little surprise that the Free Syrian Army is claiming fresh attacks on Hezbollah in Al-Qusayr, where Hezbollah and Free Syrian Army fighters have already clashed in recent months.   
 
 
Should Sunni rebels start to feel more confident in their militant campaign against Alawite forces in Syria, these sorts of clashes are likely to become more frequent, and they will reach deeper into Lebanon as Hezbollah tries to demonstrate the costs of challenging its still-powerful position as a militant group in the country. Salafist leaders in Sidon in southern Lebanon are already threatening to storm Hezbollah's apartments in the area, which could serve as another catalyst for sectarian clashes in the country. Hezbollah understands the difficulty it will face in losing its supply lines through Syria, but it remains the largest, best trained and best equipped militia in the region.
 
 
 
That reputation alone will not spare Hezbollah from an emboldened Sunni resistance, however. Many Lebanese Sunnis, as well as more transnationally-minded Salafists, are keen on expanding the Sunni rebellion into Lebanon to challenge the authority of Shiite Hezbollah. But as the rush of denials revealed Feb. 21, there are still many Sunnis who fear that a fight with Hezbollah, when Alawite forces are still present in Damascus, would be premature. Likewise, Hezbollah is not looking to rush into a fight with its Sunni adversaries. The group is focused on preparing for a post-al Assad security environment, and a large part of that preparation entails gearing up for what may be an unavoidable civil war in Lebanon.
 - See more at: http://www.stratfor.com/analysis/syrias-rebels-risk-starting-premature-conflict-lebanon#sthash.Mgh9RMMH.dpuf

Read more: Syria's Rebels Risk Starting a Premature Conflict in Lebanon | Stratfor
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« Reply #37 on: March 20, 2013, 05:47:16 PM »

http://www.cnn.com/2013/03/20/world/meast/syria-civil-war/index.html?hpt=hp_bn2


From the article:


Syrian President Bashar al-Assad's government and the opposition demanded independent investigations Wednesday into countering accusations of the use of chemical weapons, allegations that some U.S. officials question.

The demands, made in writing to the United Nations, came a day after the government and the rebels accused one another of using chemical weapons in fighting in the flashpoint province of Aleppo and a rural suburb of the Syrian capital of Damascus.
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« Reply #38 on: March 20, 2013, 06:39:29 PM »

I remember when it was impossible for middle eastern dictators to possess WMD...

 rolleyes

http://www.cnn.com/2013/03/20/world/meast/syria-civil-war/index.html?hpt=hp_bn2


From the article:


Syrian President Bashar al-Assad's government and the opposition demanded independent investigations Wednesday into countering accusations of the use of chemical weapons, allegations that some U.S. officials question.

The demands, made in writing to the United Nations, came a day after the government and the rebels accused one another of using chemical weapons in fighting in the flashpoint province of Aleppo and a rural suburb of the Syrian capital of Damascus.

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« Reply #39 on: April 04, 2013, 11:03:39 AM »


http://pjmedia.com/barryrubin/2013/04/03/flash-threat-from-rebel-syria-becomes-clear-and-what-really-happened-in-the-benghazi-murders/?singlepage=true
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« Reply #40 on: April 25, 2013, 11:47:21 AM »

http://thehill.com/blogs/defcon-hill/operations/296145-white-house-intelligence-says-syrias-assad-used-chemical-weapons

From the article:

The White House told senators Thursday that the intelligence community believes Syrian President Bashar Assad’s forces have used chemical weapons in Syria, crossing a “red line” set by President Obama.

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« Reply #41 on: April 25, 2013, 06:03:56 PM »

What's more, I have seen reports that the Israelis think so too.

Team Baraq apparently is looking for more certainty.  Given what's involved here, I can't say that this is a bad thing, though my trust in Team Baraq is de minimis.
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« Reply #42 on: April 26, 2013, 01:10:36 PM »

http://www.thedailybeast.com/articles/2013/04/26/the-ball-is-in-your-court-mr-president.html

From the article:

The Bush administration’s weapons-of-mass-destruction debacle in Iraq unfortunately means that only a UN confirmation of Syrian chemical weapons use will have real international credibility. The U.S., U.K., and Israeli intelligence assessments carry too much baggage to convince skeptics. Even George W. Bush recognized this in 2007, when he told Israel he could not use the American military to destroy a North Korean nuclear reactor built in Syria because of the legacy of his botched intelligence on Iraq.

But going to the United Nations needs to be done with alacrity like Bush’s father did after the Iraqi invasion of Kuwait in 1990. The key is to get Moscow to accept that use of chemical weapons crosses the line—and to demand concerted international action, even if it goes against Vladimir Putin’s man Assad. With U.N. proof, Putin can be boxed in. China will not stand alone against a U.N. Security Council consensus. That will leave Assad with only Iran and Hezbollah as allies.
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« Reply #43 on: April 26, 2013, 01:47:02 PM »

They make a good starting point. But the 'botched intelligence' or botched credibility of the US, UK and Israel exists in the same world as the botched credibility of Putin, Russia, the politburo of China and the UN itself.  The botched intelligence was regarding stockpiles of WMD, 8 months later.  Failure to find those (maybe they were transported to Syria) did not change the fact that Iraq had used chemical weapons on his own people and his neighbor, admitted in the article, and would have become a nuclear power by now without the action taken.  Going to the UN over chemical weapons in Syria is like passing more laws in Washington against illegal gun use here.  If we prove that Syria is a rogue nation, axis of evil, used chemical weapons on its own people, then what?  Compliance will require military action.  Who will do that?  And then what?

"Obama has an opening thanks to Asad’s use of chemicals, but it is fraught with peril if handled recklessly."

Our Syrian policy is fraught with peril no matter what course we take. 
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« Reply #44 on: April 28, 2013, 06:05:11 AM »

http://www.foreignpolicy.com/articles/2013/04/26/syria_chemical_weapons_strategy_obama

From the article:

You've got to hand it to him. Bashar al-Assad may be a cruel and ruthless dictator, but he does know how to play his cards. His careful, incremental introduction of chemical weapons into the Syrian conflict has turned President Barack Obama's clear red line into an impressionist watercolor, undermining the credible threat of U.S. military intervention. Despite Obama's statement on Friday that "we've crossed a line," Assad knows that the United States does not want to be dragged into a Middle Eastern civil war and is attempting to call Obama's bluff.
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« Reply #45 on: April 28, 2013, 01:17:47 PM »

Wow, it's like a new era of American weakness! Who could have forseen this?

http://www.foreignpolicy.com/articles/2013/04/26/syria_chemical_weapons_strategy_obama

From the article:

You've got to hand it to him. Bashar al-Assad may be a cruel and ruthless dictator, but he does know how to play his cards. His careful, incremental introduction of chemical weapons into the Syrian conflict has turned President Barack Obama's clear red line into an impressionist watercolor, undermining the credible threat of U.S. military intervention. Despite Obama's statement on Friday that "we've crossed a line," Assad knows that the United States does not want to be dragged into a Middle Eastern civil war and is attempting to call Obama's bluff.
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« Reply #46 on: April 29, 2013, 12:18:13 PM »


Russian Pantsir-S1 air defense launchers in Moscow last year. U.S. intelligence reports say Russia shipped SA-22 Pantsir-S1 units to Syria in 2008.

WASHINGTON—Lawmakers pressed the Obama administration to intervene in Syria's civil war, citing the regime's alleged chemical-weapons use, as the White House weighed its response against a sobering fact: Damascus has developed a world class air-defense system.
 

President Obama faces mounting pressure from lawmakers to help put an end to Syria's civil war. This while Damascus has developed a top-secret air-defense system. Washington Institute's Andrew Tabler has analysis. (Photo: AP)
.
That system, built, installed and maintained—largely in secret—by Russia's military complex, presents a formidable deterrent as the White House draws up options for responding to a U.S. intelligence report released last week concluding that Damascus likely used chemical weapons on the battlefield.
 

Leading Democratic and Republican lawmakers on Sunday said they didn't believe the U.S. should send American troops into Syria. They and the Obama administration are wary about U.S. involvement in another Middle East conflict after the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. But some called for a no-fly zone and more humanitarian aid.
 
Previously undisclosed details about Syria's antiaircraft systems outline the evolution of one of the most advanced and concentrated barriers on the planet, developed to ward off U.S. and Israeli warplanes, say U.S. intelligence and defense officials. The Obama administration only sporadically intervened to try to stop its construction, the officials say.

In White House meetings about military options for Syria, Gen. Martin Dempsey, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, frequently singles out Mr. Assad's air-defense prowess as the single biggest obstacle to U.S. intervention, according to current and former officials who participated in the briefings.


Advocates of military action believe the threat posed by Syria's defenses is overstated by the Obama administration, in part to justify not taking action. Some have cited Israel's successful bombing in January that targeted a suspected SA-17 antiaircraft missile shipment.
 
However, as Pentagon officials later learned, the Israeli planes never entered Syrian airspace.
 
Instead, the Israeli warplanes were flying over Lebanon when they executed what is called a "lofting" maneuver—using a sudden burst of speed and altitude to catapult a bomb across the border to the target about 10 miles inside Syria, according to a previously undisclosed U.S. account of the Israeli operation.
 
Israeli officials said the decision was made to bomb from the relative safety of Lebanese airspace for diplomatic as well as security reasons. The Israeli Embassy in Washington declined to comment.
 
Gen. Dempsey has told the White House that stealth aircraft and ship-based, precision-guided missiles could destroy many Syrian air-defense sites relatively quickly. But he has warned policy makers that mobile launchers would be harder to find and destroy and that their location among population centers likely would mean civilian casualties.
 
Officials believe any operation would also be costly and dangerous to U.S. personnel.
 
On Sunday, Sen. John McCain (R., Ariz.), a sharp critic of Mr. Obama's Syria policy, didn't discuss those risks in arguing that the U.S. should support a no-fly zone with unmanned aircraft to protect civilians and rebels. Other lawmakers called for more humanitarian aid.
 
"We can get in and out. That's not the issue," said a senior U.S. official. "The issue is can you take out the entire air defense system and keep it down. That's just completely a different kettle of fish."
 
U.S. officials were aware of Russia's involvement and tracked many of the upgraded systems during a period of rapid modernization after a 2007 Israeli airstrike on a suspected Syrian nuclear site. But the Americans rarely interfered, viewing Iran as the region's larger threat and, under the Obama administration, initially pursuing improved ties with both Russia and Syria.
 
Obama administration officials say they raised their concerns with Moscow in their meetings even if they knew Russia was unlikely to respond.

Now, with evidence mounting that the Syrian regime has used at least small amounts of chemical weapons against opponents of President Bashar al-Assad, the consequences of policy choices from a prior decade may limit the ability of the U.S. and its allies to respond today.

President Barack Obama has set the use of chemical weapons as a "red line" that could trigger U.S. military involvement. Reluctant to intervene, however, the White House has called for a deeper international investigation into evidence pointing to the likelihood that Syrian forces have gassed their opponents.

"We knew the Syrians were bolstering their air defense systems. We saw this as a Syrian effort to deter Israeli incursions," said one of the senior U.S. officials who helped oversee those efforts during Mr. Obama's first term. "But we [the U.S.] would pay attention to it sporadically. We had to pick and choose. The main focus was Iran."
 
U.S. officials believe Russia's goal in helping Mr. Assad was to deter the North Atlantic Treaty Organization from intervening in Syria as the alliance did in Libya in 2011 and in Serbia in 1998, operations Moscow opposed.

U.S. officials believe Russian technicians are on hand with many of the Syrian air-defense units, providing technical assistance. The Russians, many employees of Russian defense contractors, repair broken equipment with components imported from Russia, the officials said.
 
Officials at the Russian embassy in Washington said they don't discuss military and technical cooperation with other countries. But Moscow has denied any special relationship with Mr. Assad, arguing that Russia is supporting the principle of nonintervention.
 
The first air-defense deals between Russia and Syria date back decades. But 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.
 
The U.S. detected Mr. Assad was seeking major air defense expansions after a series of foreign incursions, including the 2007 Israeli bombing of a suspected nuclear site at al Kibar; the February 2008 assassination in Damascus of Imad Mugniyah, a high-ranking Hezbollah military commander; and a September 2008 car bombing that U.S. officials say targeted a Syrian military intelligence facility.
 
Embarrassed by Israel's ease of access to his country, Mr. Assad plunged into an effort to procure batteries of Russian interceptors and early warning systems. He arrayed them in overlapping concentric circles in and around population centers.
 
According to an internal U.S. intelligence assessment, in August 2008, Russia began shipping SA-22 Pantsir-S1 units to Syria. The system, a combination surface-to-air missile and 30 mm antiaircraft gun, has a digital targeting system and is mounted on a combat vehicle, making it easy to move. Today, Syria has 36 of the vehicles, according to the U.S. 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.
 
The U.S. is particularly worried about another modernized system provided by Moscow—the SA-5. With an operational range of 175 miles, SA-5 missiles could take out U.S. planes flying from Cyprus, a key NATO base that was used during Libya operations and would likely be vital in any Syrian operation.
 
Since March 2011, when the rebellion against Mr. Assad started, Russia has continued to support the air-defense system, providing key components and replacement parts, and sending technicians to test it, U.S. officials say.
 
Officials suspect one of the Pechoras shot down a Turkish reconnaissance plane last June, an incident closely studied by the U.S. and cited as evidence the system hasn't been degraded by the conflict.
 
Last November, U.S. intelligence agencies learned that a flight from Russia to Syria was carrying components for the SA-17 Grizzly antiaircraft system, according to U.S. officials, who say resupply flights continue.
 
The Pentagon decided it could do little to stop the shipments, reflecting Washington's shifting views of Damascus and a lack of U.S. influence with Russian President Vladimir Putin.
 
"A major focus has been on offensive weapons, not defensive," a senior Obama administration said of the U.S.'s approach under Mr. Obama toward arms transfers to Syria.
 
Defense officials worried that raising U.S.-Russian tensions over Syria could prompt Moscow to retaliate by making it harder for the U.S. to use needed air and ground routes though Russian territory to withdraw military supplies from Afghanistan.
 
Pentagon officials concluded it wasn't realistic to try to block all sales of air-defense systems. Instead, they decided to target what officials called "game changers"—the systems that most threaten Israel and the U.S.
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« Reply #47 on: April 30, 2013, 06:23:09 AM »

http://www.americanprogress.org/issues/security/news/2013/04/26/61511/responding-to-the-assad-regimes-likely-use-of-chemical-weapons/

From the article:

Together, the Assad regime’s use of chemical weapons and the regional strain of the refugee crisis call for additional actions from the United States, its regional partners and allies, and the international community as a whole.
 
American strategy so far has aimed at using tools short of direct and overt U.S. intervention to bring an end to the Assad regime.
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Crafty_Dog
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« Reply #48 on: May 01, 2013, 01:02:53 PM »

No US Troops in Syria

It would be a major mistake to put American troops in Syria.

No one in the region wants us invading yet another country. None of our allies want our strength diverted from Iran. There is no practical mission American forces could accomplish without a very large commitment.

America has three practical interests in Syria.

Of the highest urgency is keeping the large Syrian chemical weapons stockpile from getting into the hands of terrorists. Imagine the Boston bombing with a chemical weapon and you can immediately see why containing the Syrian chemical weapons is a very high, practical value for the United States.

Second, it would be helpful in containing and undermining Iranian power if the Assad dictatorship (its only major ally) were to fall.

Third, there is significant risk in having millions of refugees destabilize Jordan and weaken Turkey.

None of these interests justify a major American military campaign in Syria.

Syria's neighbors have an even greater interest in ending the war and controlling the chemical weapons. Israel, Turkey, Jordan, and Saudi Arabia all have a vested interest in making sure chemical weapons don't show up in their country.  The United States can provide intelligence, technical support, and in a worst case air power to destroy the sophisticated and massive Syrian anti-aircraft defenses (built with Russian help to stop Israel).

If the neighbors are not sufficiently worried to act, however, the United States should not be drawn in to acting for them.

We are in a period of retrenchment on military spending. Adding a third major war would lead to either massive increases in defense spending or a collapse of the Pentagon as an effective system.

The red line President Obama established about chemical weapons has to be a red line for the neighbors and for the world community. It cannot be simply a red line for the American military.

We should ponder the lessons of Iraq and Afghanistan and think long and hard before launching our third major war in 12 years.

No US troops in Syria is a pretty good place to draw the line.

Your Friend,
Newt
=================

Marc:

Newt's point about those in the region should be motivated to act as well, indeed, before us, is a good one.  My conversations with those of the sort who would be sent to do the deed tell me that there is little to no belief in the mission or our CiC.

Still, it is also in the US's interest that these chem weapons not get in enemy hands.

As far as US credibility goes, some posturing now (including the stupidity of giving night vision goggles to the rebels) will not change the fact that the damage is already done.

Baraq should have had some thinking in place about what he would have us do BEFORE he uttered "red line"  and "the president of the US does not bluff" and certainly once he did utter the words, some serious contingency planning should have been ordered.  Instead we are left with the distinct impression that pretty much no thinking whatsoever has been done.
« Last Edit: May 01, 2013, 01:10:14 PM by Crafty_Dog » Logged
DougMacG
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« Reply #49 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.
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