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Crafty_Dog
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« Reply #50 on: May 01, 2013, 04:03:14 PM »

Sounds fun, but haven't the Iranians put a lot of their facilities in civilian areas?  Isn't the US track record on nuke weapon program detection a tad weak after Iraq?
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DougMacG
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« Reply #51 on: May 02, 2013, 11:34:56 AM »

"Isn't the US track record on nuke weapon program detection a tad weak after Iraq?"

The final word I read (Iraq Study Group) was that Saddam was 6 years away from being fully nuclear - 11 years ago.  I don't know about our track record, but our credibility is gone.  One of the stories from the WMD elusive stockpile hunt was that the chemical weapons were being trucked to Syria.  If true, we were twiddling in meeting rooms with a seven month delay while they were moving, hiding, saving chemical weapons that perhaps still haunt us.  We still don't know what happened.  I don't hear anyone even ask the question now, where did Assad's chemical weapons originate?

If our President is planning to do nothing, drawing a lot of red lines for rogue states to cross isn't particularly helpful.  'If you gas your people one more time, we will, we will, we will help the rebels with bandages and medicine!'
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Israel has a different way of expressing concern about Syrian weapons:

September 6, 2007, Operation Orchard was an Israeli airstrike on a nuclear reactor in the Deir ez-Zor region of Syria. The White House and Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) later confirmed that American intelligence had also indicated the site was a nuclear facility with a military purpose.  http://afp.google.com/article/ALeqM5jWIBgbzyBkHnJzQeMi80gXfjX0-Q

Jan 30, 2013, Israeli jets bombed a convoy near the Lebanese border, apparently hitting weapons destined for militant group Hezbollah.  http://www.france24.com/en/20130131-israel-tight-lipped-over-air-raid-syrian-military-facility
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DougMacG
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« Reply #52 on: May 02, 2013, 01:19:06 PM »

Syria's Chemical weapons and locations?

A citizen journalism image provided by Aleppo Media Center AMC, which has been authenticated based on its contents and other AP reporting, shows black smoke rise from buildings due to government forces shelling in Aleppo, Syria, on March 19. (Aleppo Media Center/AP)

http://www.thedailybeast.com/articles/2013/05/02/where-are-syria-s-chemical-weapons.html
“We’ve lost track of lots of this stuff,” said one U.S. official. “We just don’t know where a lot of it is.”

http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424052702303644004577523251596963194.html
July 13, 2012:  U.S. Concerned as Syria Moves Chemical Stockpile

http://www.nytimes.com/2012/08/21/world/middleeast/obama-threatens-force-against-syria.html
Pres. Obama Aug 19, 2012:  “We have been very clear to the Assad regime, but also to other players on the ground, that a red line for us is, we start seeing a whole bunch of weapons moving around or being utilized.”

What is a "red line for us"?  NY Times calls it "Mr. Obama’s first direct threat of force against Syria".  Question remains, what is a "direct threat of force" translated from the original weasel-speak?

Obama's Director of National Intelligence, James Clapper of 'Muslim Brotherhood is largely secular' fame, clarifies:  “It would be very, very situational dependent to render an assessment"
http://www.nti.org/gsn/article/intel-chief-uncertain-us-ability-secure-all-syrian-chemical-arms/

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Crafty_Dog
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« Reply #53 on: May 06, 2013, 09:20:58 AM »

Editor's Note: According to reports, Israel launched a second round of airstrikes May 5 against Damascus. Syrian officials say a military research facility was among the targets hit. Since the strike, Israel has deployed two of its Iron Dome defense systems and closed northern Israel's airspace until May 9, while the Syrian military is rumored to have deployed several missiles aimed at Israel.

A reported Israeli airstrike into Syria on either May 2 or May 3 is another spillover effect of the country's ongoing civil war. Details are still scarce on the alleged strike, with U.S. officials reporting somewhat contradictory information to different news outlets, but the primary target of the strike is believed to have been a weapons shipment to Hezbollah, likely in transit. The Lebanese Army had earlier reported increased Israeli Air Force activity over its airspace -- a total of 16 flights by Israeli warplanes between the evening of May 2 and the afternoon of May 3, particularly over Marjayoun, Al Khayyam and Bint Jbeil.

As the Syrian conflict intensifies, it will continue to draw in Syria's neighbors over concerns ranging from rising jihadist threats to weapons proliferation.

The airstrikes are not the first reported Israeli ones on Syria this year. In January 2013, the Israeli Air Force is believed to have struck a shipment of weapons bound for Hezbollah in Lebanon consisting of SA-8 Gecko and reportedly SA-17 Grizzly surface-to-air weapons systems. As is the case with this week's strikes, the Israeli aircraft reportedly did not penetrate Syrian airspace, likely attacking their target by using altitude and speed to lob weapons such as U.S.-supplied Joint Direct Attack Munitions across the border into Syria or by using self-powered munitions such as the Delilah cruise missile.

Israeli officials have privately stressed that Israel maintains its own specific redlines in the Syrian conflict and that despite U.S. President Barack Obama's reported stance, the use of chemical weapons against rebels is not one of them. Specifically, Israeli officials have stressed that they will not tolerate transfers of chemical weapons, ballistic missiles, advanced air-defense systems or sophisticated anti-ship missiles to Hezbollah -- or jihadist seizures of such weapons.

Over the past months, the Syrian regime has also effectively withdrawn its forces from the Golan Heights in order to use them against the rebel threat encroaching on Damascus. This has heightened Israeli concern that jihadists will take advantage of the security vacuum in the Golan Heights to begin staging attacks against Israeli units in the area. Israel has said such action will not be tolerated.

Countries near Syria are already feeling the effects of the war. A massive influx of refugees is adding further stress to the already unstable economies of Lebanon and Jordan, and earlier this week a Turkish guard was killed in a border dispute with armed Syrians. Iraq is seeing increased jihadist activity linked to the Syrian conflict. As the conflict in Syria continues to rage, the spillover effects from the civil war will continue to manifest themselves.

Read more: An Israeli Airstrike into Syria | Stratfor
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Crafty_Dog
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« Reply #54 on: May 06, 2013, 01:32:44 PM »

second post of day
=================

 May 5, 2013 | 1511 GMT

According to Lebanon's Hezbollah-affiliated Almayadeen television channel, senior Syrian officials have said the Syrian military has deployed missile batteries aimed at Israel, Israel News reported May 5. The sources also allegedly said Syria is willing to equip the Lebanese resistance with new weaponry of all types. Israel, which maintains its own redlines in the Syrian conflict, has said it will not tolerate transfers of chemical weapons, ballistic missiles, advanced air-defense systems or sophisticated anti-ship missiles to Hezbollah.

Read more: Syria: Military Has Reportedly Deployed Missiles Aimed At Israel | Stratfor


===================


The latest Israeli airstrikes on Syria were predicated on two key factors. First, the Syrian regime is weakening so much that it cannot control its territory and, by extension, its weapons stockpiles could fall into the hands of non-state actors such as Hezbollah and al Qaeda. Second, Israeli intelligence discovered that a shipment of Iranian-made Fateh-110 short-range tactical ballistic missiles was being delivered to Hezbollah. Logistically it is difficult to prevent advanced weapons systems, particularly chemical agents, from proliferating once a regime has lost control of them, so further preventive strikes can be expected.

For its part, Syria has responded by saying any additional attacks from Israel will incur immediate retaliation. Syrian President Bashar al Assad reportedly sent a message to Washington (via Moscow), in which he authorized the use of ground-to-ground and ground-to-air missiles in the event of such retaliation. However, Syria lacks the military capability to follow through on its threats.

Analysis

Airstrikes on Syrian soil belie the fact that Israel is not taking sides in the Syrian civil war. As far as Israel is concerned, regime loyalists and the various rebel militias both threaten Israeli national security. And in some ways, it is in Israel's interest to prolong the collapse of the al Assad regime and to further the military stalemate: Doing so ensures that the conflict remains confined to Syria as much as possible.

But it is unclear whether Israel can actually achieve this. Even the United States, were it to get involved militarily, could not successfully confine the violence to Syria. Thus the limited airstrikes, which will likely continue as long as deemed necessary, are preventative measures rather than signs of assistance. Any future strikes likewise would be meant to mitigate risks as they appear.

However, any intervention that targets the Syrian regime and its allies has unintended consequences. For example, it enables al Assad and his allies to shape regional perceptions -- namely, that Israel and the rebels are fighting together. This complicates matters for rebels and their affiliate groups, which along with many Arab states have condemned the Israeli airstrikes.

The Syrian regime, Iran and Hezbollah would like to use this situation to their advantage. They believe drawing Israel into the conflict would be a useful way to ease the rebellion's pressure on them. Until these latest Israeli strikes, provoking Israel could also have been seen as too self-serving. But now that Israel has intervened on its own, there is an opportunity to escalate the situation and elicit a deeper Israeli involvement in Syria.

Their reasoning is that it would be difficult for the rebels to fight the Syrian regime if the country were under attack from Israel. But that calculation entails large risks, which would further undermine the already tenuous positions of Syria, Hezbollah and Iran. It is unclear whether the al Assad regime and its allies would be willing to take those risks.  

They would like to see some Sunni jihadist groups operating in Syria begin targeting Israel in an effort to divide the rebels' attention. Whether that will happen remains unclear. But the Israeli strikes have created a situation in which the Syrian civil war, heretofore a regional sectarian struggle, could turn into a wider international conflict.

Read more: Syria: Unintended Consequences of Israeli Airstrikes | Stratfor
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Crafty_Dog
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« Reply #55 on: May 09, 2013, 08:59:10 AM »

By JAY SOLOMON, ADAM ENTOUS and JULIAN E. BARNES

WASHINGTON—Israel has warned the U.S. that a Russian deal is imminent to sell advanced ground-to-air missile systems to Syria, weapons that would significantly boost the regime's ability to stave off intervention in its civil war.

(A 2012 photo shows a Russian S-300 surface-to-air missile system during a parade rehearsal near Moscow.)

U.S. officials said on Wednesday that they are analyzing the information Israel provided about the suspected sale of S-300 missile batteries to Syria, but wouldn't comment on whether they believed such a transfer was near.

Russian officials didn't immediately return requests to comment. The Russian Embassy in Washington has said its policy is not to comment on arms sales or transfers between Russia and other countries.

The government of President Bashar al-Assad has been seeking to purchase S-300 missile batteries—which can intercept both manned aircraft and guided missiles—from Moscow going back to the George W. Bush administration, U.S. officials said. Western nations have lobbied President Vladimir Putin's government not to go ahead with the sale. If Syria were to acquire and deploy the systems, it would make any international intervention in Syria far more complicated, according to U.S. and Middle East-based officials.

According to the information the Israelis provided in recent days, Syria has been making payments on a 2010 agreement with Moscow to buy four batteries for $900 million. They cite financial transactions from the Syrian government, including one made this year through Russia's foreign-development bank, known as the VEB.

The package includes six launchers and 144 operational missiles, each with a range of 125 miles, according to the information the Israelis provided. The first shipment could come over the next three months, according to the Israelis' information, and be concluded by the end of the year. Russia is also expected to send two instruction teams to train Syria's military in operating the missile system, the Israelis say.

Russia has been Mr. Assad's most important international backer, outside of Iran, since the conflict in Syria started in March 2011, and supplies Syria with arms, funding and fuel. Russia maintains a naval port in Syria, its only outlet to the Mediterranean. Moscow also has publicly voiced worries that a collapsed Syria could fuel Islamist activities in its restive Caucasus regions.

Secretary of State John Kerry met with Mr. Putin on Tuesday in Moscow. The leaders said they would stage an international conference this month aimed at ending the civil war. U.S. officials couldn't say whether Messrs. Kerry and Putin or their teams discussed the arms sale.

British Prime Minister David Cameron is scheduled to visit Mr. Putin in Russia on Friday. The White House on Wednesday said Mr. Cameron would visit Washington on Monday to discuss issues including Syria's civil war and counterterrorism, plus trade and economic issues, with President Barack Obama.

The Obama administration has argued that Mr. Assad has to leave office as part of a political transition in Damascus. The Kremlin has maintained that he retains a large base of support and should be included in negotiations over a future Syrian government.

Should Mr. Putin's government go ahead with the sale, it would mark a significant escalation in the battle between Moscow and Washington over Syria. U.S. officials said they believe Russian technicians are already helping maintain the existing Syrian air-defense units.

The first air-defense deals between Russia and Syria date back decades. Russia in recent years has stepped up shipments to modernize Syria's targeting systems and make the air defenses mobile, and therefore much more difficult for Israel—and the U.S.—to overcome.

According to a U.S. intelligence assessment, Russia began shipping SA-22 Pantsir-S1 units to Syria in 2008. The system, a combination of surface-to-air missiles and 30mm antiaircraft guns, has a digital targeting system and is mounted on a combat vehicle, making it easy to move. Syria has 36 of the vehicles, according to the assessment.

In 2009, the Russians started upgrading Syria's outdated analog SA-3 surface-to-air missile systems, turning them into the SA-26 Pechora-2M system, which is mobile and digital, equipped with missiles with an operational range of 17 miles, according to the assessment.

The U.S. is particularly worried about another modernized system Moscow provides—the SA-5. With an operational range of 175 miles, SA-5 missiles could take out U.S. planes flying from Cyprus, a key North Atlantic Treaty Organization base that was used during Libya operations and would likely be vital in any Syrian operation.

The U.S. has stealth aircraft and ship-based, precision-guided missiles that could take out key air-defense sites. Gen. Martin Dempsey, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, has privately told the White House that shutting down the system could require weeks of bombing, putting U.S. fighter pilots in peril and diverting military resources from other priorities.

According to an analysis by the U.S. military's Joint Staff, Syrian air defenses are nearly five times more sophisticated than what existed in Libya before the NATO launched its air campaign there in 2011. Syrian air defenses are about 10 times more sophisticated than the system the U.S. and its allies faced in Serbia.

Write to Jay Solomon at jay.solomon@wsj.com, Adam Entous at adam.entous@wsj.com and Julian E. Barnes at julian.barnes@wsj.com
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DougMacG
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« Reply #56 on: May 14, 2013, 08:33:55 AM »

I can't remember disagreeing with VDH.

http://pjmedia.com/victordavishanson/count-me-out-on-syria/?singlepage=true

Count Me Out on Syria    by Victor Davis Hanson    May 13th, 2013

There are good reasons to go into Syria, but far better ones to stay out.

Let us review a few of them. Syria is a humanitarian crisis with over one million refugees and 70,000 dead. But there are similar outrages in Mali, Somalia, and the Sudan. Why no calls to go there as well? Would U.S. troops, planes, or massive shipments of weapons stop the killing, or simply ensure endless cycles of death following the Assad departure? Will Syria’s Christians and other minorities become worse off with or without Assad?

More importantly, we do not at this late stage know which terrorist is a pro-Western Google-type, and which is a hard-core jihadist. The history of the Middle East in particular (see Iran in 1980) and world history in general (cf. France, 1794 or Russia, 1917) suggests that the more extreme, better organized revolutionary zealots, even when in the minority, usually win out over the moderate and sensible reformers in the post-war sorting out and sizing up. There are not many Washingtons, Jeffersons, or Madisons in the annals of revolutionary history.

When Assad goes, the postbellum mess will either go straight to the sham election of a Mohammed Morsi type, who will try to suspend the very constitution that brought him to power, or we will witness round two of Libyan-type violence. The bitter remedy for either, of course, is an Afghanistan or Iraq occupation, in which Americans spend blood and treasure to teach locals not to be their tribal selves. But that third alternative is absolutely politically unsustainable.

Of course, there are also strategic reasons for toppling Assad. How wonderful to see Hezbollah lose their Iranian-arms conduit, or to remove Syria from the Iran-Hezbollah axis. But is that not happening now anyway?

Apparently Israel thinks so. As I understand, their new cynical but strategically adept policy runs something like the following: now and then when Assad shows signs of recovery, or more bloodlust, or renewed interest in bringing down the region with him, bomb his assets just a little bit to refigure the score. That confuses everyone in Syria: do rebels damn or thank Israel, or both? Do Sunni nations smile or scowl? Does Assad retaliate and deplete his arsenal that is so critical to killing his fellow Arabs? Will rebels join with Assad against Israel, or remember that it helped them a bit when on the downside? In short, so far America has not intervened, and Syria, Iran, and Hezbollah are all three worse off for it.

Well apart from Benghazi, Susan Rice and Samantha Power’s Libya is a blueprint for nothing. This time around we will not get UN approval after assuring Russia and China last time that our “humanitarian aid” and “no-fly zones” did not entail ground support, which of course it immediately did. Do we want again to ignore the U.S. Congress and seek permission instead from the UN and Arab League?  Was the murder of Americans in Benghazi preferable to the so-called “new Gaddafi,” whom everyone from John McCain to the Europeans were suddenly fond of as a “reformer” intent on handing power over to his Westernized progeny?

And who not long ago said Bashar al-Assad was a “reformer”?

And who visited Syria in 2007 while Americans were dying in Iraq from jihadists harbored in Syria? And who blasted Bush for alienating Syria by ostracizing such an otherwise eager interlocutor (“The road to Damascus is the road to peace”)?

Consistency Should Matter

I have another confession about why, as a supporter of removing Saddam Hussein, I did not favor either the Libyan bombing or the proposed Syria intervention. In short, I have no confidence in those now calling for intervention to be there should things not go as planned. More have been killed in Afghanistan during Obama’s 52 months than during Bush’s nearly seven years. Announcing simultaneous surges and withdrawal dates is not wise. After all the blood and treasure spent in Iraq, not leaving a tiny monitoring force was shortsighted. An administration that not only lied about Benghazi but knew it was lying does not inspire confidence, especially in its amoral calculus in promoting a pre-election narrative of a weakened al-Qaeda after the killing of bin Laden and a reforming Libya after the removal of Gaddafi over the interest of truth and the safety of our own in Benghazi.

Consistency of any sort should matter also. I admire those like a Max Boot who wanted to go into Iraq and supported the cause to the bitter end. I even sort of admire a Pat Buchanan who thought Iraq a folly, and as a useful idiot on MSNBC damned those like me who supported the occupation. And I even admire Dennis Kucinich-types who thought intervention was wrong and staying on worse, and were ridiculed when the statue fell and the “Mission Accomplished” euphoria persisted. But I have no admiration for the zealots who called for the attack, basked in the spectacular removal of the Hussein regime, and then peeled off as the violence spiked and the soldiers were more or less on their own.

Like most of you, I did not write a letter in 1998 calling for the preemptive removal of Saddam Hussein. Most of us were indifferent to Bill Clinton’s regime change act. And I think most of us did not even know about those who wrote another letter to George W. Bush after 9/11 calling for preemption in Iraq again. But most of us agreed with 70% of the people that the Congress had logic and morality in their 2002 23-writ resolution calling to oust Hussein. Colin Powell made a sincere, but flawed, presentation. (It was not just the faulty intelligence, but the failure to mention all of the congressional resolutions for war.)

Once we did go in — along with the widespread support of the American people — I vowed to support the American effort to rebuild the country to the bitter end. And the end was certainly bitter. But by 2009 the American role in the war was all but over, a plan for a residual force to ensure the peace was in place, and what happened after that was now up to a new administration. I think leaving in toto was a bitter mistake, but leave we did and as a nation we live with the consequences.

Most Who Called for Removal of Saddam Eventually Turned on Bush

Here is my point. Most of those who called for preemption between 1998 and 2001 eventually turned on Mr. Bush, who had listened to them. Almost all the liberal and conservative pundits of the New York Times and Washington Post who wanted intervention eventually bailed with the suspect excuse of something like “my three-week brilliant take-down, your stupid five-year occupation.” Some claimed missing WMD gave them an out (as if we suddenly also learned that Saddam had not posted rewards for suicide bombers, murdered thousands, tried to kill a U.S. president, harbored terrorists, broke UN resolutions, gassed his own people, etc.).

Those who once sung Bush’s praises the loudest and urged him onward (give him the Nobel Prize, nuke Saddam, “I wrote the Axis of Evil line,” sweep the Middle East) were always the most clever of critics, as if the more Hillary screamed or Harry Reid declared the surge lost, the more we would forget their October 2002 calls to arms.

If in 2002 Iraq was to be a “cakewalk,” by 2004 it was “Bush’s war.” To name just a few across the political spectrum in random order, I’m sure that a Francis Fukuyama, Fareed Zakaria, Andrew Sullivan, George Will, the late William F. Buckley, Jr., Thomas Friedman, John Kerry, and thousands of others all had legitimate reasons in abandoning the cause of Iraq. Lord knows it was unwise to let thousands of scattered Ba’athist soldiers roam the streets of Iraq unemployed. How stupid was it to focus only on WMD when the Congress gave lots of reasons to remove Saddam? More tragic still was pulling out of Fallujah in April 2004 only to have to retake it in November. Why was a junior three-star mediocrity like Ricardo Sanchez put in charge of ground troops in Iraq? Why did Tommy Franks just quit almost at the moment the three-week war stopped and the reckoning started? “Bring ‘em on” and “Mission Accomplished” are speaking loudly while carrying small sticks. The list of screw-ups goes on and on. But the fact remains that victory in war goes not to those who make no mistakes, but to those who learn the most quickly from them in order to ensure the fewest in the future.

I also grant that one can change one’s mind. But here is the point, to paraphrase Matthew Ridgway of the mess he inherited in Korea: the only worse thing for a great power with global responsibilities than fighting a poorly conducted war is losing one.  I know too the age-old nostrums — that was then, this is now, things change, only with self-reflection comes wisdom, change is sometimes necessary, etc., etc.

But I have also lost all trust in the Democratic Senate, the commentariat, and the media to call for any U.S. intervention in the Middle East, given that there is a chance that it will go badly, the zealots will bail, and the soldiers alone will be stuck on the battlefield in a Middle East miasma, with little support at home — a Michael Moore lauding the enemy as “Minutemen,” a MoveOn.Org labeling Petraeus “General Betray Us,” an Alfred Knopf published novel imagining the assassination of a U.S. president, a prominent conservative confessing how he was “duped” by the “neo-cons,” and on and on. Again, been there, done that, sick of it.

One day drones and Guantanamo are war crimes originating from Afghanistan and Iraq, the next day they are … what, exactly? One day in 2004 Barack Obama has no problem with current U.S. policy in Iraq (“There’s not that much difference between my position and George Bush’s position at this stage”); one day in 2007 he wants all U.S. combat troops out by March 2008? In short, there is no evidence that either those in this administration or our elites in general are up for another bloody slog in the Middle East.

I also have only little sympathy now for “Arab reformers,” especially those ensconced at U.S. and European universities. Yes, Iraq was a mess. Bush was a twangy Texan, we know. I am sorry that we do not have mellifluous Martin Luther Kings or Abraham Lincolns around to send in F-16s. The fact remains that Bush was also an idealist, naïve maybe, but not an imperialist or colonialist. He was someone who really believed in establishing the chance of freedom in the Middle East, in the manner that he sought to provide cheap AIDS medication for Africa or expand Medicare prescription drugs, whether all on borrowed money or not. Hate him if you must for being a naïf, but not a British imperialist or Nixonian strategist.

Yes, call him dumb, naïve, amateurish, but not conniving or Kissengerian — as his realist critics, in fact, lamented. So the U.S. removed a monster who had killed a million. It stayed on at great cost. It took no oil. It took no territory. It ended up without even a base. After 9/11 it sought to remove a terrorist-subsidizing tyrant, end the no-fly zones, create something better, and spread constitutional governments in the wake. The Chinese, French, and Russians ended up profiting from U.S. blood and treasure.

Please, Spare Us Now “You Owe Us Help”

If Arab reformers ever wanted a shot at democracy, Iraq was still their golden opportunity. Instead, almost all damned the effort and caricatured Americans. I once in 2006 sat in a clinic in Tripoli listening to Arab intellectuals (or rather Gaddafi minders) explain to me the Jewish roots of the Iraqi war, and how Americans were siphoning oil off in the desert and flying it in tankers home. Finally, I could not even follow all the conspiracy theories concocted to explain how wicked the Maliki government was.

Please, spare us now “you owe us your help.” Al Jazeera one day magically can show videos of an IED tearing apart American soldiers, and the next day it is just a “media outlet” that gives Al Gore millions of its petrodollars for his access to cable TV. I’m sure it will advocate for Assad to go, for reformers to take his replace, and demonize the U.S. and “the Jews” all through the process.

We have been there, done that, and we have learned some great lessons about the 21st century, pre-modern Middle East, and any interventions into it: a) Arab reformers damn the U.S. for doing nothing, but they will damn it far more for doing something; b) interventionists believe that all success is their offspring, and failure is outsourced to someone else, usually the military or those who sent the military in; c) the Middle East lesson of Afghanistan, Iraq, and Libya is that only a huge U.S. ground presence, in the fashion of postwar Italy, Germany, or Japan, coupled with abject defeat of the enemy, can lead to any chance of consensual government.

Without bloody fighting and without massive U.S. aid either the enemy wins and takes over, or what replaces the enemy reverts to the mindset of the enemy. We can stand-off bomb as we did in the Balkans to bring something better, but the Balkans are in Europe, and we still have troops in the Balkans, and lots of those who pushed Clinton into bombing later wanted him to stop when it seemed all we could do was hit embassies and rest homes rather than missile sites.

Does this mean that under no circumstances should we ever bomb Iran, or take out a mass murderer with WMD? Perhaps not. But it does suggest that after Afghanistan, Iraq, and Libya, neither is the Middle East ready for U.S. invention nor is this generation of American elite leadership up for the task.

There is irony in seeing the opportunistic war critic Barack Obama out-drone Bush or be attacked on his Left by liberals, who rail at his callousness in not intervening in Syria. But there is not enough irony for schadenfreude — given that American soldiers might be sent into a theater by those who would support them only to the degree that they were deemed successful and blame their setbacks on everyone but themselves.

A nearly bankrupt and divided America after Afghanistan, Iraq, and Libya is not up for Syria — and an Arab Spring that on its own chose Winter does not deserve any more American blood.

Sorry, that’s just the way it is.
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G M
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« Reply #57 on: May 14, 2013, 09:58:37 AM »

My 3 point plan for no ground troops in Syria: Day 1) Take out the nuclear facilities in Iran with air strikes.  Day 2) Take out the North Korean missile threat with air strikes.  Day 3) Call Pres. Assad and ask if we can talk.

I like it.
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Crafty_Dog
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« Reply #58 on: May 14, 2013, 02:56:53 PM »

http://edition.cnn.com/2013/05/14/world/meast/syria-eaten-heart/?hpt=hp_t1
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Crafty_Dog
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« Reply #59 on: May 14, 2013, 05:40:55 PM »


Summary

A series of Russian diplomatic interactions with the United States, Israel and the United Kingdom over Syria are raising questions about whether Moscow is preparing to shift its position on Syria and to drop support for Syrian President Bashar al Assad's regime to facilitate a political transition in Damascus. The United States and Russia are now trying to co-host a peace conference, dubbed "Geneva 2," to reach a political solution to the conflict. A negotiated settlement on Syria involving Russia that extricates the al Assad regime without a U.S.-led military intervention is an ideal outcome for the United States, but such expectations amount to little more than wishful thinking.
 
The United States and Russia are still worlds apart on a number of broader issues in play. And though Russia has strong intelligence capabilities in Syria and a relationship with the al Assads, it cannot convince a minority regime to give up an existential struggle when its prospects for amnesty are so dim. Russia will make attention-grabbing moves on Syria to try to extract political concessions from the West, but the Kremlin is not prepared to sacrifice its Alawite allies in Damascus just yet. In fact, with a group of Russian warships heading to the Mediterranean Sea, Moscow is still trying to reinforce the embattled regime.
Analysis

In a previously unscheduled visit, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin on May 14 in Sochi. Putin reportedly extended the invitation to Netanyahu because Israel had been growing concerned that Russia was preparing to transfer the S-300 air defense system to Syria within the next few months. Syria already has a relatively robust air defense system, but the addition of the S-300 air defense system would bolster its capabilities and augment the complexities attached to a potential military intervention. Also, Russian technicians would maintain and operate the air defense system, further complicating Israeli attempts to target these weapons systems without drawing itself into a broader conflict with Moscow. Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov denied that Russia had any intention to sell the S-300s to Syria. He did, however, claim that Russia was delivering an air defense package to Syria under a 2010 agreement without providing any details on whether the weapons package would include the S-300 system.
 
Russia typically threatens to sale sensitive weapons to countries branded as political pariahs by the West as a way to grab Washington's attention on issues that Moscow deems critical. This is an old game that Russia has played with the United States over the past decade, leaking potential sales of S-300 systems to Iran to demand a conversation with the United States on issues like U.S. ballistic missile defense plans in Europe. This time the original source of the leak was U.S. media, citing U.S. and Israeli defense officials. This would mark a departure from Russia's usual method in leaking such sales through Russian media or defense officials. It is possible that the United States and Israel raised the S-300 issue as a way to build up opposition to Russia and to cast Moscow as an irresponsible stakeholder in Syria. But the threat of Russian weapons sales to Syria alone appears to have been enough to compel a last minute meeting between the Israeli Prime Minister and Russian leader.
 
A day before Netanyahu traveled to Sochi, British Prime Minister David Cameron had some unusually optimistic things to say about Russian involvement in Syria. Cameron met with Putin in Sochi on May 10 and then met with U.S. President Barack Obama on May 12 in Washington to discuss Syria. Following his meeting with Putin, Cameron said that he believes Putin is "prepared to adopt a more flexible approach on Syria." Cameron admitted that Russia was far from abandoning its support for the al Assad regime but said that he was struck by Putin's willingness to consider the Western point of view on Syria.
 
The apparently positive response that Cameron was able to elicit from Putin stands in marked contrast to the United States' recent interactions with Russia. In the lead-up to U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry's visit to Moscow on May 6, speculation was building that the United States was going to try to come to an agreement with Russia on Syria, particularly since the threat of chemical weapons proliferation was filling the headlines at the time. But the meeting between Kerry and Putin was visibly strained. While in Moscow Kerry made a point to meet with Russian nongovernmental organizations -- some of which were anti-Kremlin. Putin also made Kerry wait for hours before meeting with him. Russia appears to be holding onto one of its main negotiating tools  -- its weapons support for Syria -- to pressure the United States, while Washington is using its main leverage -- Western support of nongovernmental organizations in Russia -- to pressure Moscow. So far, this appears to fit into the pattern of U.S.-Russian retaliatory relations.
 
That Putin responded favorably to Cameron has more to do with Russia's strategic goals for Europe than it has to do with Syria. For the first time in two decades, we have seen a warming of relations between London and Moscow, driven primarily by the two countries' expanding energy relationship. Putin may have been willing to say the right things to Cameron to make the U.K. leader appear influential to Obama, but how far Russia is willing to go in cooperating with the West on Syria is another question.
 
Russia has a strategic interest in maintaining a naval presence in the Mediterranean at Syria's Tartus port. Even as Syria fragments along ethnic and sectarian lines, Tartus would still likely remain under Alawite control, making it imperative for Russia to maintain close ties with the ethnic minority when Moscow is already a clear adversary of the Sunni rebels. Moscow is one of the few countries that can hold a conversation with the United States, still has influence in the al Assad regime and has strong intelligence capabilities on the ground in Syria that could prove critical to Western attempts to seize and secure chemical weapons stockpiles. Russia may cooperate sporadically to entice the West, by restricting fuel shipments or certain weapons transfers, but as long as the United States acts disinterested, much less confrontational, with Russia, Moscow has little incentive to sacrifice its existing influence in Syria.
 
Currently, Russia is reinforcing its supply lines to Syria. It is deploying five to six warships with support ships from its Pacific fleet to establish a permanent presence in the Mediterranean Sea for the first time since the fall of the Soviet Union. A permanent command structure in the Mediterranean would oversee a constant presence of these ships that would be rotated in from different fleets. Critically, Russia's reinforced naval presence in the Mediterranean would not only entrench Russian interests in the region but could also provide a secure line of supply for the Alawites in Syria unless foreign groups want to risk a military conflict on the Mediterranean by trying to blockade these shipments.
 
Moreover, the conflict in Syria has likely surpassed diplomatic aspirations to negotiate a political exit for al Assad. The Alawites are engaged in an existential fight against Syria's Sunni majority, and their fate is joined by a substantial number of Shia in Lebanon and Iraq. In the absence of any legitimate offers for amnesty or protection for Alawites in Syria, there is little reason for them to give up the fight at this stage. On the other side of the conflict, Syria's Sunni population, emboldened by a broader Sunni regional effort to crack Iran's Shiite arc of influence, is not likely to cease fighting after a great deal of blood has already been shed, only to see a settlement in which power is shared with its sectarian adversaries. At most, the outside powers could attempt to come to an agreement to limit external support for both sides of the conflict.
 
But even if the United States and Russia can come to terms, which is looking unlikely, regional players like Saudi Arabia, Iran and Turkey have a vested interest in this fight and will also be driven by sectarian interests. The United States, Russia, the United Kingdom and others will continue to host conferences aiming for a political settlement to preclude the need for a foreign military intervention, but in the end, this is a struggle that will be decided on the battlefield in Syria, not in a diplomatic negotiation conducted by foreigners.

Read more: The Challenges of U.S.-Russian Diplomacy on Syria | Stratfor
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« Reply #60 on: May 20, 2013, 10:28:12 PM »



http://www.nytimes.com/2013/05/20/world/middleeast/syrian-army-moves-to-rebel-held-qusayr.html?nl=todaysheadlines&emc=edit_th_20130520
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« Reply #61 on: June 01, 2013, 09:12:45 AM »

I disagree with much of the tone of this piece, though eventually it does get to the significance of these missiles.

Syria: Misplaced Concern Over Possible Russian Missile Shipments
Analysis
MAY 30, 2013 | 1115 Print  - Text Size +
A Russian S-300 surface-to-air missile system outside Moscow on April 18, 2012. (KIRILL KUDRYAVTSEV/AFP/Getty Images)
Summary
Reports that Russia has delivered S-300 air defense missile batteries to Syria have yet to be confirmed. But even if the reports are true, the missiles would have a fairly negligible impact beyond deterring possible military intervention in the future. According to The New York Times, Syrian President Bashar al Assad confirmed May 30 that Russia already had delivered some of these weapons systems and that more were on the way -- so far, no one else has confirmed the delivery. However, the concern surrounding their introduction to the Syrian civil war is fairly overstated.

Analysis
The S-300s need to be kept in perspective. With their considerable range, they cover the full spectrum of aerial threats. They can target strategic enabler aircraft, such as aerial refueling tankers and early warning aircraft, and defend against low-flying cruise missiles. But these missiles -- indeed, any surface-to-air missile -- are completely useless against the Syrian rebels, who have neither an air force nor the munitions the S-300s are designed to combat.

When integrated in an overlapping and mutually supporting integrated air defense system -- as it would be in Syria -- the S-300 is a sophisticated weapon. Typically it operates in concert with several other surface-to-air missiles. Short-ranged but versatile point-defense systems -- such as the Pantsir-S1, which Syria operates, and the Tor missile system -- work to shield the S-300 from enemy anti-radiation missiles and other threats.

However, the S-300s are vulnerable to attack when they are deployed outside larger missile defense networks. For this reason, the batteries will be of little use to non-state actors such as Hezbollah and jihadists. Technically the missiles are mobile, but in reality the batteries are not very maneuverable and are highly conspicuous. Moreover, their radar emissions make them easy to detect. Non-state actors would be better served using other, lower-tech surface-to-air missiles, such as the 9K33 Osa and the 9K35 Strela-10.

In addition, S-300s are complex weapons that require significant expertise to operate, and it is unclear whether the Syrian military has received the requisite training. Given their sophistication, S-300s would necessitate several months of training to acquire basic competency. If Syrian crews have not already trained in Russia, then Russian personnel would have to at least partly operate the missile systems.

A Tool for Deterrence?

While the S-300s are worthless in the fight against Syrian rebels, they are nonetheless useful for other reasons -- namely, discouraging any military intervention. Once fully integrated into the Syrian air defense network, the S-300s will help deter foreign airstrikes. Certainly the batteries alone will not be able to repel a NATO or Israeli air campaign, but they will raise the risk of damage and casualties involved in an intervention. (Moreover, if Russian personnel are needed to operate the systems, their presence would also deter military intervention.)

In addition, the S-300 would enable Syria to strike deep into Israeli and Lebanese airspace. This would threaten a key aspect of Israel's military dominance of Syria. Israel has long been concerned with the presence of S-300s in the region, so it comes as no surprise that Israeli Defense Minister Moshe Yaalon warned of an Israeli response in the event Syria acquired the missiles. (Yaalon also said the delivery had not yet been made.)

Diplomatic efforts are expected to continue in hopes of convincing Russia to halt delivery. If these efforts fail, Israel has several options to disable the systems, including stand-off cruise missile strikes and AGM-78 (or, possibly in the future, AGM-88) anti-radiation missiles.

If confirmed, the delivery of S-300s will damage Israeli-Russian relations. Russia argued that if it did provide Syria with the missiles, it did so only out of contractual obligation, which predates the civil war. However, the timing of the alleged delivery sends a political message. Russia is unhappy with the European Union for lifting its weapons embargo to Syria, and it is unhappy with the United States for refusing to strike a larger bargain to work with Russia on the Syrian issue. The delivery could be a message to the West that Moscow still has leverage.

Beyond the alleged delivery of the S-300 system, it is important to highlight the sheer scope of Russian support for al Assad. This support includes economic and financial aid, the delivery of spare parts for military equipment and, according to a document published May 30 in The Washington Post, other weapons and ammunition germane to the ongoing conflict. At the same time, Russia is organizing another peace conference with the United States to show that it can play a role other than al Assad's primary weapons supplier.

Absent a fundamental understanding with the United States on more strategic issues, Russia's core interest is to sustain al Assad and prolong the conflict. For now, it is abundantly clear that Moscow is not ready to sacrifice its influence in Damascus.



Read more: Syria: Misplaced Concern Over Possible Russian Missile Shipments | Stratfor
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« Reply #62 on: June 15, 2013, 04:23:39 AM »

http://www.cbsnews.com/8301-250_162-57589252/u.s.-syria-used-chemical-weapons-crossing-red-line/

What say we here?
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« Reply #63 on: June 15, 2013, 04:54:30 AM »


Buraq now has a fig leaf for arming and supporting the MB once again.
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« Reply #64 on: June 15, 2013, 05:17:44 AM »

Here is another POV:

Morning Jolt
. . . with Jim Geraghty
            June 14, 2013
            I'll be on "Real News" on The Blaze once again this evening. There are
two possible reactions to this: "Wow! Will Cain, Amy Holmes and the rest
of the gang must find your analysis invaluable!" or "Wow, a lot of other
pundits must be on vacation these days!"
            The Administration Finally Acknowledges Brutal Reality in Syria
            I guess I should give the Obama administration some credit; part of me
wondered if they would try to avoid acknowledging the Syrian regime's
use of chemical weapons forever, or at least until the Syrian civil war
ended.
            Whatever your view on what our Syria policy ought to be, I hope we can
all agree that it hurts this country to be claiming to be unable to see
or verify chemical weapons use that the rest of the world seems to be
openly acknowledging and discussing.
            Dan Drezner is pretty cheery:
           
              Naturally, this will feed the "return of the liberal hawks" meme
that's spreading in some quarters.  Other commentators will gnash
their teeth or decry that this is the first ill-considered step
towards dragging the United States into another Middle Eastern war.
              To your humble blogger, this is simply the next iteration of the
unspoken, brutally realpolitik policy towards Syria that's been going
on for the past two years.  To recap, the goal of that policy is to
ensnare Iran and Hezbollah into a protracted, resource-draining civil
war, with as minimal costs as possible.  This is exactly what the last
two years have accomplished . . . at an appalling toll in lives
lost.   
              This policy doesn't require any course correction . . . so long as
rebels are holding their own or winning. A faltering Assad simply
forces Iran et al into doubling down and committing even more
resources.  A faltering rebel movement, on the other hand, does
require some external support, lest the Iranians actually win the
conflict.  In a related matter, arming the rebels also prevents
relations
with U.S. allies in the region from fraying any further.
              So is this the first step towards another U.S.-led war in the region?
No.  Everything in that Times story, and everything this
administration has said and done for the past two years, screams deep
reluctance over intervention.  Arming the rebels is not the same thing
as a no-fly zone or any kind of ground intervention.  This is simply
the United States engaging in its own form of asymmetric warfare.  For
the
low, low price of aiding and arming the rebels, the U.S. preoccupies all of its
adversaries in the Middle East.
           
            Doug Mataconis argues that a policy that leads to more Rwanda-like death
tolls is not merely acceptable, but the wiser choice than intervention:
           
              I don't deny that Syria is a tragedy, but not every tragedy demands
that the United States ride to the rescue. For example, in the 1990s,
the civil war in Rwanda led to massive numbers of deaths in what
turned into a Tutu-Hutsi bloodbath. President Clinton didn't intervene
in that conflict, for what I would argue were wise reasons, but
reports now indicate that it is one of the decisions of his Presidency
that he regrets. Notwithstanding the horrible
legacy of that war, Clinton is wrong to have any regrets. The idea of the United
States intervening in a tribal war in the middle of Africa is as absurd now as it
was then. In all likelihood, U.S. involvement in Rwanda would have just made a bad
situation worse. And, that's why we ought to keep our noses out of the tragedy in
Syria.
         
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« Reply #65 on: June 15, 2013, 11:23:52 AM »


Whose side should we be on when there is no good side to take?  Neither.  No help, no arms, no troops, no involvement, with the exception of keeping a keen eye on containment. 

More than a million people died in the Iran-Iraq war that Saddam caused.  A massive human tragedy and it didn't even receive a mention in the 23 justifications for removing him from power.  http://en.wikisource.org/wiki/Authorization_for_Use_of_Military_Force_Against_Iraq_Resolution_of_2002

It is dry powder and elevated readiness for the U.S. on this one.  We should be building up our economy for deterrence and to withstand big wars.  We need to re-think and re-build our arsenal to handle desert, jungle, mountain, air, sea and space in the coming turmoil.  We have lessons still to learn from Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Egypt, Tunisia, Libya, Yemen, Gaza, West Bank, Somalia, the pirates on the Horn, China seas, N. K., Kashmir, Boston, al qaida arrests in Minneapolis, expired Visas, our southern border, the Arctic conflict brewing with Russia, among others.

In the case of Syria, we can side with a genocidal dictator or help the Muslim Brotherhood and al Qaida expand and legitimize their power. Afterward, they will still be sworn to destroy us.
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« Reply #66 on: June 15, 2013, 01:55:44 PM »

BTW I would note that "our guy" in 2008 JMcC, has vigorously supported intervention in both Libya and Syria.
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« Reply #67 on: June 15, 2013, 02:48:24 PM »

Russia Outmaneuvers Obama Over Syria
America is playing catch-up with Putin in the Middle East. The G8 meeting starting Monday should be interesting. 
By JOHN BOLTON


President Obama's belated acknowledgment that Syria's regime has used chemical weapons effectively forced his decision on Thursday to arm the opposition. Whether Mr. Obama's U-turn alters the conflict's course is a different question. One thing seems certain: Russia's support for Bashar al-Assad remains unwavering. It should make for an interesting G-8 meeting on Monday and Tuesday in Northern Ireland.

Since Syria's civil war began, Mr. Obama has insisted, contrary to fact, that the U.S. and Russia have a common interest in resolving the crisis and stabilizing the Middle East. Secretary of State John Kerry's recent efforts to secure Russian co-sponsorship of a peace conference, at which Washington will push for Assad's ouster, reflect Mr. Obama's illusion.

The objective evidence consistently demonstrates that Russia has no interest whatever in eliminating its only remaining Arab ally. Moscow's military and financial assistance to Damascus continues undiminished, along with its hold on the Cold War-era Tartus naval base, strategically positioned on Syria's Mediterranean coast—but now facing only a phantom U.S. Sixth Fleet. Despite the hoopla surrounding the announcement of the proposed peace talks, their starting date, attendees, agenda and prospects all remain uncertain.

.
.Most dramatically, Russia last month reaffirmed its commitment to deliver sophisticated S-300 air-defense missile systems to Assad. Although Israeli leaders have played down the sale's significance, this combination of advanced radars and missiles, which can defeat any non-stealthy aircraft (and Israel does not now have stealth planes), could change the strategic balance in Syria as well as in Lebanon and Iran—to Israel's detriment and ours.

Altering that broader strategic balance is precisely what Russia intends, exploiting President Obama's McGovernite "come home, America" policies, repeated in May when he again declared the war on terror almost over. Mr. Obama's continuing lack of interest in global threats to the U.S. is another manifestation of his inattention to defending the tenuous global stability on which the world's economy—and America's—critically rests.

Three years ago, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu pleaded with Vladimir Putin not to sell S-300 systems to Iran. Mr. Netanyahu feared that Iran's nuclear program, sheltered behind the S-300 air defenses, would be impervious to Israeli strikes. Although the U.S. could penetrate and destroy S-300s in Iran, Israel does not believe (and didn't in 2010) that Mr. Obama is serious when he says "all options are on the table" concerning Washington's possible military steps.

Perhaps responding to still-unknown Israeli commitments, Mr. Putin agreed not to send S-300 missiles to Iran, publicly citing Security Council Resolution 1929—the last substantive United Nations sanction against Tehran that Russia and China have permitted. This is more than a little ironic, since Russia had previously contended that Resolution 1929's arms sanctions did not bar sales of antiaircraft missiles, an assessment entirely shared by the Obama administration.

Because Russia's public interpretation of Resolution 1929 is clearly incorrect, the interpretation could easily be reversed, or simply ignored, should Russia so choose. Since 2010, Israel has reportedly trained against S-300s previously sold to Cyprus, but this is hardly equivalent to confronting them in combat situations wielded by skilled operators. Despite Israel's recent bluster regarding S-300s, Mr. Netanyahu reprised his pilgrimage to Moscow on May 14, this time hoping to block the Syrian sale. Mr. Putin refused.

Enlarge Image

CloseAssociated Press
 
President Obama and Russia's President Vladimir Putin in Los Cabos, Mexico, in 2012.
.Much, therefore, depends on how effectively Moscow trains Assad's military, or, even more chillingly, whether Russian crews will operate S-300s in Syria, which would definitely raise the stakes for NATO or Israeli attacks on the missile or radar emplacements.

There is enormous political symbolism in the S-300 deal, which is bolstered by Russian sales of antiship missiles and MiG fighters, and naval deployments to the Eastern Mediterranean. Russia's support to prevent Assad's fall is already having a considerable impact on the conflict, whatever steps Mr. Obama may now hesitatingly undertake.

The spillover prospect of using S-300s to protect Hezbollah's weapons in Lebanon's Bekaa Valley is significant both for Israel and for Hezbollah's ever-larger role in Syria's hostilities. Iran's mullahs also benefit, especially if S-300s bound for Syria find their way into Iranian hands. The ever-closer Tehran-Moscow relationship underlines the essentially negligible prospects for negotiating Iran out of its nuclear-weapons program.

While Mr. Obama sleepwalks, Mr. Putin is ardently pursuing Russia's Middle East objectives. He has always been clear about his larger goals.

In 2005, Mr. Putin told the Russian Federation Assembly that "the collapse of the Soviet Union was a major geopolitical disaster of the [last] century," which he clearly hoped to remedy. Mr. Putin's neo-imperialistic goals now extend globally. In Soviet days, Americans joked that Sergei Lavrov, now Russian foreign minister, was a closet royalist, but he longs less for a Romanov restoration than for a return to the czars' hegemonic achievements.

While the evidence about Russia's strategic objectives may not be conclusive, the direction is ominous. And as long as America operates on the assumption that the U.S. has common interests with Russia in Syria, Lebanon, Iran or the Middle East generally, we will see Moscow's influence rise and ours decline. Even in today's Washington, that's a scandal.

Mr. Bolton, a senior fellow at the American Enterprise Institute, is the author of "Surrender Is Not an Option: Defending America at the United Nations and Abroad" (Simon & Schuster, 2007).

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« Reply #68 on: June 18, 2013, 08:55:46 AM »

a) http://www.glennbeck.com/2013/06/17/watch-share-both-parties-are-dragging-us-into-war-in-the-middle-east/

b) I know! Lets give these guys night vision goggles and manpads!

http://dcclothesline.com/2013/06/17/syrian-rebels-sing-we-destroyed-america-with-a-civilian-airplane/?fb_source=pubv1

c)  Is what we are doing a matter of doing what is necessary to keeping this thing going and letting them kill each other?

« Last Edit: June 18, 2013, 09:12:10 AM by Crafty_Dog » Logged
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« Reply #69 on: June 18, 2013, 09:22:55 AM »

Hey, let's support these mujahadeen fighting the Soviets in Afghanistan, what downside could there be?
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« Reply #70 on: June 18, 2013, 09:28:02 AM »

Worth noting there that there was one helluva an upside too-- arguably precipitating the fall of the Soviet Empire.
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« Reply #71 on: June 18, 2013, 09:39:23 AM »

Supporting the muj started with Carter. Forcing the Soviet collapse was Reagan's doing.
« Last Edit: June 18, 2013, 09:41:31 AM by G M » Logged
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« Reply #72 on: June 18, 2013, 09:54:35 AM »

Yes, in part by arming the M. with stingers.
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« Reply #73 on: June 18, 2013, 10:21:00 AM »

A very small part.
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« Reply #74 on: June 18, 2013, 10:32:45 AM »

Well, I'd quibble with that, IMHO the Soviet defeat in Afg was more than a very small part, but anyway, let's return to the subject of the thread.
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« Reply #75 on: June 18, 2013, 04:10:51 PM »

 Lee Smith writing online for The Weekly Standard, June 17:

As if there isn't already enough on the agenda for the G-8 Summit, now Syrian president Bashar al-Assad is threatening Europe . . . explaining [to the German daily Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung] that European Muslims traveling to Syria to fight the regime "will return, battle-hardened and with an extremist ideology." The reality, however, is that Europe has much to fear from the regime, which waged a campaign of terror in Europe, particularly Paris, in the 80s. Then under the direction of Bashar's father Hafez, the regime's most notorious operation on the continent was the 1986 Hindawi Affair. An agent of the Damascus regime, Nezar Hindawi, put a bomb in the bag of his girlfriend, an Irish woman unaware of what she was carrying on board a Tel Aviv-bound EL AL flight out of London's Heathrow airport. After the airline's security detected the explosives, Hindawi took refuge in the Syrian embassy in London, leading to Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher's decision to break off diplomatic relations with Syria.

When the Assad regime issues threats, it's worth taking them seriously.
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« Reply #76 on: June 23, 2013, 10:20:49 AM »

 Intervention in Syria Is a Very Bad Idea
By  Victor Davis Hanson
June 17, 2013 12:01 PM

Syria is turning out to be a sort of Spanish Civil War of our age, with Hezbollah and Iran playing the role of fascist Italy and Germany, and the Islamic nations and jihadists that of Stalin’s Russia, as the moderates disappear and the messy conflict becomes a proxy war for greater powers, with worse to come.

There were always problems for the Obama administration intervening in Syria besides the usual bad/worse choices in the Middle East between authoritarianism and Islamic extremism and the president’s own preference for sonorous sermons rather than rapid action.

For all of 2012, Barack Obama ran on the theme that he had removed the last troops from Iraq and soon would do the same in Afghanistan. So a third intervention in Syria was not to be a campaign talking point, especially after Benghazi.

Hillary Clinton, Nancy Pelosi, and John Kerry were all on record saying that Assad’s Syria was more or less reforming, the nuances of its newfound moderation missed by the supposedly swaggering Bush administration. Lead from behind in Libya had led to Benghazi, not an empowered Arab Spring.

Our record elsewhere is no better. The Muslim Brotherhood certainly did not turn out to be “largely secular” or uninterested in political power. The Egyptian economy is a disaster. Asking the Arab League and the U.N. — but not the U.S. Congress — before intervening in Libya also proved a model for nothing, especially after we hoodwinked the Russians and the Chinese at the U.N. into voting for a no-fly zone and humanitarian aid, only to offer no ground support to the Libyan rebels. I doubt Russia and China will vote for any such similar U.N. resolution for Syria.

U.S. influence in the Middle East and North Africa is at a new post-war low. That Iran supposedly plans to send 4,000 fighters to Syria suggests that it is not too afraid of anyone threatening its nuclear facilities or of the supposedly crushing oil boycott.

There is no guarantee that American air support or close training might not end up in some sort of American ground presence — the only sure guarantee that so-called moderates might prevail should Assad fall. Of course, any costly intervention would eventually be orphaned by many in the present chorus of interventionists in a manner that we also know well from Iraq. We are told that dealing a blow to Iran and Hezbollah would be a good thing, and no doubt it would be. But in the callous calculus of realpolitik, both seem already to be suffering without U.S. intervention.

Thousands are dying and that is a terrible thing, but how exactly the U.S. could stop the killing is a mystery, as is why the Syrian dead are more important than the greater aggregate humanitarian disaster in Somalia, Sudan, Ethiopia, or Mali. The jihadists who did a photo-op with John McCain do not assure us that weapons used against Assad’s army, Hezbollah terrorists, and Iranians won’t go rogue. If an airliner goes down, we will know that they already have.

The president finally seems to want to do something. But that something is complicated by his past calls for Bashar Assad to leave, and his unserious red lines about the use of chemical weapons. It is said that Obama is finally prepared to act a bit, shamed by the two Clintons’ usual backstage politicking and his own worries of doing something to make his own scandals disappear under news bulletins of new national-security crises.

But Syria is hopelessly more complicated and messy than it was 18 months ago. The arrival of Susan Rice and Samantha Power into respective higher positions of power is said to be a sudden catalyst for action, but the former’s credibility is shot, and the latter’s Arab Spring portfolio is, too. The Kerry/Rice/Power team, led from behind by Obama on the back nine, cannot yet define how they would oversee a consensual government to replace Assad, given that under the protocols of American support for the Arab Spring even a pro-U.S. authoritarian would be unacceptable.

Most Americans do not favor intervention of any serious sort, and Obama is not up to drumming up public support. He announced a surge and then simultaneous withdrawals in Afghanistan; since then he rarely mentions the war or the brave Americans stuck there fighting it. A campaign theme was that the United States was all out of Iraq, without a small residual force to keep the Maliki government somewhat honest.

In short, Team Obama does not have its heart in doing much of anything in the Middle East — not in Egypt, Libya, Afghanistan, Iraq, or in the War on Terror in general. Given that the American people have no great love for most of those killing one another in Syria, we would be wise to stay out, and send food and medicine to alleviate the suffering of the innocent.
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« Reply #77 on: June 25, 2013, 10:18:44 AM »

Obama Succeeded in Libya; He's Failing in Syria' (Steve Clemons, The Atlantic)

"In the case of Libya, Obama acted surgically and preempted the typical slippery slope to a larger military intervention that involved 'owning the outcomes' inside Libya. Obama's strategy worked, and the U.S. in partnership with France, England, the UAE, and Qatar delivered a low-cost political transition inside Libya. 

With Syria, Obama is behaving in ways that run counter to the decision criteria he applied in Libya. He is committing intelligence and military resources to a crisis that does not have UN Security Council sanction, and he is not framing his response to the chemical weapons use in terms of either punishing the commanders who authorized their use -- or to secure those weapons. Instead, Obama is joining the rebel forces and committing to a regime change formula that could potentially falter. And that is before calculating the global strategic costs of getting in a nasty stand-off with Russia whose support is needed on other global challenges.

This is sloppy interventionism -- strategically inchoate, potentially at conflict with other larger and more important U.S. strategic goals, and potentially the kind of commitment that obligates the United States to support a rebellion that America avoided doing in the Libyan case."
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« Reply #78 on: June 29, 2013, 09:33:35 PM »

http://thecable.foreignpolicy.com/posts/2013/06/27/islamists_auction_off_cars_to_buy_heat_seeking_missiles_for_syrian_rebels
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« Reply #79 on: June 30, 2013, 09:02:21 PM »

http://www.theblaze.com/stories/2013/06/30/catholic-priest-beheaded-in-syria-by-al-qaeda-linked-rebels-as-men-and-children-take-pictures-and-cheer/
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« Reply #80 on: July 01, 2013, 08:40:56 AM »

Not clear to me who it is that put this EXTREMELY brutal video together,

http://www.liveleak.com/view?i=b57_1372272008

there seems to be quite a collection of various languages amongst the crowd beheading the two captives, but the CIA and the Mossad are blamed for supporting this.

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« Reply #81 on: July 14, 2013, 11:20:45 PM »

Summary

A recent series of attacks in Syria is seriously threatening the rebels' unity. On July 11, Islamic State of Iraq and Sham fighters in Syria allegedly assassinated Kamal Hamami, a leader of the rebel Supreme Military Council, in the Turkmen mountains near the northern city of Latakia. The perpetrator of many such attacks, the Islamic State of Iraq and Sham risks undermining its own position in Syria as well as that of the wider rebellion against Syrian President Bashar al Assad's regime.
Analysis

The Islamic State of Iraq and Sham's attacks have been part of the group's fight for territory and a leadership position within the wider jihadist movement in Syria. This effort has often led to tensions and skirmishes between the group and Jabhat al-Nusra, which the Islamic State of Iraq and Sham has attempted to subsume. The group has also been agitated by the Supreme Military Council's close coordination with the West. It opposes any Western interference in Syria and does not want to see any coordination with the West in the effort to topple Bashar al Assad.

In fact, Paris, London and Washington have been pushing the more moderate rebel groups, such as the Supreme Military Council, to act against the jihadist groups, including al-Nusra and the Islamic State of Iraq and Sham. Though open strife between the rebel factions undermines the rebellion, the West is worried about the jihadist groups' growing strength and influence in Syria. The jihadists have assimilated many foreign fighters, including many from Europe, and there is considerable concern that the groups could seize chemical and other weapons, such as man-portable air defense systems, or send hardened militants back to the West.

An outright conflict between the Supreme Military Council and the Islamic State of Iraq and Sham would throw the rebels into turmoil at a time when the wider rebel movement is facing significant pressure from regime forces in Homs and Damascus. However, such a rift also could greatly allay Western fears over arming the rebels. For instance, the U.S. Congress will be far more inclined to support the Supreme Military Council if the council is actively fighting not only the al Assad regime but also its one-time allies, the jihadists.

However, it is doubtful that an influx of weapons would counterbalance the damage to the rebellion caused by infighting. Already the rebellion has been threatened by increased clashes between Kurdish fighters and the rebels, among different rebel groups over energy resources and among the different jihadist groups.

Indeed, ever since Islamic State of Iraq leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi moved his group into Syria and claimed that a merger had taken place between the Islamic State of Iraq and the Syrian jihadist movements, tensions have been building within the rebel ranks. Unlike Abu Mohammad al-Golani, who is nominally the leader of Jabhat al-Nusra, al-Baghdadi has been uncompromising in his dealings with other rebel groups and civilian groups alike. While al-Nusra has provided social services in an attempt to cultivate good will from the populace and has coordinated with other rebel groups, the Islamic State of Iraq and Sham has repeatedly been accused of carrying out executions across Syria and has repeatedly attacked other rebel groups. For example, on July 5 the group allegedly assassinated the leader of the Hamza Assad Allah Brigade and his brother in the town of al-Dana.

Al-Baghdadi and his group's unrestrained violence is reminiscent of Abu Musab al-Zarqawi's leadership in Iraq. The extremism of al-Zarqawi's al Qaeda in Iraq ultimately worked against the group, driving the Sunni tribes toward the coalition with the creation of the Sons of Iraq program. While the threat from al-Baghdadi's group is unlikely to lead the broader rebellion in Syria to side with the al Assad regime, various rebel groups will increasingly end up fighting the Islamic State of Iraq and Sham just as they fight the regime. Even al-Nusra may find itself increasingly pushed toward greater cooperation with the Supreme Military Council against al-Baghdadi.

Despite its significant combat expertise, the Islamic State of Iraq and Sham simply does not have the numbers to face off against both the regime and other rebel groups. The United States has already placed a $10-million bounty on al-Baghdadi (second only to the bounty on al-Zawahiri), and with his group increasingly isolated, al-Baghdadi's odds of survival get smaller every day.

Read more: In Syria, One Group's Aggression Challenges the Rebels' Unity | Stratfor

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« Reply #82 on: July 14, 2013, 11:38:18 PM »

second post

Legal Fears Slowed Aid to Syrian Rebels
By ADAM ENTOUS

A string of cautionary opinions from administration lawyers over the last two years sheds new light on President Barack Obama's halting and ultimately secretive steps to provide military support to rebels in Syria's deadly civil war.

Members of the so-called Lawyers Group of top legal advisers from across the administration argued that Mr. Obama risked violating international law and giving Syrian President Bashar al-Assad the legal grounds—and motivation—to retaliate against Americans, said current and former officials.

Syrian rebels last week headed to the town of Bsankol in the northwestern province of Idlib to join comrades fighting regime forces for the control of the highway that connects Idlib with Latakia.

The group's arguments in part help explain why the White House agonized over Syria intervention and why Mr. Obama eventually opted to provide military aid to the rebels covertly through the Central Intelligence Agency, to help mitigate the legal risks and keep the U.S.'s profile low.

Administration lawyers recently determined that providing such aid was allowed under U.S. domestic law, helping to clear the way for limited arms shipments to handpicked groups of rebels likely starting in August. But the lawyers sidestepped questions over international law by asserting that supporting the rebels was justified by a number of factors: the humanitarian crisis in Syria, alleged human-rights violations by the regime and Iranian arms shipments that violate U.N. Security Council sanctions.

"They are assuming the risks," said a former administration official involved in the legal debate.

    U.S. Legal Grounds for Backing Syrian Rebels

Experts say President Bill Clinton took a similar approach in justifying the Kosovo bombing campaign in 1999, which, like the Syria effort, wasn't authorized by the U.N. Security Council.

"An old trial lawyer adage is that when the law is not on your side, argue the facts instead," said John Bellinger, a former State Department legal adviser during the Bush administration. "Here, the [administration] is saying that the aid is permissible under U.S. domestic law but is careful to avoid saying the aid is permissible under international law."

U.N. Security Council resolutions that could authorize outside intervention in Syria have been blocked by Russia, which was critical of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization-led mission in Libya in 2011, constraining the U.S.'s legal options.

As a consequence of the decision to provide support through the CIA, officials say, U.S. military aid to rebel forces is more limited than it would have been had it gone through the military.  The CIA's arming of the rebels is expected to begin now that a tentative accord has been reached with lawmakers who had threatened to freeze some funding, officials said. Lawmakers are still demanding that the administration report back with further justification for the CIA program before taking additional action, officials say.

A reconstruction of the debate over arming the Syrian opposition shows how much administration lawyers played a cautionary role in the process, parrying calls for more assertive U.S. action by citing the risks of skirting international law, triggering a shooting war and setting legal precedents that could be cited by other countries, such as Russia and China.

At the State Department, lawyers reviewing the proposals found themselves at odds with their more forward-leaning bosses—former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and now John Kerry—who both pushed a reluctant Mr. Obama to ramp up military support to the rebels, including through the provision of arms.  Some of the lawyers involved were uncomfortable with what they saw as a policy that could be seen as similar to the Reagan administration's backing of Nicaragua's Contra guerrillas in the 1980s.

Some of them cited a 1986 decision from the International Court of Justice on the American role in Nicaragua that said the U.S. was in "breach of its obligation under customary international law not to intervene in the affairs of another state."

U.S. officials give two possible explanations as to why the lawyers were cautious. Some say it reflected the extent to which Mr. Obama and his legal advisers sought to draw a distinction with the Bush administration and its approach to international law. Others say it reflected Mr. Obama's deep reluctance to take steps that could lead the U.S. into another war in the Middle East. The Lawyers Group, which has existed in previous administrations, works by consensus in order to avoid presenting "the client"—the president—with split legal decisions.

Key members of the group raised objections soon after the start of the Syrian uprising, in March 2011, when some in the State Department argued for recognizing the opposition and severing ties to the regime, said current and former officials.

Then-State Department legal adviser Harold Koh and other administration lawyers argued that could be viewed as meaning the U.S. no longer recognized Mr. Assad's government, officials involved in the debate said.  That, they argued, could relieve him of his responsibilities under international law such things as the use of chemical weapons under his government's control. After months of internal debate, the administration called on Mr. Assad to "step aside" but didn't recognize the opposition.

In summer 2012, the White House began to focus on State Department and CIA proposals to ramp up support to the rebels, from providing nonlethal military support, including body armor and night-vision goggles, to small arms, officials say.

In response, the Lawyers Group questioned whether the State Department could provide military support directly to forces fighting a war in which the U.S. wasn't formally engaged. Lawyers also told the White House that providing military aid would allow Mr. Assad under international law to declare Americans combatants, whether in military uniforms or not, and target them for taking sides in another country's civil war.

The lawyers said even a State Department proposal to supply rebel fighters with food rations could give Mr. Assad legal grounds go after Americans.

"The giving of aid is the equivalent of taking sides—if you give them guns or you give them food to survive, you're still supporting them in the effort and the other side can consider you the enemy," one former Obama administration official said.

In December, Mr. Obama recognized a Western-backed opposition coalition as the "legitimate representative of the Syrian people in opposition to the Assad regime," a carefully worded statement that administration lawyers believed stopped short of full recognition.

The legal debate over providing military support to the rebels came to a head earlier this year.

In February, Secretary of State Kerry was poised to fly to Rome where officials hoped he would announce a U.S. decision to, for the first time, provide nonlethal military equipment along with halal meals and medical kits, directly to the Western-backed rebel army of Gen. Salim Idris, current and former U.S. officials said.

At the time, the administration balked at authorizing the State Department to provide military equipment: Using the State Department to do so was "legally available" under domestic law, but questionable under international law. As a result, Mr. Kerry announced only plans to provide food rations and medical kits, disappointing the opposition.

Some lawyers continued to raise objections to even the pared-down plan, arguing that Gen. Idris's Free Syrian Army should deliver the supplies only to unarmed civilians, instead of giving them to fighters, said an official briefed on the matter.

In the end, the State Department delivered the rations and medical kits based on a legal determination that such provisions didn't count as military aid because they didn't improve the fighters' ability, officials said. Moreover, the White House decided the aid couldn't be given exclusively to fighters, but should also go to nonfighters.

While the smaller CIA footprint may reduce the risk that Mr. Assad will launch attacks on U.S. personnel arming and training rebels mainly in Jordan and diplomats and aid workers in other countries such as Lebanon, current and former officials say the legal risks remain.

The lawyers told the White House that Mr. Assad was under no obligation to draw a distinction between the CIA and other branches of the U.S. government.

"Once Assad claims a right to attack American citizens, we're in a whole new game," a former official said.
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« Reply #83 on: July 28, 2013, 04:57:05 PM »

http://mobile.wnd.com/2013/04/russia-delivers-new-al-qaida-warning-to-u-s/
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« Reply #84 on: July 28, 2013, 05:39:46 PM »


Of course, Buraq wouldn't support them otherwise.
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« Reply #85 on: August 16, 2013, 09:40:57 AM »





Syria

Anti-tank guided missiles recently supplied by Saudi Arabia are boosting rebel positions in southern Syria. (Q: Where did the Saudis get them?  From us?  Why is there not limitation on resale?!?)  Opposition fighters reportedly used the Russia-designed Konkurs anti-tank weapons in an assault on the Syrian army in Daraa as well as near the rebel stronghold of Laja. According to some experts, the recent arms deliveries may signal the beginning of a major supply line, headed by Saudi Arabia, into southern Syria. Meanwhile, the U.S. Defense Department is converting a warehouse on the outskirts of the Jordanian capital of Amman into a military operations center, Centcom Forward-Jordan, in order to coordinate support for the Jordanian military. The move comes as Jordan copes with a soaring refugee crisis from the Syrian civil war and as concerns of cross-border spillover increase. Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, General Martin E. Dempsey, said the mission is to show Jordanians "that they can count on us to continue to be their partner." He continued, "We are at our best when we can actually shape events and prevent conflict." Thousands of Syrian refugees flowed into the Kurdistan region of northern Iraq on Thursday, crossing a new pontoon bridge over the Tigris River. According to the United Nations, between 5,000 and 7,000 refugees followed an initial group of about 750 people, adding to the over 150,000 Syrian refugees already registered in Iraq.
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« Reply #86 on: August 25, 2013, 07:10:36 PM »

I know, after throwing away our accomplishments in Iraq and now totally unwilling to confront Iran, led by this Commander in Chief and and his well-earned reputation for gravitas and advised by Samatha Powers, Susan Rice, and John Kerry, lets start mucking around in Syria to tilt things in favor of AQ.  After all, it worked so well in Libya , , ,

http://thehill.com/blogs/defcon-hill/army/318653-hagel-us-military-ready-for-all-contingencies-in-syria
« Last Edit: August 25, 2013, 07:12:34 PM by Crafty_Dog » Logged
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« Reply #87 on: August 25, 2013, 08:17:48 PM »

second post of the night

http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424127887323407104579034633663263254.html?mod=us_news_newsreel#

Sounds like a clusterfuck coming down the pike to me-- but at least our military is well-funded and knows its CIC has its back , , , and Iran knows that Sec Def Hagel will be a real hardass with it if necessary.  After all, look at the position he took on sanctions , , ,

I do like that the UN is not regarded as the only game in town for getting "permission" , , ,
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« Reply #88 on: August 26, 2013, 06:22:45 AM »

I remember when it was very bad to go to war in the middle east over WMD.

Massive protests from the peace movement in 3.....2.......never.
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« Reply #89 on: August 26, 2013, 07:45:49 AM »

Andrew Roberts: Syria's Gas Attack on Civilization
It takes a barbarian to employ poison gas. Assad joins the ranks of Mussolini, Hitler and Saddam Hussein.


    By
    ANDREW ROBERTS

'Gas! Gas! Quick, boys! An ecstasy of fumbling, fitting the clumsy helmets just in time; but someone still was yelling out and stumbling, and flound'ring like a man in fire or lime . . . ."

Wilfred Owen's poem, "Dulce et Decorum Est," describing his experience of a chlorine-gas attack in World War I, highlights its horror and explains in part the thinking behind the Geneva Protocol for the Prohibition of the Use in War of Asphyxiating, Poisonous or other Gases, which comprehensively outlawed such weapons in 1925.

Only 4% of all battlefield deaths in the Great War had been caused by gas, yet the foul nature of those deaths meant that gas held a particular terror in the public imagination. Since 1925, it has only been countries that are recognized to be outside the bounds of civilization that have taken recourse to it.

The latest outlaw to do so is Syria's dictator, Bashar al-Assad, who deployed chemical weapons against opponents of his regime in the suburbs of Damascus on Aug. 21, according to press reports and a statement over the weekend by Doctors Without Borders.

The first was Benito Mussolini's Fascist Italy, which unleashed mustard gas on the Ethiopian subjects of Emperor Haile Selassie in the Abyssinian campaign of 1935-41. The gas dropped by the Italian air force was known by the Ethiopians as "the terrible rain that burned and killed."

The horrific results wrought upon unarmed civilians, photographed by the International Red Cross, were much the same as Wilfred Owen described in his poem about a comrade on the Western Front who had failed to put his gas-mask on in time: "Dim, through the misty panes and thick green light, as under a green sea, I saw him drowning. In all my dreams, before my helpless sight, he plunges at me, guttering, choking, drowning."

Although both the Axis and Allied powers in World War II considered using poison gas, neither did, possibly through fear of retaliation. Adolf Hitler did use gas to perpetrate his Holocaust against the Jews in Europe. But he did not unleash this weapon on the battlefield—not even on the Eastern Front, where he considered that he was fighting against Slavic untermenschen (sub-humans).

His hesitation to use gas on the battlefield was not due to the fact that he had himself been gassed in the trenches of World War I, but because he rightly suspected an overwhelming Allied response to any first use of such a weapon. Winston Churchill actively considered using poison gas both defensively—in June 1940, when Britain faced invasion—and offensively, in July 1944, to aid the attacks on the Ruhr. Fortunately, no invasion came in 1940, and in 1944 he and the British chiefs of staff decided against the use of poison gas, putting moral considerations above the undoubted military benefits.

Enlarge Image
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Getty Images

A soldier succumbs to poison gas in France, 1918.

In the Korean War, the Chinese and North Korean intelligence services alleged that the United States had used aircraft to drop flies, fleas and spiders infected with anthrax, cholera, encephalitis, plague and meningitis in "germ bombs." In January 1998, documents in the Russian presidential archives conclusively proved that the charges were entirely fraudulent—invented as a way of blaming America for outbreaks of these infectious diseases in their own countries.

Some Marxist fellow-travellers in the West, such as the British academic Joseph Needham, promoted these foul libels, but even they—and, significantly, the disinformation machines of Beijing and Pyongyang—never went so far as to accuse the U.S. of using poison gas. They recognized that no one would believe that United Nations forces in Korea would be so barbaric as to resort to such weapons.

In 1987 and 1988, Saddam Hussein launched attacks on no fewer than 40 Kurdish villages in northern Iraq, using new mixtures of mustard gas and various nerve agents such as Sarin, Tabun and VX. (Ten milligrams of VX on the skin can kill a man, while a single raindrop weighs eighty milligrams.) The worst attack came on March 16, 1988, in Halabja.

Iraqi troops methodically divided the town into grids, in order to determine the number and location of the dead and the extent of injuries, thereby enabling them scientifically to gauge the efficacy of various different types of gases and nerve agents. One of the first war correspondents to enter the town afterward, the late Richard Beeston of the Times of London, reported that "Like figures unearthed in Pompeii, the victims of Halabja were killed so quickly that their corpses remained in suspended animation. There was a plump baby whose face, frozen in a scream, stuck out from under the protective arm of a man, away from the open door of a house that he never reached."

Between 4,000 and 5,000 civilians, many of them women and children, died within a few hours at Halabja, through asphyxiation, skin burns and progressive respiratory shutdown. However, a further 10,000 were "blinded, maimed, disfigured, or otherwise severely and irreversibly debilitated," according to a report by the University of Liverpool's Christine Gosden.

These victims later suffered neurological disorders, convulsions, comas and digestive shutdown. In the years to come, thousands more, the State Department noted, were to suffer from "horrific complications, debilitating diseases, and birth defects" such as lymphoma, leukemia, colon, breast, skin and other cancers, miscarriages, infertility and congenital malformations, leading to many more deaths.

It takes a barbarian to employ poison gas. Benito Mussolini, Adolf Hitler (with Zyklon B) and Saddam Hussein were three such, and today another is Assad. Yet the Chinese and Russians continue to excuse and defend him, and the White House ties itself into rhetorical knots in order to avoid having to topple him.

It's true that in this civil war, shrapnel and Kalashnikov bullets have killed many more of the 100,000 Syrians than has poison gas. Nevertheless, it is right that the use of poison gas by Assad be singled out for special condemnation.

Wilfred Owen, who was himself killed a week before the end of the Great War, recalled in "Dulce et Decorum Est" his gassed comrade's "white eyes writhing in his face, his hanging face, like a devil's sick of sin" and how he heard "the blood come gargling from the froth-corrupted lungs, obscene as cancer, bitter as the cud of vile, incurable sores on innocent tongues." There is a long and honorable history of the civilized world treating those dictators who use poison gas as qualitatively different from the normal ruck of tyrants whose careers have so stained the 20th and 21st centuries.

President Obama, who talks endlessly of the importance of civilized values, must now uphold this one.

Mr. Roberts, an historian, is the author, most recently, of "The Storm of War: A New History of the Second World War" (Harper, 2011).
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« Reply #90 on: August 26, 2013, 10:22:45 AM »

This piece makes an important point about chem warfare and the consequences of it going unpunished, but it is completely devoid of any solutions beyond a call to "Do something!" 

As Doug's post of the George Will piece in the UN thread nearby notes, the great likelihood is that the "something" will be a "gesture".

In the absence of a coherent strategy (and see the recent posts in the Foreign Policy thread for some ideas), FWIW my sense of things for Syria in this moment is this:

"Don't do something!  Just stand there!"
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« Reply #91 on: August 26, 2013, 12:14:21 PM »

Attention dictators! When you engage in mass murder, don't use chemical weapons, or you might be subjected to token military gestures.

Maybe Buraq can just send Assad an IPod with a collection of his speeches.
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« Reply #92 on: August 26, 2013, 04:19:02 PM »

John Kerry's statement:
http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/worldviews/wp/2013/08/26/read-the-full-transcript-kerrys-speech-on-syria-chemical-weapons-and-the-need-to-respond/?Post+generic=%3Ftid%3Dsm_twitter_washingtonpost

http://www.timesofisrael.com/syria-iran-issue-explicit-warning-to-israel-if-us-attacks/

Good thing Iran has not armed Hamas and Hezbollah with over 50,000 rockets that cover pretty much the entirety of Israel, probably including Israel's nuke facility.  Oh wait , , ,

Good thing we have an aircraft carrier sitting off shore.  Oh wait , , ,

Good thing we have maintained the number of carriers off of Iran.  Oh wait , , ,

I have predicted several times here that Israel made a historic error when it did not finish Hezbollah all the way to the Bekkaa (Sp?)Valley the last time it invaded Lebanon.  President Bush had given them green light but then when Hezbollah fought well, they quit.    I hope I am wrong about this , , ,
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« Reply #93 on: August 26, 2013, 08:05:21 PM »

David Burge @iowahawkblog

If Syria used chemical weapons against the VMAs, would we be so quick to condemn them?
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« Reply #94 on: August 27, 2013, 01:06:53 AM »

VMA?
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« Reply #95 on: August 27, 2013, 08:12:53 AM »

VMA?

MTV's Video Music Awards. Where you can see civilization die in realtime.
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« Reply #96 on: August 28, 2013, 09:02:09 AM »

Only a graduate from Columbia's school of journalism (propaganda) could come up with this contrast as a defense of her One.  Of course she now works for the very 'objective' out fit Time:

****6 Ways Syria 2013 Isn’t Iraq 2003

A ‘Coalition of the Willing’ to deal with WMDs may sound familiar, but these two plots are vastly different

By Jay Newton-Small @JNSmallAug. 28, 201319 Comments   

      Presidential Reunion: Scenes from the Opening of the Bush Library
Brooks Kraft / Corbis for TIME
President Barack Obama applauds former president George W. Bush at the dedication of the George W. Bush presidential library on the campus of Southern Methodist University in Dallas.

Follow @TIMEPolitics
       
An American president says a Middle Eastern country has weapons of mass destruction. He builds a “coalition of the willing” for a military strike against said country.

Sound familiar?

It could be President Barack Obama in 2013 or President George W. Bush in 2003, or so fear liberal Democrats leery of getting involved in yet another war in the Middle East.

“While the use of chemical weapons is deeply troubling and unacceptable, I believe there is no military solution to the complex Syrian crisis,” Rep. Barbara Lee, a California Democrat who famously was the only member to vote against authorizing the war in Afghanistan, said Tuesday in a statement on her Facebook page. “Congress needs to have a full debate before the United States commits to any military force in Syria — or elsewhere.”

But Obama, who ran on a platform in 2008 of ending Bush’s wars in the Middle East, isn’t Bush, and there are important distinctions between the two scenarios. Here are six ways Syria 2013 isn’t Iraq 2003:

Regime change

Bush made no secret that his plan was to topple Iraqi President Saddam Hussein. This time around, the Obama administration is taking pains to say that ousting Syrian strongman Bashar Assad is the last thing they want as it would only create a power vacuum the disorganized Syrian opposition isn’t ready to fill. “I want to make clear that the options that we are considering are not about regime change,” White House spokesman Jay Carney told reporters Tuesday. “They are about responding to a clear violation of an international standard that prohibits the use of chemical weapons.”

A limited engagement

U.S. officials are looking at a two-day, limited strike on Syria, which would not involve any American boots on the ground — compared to the 130,000 U.S. troops Bush had already mustered on Iraq’s borders by the time he declared his intentions to the public. The purpose in Syria is to punish Assad so that he knows he cannot use chemical weapons against his own people with impunity. Striking the weapons themselves could potentially create too much collateral damage, so Syrian military sites are being selected. Whereas Bush envisioned five months in Iraq — which turned into 10 years — Obama hopes his engagement will be counted in days, not weeks.

Arab support

Most of the Arab world opposed Bush’s invasion of Iraq. The entire Arab League except Kuwait condemned the war. And Turkey denied the U.S. use of its military bases. This time around, most of the Arab world, with the exceptions of Iraq and Lebanon, supports strikes against Assad, and Saudi Arabia and Turkey are in talks to potentially participate in the military operation.

European support

Remember Freedom Fries? France and much of Europe weren’t wild about going to war in Iraq. France is now spearheading the effort to oust Assad, although Germany and southern Europe remain skeptical of military involvement. Britain, of course, was as much on board with Iraq in 2003 as it is with Syria in 2013.

WMDs

This time, there’s next to no doubt they actually exist. The pretense for the war in Iraq was disproven: Hussein’s alleged WMD stockpiles were never found. In this case, the international community has, with the exception of Russia and Iran, accepted and condemned the use of chemical gas in Syria last week that killed as many as 1,300 people.

Congress

Bush asked for and received overwhelming permission and support from Congress to invade Iraq. When asked, Carney  on Tuesday said Syria poses a “significant challenge to or threat to the United States’ national security interests.” The language is important, as the president must seek permission from Congress to go to war unless the U.S. is imminently threatened. So, Carney’s careful categorization would seem to indicate that no matter what Lee wants — she sent a letter with 20 of her colleagues asking Obama seek permission from Congress to engage in Syria— he likely will go this alone as he did Libya.

Maybe Obama should allow the debate in Congress. It’d be a headache, for sure, and the posturing could last longer than the intervention itself, but it might also reassure nervous members like Lee who worry Obama is getting the U.S. into another decade-long war in the Middle East. And given U.S. polls showing huge opposition to engagement in Syria, it might help assuage the American public as well.


Read more: http://swampland.time.com/2013/08/28/6-ways-syria-2013-isnt-iraq-2003/#ixzz2dGvrMUJU*****
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« Reply #97 on: August 28, 2013, 09:52:23 AM »

1)
http://www.thedailybeast.com/articles/2013/08/28/how-u-s-strikes-on-syria-help-al-qaeda.html

2)
Also, Col. Ralph Peters, (who, btw got Afpakia right when after we overthrew the Taliban said we should leave) is emphatically against this on the ground of enemies killing enemies being a good thing.    Also, he does not feel the CiC has close military advisers and is failing to consider Hebzollah counters to Israel and Iranian counters to the Straights of Hormuz.

3)  Obama's Bluff
Geopolitical Weekly
Tuesday, August 27, 2013
Stratfor
By George Friedman

4)
http://www.popularmechanics.com/technology/military/weapons/how-the-us-could-take-out-syrias-chemical-weapons-14826307


Images of multiple dead bodies emerged from Syria last week. It was asserted that poison gas killed the victims, who according to some numbered in the hundreds. Others claimed the photos were faked while others said the rebels were at fault. The dominant view, however, maintains that the al Assad regime carried out the attack.

The United States has so far avoided involvement in Syria's civil war. This is not to say Washington has any love for the al Assad regime. Damascus' close ties to Iran and Russia give the United States reason to be hostile toward Syria, and Washington participated in the campaign to force Syrian troops out of Lebanon. Still, the United States has learned to be concerned not just with unfriendly regimes, but also with what could follow such regimes. Afghanistan, Iraq and Libya have driven home the principle that deposing one regime means living with an imperfect successor. In those cases, changing the regime wound up rapidly entangling the United States in civil wars, the outcomes of which have not been worth the price. In the case of Syria, the insurgents are Sunni Muslims whose best-organized factions have ties to al Qaeda.
Still, as frequently happens, many in the United States and Europe are appalled at the horrors of the civil war, some of whom have called on the United States to do something. The United States has been reluctant to heed these calls. As mentioned, Washington does not have a direct interest in the outcome, since all possible outcomes are bad from its perspective. Moreover, the people who are most emphatic that something be done to stop the killings will be the first to condemn the United States when its starts killing people to stop the killings. People would die in any such intervention, since there are simply no clean ways to end a civil war.

Obama's Red Lines

U.S. President Barack Obama therefore adopted an extremely cautious strategy. He said that the United States would not get directly involved in Syria unless the al Assad regime used chemical weapons, stating with a high degree of confidence that he would not have to intervene. After all, Syrian President Bashar al Assad has now survived two years of civil war, and he is far from defeated. The one thing that could defeat him is foreign intervention, particularly by the United States. It was therefore assumed he wouldn't do the one thing Obama said would trigger U.S. action.

Al Assad is a ruthless man: He would not hesitate to use chemical weapons if he had to. He is also a very rational man: He would use chemical weapons only if that were his sole option. At the moment, it is difficult to see what desperate situation would have caused him to use chemical weapons and risk the worst. His opponents are equally ruthless, and we can imagine them using chemical weapons to force the United States to intervene and depose al Assad. But their ability to access chemical weapons is unclear, and if found out, the maneuver could cost them all Western support. It is possible that lower-ranking officers in al Assad's military used chemical weapons without his knowledge and perhaps against his wishes. It is possible that the casualties were far less than claimed. And it is possible that some of the pictures were faked.

All of these things are possible, but we simply don't know which is true. More important is that major governments, including the British and French, are claiming knowledge that al Assad carried out the attack. U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry made a speech Aug. 26 clearly building the case for a military response, and referring to the regime attack as "undeniable" and the U.S. assessment so far as "grounded in facts." Al Assad meanwhile has agreed to allow U.N. inspectors to examine the evidence onsite. In the end, those who oppose al Assad will claim his supporters concealed his guilt, and the insurgents will say the same thing if they are blamed or if the inspectors determine there is no conclusive evidence of attacks.

The truth here has been politicized, and whoever claims to have found the truth, whatever it actually is, will be charged with lying. Nevertheless, the dominant emerging story is that al Assad carried out the attack, killing hundreds of men, women and children and crossing the red line Obama set with impunity. The U.S. president is backed into a corner.

The United States has chosen to take the matter to the United Nations. Obama will make an effort to show he is acting with U.N. support. But he knows he won't get U.N. support. The Russians, allies of al Assad and opponents of U.N.-based military interventions, will veto any proposed intervention. The Chinese -- who are not close to al Assad, but also oppose the U.N.-sanctioned interventions -- will probably join them. Regardless of whether the charges against al Assad are true, the Russians will dispute them and veto any action. Going to the United Nations therefore only buys time. Interestingly, the United States declared on Sunday that it is too late for Syria to authorize inspections. Dismissing that possibility makes the United States look tough, and actually creates a situation where it has to be tough.

Consequences in Syria and Beyond

This is no longer simply about Syria. The United States has stated a condition that commits it to an intervention. If it does not act when there is a clear violation of the condition, Obama increases the chance of war with other countries like North Korea and Iran. One of the tools the United States can use to shape the behavior of countries like these without going to war is stating conditions that will cause intervention, allowing the other side to avoid crossing the line. If these countries come to believe that the United States is actually bluffing, then the possibility of miscalculation soars. Washington could issue a red line whose violation it could not tolerate, like a North Korean nuclear-armed missile, but the other side could decide this was just another Syria and cross that line. Washington would have to attack, an attack that might not have been necessary had it not had its Syria bluff called.

There are also the Russian and Iranian questions. Both have invested a great deal in supporting al Assad. They might both retaliate were someone to attack the Syrian regime. There are already rumors in Beirut that Iran has told Hezbollah to begin taking Americans hostage if the United States attacks Syria. Russia meanwhile has shown in the Snowden affair what Obama clearly regards as a hostile intent. If he strikes, he thus must prepare for Russian counters. If he doesn't strike, he must assume the Russians and Iranians will read this as weakness.

Syria was not an issue that affected the U.S. national interest until Obama declared a red line. It escalated in importance at that point not because Syria is critical to the United States, but because the credibility of its stated limits are of vital importance. Obama's problem is that the majority of the American people oppose military intervention, Congress is not fully behind an intervention and those now rooting the United States on are not bearing the bulk of the military burden -- nor will they bear the criticism that will follow the inevitable civilian casualties, accidents and misdeeds that are part of war regardless of the purity of the intent.

The question therefore becomes what the United States and the new coalition of the willing will do if the red line has been crossed. The fantasy is that a series of airstrikes, destroying only chemical weapons, will be so perfectly executed that no one will be killed except those who deserve to die. But it is hard to distinguish a man's soul from 10,000 feet. There will be deaths, and the United States will be blamed for them.

The military dimension is hard to define because the mission is unclear. Logically, the goal should be the destruction of the chemical weapons and their deployment systems. This is reasonable, but the problem is determining the locations where all of the chemicals are stored. I would assume that most are underground, which poses a huge intelligence problem. If we assume that perfect intelligence is available and that decision-makers trust this intelligence, hitting buried targets is quite difficult. There is talk of a clean cruise missile strike. But it is not clear whether these carry enough explosives to penetrate even minimally hardened targets. Aircraft carry more substantial munitions, and it is possible for strategic bombers to stand off and strike the targets.

Even so, battle damage assessments are hard. How do you know that you have destroyed the chemicals -- that they were actually there and you destroyed the facility containing them? Moreover, there are lots of facilities and many will be close to civilian targets and many munitions will go astray. The attacks could prove deadlier than the chemicals did. And finally, attacking means al Assad loses all incentive to hold back on using chemical weapons. If he is paying the price of using them, he may as well use them. The gloves will come off on both sides as al Assad seeks to use his chemical weapons before they are destroyed.

A war on chemical weapons has a built-in insanity to it. The problem is not chemical weapons, which probably can't be eradicated from the air. The problem under the definition of this war would be the existence of a regime that uses chemical weapons. It is hard to imagine how an attack on chemical weapons can avoid an attack on the regime -- and regimes are not destroyed from the air. Doing so requires troops. Moreover, regimes that are destroyed must be replaced, and one cannot assume that the regime that succeeds al Assad will be grateful to those who deposed him. One must only recall the Shia in Iraq who celebrated Saddam's fall and then armed to fight the Americans.

Arming the insurgents would keep an air campaign off the table, and so appears to be lower risk. The problem is that Obama has already said he would arm the rebels, so announcing this as his response would still allow al Assad to avoid the consequences of crossing the red line. Arming the rebels also increases the chances of empowering the jihadists in Syria.

When Obama proclaimed his red line on Syria and chemical weapons, he assumed the issue would not come up. He made a gesture to those in his administration who believe that the United States has a moral obligation to put an end to brutality. He also made a gesture to those who don't want to go to war again. It was one of those smart moves that can blow up in a president's face when it turns out his assumption was wrong. Whether al Assad did launch the attacks, whether the insurgents did, or whether someone faked them doesn't matter. Unless Obama can get overwhelming, indisputable proof that al Assad did not -- and that isn't going to happen -- Obama will either have to act on the red line principle or be shown to be one who bluffs. The incredible complexity of intervening in a civil war without becoming bogged down makes the process even more baffling.

Obama now faces the second time in his presidency when war was an option. The first was Libya. The tyrant is now dead, and what followed is not pretty. And Libya was easy compared to Syria. Now, the president must intervene to maintain his credibility. But there is no political support in the United States for intervention. He must take military action, but not one that would cause the United States to appear brutish. He must depose al Assad, but not replace him with his opponents. He never thought al Assad would be so reckless. Despite whether al Assad actually was, the consensus is that he was. That's the hand the president has to play, so it's hard to see how he avoids military action and retains credibility. It is also hard to see how he takes military action without a political revolt against him if it goes wrong, which it usually does.

5) •   The Worst Argument for War in Syria Is Spreading CONOR FRIEDERSDORF
The Worst Argument for War in Syria Is Spreading
Some hawks want America to strike no matter how bad an idea it seems to be.
CONOR FRIEDERSDORFAUG 28 2013, 8:30 AM ET

Earlier this week, I criticized the Washington Post editorial board for advocating acts of war against Syria without addressing (or seeming to even consider) the costs, risks, and likelihood of success. There are pro-war arguments I can respect, however opposed to another war as I am. But the Post's editorial struck me at the time as a particularly frivolous, irresponsible call for war.

I've subsequently been shocked to discover that this madness masquerading as logic -- circumstance demands an act of war, no matter the consequences! -- is now being made consciously and explicitly.

Here's Eugene Robinson writing in the Post:
History says don't do it. Most Americans say don't do it. But President Obama has to punish Syrian dictator Bashar al-Assad's homicidal regime with a military strike -- and hope that history and the people are wrong.
And here's Aaron David Miller writing in Politico:
So far, Obama has been the Avoider-in-Chief when it comes to Syria. But the latest use of chemicals by Assad -- perhaps their most extensive deployment since Saddam Hussein killed thousands of Kurds in Halabja - mandates a response, no matter how ineffective or risky it proves to be.
This shouldn't require saying, but if you believe that long experience suggests a particular war is a bad idea -- if you believe that a particular war is likely to be risky and ineffective -- you ought to oppose it! Imprudent acts of war cause more death and devastation than would their absence.  
Opposing wars likely to prove imprudent is the moral thing to do.
How is that now in dispute?

6)  Comments from a knowledgeable observer:  

The original French protectorate split Syria into three provinces.  The Alawites had the coast north of Lebanon.  The Druze had a small part of the southeast.  The rest of Syria was called Damascus.  The Alawites held the power because they held the only access to the Mediterranean for an otherwise landlocked nation.
, , ,
Remember that the Alawi are really Sunni Twelvers (with a more pronounced recognition of Jesus) that controlled the only coastline of the current nation.  They dealt from a position of power.  The Sunni majority accept the secular Alawi like the Assads because it gives them access to the Mediterranean through Latakia.  Also, remember that Assad’s father was military who was part of a pro-Baath tribunal that helped Syria secede from the United Arab Republic (Egpyt) and that he came to power after there was a split on the Ba’ath movement in Syria around 1970.  

7) Question (GM your google fu skills may serve us well once again here)  What is the true history of the US supporting Hussein with regard to his gassing the Kurds?

Cool Worth comparing is the number killed by the chem attacks and the number of Coptic Christians killed without notice by our CiC.

9) A dubious source perhaps, but worth noting http://www.washingtontimes.com/news/2013/may/6/syrian-rebels-used-sarin-nerve-gas-not-assads-regi/
« Last Edit: August 28, 2013, 10:49:38 AM by Crafty_Dog » Logged
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« Reply #98 on: August 28, 2013, 02:37:23 PM »

7) Question (GM your google fu skills may serve us well once again here)  What is the true history of the US supporting Hussein with regard to his gassing the Kurds?

http://www.iraqwatch.org/suppliers/nyt-041303.gif

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« Reply #99 on: August 28, 2013, 02:40:52 PM »

http://www.cbsnews.com/2100-202_162-2645455.html

Pelosi Defies Bush, Meets Syrian Leader
 
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi challenged the White House on Mideast policy, meeting with Syria's leader Wednesday and insisting "the road to Damascus is a road to peace." The Bush administration criticized the visit, saying she was following a road lined with victims of terror.

Vice President Dick Cheney said Pelosi was rewarding a "bad actor" in the Mideast. The tough White House response highlighted the clash between the administration and congressional Democrats, who have stepped up their push for change in U.S. policy in the Mideast and the Iraq war.

Washington accuses Syria of supporting terror for its backing of the militant groups Hamas and Hezbollah. It also says Syria is fueling Iraq's violence by allowing Sunni insurgents to operate from its territory and is destabilizing the Lebanese government.

The Bush administration has rejected direct talks with Damascus until its changes its ways. But Democrats — and some Republicans — say the refusal of dialogue has closed doors to possible progress in resolving Mideast crises.

Pelosi and a delegation of five congressional Democrats and Ohio Republican Dave Hobson met for three hours with Assad, including a lunch with him in Damascus' historic Old City.

The meeting brought no immediate change in Syria's stances. Afterward, Pelosi said that despite differences over whether to talk with Syria, "there is absolutely no division between this delegation and the president of the United States on the issues of concern."

She said she expressed to Assad "our concern about Syria's connections to Hezbollah and Hamas" and militant fighters slipping across the Syrian border into Iraq.

Pelosi said she brought a message to Assad from Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert that Israel was ready for peace talks with Syria. Assad gave assurances that "he's ready to engage in negotiations for peace with Israel," Pelosi said.

The Israeli government later underlined that its stance that it is "seeking peace with Syria, but that this would only be possible if Syria abandoned terror and stopped providing assistance to terror groups."

Assad has repeatedly said over the past year that Damascus is willing to negotiate with Israel, insisting the talks must lead to the return of the Golan Heights, seized by Israel in the 1967 Mideast War.

Despite the lack of breakthroughs, the high-profile meeting put new pressure on the White House. Rep. Tom Lantos, the head of the House Foreign Affairs Committee who was in Pelosi's delegation, said the meeting "reinforced very strongly" the potential benefits of talking to Syria.

"We came in friendship, hope, and determined that the road to Damascus is a road to peace," Pelosi told reporters.

That brought a sharp attack from Gordon Johndroe, a spokesman for President Bush's National Security Council.

"Unfortunately that road is lined with the victims of Hamas and Hezbollah, the victims of terrorists who cross from Syria into Iraq," he said. "It's unfortunate that she took this unilateral trip which we only see as counterproductive."

Syria hosts the exiled leadership of Hamas, as well as other Palestinian radical groups, and is a major patron of Hezbollah. Syria insists that Hamas is a legitimate resistance movement working for Palestinian freedom and Hezbollah is a regular Lebanese political party.

In an interview with ABC News, Cheney said Assad has "been isolated and cut off because of his bad behavior and the unfortunate thing about the speaker's visit is it sort of breaks down that barrier."

"It means without him having done any of those things he should do in order to be acceptable, if you will, from an international standpoint, he gets a visit from a high ranking American anyway," Cheney said.

In response, Nadeam Elshami, Pelosi's spokesman, underlined that Pelosi pressed Assad on issues of concern.

"The administration has rejected the bipartisan recommendations of the Iraq Study Group to engage Syria and instead continues to engage in a war of words with Republicans and Democrats on this issue," he said from the Saudi capital, Riyadh, where the delegation met Wednesday evening with Saudi King Abullah.

Last year, the Iraq Study Group — chaired by former Republican secretary of state James Baker II and former House Democrat Lee H. Hamilton — recommended Washington open talks with Iran and Syria to try to resolve the war in Iraq and other regional crises.

Bush rejected the recommendations. But in February, the U.S. joined a gathering of regional diplomats in Baghdad that included Iran and Syria for talks on Iraq.

Since 2005, Washington has succeeded in largely isolating Damascus, with its European and Arab allies shunning Assad. The last high-ranking U.S. official to visit Syria was then-Deputy Secretary of State Richard Armitage in January 2005.

But that isolation has weakened in recent months, with some European officials and a number of American lawmakers — Republicans and Democrats — visiting Damascus.

"These people in the United States who are opposing dialogue I tell them one thing: Dialogue is ... the only method to close the gap existing between two countries," Syrian Foreign Minister Walid al-Moallem told reporters after Wednesday's Assad-Pelosi meeting.
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