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Topic: Syria (Read 6174 times)
Arming the rebels
Reply #200 on:
September 13, 2013, 11:24:36 AM »
Arming the Rebels in Syria
After months of delay, the CIA began delivering weapons to Syrian rebels over the last couple of weeks. The deliveries themselves mark an escalation of U.S. involvement in Syria's civil war, even without our own planes dropping bombs. Some may naïvely hope those arms are going to all the friendly good guys John McCain keeps telling us about, but the reality is that jihadis continue to make up a growing part of the opposition.
The Free Syrian Army is the largest rebel force, and McCain and John Kerry estimate that just 10-15% of its 100,000 fighters are al-Qaida affiliates. Senior U.S. military officials disagree, however, with one saying that Islamist groups now constitute "more than 50%" of the anti-Assad force, "and it's growing by the day."
Khaled Saleh of the Syrian Opposition Coalition says the support is welcome, "But if you compare what we are getting compared to the assistance Assad receives from Iran and Russia, we have a long battle ahead of us." Indeed, even as Vladimir Putin mocked Barack Obama and the U.S. in his bit of New York Times sophistry, and as Putin offered the phony deal on Syrian chemical weapons, he continues to aid his client, Bashar al-Assad.
Meanwhile, to add insult to injury for Barack Obama, Assad tacked on a new condition for turning over his chemical weapons stockpiles: "When we see the United States really wants stability in our region and stops threatening, striving to attack, and also ceases arms deliveries to terrorists, then we will believe that the necessary processes can be finalized," he told Russian state television. On the other hand, Obama threatens to strike if Assad doesn't turn over his weapons.
This sad saga just keeps getting worse for our feckless commander in chief.
The rebels at work:
Last Edit: September 13, 2013, 12:11:15 PM by Crafty_Dog
CNN's Amnpour goes on a rampage; Beck cries FRAUD!
Reply #201 on:
September 13, 2013, 03:43:17 PM »
but Glenn Beck demurs , , ,
Last Edit: September 13, 2013, 03:59:32 PM by Crafty_Dog
Shocking, absolutley shocking developments: Chems are being scattered and hidden
Reply #202 on:
September 15, 2013, 07:58:56 PM »
Reply #203 on:
September 15, 2013, 08:51:33 PM »
What did Murdock call Amanpour - the "war whore"?
How Syria is like Iraq
Reply #204 on:
September 16, 2013, 07:48:00 AM »
This piece makes a number of cogent points, but I diverge in some important respects. As the piece notes "a happy outcome , , , requires a finely calibrated strategy from the beginning. The Bush administration did not have one in Iraq, evinced by the absence of post-invasion planning." I agree (See Thomas Ricks's "Fiasco" for a serious history of what went wrong-- and it is from this that the problems in Iraq arose. Had Bush-Rumbo handled things with competence (and had they not had to fight destructive, unpatriotic, and sometimes treasonous headwinds from major players in the Congress and the pravdas) then the other factors discussed here by Kaplan would not have kicked in.
How Syria Is Like Iraq
Wednesday, September 11, 2013 - 04:00 Print Text Size
Global Affairs with Robert D. Kaplan
By Robert D. Kaplan
I supported the war in Iraq. It was an agonizing mistake. I made the mistake because I did something a serious foreign policy thinker should never do: I allowed my emotions to affect my thinking. My emotions were stirred by several visits to Iraq I had made as a reporter in the 1980s, when Saddam Hussein ruled Iraq with the machinal, totalitarian intensity employed by Joseph Stalin in the Soviet Union and Nicolae Ceausescu in Romania. Iraq under Saddam was like a vast prison yard lit by high wattage lamps, in which everyone was watched all the time, and everyone lived in absolute fear. I had my American passport taken away from me by Saddam's secret police for ten days in 1986 while I was reporting on the Kurds in the north of the country. I had tasted the fear with which Iraqis themselves lived.
I thus assumed for years thereafter that nothing could be worse than Saddam's rule. Following 9/11, I did not want to forcibly spread democracy in the Arab world like others did; nor did I want to topple dictators per se. I wanted only one dictator gone -- Saddam -- because he was so much worse than a mere dictator. He was a tyrant straight out of Mesopotamian antiquity.
I was wrong.
I was wrong because of the following reasons:
I did not adequately consider that even in the case of Iraq, things could be worse. Though, in 1994, I had written extensively and in depth about the dangers of anarchy in the Third World, I did not fully consider how dangerously close to anarchy Iraq actually was, and that Saddam was the Hobbesian nemesis keeping it at bay. Saddam was cruel beyond imagining because the ethnic and sectarian differences in Iraqi society were themselves cruel and bloodthirsty beyond imagining.
I was insufficiently cold-blooded in my thinking. I did not fully consider whether it was in the American interest to remove this tyrant. After all, President Ronald Reagan had found Saddam useful in trying to contain neighboring Iran. Perhaps Saddam might still be useful in containing al Qaeda? That is how I should have been thinking.
I was thinking only two steps ahead, not the five or six steps ahead required of serious analysis when the question concerns going to war. I wanted to remove Saddam (step one) and replace him with another general (step two). As I said, I had serious misgivings, in print, back then about democracy in the Arab world. But I should have been thinking even more about the consequences of such a newly empowered general not gaining control of the Kurds in the north, or of the Shia in the south. I should have been thinking more of how Iran would intervene on the ground with its intelligence services. I should have been thinking more about how once Saddam were toppled, simply replacing him might be a very complex affair. I should have been overwhelmed by the complexities of a post-Saddam Iraq. I wasn't sufficiently.
I did not consider the appetite for war -- or lack thereof -- of the American public. The American public was in a patriotic frenzy following 9/11. I should have realized that such a frenzy simply could not last. I should have realized that there would be a time limit regarding how long public support could be sustained for having boots-on-the-ground in large numbers in the Middle East. World War I for the United States had lasted less than 20 months. World War II for the United States lasted little more than three-and-a-half years. Americans tired of the Korean War in about that same time-frame, and revolted against the Vietnam War when it went on longer. The fact that I was emotionally involved in toppling Saddam did not mean the public would be so.
Finally, I did not consider the effect of a long-term commitment in Iraq (and Afghanistan) on other regional theaters. The top officials in any administration -- the president, secretary of state, and so on -- have only a limited amount of hours in a day, even if they work 70-hour weeks. And if they are spending most of those hours dealing with the Middle East, America's influence in the Pacific, Latin America, and elsewhere must suffer. America, therefore, must be light and lethal, rarely getting bogged down anywhere: in fact, I wrote and published exactly this -- but in mid-2003, after the invasion of Iraq had already commenced. I just did not foresee American forces getting bogged down as they did. That was a failure of critical thinking. For the truth is, nobody seeks a quagmire: a quagmire only occurs when people do not adequately consider in advance everything that might go wrong.
On its face, Syria resembles Iraq in much of the above. The supporters of robust military intervention are not sufficiently considering how things could become even worse after the demise of dictator Bashar al Assad, with full-scale anarchy perhaps in the offing; how Assad might still serve a cold-blooded purpose by containing al Qaeda in the Levant; how four or five steps ahead the United States might find itself owning or partially owning the situation on the ground in an anarchic Syria; how the American public's appetite for military intervention in Syria might be less than they think; and how a long-term commitment to Syria might impede American influence in other regional theaters. The Obama administration says it does not want a quagmire and will avoid one; but that was the intention of the younger Bush administration, too.
Of course, each war or intervention is different in a thousand ways than any other. So while I have listed some similarities in the ways we can think about these wars, Syria will unfold in its own unique manner. For example, it is entirely possible that the Obama administration will not get bogged down, and that its intervention, if it still ever comes to that, will pivotally affect the situation for the better by serving as a deus ex machina for a negotiated cease-fire of sorts. For the very threatened use of power can serve as its own dynamic, revealing, in this case, the limitations of Russia and Iran which were obscured as long as America did relatively little to affect the situation.
The problem, however, is that such a happy outcome in Syria usually requires a finely calibrated strategy from the beginning. The Bush administration did not have one in Iraq, evinced by the absence of post-invasion planning. And, at least as of this writing, the Obama administration seems to lack one as well. Instead, it appeared until recently to be backing into a military action that it itself only half-heartedly believes in. That, more than any of the factors I have mentioned above, is what ultimately gives me pause.
Read more: How Syria Is Like Iraq | Stratfor
Reply #205 on:
September 16, 2013, 08:48:14 AM »
Inside White House, a Head-Spinning Reversal on Chemical Weapons
How the U.S. Stumbled Into an International Crisis and Then Stumbled Out of It
By ADAM ENTOUS, JANET HOOK and CAROL E. LEE
When President Barack Obama decided he wanted congressional approval to strike Syria, he received swift—and negative—responses from his staff. National Security Adviser Susan Rice warned he risked undermining his powers as commander in chief. Senior adviser Dan Pfeiffer pegged the chances of Congress balking at 40%. His defense secretary also raised concerns.
Mr. Obama took the gamble anyway and set aside the impending strikes to try to build domestic and international support for such action.
He found little of either. Congress's top leaders weren't informed of the switch until just an hour or so before Mr. Obama's Rose Garden announcement and weren't asked whether lawmakers would support it. When the president's chief of staff, Denis McDonough, announced the decision on a conference call with congressional committee leaders, some were so taken aback they seemed at first to misunderstand it.
Outside the U.S., Arab leaders privately urged the U.S. to bomb, but few backed Mr. Obama publicly. The United Kingdom pulled the plug on a joint operation two days after indicating to the White House it had the votes to proceed. Compounding the confusion, the same day a potential breakthrough emerged via a diplomatic opening provided by Russia, the administration sent a memo to lawmakers highlighting why Russia shouldn't be trusted on Syria.
This account of an extraordinary 24 days in international diplomacy, capped by a deal this past weekend to dismantle Syria's chemical-weapons stockpile, is based on more than two dozen interviews with senior White House, State Department, Pentagon and congressional officials and many of their counterparts in Europe and the Middle East. The events shed light on what could prove a pivotal moment for America's role in the world.
Through mixed messages, miscalculations and an 11th-hour break, the U.S. stumbled into an international crisis and then stumbled out of it. A president who made a goal of reducing the U.S.'s role as global cop lurched from the brink of launching strikes to seeking congressional approval to embracing a deal with his biggest international adversary on Syria, Russian President Vladimir Putin.
Mr. Obama saw the unintended outcome as better than the alternative: limited strikes that risked pulling the U.S. into a new conflict. It forestalled what could have been a crippling congressional defeat and put the onus on Russia to take responsibility for seeing the deal through. U.S. officials say the deal could diminish Syrian President Bashar al-Assad's chemical stockpile more effectively than a strike, though it leaves Mr. Assad and his conventional arsenal in place.
"I'm not interested in style points," Mr. Obama told his senior staff in a closed-door meeting Friday, according to a participant. "I'm interested in results."
Not everyone is pleased. Mr. Obama infuriated allies who lined up against Mr. Assad and his regional backers Iran and Hezbollah. French officials, who were more aggressive than the U.S. in urging a strike, feel they have been left out on a limb. And Russia has been reestablished as a significant player on the world stage, potentially at the expense of the U.S.
House Intelligence Committee Chairman Mike Rogers (R., Mich.) joined a chorus of Republican lawmakers critiquing the deal, calling it a "Russian plan for Russian interests" that leaves Mr. Assad in power. "Putin is playing chess, and we're playing tick-tack-toe," he told CNN.
Mr. Obama was first briefed on the chemical-weapons attack on the morning of Aug. 21. As intelligence agencies began tallying the dead and reviewing intercepted communications that they say made clear Mr. Assad's forces were to blame, White House officials knew the incident was a game changer. Later, the U.S. would say the attack killed more than 1,400.
Key U.S. allies in the region, Israel and Saudi Arabia, started applying pressure. Saudi Arabia's influential ambassador to the U.S., Adel al-Jubeir, and other diplomats raced back to Washington from their August vacations to advocate strikes, according to officials and diplomats.
Mr. Obama initially appeared to be receptive to arguments for acting forcefully. Meeting on Aug. 24 with his national security advisers, he made clear he leaned toward striking.
"When I raised the issue of chemical weapons last summer, this is what I was talking about," Mr. Obama said, referring to his "red line" declaration in August 2012. The Navy positioned five destroyers in the eastern Mediterranean, each armed with about 40 Tomahawk cruise missiles.
House Speaker John Boehner (R., Ohio) was in a car en route to a GOP fundraiser in Jackson Hole, Wyo., when he received his first high-level White House contact. His staff had earlier put up a blog post chiding the White House for not consulting Congress. A few hours later, White House Chief of Staff McDonough called to explain the options. No mention was made of asking Congress to vote.
The next day, Mr. Obama spoke to British Prime Minister David Cameron. Both leaders made clear they were ready to strike and agreed on an approach designed to deter Mr. Assad from using chemical weapons again, not bring down the regime. "They were ready to go," said an official briefed on the call.
Mr. Cameron rushed politicians back from vacations. While parliamentary approval wasn't legally required, he was conscious of the damage invading Iraq had done to one of his predecessors, Tony Blair. The U.S. military's Joint Chiefs of Staff and British forces already had hammered out details of a "combined contingency operation," a senior U.S. official said.
Late in the day before the parliamentary vote, Mr. Cameron was forced to change tack. Under pressure from politicians, he split the process in two: an initial vote on the principal of intervention, then a second on whether the U.K. should become directly involved.
At that point, Mr. Obama's advisers concluded the U.K. would end up bowing out.
On the night of Wednesday, Aug. 28, Mr. Obama called House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi to talk through the options. Ms. Pelosi later told colleagues she didn't ask Mr. Obama to put the question to a vote in Congress.
On Thursday, Aug. 29, the U.K. Parliament shot down Mr. Cameron, a major embarrassment to the British leader that raised pressure on the U.S. to seek other support. Opposition came from not only Labour but from Mr. Cameron's own Conservative Party. Mr. Cameron threw in the towel, saying the British Parliament had spoken and the government would "act accordingly."
The vote shocked Mr. Putin, who later told Russian state TV he thought legislatures in the West voted in lock-step, "just like the Communist Party of the Soviet Union." Moscow's alarm and frustration was growing as the move toward military action advanced, bypassing the U.N. Security Council where Moscow had veto power.
The U.K. parliamentary vote happened as National Security Adviser Rice, Secretary of State John Kerry and Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel were beginning a conference call with congressional leaders. During the call, Mr. Hagel, who was traveling in Asia, raised the question of U.S. credibility. He said South Korea was concerned U.S. inaction would make North Korea think it could get away with using chemical and biological weapons.
On Friday, Aug. 30, signs of congressional unease were mounting. Some 186 Democrats and Republicans signed letters asking the president to seek congressional authorization.
That day, Mr. Kerry made an impassioned speech defending the president's decision to consult with Congress as the right way to approach "a decision of when and how and if to use military force."
Five Navy destroyers were in the eastern Mediterranean, four poised to launch scores of Tomahawk cruise missiles into Syria, according to military officials. Officers said they expected launch orders from the president at between 3 p.m. and 4 p.m. Eastern Time on Saturday. To make sure they were ready to answer reporters' questions, Pentagon officials conducted a mock news conference.
Around 5 p.m., Mr. Obama went on a 45-minute walk with Chief of Staff McDonough. Mr. Obama summoned his top advisers to meet in the Oval Office at around 7 p.m.
"I have a big idea I want to run by you guys," Mr. Obama started. He asked for opinions on seeking congressional authorization. Everyone was surprised, except Mr. McDonough, a consistent voice of caution on getting entangled in Syria.
Ms. Rice expressed reservations. From a national-security perspective, she said, it was important the president maintain his authority to take action, according to a senior administration official. Mr. Pfeiffer, the senior adviser, gave his assessment of the political odds and the consequences of failure.
Mr. Obama called Mr. Hagel, who, like Ms. Rice, raised concerns. He thought "the administration's actions and words need to avoid the perception of swinging from vine to vine," according to a senior administration official.
Ben Rhodes, a deputy national security adviser, sent a draft of an announcement to the president at 1 a.m. Saturday, and it was reworked until shortly before being popped into the teleprompter. Mr. Obama also worked the phones to notify congressional leaders—but not to seek their advice.
Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R., Ky.) was preparing a turkey sandwich in his Louisville, Ky., home when he took the call. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid was called in Nevada. Mrs. Pelosi was in San Francisco.
Mr. Boehner was in a hotel in Steamboat Springs, Colo., when the president called. According to an aide, they discussed the logistics of a House vote. Mr. Boehner told Mr. Obama it would be hard to call lawmakers back to Washington quickly, and that he would need time to sell it.
Rep. Henry Waxman (D., Calif.) was on a treadmill in a Los Angeles gym and watched the news on Fox television. When a friend asked what was going on, Mr. Waxman replied, "He's going to Congress, and I'm sweating."
Mr. Obama also alerted French President François Hollande, who had been waiting for Washington to launch strikes. Mr. Obama now told his French counterpart he needed to build support in Washington, from Congress, according to a senior French official.
It swiftly became clear the White House faced a fight. On Sunday, Sept. 1, members of both parties were questioning the White House proposal.
That day, the administration convened its first of several classified briefings for lawmakers. Dozens of House members and senators showed up in the middle of a congressional recess and on Labor Day weekend.
That night, the president called one of his closest friends in Congress, Sen. Dick Durbin (D., Ill.) at home in Springfield, Ill., and talked to him for more than a half-hour. Like many liberal Democrats, Mr. Durbin was torn. The situation had echoes of the war in Iraq, which he had opposed. He hung up still unsure what he would do. (He ended up approving the strikes in a Senate committee vote.)
In an effort to sway House Democrats, the administration held a conference call briefing the House Democratic Caucus. One Democrat on the call was openly critical: Rep. Rick Nolan, a freshman from Minnesota who said an isolated strike could escalate.
"Have we forgotten about the lessons of Southeast Asia and a president who said we need to have our boys fight there," Mr. Nolan said, according to an official familiar with the exchange.
Mr. Kerry, a decorated Vietnam veteran, shot back: "No, I haven't forgotten that. I know it pretty well. And I fought against that war. That's not what anyone's talking about."
After the briefing, Mr. Nolan said he was more convinced that military strikes were a bad idea.
After a Sept. 3 meeting Mr. Boehner, Ms. Pelosi and House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R., Va.) gave strong statements of support for the administration's resolution. But both Mrs. Pelosi and Mr. Boehner said they weren't going to "whip" the vote—Congress-speak for making the vote a test of party loyalty.
Mr. Obama hoped to use the Group of 20 summit in St. Petersburg to shape international consensus for a military assault. He left the conference with half the members unconvinced.
While Saudi Arabia and Turkey voiced support for the U.S. position, other Arab allies were silent, reinforcing Mr. Obama's worries about going it alone. Diplomats from Jordan and the United Arab Emirates told lawmakers they would like to help win votes in the House. But they made clear that they weren't prepared to endorse the idea publicly because they feared for their security if the U.S. strikes sparked a backlash or reprisals.
By the time Mr. Obama got back to Washington, his aides thought the resolution could make it through the Senate, but felt the House was lost.
The way out of the impasse came by accident during a news conference in London on Sept. 9. Secretary of State Kerry, in response to a question, ad libbed that Syria could avert a U.S. attack if it gave up its chemical weapons.
Minutes later, his Russian counterpart, Sergei Lavrov, called him. "I'd like to talk to you about your initiative," Mr. Lavrov said from Moscow, where he was hosting a delegation of Syrian diplomats.
"I don't know what you're talking about," the American diplomat jokingly replied.
Even though both sides had previously discussed such an idea, State Department and White House officials were skeptical. How would inspectors do their work in the middle of a civil war? Also, working with the Russians seemed implausible. The same day Mr. Kerry made his fateful remark, the State Department sent Congress a memo detailing: "Russian Obstruction of Actions on Syria."
Things changed quickly once the White House realized Mr. Kerry's inadvertent remark may have provided a way around the political impasse.
Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D., Calif.), chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee and a supporter of the Syrian strikes, was lunching in the Senate Dining Room with the Russian ambassador to the U.S., who persuaded her the Russians were sincere. Other lawmakers also saw hope for a new diplomatic initiative—and for avoiding a vote they were dreading.
While prepping for a series of TV interviews, Mr. Obama told his senior aides of the proposal and said, "Let's embrace this and test it."
U.S. and French diplomats said there was an early push by the allies to seek a binding U.N. Security Council resolution that could authorize the use of force if Syria didn't meet its obligations. French diplomats drafted a resolution with muscular language.
Russia rejected the language outright and U.S. diplomats worked behind the scenes to pull France into line with a compromise that Moscow could accept.
Hours after Messrs. Kerry and Lavrov's London phone call, the American and Russian bureaucracies mobilized, say U.S. and Russia officials involved in the process.
Mr. Obama's speech to the nation on Sept. 10, initially intended to sell lawmakers on supporting strikes, instead called for postponing action in Congress to explore the Russian proposal.
It infuriated Sen. Bob Corker (R., Tenn.), one of the few vocal GOP supporters of the Syria strikes, for not making the case about the risk to U.S. credibility. He snapped at Mr. McDonough in an email: "You guys are really hard to help, OK?"
On Sept. 11, Mr. Kerry spoke to Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who said he believed Russia wasn't bluffing and that a deal was possible, according to American and Middle Eastern officials briefed on the exchange. Israel shared U.S. concerns that strikes could strengthen rebels linked with al Qaeda and allow them to seize Mr. Assad's weapons.
Rebel leaders based in Turkey and Jordan were angry about the unfolding diplomacy, but were told by U.S. and European diplomats not to publicly reject the plan. But several spoke out. "To hell with America," said Brig. Gen. Adnan Selou, a Syrian defector who used to head a chemical-warfare program in Syria and now is based in Turkey. "We don't recognize this plan."
Messrs. Kerry and Lavrov arrived in Geneva Thursday afternoon without even a broad outline of a plan. Both sides agreed on the extent of Mr. Assad's stockpiles and began discussing next steps.
Mr. Lavrov and his deputy surprised the Americans by sticking to their position that Syrian rebel forces, rather than Mr. Assad, were behind the chemical-weapons attack, and spinning conspiracies about how Saudi Arabia and other Arab states played a role in overseeing it.
In a blow to the French, Messrs. Lavrov and Kerry hashed out a framework agreement omitting any mention of who was to blame for the chemical attacks. The agreement also made military intervention an increasingly remote possibility.
Mr. Putin celebrated with an op-ed in the New York Times, lecturing Americans on the failings of their government's policies.
A senior administration official said Mr. Obama felt—even more so after Mr. Putin's op-ed—that "if Putin wants to put his credibility on the line in supporting this proposal," then the White House would make sure he owns it.
Having given up on prospects of a U.N. Security Council resolution that threatened force for noncompliance, the U.S. told the Russians it reserved the right to take military action if Mr. Assad doesn't meet the agreement's terms.
On Sunday, Mr. Assad's warplanes again bombed the Damascus suburbs after a short-lived lull in air attacks after Aug. 21.
Re: Shocking, absolutley shocking developments: Chems are being scattered and hidden
Reply #206 on:
September 16, 2013, 09:57:34 AM »
Shocking, yes. Who could have seen that coming? I suppose anyone alive and awake the last time we fought this battle.
Reply #207 on:
September 16, 2013, 11:06:52 AM »
The problem IS a terrible one and in fairness we need to note that many of the criticisms leveled at Baraq are as quite inconsistent with each other as Baraq has been with himself.
What do WE here advocate?
Ignore the chem attacks? What implications flow from this?
Do something? What specifically? Bomb it? Seize the chems?
WHAT EXACTLY DO WE ADVOCATE?
I will go first:
a) Achieve a status of forces agreement with Iraq upon coming into office. Whoops! Baraq blew that one.
b) Have done nothing in Libya or go to the Congress or do what we did but go in to snatch Kaddafy's weapons
c) have defended our folks in Benghazi, have avenged our folks in Benghazi
d) Support the military, or at least not opposed in it Egypt in responding to the people's will in overthrowing the MB.
e) spoken up for religious tolerance e.g.the Christians in Iraq, Egypt, Syria
f) something coherent in Afpakia
g) not neuter our military's budget
h) not demonstrated weakness for five years
i) genuine ongoing conversation with Congress over the years
j) not having made regime change a policy or if it were, then having acted upon it by supporting the rebels before AQ got involved
k)not have made a red line without thought of being called on it
2) OK so much for hindsight.
WHAT SHOULD BARAQ HAVE DONE WHEN HIS RED LINE WAS CROSSED?
Last Edit: September 16, 2013, 11:25:35 AM by Crafty_Dog
AQ in Syria: Convert or die
Reply #208 on:
September 16, 2013, 03:20:07 PM »
Reply #209 on:
September 17, 2013, 12:33:29 PM »
I would note that many of us were/are quite content with the idea of letting AQ and Assad kill each other.
By DOUGLAS J. FEITH
Bashar Assad may have pulled off the most successful use of chemical weapons in history. For the two years leading up to the Aug. 21 Damascus sarin gas attack, President Obama was saying that the Syrian dictator "must go." No longer. In one month, Assad has risen from outlaw butcher to partner in disarmament.
America's Syria policy today focuses not on mass murder, or on the metastasizing humanitarian and refugee crisis, or on combating the interests of Iran and its Hezbollah proxies in keeping Assad in power. Rather, with Russian President Vladimir Putin's help, U.S. policy under President Obama is concentrating on chemical-weapons disarmament.
Secretary of State John Kerry labors to enlist Assad in an arms-control project even while alleging that the dictator has used nerve gas in violation of Syria's obligations under the 1925 Geneva Protocol. U.S. policy is not to oust the Assad regime or even to encourage the Syrian people to do so. President Obama has now created a U.S. interest in preserving Assad in power.
Pigeons lie on the ground after dying from what activists say is the use of chemical weapons.
This means Assad must stay, not go, for he is needed to negotiate and implement an arrangement to destroy Syria's chemical weapons. The arrangement, if successfully negotiated, will take years to implement. Arms control evidently means never having to say you're sorry.
Meanwhile, the Syrian rebels are exasperated and mistrustful, having seen Washington dangle the prospect of U.S. military strikes, only to back away. The Iranians are drawing comforting lessons about the lengths that the Obama administration will go to avoid military action in the Middle East. The Russians have been promoted from reprehensible accomplices in Assad's evil to indispensable peace negotiators—while they remain accomplices to that evil.
What lesson will dictators around the world derive from all this? They will see that there is enormous utility in creating a chemical-weapons arsenal, and even in using such weapons. Sarin gas, VX, anthrax and the like can be valuable for intimidating one's enemies, foreign and domestic, and for killing them. They can then be traded away at a very high price under the right circumstances. They can serve as a lifesaver for a dictator on the skids.
Clever dictators will realize that they can barter their chemical-weapons arsenals to buy time to crush an insurrection and then rebuild the arsenal after the population has been pacified.
This is what comes of focusing on what Mr. Obama legalistically calls the "international norms" barring chemical weapons use. By choosing not to tackle the difficult strategic and humanitarian challenges posed by the Syrian civil war, the president is now rewarding the very offenses that he said he wanted to punish. In the name of arms control, he is incentivizing the proliferation of chemical weapons. In the name of international law, he is undermining respect for treaties. In the name of U.S. interests, he is emboldening America's enemies.
Bashar Assad must be blessing the sarin gas that killed all those men, women and children on Aug. 21. If he did order that attack, it was a master stroke. The victims of chemical weapons shake in agony. Assad, Vladimir Putin and Iran's Ali Khamanei shake with laughter.
Mr. Feith, a senior fellow at the Hudson Institute, served 2001-05 as U.S. undersecretary of defense for policy.
AQ now killing FSA
Reply #210 on:
September 19, 2013, 11:22:58 AM »
FSA to BO: Fk Off
Reply #211 on:
September 25, 2013, 09:22:03 PM »
WSJ: Assad's UN partners
Reply #212 on:
September 28, 2013, 07:10:04 PM »
Assad's U.N. Partners
Syria's chemical weapons declaration is far from complete..
After over two years of doing nothing to stop Syria's civil war, the U.N. Security Council has finally agreed on a plan for Bashar Assad to surrender his chemical weapons. The U.S. and its allies as well as Assad's patrons in Russia hailed a diplomatic breakthrough at Turtle Bay, but this resolution still does nothing to hasten the conflict's end.
The resolution adopted on Friday evening obliges the regime in Damascus to fully declare its arsenal of chemical weapons and to dismantle them by the middle of next year. It commits Syria not to share its mustard and sarin gas stocks and other munitions with friends at Hezbollah and elsewhere.
Assistant books editor Sohrab Ahmari on the U.N. resolution to eliminate Bashar Assad’s chemical weapons. Photo: Associated Press
If you choose to believe in the power of arms control over rogue actors, this is progress. But for realists the early signs aren't good. Last weekend Syria submitted its declaration of its chemical weapons and delivery systems. The declaration hasn't been made public but our sources say it isn't complete. The Syrians disclosed 32 sites, while U.S. intelligence believes there are about 50.
Some of the munitions are mobile, and while the Syrians did admit to eight such mobile sites, the Syrians hid them when President Obama threatened to bomb in response to the August 21 sarin gas attack outside Damascus. The U.S. and Israel have a good idea of what the Syrians have and may still be hiding. The trick will be to compel Assad's cooperation.
The resolution's most notable weakness is its lack of teeth. There's not a word about holding anyone in Syria accountable for last month's or the 13 or so other chemical attacks. As for compliance with the disarmament clauses, Assad can breathe easy.
A photo made available by the Syrian Arab News Agency showing Syrian President Bashar al-Assad in an interview with the Chinese television station CCTV, in Damascus on Monday.
Under Chapter 7 of the U.N. Charter, the Security Council can approve punitive measures such as sanctions or air strikes if Syria doesn't comply. Except that's not in this resolution. The British ambassador at Turtle Bay called it "binding and enforceable," and America's ambassador to the U.N. Samantha Power warned of "consequences for non-compliance."
But read the fine print. Assad can play cat and mouse with inspectors or even launch another chemical attack. The only U.N. recourse is to call another Security Council meeting. Then we're back where we started.
Russia has vetoed three resolutions intended to sanction Assad since 2011, and the Obama Administration was reluctant to act without U.N. approval even before this agreement. Assad knows the threshold for American intervention is even higher after President Obama asked Congress for permission to strike Syria but then grabbed Russia's diplomatic lifeline rather than act on his own.
The U.N. deal caps a successful few weeks for the Syrian dictator. He faced down the world's last superpower. His regime may or may not have to give up its chemical weapons, but he's bought himself time to continue to use Iranian arms and Hezbollah fighters to defeat the opposition. With U.S. Tomahawks taken off standby, Syria's fighter jets and helicopters have been redeployed against the rebels. Conventional weapons have killed the vast majority of the more than 100,000 dead in Syria.
Administration defenders say this chemical deal may be a diplomatic bridge to a larger Syrian peace. A negotiated peace is desirable, but it's hard to see how sparing Assad from the fear of a Western attack will make him any more likely to negotiate. He and his Iranian patrons think they can win.
As for the Syrian opposition, they see all of this as an Assad victory and a Western betrayal. Earlier this week, 13 rebel groups broke with the Turkish-based, moderate Syrian Supreme Military Council and are expected to align with the Islamist fighters affiliated with al Qaeda. Far from leading to a larger peace, the chemical weapons diplomacy seems to have radicalized both sides.
Gerecht: The next breeding ground for global jihad
Reply #213 on:
October 08, 2013, 12:27:15 PM »
IMHO the following piece by a man with genuiine background in the region makes many valid and uncomfortable points, even as there are substantial flaws in what it proposes.
Reuel Marc Gerecht: The Next Breeding Ground for Global Jihad
Washington may have already helped create the deadliest Islamic movement since the Taliban merged with al Qaeda.
REUEL MARC GERECHT
When President Obama declared that Syrian dictator Bashar Assad must "step aside" two years ago, many believed that it was only a matter of time before the U.S. intervened on behalf of the rebels battling the regime. Now that seems increasingly out of the question. The growing power of hard-core Islamic radicals among the rebels has made the White House, and many in Congress, look upon the Syrian opposition with little enthusiasm. Instead, Washington focuses on the charade of trying to relieve Assad of his chemical weapons, as if that will have any effect on the civil war.
America ignores the rebels at its peril. Yet on the left and right, anti-interventionists argue against American airstrikes, or any serious military aid, because such assistance would abet al Qaeda-linked jihadists. Perhaps what these anti-interventionists don't realize is that the president and Congress may have already done their part to create the most deadly Islamic movement since the Taliban merged with al Qaeda in the 1990s.
Social order in the Muslim world depends, as it so often does elsewhere, on older men keeping younger men in check. In Afghanistan in the 1990s, the Taliban's medieval mores—a zealously crude form of village Pashtun ethics—gained the high ground because older men and their moderating social structures had been obliterated over three decades by Afghan communists, Soviets and civil war.
A Sunni Muslim imam from the Liwa al-Tawhid rebel group talks to his comrades in Aleppo in September.
Urban culture—the core of Islamic civilization—was wiped out. The elites of the country's primary ethnic groups, who had been based in the bustling, literate, Persian-speaking culture of Kabul, went into exile or became brutal warriors. Heartless men bred by battle embraced Osama bin Laden, a Saudi-born Sunni militant. Bin Laden's vision of jihad against the United States easily melded into the Taliban's localized jihad against Ahmad Shah Masoud, the Sunni Tajik commander who formed the Northern Alliance and kept the Taliban from conquering all of Afghanistan.
To be sure, Syrian Sunni culture is vastly more cosmopolitan and urbanized than Afghan Sunni culture. Syria is where Arab Bedouins first became polished men of arts and letters and transformed Byzantine architecture into a Muslim motif that defined Islamic elegance for centuries. But the shocking satellite photos of a constantly bombarded Aleppo, the center of Sunni Syria since the 10th century, ought to warn us how quickly society can be transformed—no matter how sophisticated.
Though Arab Syrian nationalism is more solid now than when it was born 90 years ago, it isn't nearly as deep as Syrians' Muslim identity. And in times of tumult in the Middle East, Islam—and the ancient divide between Sunnis and Shiites—comes to the fore. Shatter Syria into fragments, and radical Islamists who appeal to a higher calling, just as they did in Afghanistan, are guaranteed to attract young men who yearn for a mission beyond their destroyed towns and villages. There may be as many as 1,000 Sunni rebel groups scattered across Syria, stocked with such fighters.
The Taliban played on tribal sentiments while always appealing to a post-tribal, Muslim conception of state. The Islamist fighters in Syria appear to be following the Taliban's playbook. Loyalty among these men isn't ultimately based on family, tribe, town or even country, but on the supremely fraternal act of holy war.
We don't know what the recuperative power is for Sunni Syrian society. We do know that whatever the power is now, it will be much reduced in six months. If Assad's manpower reserves can hold out for another year and a half or two years, Syrian Sunni society could be beyond help.
In such a Hobbesian world, radical Sunni groups that promise "stability"—of security, home and private property—could win over a popular base that would be very difficult to dislodge. This was how the Taliban were initially welcomed into Pashtun towns that were shellshocked by war.
Right now, the three seriously radical, armed outfits in Syria—Jabhat al-Nusra, the Ahrar al-Sham, and the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria—likely have no more than 15,000 fighters among them, according to a study of the Syrian opposition by the Washington Institute for Near East Policy. That's less than 15% of the opposition's forces—too small a number to consolidate power and rule a post-Assad Syria.
That may be the only good news out of Syria: It's not too late for the U.S. to influence the war in favor of the rebels who are not bent on establishing an Islamist state.
Right now, Washington seems paralyzed by fear of U.S. weaponry getting into jihadist hands, which is why it has held off on doing more than having the CIA train rebels in Jordan. To make a real difference, the CIA will have to get involved inside Syria, but it won't take a lot of men to monitor supply lines and figure out who is using U.S. weaponry.
If the U.S. is able to save Syrian Sunni society from the cancer that Assad has created, Western air power will be required to neutralize the regime's huge advantage in artillery and chemical weapons, which Assad will surely keep in reserve, despite any pledges he makes to the United Nations. The weapons provided through CIA covert action will unlikely be sufficient to knock out the regime's huge inventory of Soviet and Russian heavy weaponry.
But if the U.S. continues to do nothing other than entertain the chemical-weapons disarmament theater orchestrated by Russia, the West will surely rue America's passivity. Hard-core holy warriors won't leave Americans alone because the U.S. has declined to fight. That's the painful lesson of the 1990s. Contrary to what the president has suggested, the U.S. doesn't get to declare the battle against Islamic radicalism over.
One thing is certain: The anti-American Sunni Islamic militancy in Syria is now hotter and more magnetic than the latent jihadism that came to power with Mullah Omar and the Taliban in 1996. In the early 1990s, when the Taliban's ideology was gestating in Pakistani religious schools and the Pashtun areas of Afghanistan, hardly a soul at CIA headquarters paid any attention to the region. It was far away, the Soviets were gone, and Americans, it was said, were "fatigued" from their Cold War exertions.
Mr. Gerecht, a former CIA operative, is a senior fellow at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies. He is the author of "The Wave: Man, God, and the Ballot Box in the Middle East" (Hoover, 2011).
Reply #214 on:
October 13, 2013, 11:05:44 AM »
Reply #215 on:
October 13, 2013, 06:53:54 PM »
Quote from: Crafty_Dog on October 13, 2013, 11:05:44 AM
Is Andrew going to go there to teach them that jihad means fuzzy bunnies?
So far this seems to be going better than we thought it would
Reply #216 on:
October 31, 2013, 07:43:31 AM »
Watchdog: Syria Destroys Chemical-Arms Equipment
Organization Had Set Nov. 1 Deadline
By Naftali Bendavid
Updated Oct. 31, 2013 5:51 a.m. ET
Syria has completed the destruction of all its chemical weapons production equipment, an international disarmament agency announced Thursday, bringing an end to the first phase of a high-profile program to eliminate the country's chemical weapons.
Syria was tasked, under a U.S.-Russia agreement, with dismantling all equipment used for the production, mixing and filling of chemical arms by Nov. 1. The next, more elaborate stage involves destroying the chemical stockpile itself—an estimated 1,000 tons of chemicals and components—in the first half of 2014.
"The Joint Mission is now satisfied that it has verified—and seen destroyed—all of Syria's declared critical production and mixing/filling equipment," the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons said, referring to its joint mission with the United Nations. "Given the progress made in the joint OPCW-U.N. mission in meeting the requirements of the first phase of activities, no further inspection activities are currently planned."
The OPCW had said Monday that it could not reach two of Syria's 23 chemical weapons sites because they were in contested areas not under the government's control. On Thursday, officials said they were satisfied that those sites were no longer in use.
"Syria declared those sites as abandoned and that the chemical weapons program items they contained were moved to other declared sites, which were inspected," OPCW said.
A journey into nightmare
Reply #217 on:
November 06, 2013, 06:27:12 AM »
Destruction of Syrian Gas?
Reply #218 on:
November 15, 2013, 09:46:14 AM »
Much cynicism was expressed here over the possibility of the gas actually getting destroyed, but at the moment it looks like quite a lot of it (most? all?) is about to be destroyed.
Members of the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) met at The Hague on Friday to discuss a plan to destroy Syrian chemical munitions. Syria and the OPCW agreed that the deadly nerve agents should be destroyed outside Syria, and on Thursday the United States requested that Albania host the destruction of Syria's chemical weapons stockpile in its domestic facilities. The 41-member Executive Council of the OPCW adjourned its deliberations while the Albanian government considers the plan, which will rid of 1,300 tons of sarin and other nerve agents confiscated from Syrian weapons facilities. Albanian Prime Minister Edi Rama is expected to announce whether his government will agree to the U.S. request later on Friday, but some Albanian lawmakers have raised objections over the plan's environmental and political risks. On Thursday, hundreds of Albanian citizens protested outside the parliament chanting "no to chemical weapons." Last week, international inspectors confirmed that they secured 22 of 23 chemical weapons sites inside Syria and that the Syrian government met the November 1 deadline to eliminate or "render inoperable" all chemical weapons facilities.
WSJ: Kurds kicking ass
Reply #219 on:
November 15, 2013, 10:46:57 AM »
People with Kurdish flags sit in the back of a truck as they celebrate what they said was the liberation of villages from Islamist rebels near the city of Ras al-Ain in the province of Hasakah, Syria on Nov. 6. Reuters
NUSAYBIN, Turkey—When Hussein Cemo fled with his family to this dusty border town from Syria's ethnic Kurd-dominated northeast to escape attacks from radical Islamist militia, he feared being marooned for years.
Three months later, after a series of battlefield victories by Kurdish militia and a strengthening of Kurdish political power across Syria's northeast, the 44-year old mechanic is hoping to soon take his family home.
"We fled because our town was attacked by Islamists, but now Kurdish fighters are taking territory rapidly and setting up new administrations," said Mr. Cemo, in the living room of a three-bedroom apartment housing 15 of his extended family, all Kurds. "God willing, the area will soon be totally safe, and we will be able to return home," he said.
Across Syria's oil-rich northeast, the country's long-repressed Kurdish community is capturing territory and taking increasingly bold steps toward autonomy.
On Tuesday, Syria's leading Kurdish party, the People's Democratic Union, or PYD, announced it would form an interim administration to govern northeastern Syria. It is the clearest signal yet that Syrian Kurds view the civil war as an opportunity to carve out a self-governing enclave—similar to their ethnic kin in neighboring Iraq.
The move comes after Kurdish militia fighters seized more than 20 villages and strategic towns across the region, capitalizing on infighting among radical Islamist groups, including those affiliated with al Qaeda.
Analysts said Kurdish moves toward self-rule underline how war-torn Syria is balkanizing along ethnic lines in ways that will be difficult to reverse.
The moves could also have seismic consequences beyond Syria's borders, where neighboring states, such as Turkey and Iran, have long suppressed nationalist sentiments among their own sizable Kurdish populations.
"Kurds are becoming considerably more powerful and foreign governments have been surprised by how rapidly their strength has grown. But the question is now whether they have the capability to build institutions without resources or major income," said Henri J. Barkey, a professor of international relations at Lehigh University in Bethlehem, Pa.
More than 30 million Kurds live across an area that includes parts of Turkey, Iraq and Iran as well as Syria. Kurds speak multiple dialects and are represented by a plethora of often opposing political parties and organizations. Yet they have also managed to maintain a separate identity, partly because of the lines Arabs, Turks and Iranians have drawn to separate themselves from Kurdish communities.
Driving the military gains is the PYD's rapidly expanding militia—The People's Defense Units, or YPG—which claims to have 45,000 armed members, who also do police work, preventing civil disorder.
Militia spokesman Redur Xelil said in a telephone interview that the militia launched a broad offensive last month in response to repeated attacks on Kurdish communities by Islamist fighters. Some 2,500 Islamist fighters and 210 Kurdish militia have been killed since the groups started clashing sporadically in July, he added, a claim that could not be independently verified.
"We now control 70% of Syrian Kurdish territory…We have prepared plans to take control over all of it," Mr. Xelil said.
Growing Kurdish assertiveness in Syria has been watched nervously by neighboring states. Turkey, which is engaged in delicately balanced peace talks to halt its own conflict with the Kurdistan Workers' Party, or PKK, a close PYD ally, has said the moves risk breaking the country apart and sowing further instability along its border.
Syrian Kurds wave flags as they gather on the border with Turkey, near Mardin's Nusaybin district, on Nov. 7 to protest against the construction by the Turkish government of a 2.5-kilometer-long wall along the border between Turkey and Syria. Agence France-Presse/Getty Images
Ankara is fortifying sections of its border that separate Turkish and Syrian Kurds; a move that has provoked furious reaction among local Kurds. Turkish Kurds say it is to divide Kurdish communities as Syrian Kurds become emboldened. Ankara says it trying to prevent smuggling and protect Turkish territory from Syria's war spilling over.
The PYD's rise has also alarmed political leaders in Kurdish-run northern Iraq, who are wary of the group's militant links and Marxist philosophy.
Masoud Barzani, president of Iraq's Kurdish Regional Government, warned on Wednesday that the PYD was "dividing Kurds" and accused the group of arresting and killing its opponents, a charge the party denies. His caution came before a meeting Saturday with Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan, an ally.
Syrian Kurds themselves are also divided over the party's rising power, with some factions aligned with the western-backed opposition Syrian National Council. The region's other main party, the Kurdish Democratic Party (KDP), didn't sign the plan for self-administration and has declined to comment on the declaration. The KDP is also aligned with western-backed opposition, which has a separate plan.
Kurdish Democratic Union Party head Saleh Muslim speaks during a conference in Paris on Nov. 13 Reuters
Despite Kurdish gains, the power they have amassed remains diffuse and precarious. In Kurdish-controlled towns, the apparatus of the Syrian state still operates in tandem with the new administration, fueling accusations from Sunni-dominated opposition groups that the PYD is colluding with the regime. Damascus still collects taxes and pays the wages of most state employees. Christian mayors and bureaucrats loyal to President Assad still ply their trade, while the portraits of Syria's president remain on the walls of some state buildings.
The PYD has repeatedly denied colluding with Damascus stressing that Kurds were seen as second class citizens by the regime, often denied passports or government jobs.
The Syrian government hasn't made any public statements on Kurdish autonomy. It still pays some public sector employees, while the PYD has set up a separate tax system to fund its militia.
"It's true that the regime is still present throughout the region, but they are not leaving their bases or interfering as the Kurds build their power. They will have to leave or adapt to the new reality," said Ramzia Mohammed, a Kurdish councilor from the Syrian city of Qamishli.
Yet expanding Kurdish self-governance has failed to stem a growing humanitarian and economic crises in the region, with shortages in electricity, water and basic foodstuffs sparking a surge in cases of diseases such as polio and Tuberculosis, according to the Red Crescent RCB.T 0.00% humanitarian relief agency. Neighboring states that object to expanding PYD power have closed border crossings, placing the region under an effective embargo, Kurdish officials say.
"These policies risk turning Syrian Kurdish areas into the world's largest refugee camp," said Ayse Gokkan, mayor of Nusaybin, who has repeatedly criticized Ankara's stance against Syrian Kurds. "We need to deliver drugs and other supplies to help these people urgently."
But many of the thousands of Syrian Kurds who have fled across the border to this Turkish frontier town back the PYD as the guarantors of security and the party best placed to build institutions to secure Kurdish rights.
Syrian residents, analysts and refugees say that feeling is reflected on the ground in Kurdish Syria, where the PYD's dominance has been consolidated by recent battlefield victories.
Red, green and yellow-banded Kurdish flags now fly above municipal buildings. The PYD party's militia police Kurdish towns and cities. The party controls the distribution of food, water and fuel, and have set up their own makeshift courts.
PYD leaders say this week's declaration of an interim administration—a blueprint for a hundred-strong general assembly set to govern the region after elections next year—will be followed by a new constitution and the ejection of remaining regime forces from Kurd-controlled territory. The constitution would replace the existing Assad-era constitution, which still nominally prevails in the Syrian Kurdish regions.
"While others have been fighting, we have been establishing institutions in finance, public services and defense. Our transitional government is to run this area comprehensively and we are preparing for a new constitution soon," said Alan Semo, a PYD spokesman.
Meanwhile, in the Turkish border town, Mr. Cemo says he hopes he can soon cross back to Syria, inspect the family home and visit his two eldest sons, who are fighting with the YPG militia.
"They told us not to come now, because they are still clearing the area, but soon. We're still waiting but now we have more hope," he said.
POTH: Assad with the momentum
Reply #220 on:
November 17, 2013, 07:56:14 AM »
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