"WASHINGTON -- The chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Gen. Martin Dempsey, said Tuesday he is "cautious" about U.S. military intervention in Syria because of doubts that it would halt the violence or achieve political reconciliation.He cast doubt on the effectiveness of establishing a no-fly zone, saying that only about 10 percent of the casualties suffered by anti-regime forces are caused by air strikes. He said 90 percent are caused by small arms and artillery, which would be unaffected by a no-fly zone...."
Tuesday, April 30, 2013
Posted by G, M, Z, or B at 6:53 PM
Posted by G, M, Z, or B at 5:48 PM
"... A senior Qatari official has said Israel and the Palestinians could trade land rather than conform exactly to their 1967 borders in what appears to be a softening of Arab states' stance on the 2002 peace plan.Sheikh Hamad bin Jassim al-Thani, Qatar's prime minister and foreign minister, made the comment on Monday after he and a group of Arab officials met US Secretary of State John Kerry to discuss how to promote Israeli-Palestinian peace...."
Posted by G, M, Z, or B at 12:41 PM
'Saudi Arabia was betting on advantageous military developments in Syria when in reality tables were turned against Riyadh & allies!'
'Rebel-issued border map showing SAA/HzB control of insurgents' passages'
"... Under the guise of openness toward Hezbollah in Beirut, the Saudi axis is locked in a regional battle to tighten the siege on the Syrian regime and topple President Bashar al-Assad. As the Saudis were preparing to attack Damascus, they felt it prudent not to open more than one front at a time. So they made a truce with Hezbollah and showed goodwill toward the party, while the Arab-Western-Turkish noose was tightening around Assad’s neck.On the other hand, Hezbollah and Iran were not fooled by the Saudi maneuver. A few days after the Saudis started testing the other side’s reactions, Saudi Arabia initiated its attack: Riyadh’s Lebanese allies hardened their positions on forming a new government and the electoral law, which alerted the Hezbollah axis about the maneuver and made that axis alter its tactics. So Hezbollah counterattacked on almost all fronts.
It seemed that Saudi Arabia was betting on advantageous military developments in Syria when those developments happened in the favor of the Iranian side. A factor on the ground turned things around: Within two weeks, pro-regime forces made advances in all regions around Damascus and in the Homs countryside. This development placed the 370-kilometer [230-mile] Lebanese-Syrian border under the control of the Syrian regime and its Lebanese allies. This trapped and isolated a significant portion of the Sunnis — who have traditionally been backed by Saudi Arabia and whose numbers in Akkar and Tripoli are about half a million people — between the Syrian army and its Lebanese allies.
But the counterattack on Saudi Arabia in Lebanon has other manifestations: The talked-about Hezbollah visit to Riyadh never happened and Nasrallah was reported to have visited Tehran in recent days. Despite the many analyses on the visit’s objectives and timing, Hezbollah was noticeably silent on the matter. The party neither confirmed nor denied it....
Another manifestation of the counterattack was Israel’s announcement that it shot down, over the sea near Haifa, a drone that came from Lebanon. But unlike similar incidents, such as when Israel shot down the Ayyoub drone on Oct. 9, 2012, Hezbollah was quick to deny that it had anything to do with the matter. Some interpreted the denial as due to the failure of “Ayyoub 2” to enter deep into Israel. But the drone may have been simply intended to fly over the Israeli gas fields in the Mediterranean. In that case, the drone has successfully sent Israel the message ...
Some in Beirut believe that the Iranian counterattack against the Saudi Arabian progress, which was marked by the resignation of former Lebanese Prime Minister Najib Mikati, has gone beyond the Lebanese arena to reach Bahrain and even Iraq: There has been talk that weapons caches for the Bahraini opposition were discovered in Manama; and the troops of Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki entered Hawija and are threatening to do the same in Anbar.
All that once again confirms that any settlement among the Lebanese needs an international umbrella, which at a minimum would be an understanding between Washington and Tehran. But such an understanding may be impossible before several events occur, from the Iranian presidential elections next June to the results of the Almaty [nuclear] talks — if they resume.
In the meantime, the Lebanese situation is awaiting either the prolongation of the crisis by extending Parliament’s mandate and delaying the formation of a new government, or the explosion of the situation!
Most Lebanese and external parties prefer the first choice...."
Posted by G, M, Z, or B at 12:04 PM
ICG: 'Turkey should adopt the profile of a balanced regional power, rather than a Sunni Muslim one!"
Among the ICG's recommendations: ...
"... To the Government of Turkey: "... More broadly, Turkey must stop betting its reputation on a quick resolution of the Syria crisis, and make some long-term changes of emphasis. In order to talk to all parties from a position of greater moral authority, it should avoid projecting the image of being a Sunni Muslim hegemon. It should also re-secure its border and ask Syrian opposition fighters to move to Syria. Publicly adopting a profile of a balanced regional power, rather than a Sunni Muslim one, would likewise do much to reduce any possibility that the sectarian polarisation that is crippling Syria will jump the border to Turkey, in particular to Hatay province.... , ..., ...
To prepare for possible years of turmoil in Syria
14. Develop plans and personnel to deal with a protracted refugee problem, ...15. Maintain initiatives to stop communal tensions from spilling over and keep off-duty Syrian opposition fighters away from Alevi-populated areas.16. Minimise border crossings by Syrian opposition fighters; do not allow them to use refugee camps as rear bases; ensure there is no pressure on young camp residents to join opposition militias; and establish new refugee camps well away from the border.17. Avoid targeting any Syrian Kurd or other group that has not engaged in hostile action against Turkey; and pursue efforts to solve the Kurdish problem by moving quickly with the insurgent Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) to end that conflict and its multiple overlaps with the Syria crisis..."
Posted by G, M, Z, or B at 11:37 AM
"... The area around Qusayr has long been a battle zone, with both the government and the rebels considering it strategic to their goals....
Residents said the participation in the offensive of fighters from Hezbollah, the Lebanese Shiite militia that’s increasingly fought on the side of the Syrian government, was crucial to the government’s recapture of the villages.
Rebels use the area to move people and supplies between Syria and supportive communities in Lebanon, and last year it served as an approach to gain a foothold in Homs, the country’s third largest city, which continues to see combat despite a nearly yearlong siege by the government against rebel-held neighborhoods in its center.
Qusayr sits astride a highway that connects Damascus to Latakia and Tartus, the major coastal cities in the provinces of the same name...., ...
The push around Qusayr coincides with similar government offensives in the capital, Damascus, and the southern province of Daraa, where the participation of pro-government militias in the fighting has bolstered the Syrian military.
The tactic apparently has been effective. Opposition supporters in the eastern Damascus suburb of Douma, a staging ground for rebels seeking to push deeper into the capital, which has been rebel-run for months, said the government effectively had cut rebel supply lines and isolated the area. Government forces also overran rebel-held suburbs last week in western Damascus in an effort to apply pressure on Darayya, a rebel stronghold in southern Damascus...."
Posted by G, M, Z, or B at 11:18 AM
"...Most worrisome, jihadis linked to Al Qaeda have become the dominant fighting force and, as Ben Hubbard reported in The Times, there are few rebel groups that both share the political vision of the United States and have the military might to push it forward. ..."
Posted by G, M, Z, or B at 10:50 AM
"... The United States and Europe have huge populations and enormous wealth. They can, in that sense, afford such interventions. But the United States cannot afford continual defeats as a result of intervening in countries of marginal national interest, where it sets for itself irrational political goals for the war. ..."
Posted by G, M, Z, or B at 10:39 AM
"... The difference between right-wing and left-wing interventionists is the illusions they harbor. In spite of experiences in Afghanistan and Iraq, right-wing interventionists continue to believe that the United States and Europe have the power not only to depose regimes but also to pacify the affected countries and create Western-style democracies. The left believes that there is such a thing as a neutral intervention -- one in which the United States and Europe intervene to end a particular evil, and with that evil gone, the country will now freely select a Western-style constitutional democracy. Where the right-wing interventionists cannot absorb the lessons of Afghanistan and Iraq, the left-wing interventionists cannot absorb the lessons of Libya...."
Posted by G, M, Z, or B at 10:32 AM
"... Sixty-two percent of Americans continue to say the United States does not have a responsibility to intervene in the fighting in Syria, while 24 percent of Americans think the United States does have a responsibility to do something about the fighting between government forces and anti-government groups there - Most Democrats, Republicans, and independents agree that the U.S. does not have a responsibility to get involved in the conflict in Syria.Even as news of the possible use of chemical weapons by the Syrian government was announced by the Obama Administration, fewer Americans are paying attention to news about Syria than were doing so last month. In March, slightly more than half of all Americans were following news about Syria at least somewhat closely. Now, four in 10 say they are doing so, including just 10 percent who are following it very closely..."
Posted by G, M, Z, or B at 9:39 AM
"...Jordan says that more 45,000 refugees in its territory who fled Syria's civil war have chosen to return since last August.Col. Zaher Abu Shihab, who directs Jordan's largest refugee camp at Zaatari near the two countries' border, says 45,865 Syrian refugees have so far been voluntarily repatriated.
Some refugees have complained of the harsh environment at the camp. Sporadic protests have demanded improvements..."
Posted by G, M, Z, or B at 9:31 AM
Monday, April 29, 2013
'The West's friends & weapons (
"...Syrian [officials] informed us that on Monday morning, unidentified forces launched two ground-to-air missiles which exploded in the air very close to a civilian aircraft belonging to a Russian airline,” the source told the Russian agency. It is believed the aircraft was intentionally targeted in the attempted strike, “but it remains unclear whether the attackers knew whether it was Russian or not,” the source added.
The passenger plane was en route to Russia after departing from an unspecified resort city in Egypt at the time of the reported attack. ..."
Posted by G, M, Z, or B at 12:53 PM
'Are the drums of war beating louder?
It is becoming clear that a major front is being carefully prepared in the region – from the “ever-ready” Israelis, to the West that dreams of resurrecting its colonial past, to the Gulf monarchies whose fate is tied to regional developments, to the uneasy Jordanian regime, and Lebanon’s March 14 forces.
The fact of the matter is that each side is coming closer to crossing the red lines drawn by the other, which could spark a major multi-front war in the region.
Everyone is eager and motivated, and their enthusiasm for war comes after having failed repeatedly in toppling the regime in Damascus, or returning Iraq to Washington’s bosom, or isolating the Resistance in Lebanon, or stopping Iran’s nuclear program. In addition to these failures, there is the growing fear that Russia could soon become a full-fledged member of this anti-Western axis.
Washington’s foes in the region are entering a new phase – particularly in Syria – where after two years, they are finally beginning to succeed in implementing effective countermeasures to contain the armed opposition. Their efforts are more coordinated than before, with both Iran and Hezbollah making it known that they will not hesitate to defend their Syrian ally against any foreign military aggression.
The other side is also developing new approaches, such as focusing on the Jordanian front, where the Saudis have been commissioned with overseeing the Islamists and the US has upped its direct involvement in training and logistics.
The West cannot tolerate the possibility of an Assad comeback, whereby Iran and Hezbollah would have tremendous influence over decision-making in Damascus and perhaps gain control of its strategic weapons, including its feared chemical arsenal.
As for the anti-Western front, their red lines are as follows: stiff Russian-Iranian opposition to the fall of Assad under any conditions, preventing any foreign intervention or any qualitative shift in the arming of the opposition, and a more recent red line which comes in the form of warnings against an Israeli attack against Syria.
Behind the scenes of the war over Syria, there are those in Tel Aviv who are seriously considering some sort attack on the Resistance in Lebanon. Despite the real possibility that this could spark a regional war, Hezbollah’s enemies at home and abroad are betting on a party that is isolated and vulnerable due to the Syrian situation.
It is therefore important to point out the following to friend and foe alike: Hezbollah’s preparedness tops most estimations of its military abilities. And despite the fact that it has had to reveal some aspects of its growing power in order to deter its enemies, it has what it needs – particularly when it comes to strategic weapons – to fight a bitter and prolonged confrontation.
It is useful to remind those thinking of taking action against the Resistance that its arsenal of rockets has reached such a scale that it can launch in single day more than what it fired in all 33 days of the July 2006 War combined.
It should also be known that there is a major current within the party – including among the civilian and military leaderships – that believes it would be to their advantage if the Zionist enemy does in fact take such a step, which will lead to unveiling the surprises the Resistance has in store for them.'
Posted by G, M, Z, or B at 12:26 PM
"WASHINGTON — After a mass killing of hundreds, perhaps thousands, of Taliban prisoners of war by the forces of an American-backed warlord during the 2001 invasion of Afghanistan, Bush administration officials repeatedly discouraged efforts to investigate the episode, according to government officials and human rights organizations.American officials had been reluctant to pursue an investigation — sought by officials from the F.B.I., the State Department, the Red Cross and human rights groups — because the warlord, Gen. Abdul Rashid Dostum, was on the payroll of the C.I.A. and his militia worked closely with United States Special Forces in 2001, several officials said.....
The question of culpability for the prisoner deaths — which may have been the most significant mass killing in Afghanistan after the 2001 American-led invasion — has taken on new urgency since the general, an important ally of Mr. Karzai, was reinstated to his government post last month. He had been suspended last year and living in exile in Turkey after he was accused of threatening a political rival at gunpoint...."
Posted by G, M, Z, or B at 12:09 PM
"... All told, tens of millions of dollars have flowed from the C.I.A. to the office of President Hamid Karzai, according to current and former advisers to the Afghan leader.“We called it ‘ghost money,’ ” said Khalil Roman, who served as Mr. Karzai’s deputy chief of staff from 2002 until 2005. “It came in secret, and it left in secret.”..."
Posted by G, M, Z, or B at 11:33 AM
"... The decision will not banish the channels from the airwaves: as satellite channels based abroad, they are beyond the reach of the Iraqi government. But it prohibits the channels’ journalists from reporting inside Iraq...."
Posted by G, M, Z, or B at 11:28 AM
Sunday, April 28, 2013
This NYTimes report should be comforting to the Obama administration: Al Nusra/ al Qaeda/ Ahrar el Sham & co. are not as bad as we think they are!! They are close to 30,000 but they are not 'doctrinnaires' and most importantly, they are 'respected'! In Conclusion: This piece urges BHO to hurry in dislodging Assad, lest the opportunity to preserve Al Qaeda-light is 'lost' forever!
IISS' Hokayem: “How do you denounce al Nusra Front as extremists when they disciplined, resourceful and committed?”
[NYTimes] "... Nowhere in rebel-controlled Syria is there a secular fighting force to speak of....
Among the most extreme groups is the notorious Al Nusra Front, the Qaeda-aligned force declared a terrorist organization by the United States, but other groups share aspects of its Islamist ideology in varying degrees.
“Some of the more extremist opposition is very scary from an American perspective, and that presents us with all sorts of problems,” said Ari Ratner, a fellow at the Truman National Security Project and former Middle East adviser in the Obama State Department. “We have no illusions about the prospect of engaging with the Assad regime — it must still go — but we are also very reticent to support the more hard-line rebels.”... The Islamist character of the opposition reflects the main constituency of the rebellion, which has been led since its start by Syria’s Sunni Muslim majority, mostly in conservative, marginalized areas. The descent into brutal civil war has hardened sectarian differences, and the failure of more mainstream rebel groups to secure regular arms supplies has allowed Islamists to fill the void and win supporters.
The religious agenda of the combatants sets them apart from many civilian activists, protesters and aid workers who had hoped the uprising would create a civil, democratic Syria.
When the armed rebellion began, defectors from the government’s staunchly secular army formed the vanguard. The rebel movement has since grown to include fighters with a wide range of views, including Qaeda-aligned jihadis seeking to establish an Islamic emirate, ...
“My sense is that there are no seculars,” said Elizabeth O’Bagy, of the Institute for the Study of War, who has made numerous trips to Syria in recent months to interview rebel commanders.
Of most concern to the United States is the Nusra Front, whose leader recently confirmed that the group cooperated with Al Qaeda in Iraq and pledged fealty to Al Qaeda’s top leader, Ayman al-Zawahri, Osama bin Laden’s longtime deputy. Nusra has claimed responsibility for a number of suicide bombings and is the group of choice for the (12,000) foreign jihadis pouring into Syria.
Another prominent group, Ahrar al-Sham, shares much of Nusra’s extremist ideology but is made up mostly of Syrians.... ,...
While many residents initially feared them, some have come to respect them for providing basic services ...“They are the strongest military force in the area,” said the commander of a rebel brigade in Hasaka reached via Skype. “We can’t deny it.” But most of Nusra’s fighters joined the group for the weapons, not the ideology, he said ...
As extremists rose in the rebel ranks, the United States sought to limit their influence, first by designating Nusra a terrorist organization, and later by pushing for the formation of the Supreme Military Council, which is linked to the exile opposition group, the Syrian National Coalition....
In the past, United States officials saw the Islamist groups’ abundant resources as the main draw for recruits, said Steven Heydemann, a senior adviser at the United States Institute of Peace, which works with the State Department.
“The strategy is based on the current assessment that popular appeal of these groups is transactional, not ideological, and that opportunities exist to peel people away by providing alternative support and resources,” he said.
Mr. Heydemann acknowledged, however, that the current momentum toward radicalism could be hard to reverse.
The challenge, he said, is to end the conflict before “the opportunity to create a system of governance not based on militant Islamic law is lost.”
Emile Hokayem, a Middle East analyst at the International Institute for Strategic Studies, framed the rebels’ dilemma another way: “How do you denounce the Nusra Front as extremists when they are playing such an important military role and when they look disciplined, resourceful and committed?”..."
"... In conversations last week with Middle East experts from the U.S. government and from the region, a disturbing set of themes recurred. First, there was a growing sense that absent some major initiative that currently lacks a leader, concept, and resources, Bashar al-Assad's regime in Syria could hold on for years to come, perhaps even as long as another decade. Next, were that to be the case or even if Assad were to fall sooner, Syria would remain an open wound, an ever more desolate, violent, chaotic battleground. Finally, even in the wake of a conflict-ending settlement, if Syria were to land in the hands of extremists, the aftershocks would reverberate around the region, spreading outward from Syria to Lebanon, Jordan, Iraq, Israel, and the Palestinian territories.We could be in the midst of what will someday be seen as decades of interconnected conflicts. For this reason and because most of the world's major powers fear this outcome and the potential costs it would pose for them, there is a growing sense that rather than focusing on democratic outcomes to all this upheaval, the United States and others will soon be contenting themselves with another generation of strongmen throughout the Greater Middle East. The U.S. willingness to embrace dubious "partners" like Afghanistan's Hamid Karzai or Iraq's Nouri al-Maliki and U.S. reluctance to publicly criticize leaders with questionable values such as Egypt's Mohamed Morsy are seen as signs of this growing predisposition....It could be argued that the U.S. intelligence community is still evaluating the evidence of the chemical attacks. Perhaps it is doing much more behind the scenes than the public knows. The reality, however, is that the situation is deteriorating. Further, U.S. efforts to marshal others into a constructive role have produced mixed results. Some, like the government of Qatar and to a degree that of Turkey, stand accused of supporting extremists. Others, like Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates, have sought a different path but think that without stronger U.S. leadership, effective international action is not going to be possible.
The problem of course, is that the American people's appetite for further deep involvement in the region is near zero. Iraq and Afghanistan have proved to be costly disasters. Americans have very serious problems at home. New energy resources in the United States have led to a sense that Americans will find it ever easier to distance themselves from the region's problems. America's European allies have no organized foreign policy to speak of, have less appetite than the United States does to be involved on the ground in the region, and have even greater problems at home. The Russians are being systematically unhelpful. The Chinese are only willing to get involved at the margins, essentially making the case themselves that they are not ready for prime time. Regional actors range from the malevolent in Iran to the relatively weak, at risk, motivationally questionable, or all of the above among most of the moderate states. And none of these factors seems likely to change anytime soon...
Syria has illustrated that even if the United States, Europe, or others are slow to take significant action, extremist groups seeking to capitalize on the action are moving quickly to take advantage of the void. Estimates have Syria's al-Nusra Front, which has pledged its fealty to al Qaeda, now surpassing 12,000 in strength, with foreign fighters drawn from every corner of Europe and the surrounding region..."
Posted by G, M, Z, or B at 11:03 AM
Saturday, April 27, 2013
"...Charles Blair of the Federation of American Scientists points out that it would be in the interests of rebel forces to involve the US in their fight against Assad – and the origins of the samples coming out of Syria cannot be guaranteed. Some believe a sarin-tainted sample would be hard to fake. For one thing, the US believes Assad controls all of Syria's CW munitions. But that may not be the only source. When the US had chemical weapons, the army, until 1969, gave out small vials of agents, including sarin, to teach soldiers to recognise their smell – and they were widely distributed. Similar vials used to train Syrian soldiers might have tempted beleaguered rebels. ."
Posted by G, M, Z, or B at 3:21 PM
LATimes: "US Intel confident poison gas was released but are less sure about whether Bashar Assad's regime is responsible!"
"WASHINGTON — U.S. intelligence agencies unanimously agree that Syrians have been exposed to deadly sarin gas in recent weeks, but they are divided over how certain they can be that the Syrian regime is to blame, U.S. and congressional officials said Friday....
Gary Samore, who was the White House's top official on weapons of mass destruction until February, said that answering questions about the "chain of custody" would probably depend on highly sensitive intelligence that might not exist, or which the government would be reluctant to make public.
As a result, "I think there's always going to be doubt," said Samore, now with the Belfer Center at Harvard University....
If the U.N. team continues to be blocked, the administration will have to rely on its own intelligence assessments and that of allies, which would not be nearly as convincing to the rest of the world. Greg Thielmann, a former U.S. intelligence analyst, said the intelligence agencies' conclusions would probably be less convincing to the public because the agencies are not likely to declare that they have reached 100% certainty.
"The Iraq WMD is looming over this, as it ought to be," a senior congressional official said. "How can you be more confident in the assessment here? These are questions we are all asking." ..."
Posted by G, M, Z, or B at 2:10 PM
In US Intel parlance: "Low confidence means it’s too fragmented, it isn’t authenticated & major concerns about the credibility of the sources!"
"...In U.S. intelligence analytical parlance, “moderate confidence” generally means that information lacks sufficient corroboration, while low confidence usually means that it’s too fragmented, it isn’t authenticated and there are major concerns about the credibility of the sources.The president’s restraint also stemmed from lingering popular anger over his predecessor’s use of bogus and exaggerated intelligence to fan support for the 2003 U.S.-led invasion of Iraq, and his own reluctance to become embroiled in another foreign war as he pulls U.S. combat forces out of Afghanistan after nearly 12 years of conflict..., ..., ...,
Rep. Brad Sherman, D-Calif., a member of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, urged the United States to move slowly and to work with its allies and with Russia – which, along with Iran, is Assad’s main foreign supporter – to forge a response.
“The downside to Syria is there are elements of the opposition that are just as bad as the elements that control the government,” he said, referring to al Qaida-allied Islamist rebels. “It’s not just who you’re against, it’s who you’re for.”...
skepticism grew among some experts, who questioned why Assad would use sarin only on a small scale and wondered why there weren’t more casualties if chemical weapons had been used as extensively as opposition activists have asserted.
“If you drop a bomb with sarin, how do you nail only one person?” asked Jeffrey Lewis, an expert with the Monterey Institute of International Studies...."
Posted by G, M, Z, or B at 1:23 PM
Alex Fishman: 'Something is brewing between Riyadh & Tel Aviv, as evidenced from the warm greeting between the Saudi & Israeli defense ministers in Munich'
Israeli "Yediot Aharonot": "... The United States succeeded in creating a 4 +1 'regional axis' to protect Israel, consisting of Saudi Arabia, UAE, Jordan and the Palestinian Authority, in addition to Turkey.'
Posted by G, M, Z, or B at 1:12 PM
"... Damascus faces a major dilemma: If it continues with its so far successful offensive, it will make the case bolder for intervention. Western powers don’t want Assad to win and they were expecting opposition forces to finish the fight. If the opposition fails to make any further gains, the West will come to its aid.If Damascus is smart enough, it will strengthen its bases in and around the capital to have an upper hand in possible negotiations and offer dialogue to solve the crisis. To realize exactly this, the Syrian regime has launched major assault against opposition fighters in Damascus suburbs. It captured the strategic town of Otaibah and dealt a huge blow to rebels in the Damascus suburb of Jdeidet al-Fadel...."
Posted by G, M, Z, or B at 12:10 PM
NSC Official: "Our 'Syria' options are severely limited... we want to avoid an intervention that makes matters worse.”
'It is often said that Washington can only deal with one crisis at a time. Thus, North Korea has been shunted from view, to be replaced by Syria where new reports of the regime’s use of chemical weapons have reinforced the trend to greater US engagement in the conflict. Consultations with allies have increased, as seen in the visit to Washington by Jonathan Day, head of the British Joint Intelligence Committee, for consultations on the underlying intelligence which may stimulate a change in US policy. In the face of rising hawkish pressure to intervene militarily in short order, President Obama continues to act cautiously. While we understand that a number of measures are under consideration – more targeted aid to the Syrian opposition, the creation of no-fly zones, further tightening of sanctions – Obama remains minded to act in concert with the international community, including Russia and China. The intelligence evidence is therefore being rigorously examined and, even if it shows conclusively that the regime has deployed chemical weapons, our Administration contacts tell us that the US response will be proportionate and will begin with diplomacy in the UN Security Council. As one NSC official put it to us, “the momentum for action is building, but our options are severely limited. Most of all, we want to avoid being bounced into an intervention that makes matters worse.” Overall, therefore, we expect US policy will evolve slowly, with much emphasis on the risks that any Western action might unleash region-wide instability. One specific risk being talked about behind the scenes is that action in Syria might spill over into conflict with Iran, as well as sink the Middle East peace process once and for all. Given that Administration analysts hope that the June presidential elections in Iran may potentially set the stage for a more productive dialogue with Tehran over nuclear issue, the geo-strategic reasons for caution over Syria weigh heavily in the White House. With regard to Afghanistan, the looming onset of the summer “fighting season” is prompting a flurry of diplomatic exchanges led by Secretary of State Kerry. Concern is rising in the Pentagon of, as one senior analyst put it to us, of “an extremely dangerous scenario of a retreat under fire.”
Posted by G, M, Z, or B at 10:19 AM
"...Such access to the Syrian army was almost unimaginable just a few months ago and there are good reasons why. The army believe they are at last winning back ground from the Free Syrian Army and the al-Nusra Islamist fighters and the various al-Qa’ida satellites that now rule much of the Syrian countryside. From Point 45 they are scarcely a mile and a half from the Turkish frontier and intend to take the ground in between. Outside Damascus they have battled their way bloodily into two rebel-held suburbs. While I was prowling through the mountaintop positions, the rebels were in danger of losing the town of Qusayr outside Homs amid opposition accusations of the widespread killing of civilians. The main road from Damascus to Latakia on the Mediterranean coast has been reopened by the army.
And the line troops I met at Point 45 were a different breed of men from those soldiers who became corrupted after 29 years of semi-occupation in Lebanon, who fell back to Syria without a war to fight in 2005, the discipline of the soldiers around Damascus a joke rather than a threat to anyone. Bashar’s Special Forces now appear confident, ruthless, politically motivated, a danger to their enemies, their uniforms smart, their weapons clean. Syrians have long grown used to the claims by Israel – inevitably followed by the Washington echo machine – that chemical weapons have been used by Bashar’s forces; as an intelligence officer remarked caustically in Damascus: “Why should we use chemical weapons when our Mig aircraft and their bombs cause infinitely more destruction?” .... And I rather think that the soldiers of what is officially called the Syrian Arab Army are fighting for Syria rather than Assad. But fighting they are and maybe, for now, they are winning an unwinnable war.. ..."
Posted by G, M, Z, or B at 9:45 AM
"...There is an odd relationship with Turkey up here. Recep Tayyip Erdogan may condemn Assad but the nearest Turkish frontier station a mile and a half away stays open, the only border post still linking Turkey and government-controlled Syrian territory. One of the officers refers to an old story about the Umayyad Caliph Muawiya who said that he kept a thin piece of his own hair “to connect me to my enemies”. “The Turks have left this one frontier open with us,” the officer says, “so as not to cut the hair of Muawiya.” He is not smiling and I understand what he is saying. The Turks still want to maintain a physical connection with the Assad regime. Erdogan cannot be certain that Bashar al-Assad will lose this war. ..."
Posted by G, M, Z, or B at 9:37 AM
Friday, April 26, 2013
'Idriss of the FSA' in fascination: “Mossad is one of the most famous security services in the world "
'Looking good in West-issued military fatigue!'
"...“Israel has this information because there are many, many members of security services who are now very active in Syria,” Free Syrian Army Chief of Staff General Salim Idriss told CNN’s Christian Amanpour, hinting that the weakened regime of President Bashar Assad was incapable of controlling the borders. “Mossad is one of the most famous security services in the world and I don’t think they are away.” ..."
Posted by G, M, Z, or B at 6:09 PM
'Stretching the truth?'
"-Syria . So now we have the emergence of supposed proof of Assad's government being in violation of the self assigned "red line" of poison gas use against the rebels. Let's see the proof. Let's see and hear something beyond Andrea Mitchell beating her drum for war. This is especially important on this day when the arch deceiver (or buffoon) is fawned over at his presidential library. He still does not admit that his administration chose to believe fabricated information in the matter of Iraq's posession of nuclear weapons and poison gas. Now we have Obama and his Sancho Panza man (Biden) walking the American people toward war in Syria in pursuit of god knows what interest of the US. Don't think for a minute that a "no fly zone" over Syria is anything but war against the Syrian government. There would be massive movement of air assets to Turkey, Israel and Jordan. There would be sufficient air to air combat to destroy the Syrian Air Force. There would be Search Air Rescue operations in Syria for downed air crew. And at the end there would be a Saudi satellite jihadi state in Syria. We should be trusting about this?
- Iraq. Civil War on sectarian lines has begun again in Iraq. We were told that we had done a good thing in Iraq. GW Bush still says we did. What good did we do? We replaced one dictator with someone who is rapidly becoming another. The government of Iraq is at war with the Sunni Arab population. Is that not clear?
- Afghanistan. Is it not clear that our effort to transform Afghanistan has failed? Is it not clear that we should leave as soon as possible and stop throwing good money and people after bad and foolish efforts?
-The Sequester. In the gun fight in the senate, the Obama Administration used every trick of propaganda and tear jerking to try to get its way. All those efforts failed, failed miserably. Now the same techique is being used to try to influence the American people to force the Congress to adopt Obama's budget. Sequester cuts are being structured to cause maximum pain and inconvenenience to the general public. White House tours are cut. National monuments are closed. Air traffic controllers are laid off so as to cause delays in air traffic with travelers waiting hours in aircraft for take offs. At the same time defense contracters report no change in their bottom line.
Should we be trusting?" pl
Posted by G, M, Z, or B at 1:21 PM
".... the Obama administration has been goaded ever-deeper by a series of dubious arguments about U.S. involvement in Syria's civil war. Four, in particular, have surfaced frequently.
1. It's in America's national security interest'The argument goes something like this: "This regime in Syria serves as the main forward operating base of the Iranian regime in the heart of the Arab world. It has supported Palestinian terrorist groups and funneled arms of all kinds, including tens of thousands of rockets, to Hezbollah in Lebanon. It remains a committed enemy of Israel." That was Senator John McCain, writing in the The New Republic.Topple Assad, the theory goes, and Iran loses an ally, Israel an enemy and Hezbollah a critical patron. So far, so reasonable, even if the connection to U.S. security is tenuous.But all of the benefits that supposedly accrue from toppling Assad only occur if Syria is able to reconstitute itself into a stable, secure government that rejects Iranian goals and prevents al-Qaeda cells from spawning in its midst. What are the odds of that?At the moment, they appear bleak. No international peacekeeping force, not even a regional one, is poised to enter Syria to police it when and if the Assad regime crumbles. As the U.S. learned in Iraq, it takes well over 100,000 troops and the cooperation of vital sections of the population to adequately pacify a country ..., ...., ..., What appears more likely to happen is that U.S. arms and interference will accelerate Syria's collapse into a failed state. In such an environment, there will not only be ample opportunities for Iran to preserve, if not extend, its influence, but there will be newfound threats to U.S. security including the establishment of additional safe havens for al-Qaeda-aligned jihadist groups. That's a net-negative for U.S. strategic interests.'2. America has a moral obligation to stop the bloodshed'Aside from the supposed strategic imperative, the administration is being scolded for its supposed indifference to the human toll Syria's war has taken on the country's civilian population. No one can argue that Syria's bloodshed has been appalling and U.S. efforts to fund medical care and housing for refugees is certainly appropriate. But the argument that arming rebel groups will result in a net-gain for the Syrian population again rests on dubious assumptions.First, it imagines that arming the rebels (i.e., improving their ability to kill Assad's forces) will result in a reduction of violence. Maybe, but maybe not. It could simply produce greater carnage without decisively tipping the scales toward the rebels. Moreover, a Syrian civil war that ends in complete chaos and anarchy in Syria in which ethnic cleansing and population displacement occurs is hardly a moral outcome.The second, related problem is the arbitrary nature of the obligation. If arms are sent into Syria on the premise that it is a moral obligation, how far does that obligation extend? If the arm shipments fail to stem the bloodshed, then shouldn't Washington enforce a no-fly zone or insert its own forces to defend Syria's beleaguered civilians? Justifying an intervention on moral terms implies a deepening commitment that the U.S. cannot materially fulfill.Ultimately, Washington's first moral obligation is to the health and safety of its own citizens. If an intervention in Syria does not advance that first obligation and cannot decisively make things better, it's difficult to see why it should be undertaken at all.'3. We need the "good guys" to win'The Obama administration has been urged to arm rebel factions lest "bad guys" (i.e., jihadists) should gain the upper hand. "There is a competition now in Syria between moderate forces (and) the al-Qaida types," Robert Ford, the U.S. ambassador to Syria, told the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. "It is very important that we weigh in."
There is a certain cold, hard logic to this idea: If Syria is going to become a failed state, better to keep the various jihadist groups on their back foot fighting U.S.-backed rebels instead of consolidating their control over more territory. However, this ignores several critical questions: Are we sure the "good guys" really are good? Opposition forces may claim allegiance to Western principles when beseeching international donors, but good intentions can quickly melt away in the face of a struggle for power.Secondly, and more problematic, is that once weapons enter Syria, the United States has zero capacity to ensure that only "good guys" get them. Weapons are fungible. They can be stolen, diverted, plucked from the bodies of fallen soldiers or transferred from America's preferred parties to jihadists with their own aims. If sophisticated U.S. arms flow into Syria, a black market for those weapons will no doubt flourish, and al-Qaeda will be buying.
4. They've used chemical weapons'President Obama himself gravely warned that the use of chemical weapons by the Assad regime would be a "game changer" as far as American policy was concerned. With the administration now acknowledging that those weapons were used, it begs an admittedly blunt question: What difference does it make?The administration was willing to let over 70,000 Syrians die by bullet and bomb without a direct intervention. Does a sarin gas attack really change the strategic calculus as far as American interests are concerned? ...,...Some may argue that American credibility is now on the line after the White House drew a red line. It's true that the administration's future threats will likely be discounted, but that's a smaller price to pay than the steep costs that would be incurred by directly intervening in Syria's civil war. Compounding a small error with a much larger one is no way to restore American credibility.'The End GameWhat unites the four bad arguments for American involvement in Syria is that they treat the fall of Assad as the end of American (and Syrian) troubles, when in fact it would be just the beginning....
And consider this: What makes proponents of a U.S. intervention in Syria believe Washington has the werewithal to restore the country to some semblence of stability? In Iraq, the U.S. spent trillions of dollars, thousands of lives and, in the case of Afghanistan, over a decade trying to nation build with results that could best be described as modest. Have we suddenly become more capable, wealthier and fluent in the various tribal and sectarian intricacies of the Muslim world to make the third time the charm?"
Thank God for Salafi/Jabhat al Nusra/ al Qaeda obituaries: Without them, one would think that the opposition in Syria is yet to lose a SINGLE fighter!
"The Economist is indistinguishable in its reporting on Syria from the most lousy Western media. Look at this: "Opposition sources reckon that a weeklong government offensive in the suburbs south-west of Damascus in mid-April may have left 250 dead, nearly all civilians." Economist like Western media report whatever they receive from the exile opposition (just as they had done previously with the claims by Iraqi National Congress of Ahmad Chalabi--yes, we remember). Exile opposition never ever admits that among their dead are fighters. All their dead are always civilians. For some reason, the bombs and bullets of the regime forces never ever kill Syrian opposition fighters. It only hit civilians. And the Economist dutifully parrot that line. And how did the correspondent know that "nearly all" of the dead are civilians? Has the correspondent examined the bodies one by one?"
Posted by G, M, Z, or B at 11:12 AM
"... U.S.-Jordanian military cooperation has been robust for years; for example, American C-17 transport planes routinely fly low over Amman en route to Marka Airport with few local complaints. Yet a hallmark of that cooperation has been its relatively low profile. The popular backlash that greeted the latest initiatives is directly attributable to their regrettably public nature. Secretary Hagel's deployment announcement, and the subsequent Los Angeles Times leak by another senior official regarding Pentagon plans for potentially sending 20,000 troops to Jordan, have been both indiscreet and injurious to Abdullah. The king was already engaged in damage control from his controversial interview last month in the Atlantic, where he publicly maligned his East Bank supporters.
Of course, local opposition to U.S. military assistance could flip if the situation along the border dramatically deteriorates, if (AND HERE ARE SOME IDEAS: )the current tide of refugees turns to a flood, or if Assad sponsors active subversion, terrorism, or chemical attacks against Jordan. Contingency planning for all of these scenarios -- as well as a conversation about increasing U.S. and international funding for refugees in Jordan -- should be on the president's agenda for Friday's summit. Another critical issue to discuss is lowering the public profile of essential bilateral security cooperation. More important, as the administration begins a slow, uneven, and reluctant march toward greater involvement in the Syria conflict, both leaders should be clear with each other about actions they can take -- separately and together -- to advance Jordan's stability, which remains a top U.S. priority...."
Posted by G, M, Z, or B at 11:06 AM
Thursday, April 25, 2013
"... However, by the beginning of 2013, Damascus began to notice a new development, whereby Syrian army defectors and Syrian Muslim Brotherhood members were being trained in Jordanian camps and sent across the border with official consent.This prompted Damascus to dispatch Deputy Foreign Minister Faysal al-Miqdad to Amman in January. Jordanian officials denied any such operations, insisting that their country’s policy of neutrality still stood.
Then, new waves of fighters crossed the border into Syria in February and March, bringing with them large amounts of medium-sized weapons, such as armor-piercing shoulder-fired rockets, which can also be used against planes.In mid-March, Damascus secretly sent former head of intelligence Ali Mamlouk to Amman to brief his counterparts on border developments. Again, the Jordanian response was complete denial.
A Syrian source who refused to be named said that Jordan has opened several camps for the Syrian opposition that are capable of training up to 5,000 fighters at once. So far, 3,000 have completed their training, of which 1,560 have crossed the border into Daraa.
Diplomatic and military channels remain open between the two countries, which some Syrian officials believe can still be used to deal with the growing problem. Syria’s ambassador in Amman is also quite certain that the Jordanian military, for a variety of reasons, is unlikely to become directly involved in the Syrian conflict.
Nevertheless, Jordan must withstand tremendous pressure coming from Washington in order to avoid becoming implicated in Syrian affairs. US officials like Secretary of State John Kerry, for example, do not hesitate in exploiting Jordan’s fragile economic situation to bend it to its will.
But despite promises of billions of dollars in aid from both the West and Gulf countries, not enough has actually reached Amman to stave off its economic woes. Even those funds intended to help the country cope with the influx of Syrian refugees are slow in coming, and are often bound up with conditions that the Jordanian government cannot meet.
At the end of the day, however, a high-level Jordanian official still believes that it will be difficult for his country to become deeply involved in the Syrian crisis, primarily because the public sentiment opposes such involvement.."
Posted by G, M, Z, or B at 9:14 PM
Just a reminder: On October 10th, 2012', Hezbollah did actually take credit for sending a drone over Israel:
"... Sheikh Hassan Nasrallah said on the movement's television channel that the drone flew over "sensitive sites" in Israel...."However, this last Drone, Hezbollah was quick to deny sending it. Spooky!
"The militant Lebanese Hezbollah group denied responsibility for sending the drone...Despite the provocation, which (Daniel Nisman) said might be Hezbollah's way of flexing its political muscles prior to Lebanese elections slated for June, Nisman doesn't expect an all-out response from Israel.
"This isn't a red line Israel is willing to act on, ..."
Posted by G, M, Z, or B at 9:05 PM
"..."The report includes texts which are totally far from the truth, adopting a manner that fuels terror and terrorists targeting Bahrain's national security," state news agency BNA late on Wednesday quoted government spokeswoman Samira Rajab as saying. ..."
Posted by G, M, Z, or B at 8:54 PM
"...“We cannot confirm the origin of these weapons, but we do believe that any use of chemical weapons in Syria would very likely have originated with the Assad regime,” he said. “As I’ve said, this is serious business. We need all the facts.”But experts say the reports should be met with some skepticism because of the small amount of sarin that was found, the lack of widespread deaths and injuries, and inconclusive U.S. intelligence assessments.
The intelligence findings cited in a letter from the White House to Capitol Hill on Thursday were of “low or moderate” confidence, said a U.S. intelligence official who requested anonymity in order to discuss the classified reports.
Another person familiar with the issue, who asked not to be further identified because of its sensitivity, said that only a minuscule trace of a “byproduct”– a toxic residue left behind after use of a nerve agent, and which he did not identify – had been found in a soil sample.
“They found trace amounts of a byproduct in soil, but there are also fertilizers that give out the same byproduct,” the person said. “It’s far from conclusive.”...
Jean Pascal Zanders, a senior researcher at the European Union Institute for Security Studies, said that a video broadcast internationally showing the effects of the alleged attack doesn’t necessarily comport with a sarin attack. He said it could represent a number of other problems, including drowning.
And there were other possible red flags in the video.
“Why only one person?” he said, referring to the video showing one patient it said was a victim. “Why do I find the hospital setting, again, unlike what I would expect in a case of chemical exposure? Why is the guy ‘foaming’ in the hospital, considering the rapid action of sarin.” Zanders explained that without an antidote, death is possible within one minute after exposure to sarin.
Richard Guthrie, formerly project leader of the Chemical and Biological Warfare Project of the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute, said the number of those affected appears low. He said, for example, the Tokyo underground attacks in 1995 that involved a small amount of sarin resulted in 13 deaths and more than 1,000 wounded.
Even if there was certain sarin contamination, he said the apparent small effect would raise questions about whether it might have been the result of a mistake, a rebel attack somehow damaging a Syrian chemical weapon in transit, or as happened on several occasions in the Iran-Iraq war, a single poorly labeled artillery shell being used accidentally.
“Even that would seem to fall short of a red line,” Guthrie said....."
Posted by G, M, Z, or B at 8:43 PM
Aleppo falling to FSA. Rebels take al-Syrian Jadide, heart of Christian area. #syria #aleppo
4:46 AM - 25 Oct 12al-Syiraan Adime just fell to rebel militias as well. Center of Aleppo fallen. #syria #aleppo
4:52 AM - 25 Oct 12
Syria Regime Gives up Aleppo. FSA sharpshooters on top of all buildings in a-Syrian jadide and Qadime, Christian heartland #Syria #Aleppo
4:54 AM - 25 Oct 12
Shooting has stopped totally in Aleppo. Eerie silence overtakes city as government relinquishes control and Rebels take over. #Syria #Aleppo
5:09 AM - 25 Oct 12
@FareedZakaria #syria Aleppo has fallen to rebels. Government gives up control as eerie silence decends over city.
5:12 AM - 25 Oct 12
Gov tanks descend on Faisal street - main road near al-Syriaan jadide, Rebel troops retreat into Ashrafiya. #syria #aleppo
12:33 PM - 25 Oct 12
Posted by G, M, Z, or B at 8:29 PM
"...That's what the head of the Israel Defense Forces intelligence research and analysis division said Tuesday, becoming the latest to allege that Damascus was employing weapons banned under international law against its own people.The claim further stoked the debate about the international community's role in Syria ..."
Posted by G, M, Z, or B at 8:20 PM
"Is Turkey ready to wave the 'bogeyman Bashar' goodbye without a legitimate alternative replacement?"
"...why was further US-involvement (Turkish) rhetoric kept alive?3. Unfair criticism to mask others’ failures: All agree that the international community has failed to stop the atrocities of civil war in Syria. However, no credible plan has been brought up to suggest that a foreign military intervention would indeed save more lives than it would risk. This is a difficult statement to understand for many pundits who have never experienced war, particularly a civil war. Have not all initiatives, including Davutoglu’s very own, failed utterly to bring about a regional agreement on the Syrian civil war? Could you name any US president who has gone on a vacation with Bashar and his family? When the current AKP government was lifting visa restrictions and becoming “brothers” through booming trade relations with the cruel Syrian dictatorship of four decades, the US indeed had limited contacts and strict financial sanctions against Syria in place.... even the harshest critics agree the US should not put ground troops in Syria. Short of that, the US has been engaged in Syria through providing nonlethal aid, vetting and training the opposition. However unpleasant the results are, US actions and rhetoric have been consistent in the case of Syria.
4. Post-Assad transition concerns: It would be foolish of any country to belittle the difficulties that would fall upon the region if Syria drifts into further abyss. Turkish pundits’ newly found hatred toward the Syrian leadership is mind-boggling and to some extent undermines the design of successful, feasible policies. Despite several meetings, there is still no unified opposition against the regime. One cannot help but doubt Turkish intelligence on Syria when Davutoglu is quoted on CNNTurk saying there was no Jabhat al-Nusra in Syria before the civil war..... Yet, however disturbing self-assessment might be, Turks need to ask what their plans are for the post-Assad era: Is Turkey ready to wave the bogeyman Bashar goodbye without a legitimate alternative replacement? If the struggle to establish a “secular,” not jihadist government in Syria is a Western ideal, then how does the Turkish planning conceive the next Syrian government? Would that plan bring stability and peace to the bleeding Turkish-Syrian border along with Iran and Iraq — not even considering the other borders?
Although the Turkish government is mute on these questions and the press is extremely emotional on the policy failures in Syria, they must all know that stoking the fires of anti-Americanism will not save any Syrian lives or end the horrid civil war. "
Posted by G, M, Z, or B at 8:12 PM
The prevalent feeling is that America is being 'curvballed' into another WMD adventure .... HOWEVER,
..., upon careful observation, one wonders, if the WH' eyedropper approach to Syria really hides the fact that the US concluded (especially in the last week or so) that the armed opposition to the Syrian government has been defeated, rendering any Western misadventure in Syria, useless! Sneaky, but astute!
Posted by G, M, Z, or B at 6:52 PM
"... Do the western powers, and also Turkey, Saudi Arabia and some Gulf states, have the will to overthrow Al Assad? There is beginning to be some hesitation in helping the opposition destroy the Syrian regime if it means putting Al Qaida in power in its place. It is clearly in no country’s interest — whether in the East or the West — for this violent movement to entrench itself in Syria and further destabilise an important but already fragile region..."
Posted by G, M, Z, or B at 5:59 PM
"... The Israeli military says it has shot down an unmanned aircraft sent by the Hezbollah group into Israeli skies.
Military officials said the aircraft was downed Thursday off the Israeli coast in Israeli airspace near the northern city of Haifa.
It is the second known instance in which the Lebanese militant group, a bitter Israeli enemy, has sent a drone into Israeli airspace. Last October, the Israeli air force shot down an unmanned aircraft in a similar incident..."
Netanyahu's helicopter was forced to land, until the drone was shot down!
Posted by G, M, Z, or B at 11:56 AM