Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Evidence to Obama on Syrian CWs attack occurred: information provided by Unit 8200, (Israel's equivalent of the NSA)

"... From a series of meetings in Washington today with a number of contacts, I have reached the following conclusions regarding an imminent U.S. attack on Syria.
First, as of late Friday afternoon, Aug. 23, President Obama concluded that Syrian government forces had used chemical weapons in the Aug. 21 attack in a Damascus suburb.  At that point, the White House put out a statement to select reporters from an "unnamed senior White House official" making it clear that the President was convinced of the Syrian government's use of CW.
Initially, Obama decided on a two track response.  Track I was to go to the UN Security Council seeking authorization to use force.  Track II was to build up an alliance of European, Arab and Asian countries to back military action in the event of a UNSC veto by Russia and China. Over the weekend, approximately 32 governments were contacted by Obama Administration officials, soliciting their support in retaliatory military action against Syrian targets.
The primary source of the evidence that convinced the Administration "with certainty" that a Syrian CW attack had occurred was information provided by Unit 8200, the Israeli equivalent of the NSA, who intercepted a communication from a Syrian Army unit operating near the site where the CW attack allegedly took place. Neither Doctors Without Borders nor the UN inspectors have yet to provide definitive on-site analysis of what happened, or evidence of who might have carried out the attacks if they did occur.  The Unit 8200 information was exclusively provided to the United States and Germany.
By Tuesday morning, the Obama strategy and timetable had shifted and some hardened decisions had been made.  Track I was abandoned because it would take too much time to go to the UN Security Council when there was near-certainty that Russia and China would veto.  By then, enough European, Arab and other allied states had agreed to back a retaliatory action that it was felt there was enough credible international support to attack soon.
Two other decisions were made by this time.  First, Obama would not go to Congress for authorization under Article I, Section 8 of the Constitution or the War Powers Resolution. Select leaders of Congress would be informed, but no Congressional consent would be sought.  Second, the United States would build up an international alliance in support of military action, but the U.S. would act unilaterally.
Although JCS Chairman Gen. Martin Dempsey and Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel opposed military action, once the President made the decision, the objectives of the Pentagon shifted to controlling the targeting decisions and limiting the possibility of an all-out war.  For Obama and his inner circles of advisors (Rice, Jarrett, Axelrod, Power, Michelle Obama), the level of military attack had to be sufficient to avoid Republican attacks for only making a symbolic response to the alleged CW attacks, while avoiding a major escalation or a clear intervention to give the rebels a decisive edge.  It appears that cruise missile attacks are planned, to target command and control sites and storage facilities for missiles, other delivery systems, and possibly some CW.
Secretary of State Kerry has spoken with Russian counterpart Sergei Lavrov, and has informed him of the American plans, along with reassurances that the United States is not targeting any Russian strategic interests in Syria or seeking regime change.  The Russians were told that the U.S. is convinced Assad's forces used chemical weapons, and the U.S. actions are in retaliation for the Syrians crossing Obama's "red line."  One source indicated that there is some tacit agreement from the Russians that, so long as the attack is so limited, they will not escalate.  This is, of course, a very risky proposition, given the degeneration of U.S.-Russian relations of late. It is likely that there are also military-to-military back channels communicating this message as well, although I do not have details.
There is no clear assessment of how Iran will respond, and what impact this will have on the new Rowhani government in Tehran.
Israel and the Israel Lobby have been pressing for such U.S. action since last week.  Israel believes that the longstanding cease-fire deal that they had with Syria is over, given the penetration of both Al Qaeda and Hezbollah networks inside Syrian territory.  Last week, rockets were fired into northern Israel and Israeli intelligence concluded that the rockets were fired by Al Qaeda linked rebel factions.  Israel wants the United States to take care of the Syria crisis fast, because the status quo is intolerable for Israeli security.
It would appear that these limited strikes by the U.S. are imminent, and that they could likely occur before President Obama leaves early next week for St. Petersburg for the G-20 heads of state summit."

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