Sunday, November 10, 2013

US Intel: 'Al Qaeda-linked fighters sent to Syria, will be trained in Pakistan' (with Saudi money)

'With the US and its P5+1 partners still within sight of reaching an intermediate deal with Iran, there are signs that Secretary of State Kerry will face fierce opposition when he returns to Washington.Congressional opinion remains very skeptical to downright hostile. Some of this is party-political in motivation, but even within the Democratic Party, senior Senators oppose any relaxation of sanctions until Iran has taken verifiable actions to dismantle its enrichment program. Depending on the nature of any deal – details of which are presently still under negotiation – the Administration will without doubt face a tough sell. It has a certain amount of maneuverability about how it applies sanctions in a practical way, but this aspect represents the tension under which a tentative agreement with Tehran could unravel. US officials to whom we have spoken have no illusions about the difficulty of the task. While the US challenge with Iran may be immediate, the one with Pakistan may be just as intractable. Although the drone killing of Taliban leader Hakimullah Mehsud was widely welcomed inside US intelligence circles, other Administration officials see the implications for relations with Islamabad as more disquieting. As the 2014 date for the withdrawal of US forces from Afghanistan approaches, President Obama remains determined not to be drawn into what he sees as an unlimited residual commitment to guarantee Afghan government stability against the Taliban. A key aspect of achieving this aim lies in an accommodation with the Taliban in both Afghanistan and Pakistan. With the appointment of Mullah Fazlullah – who is regarded as an extreme hardliner – as Mehsud’s successor, peace prospects have taken step backward. Indeed some US intelligence observers now believe that training may take place in Pakistan of fighters to be sent to Syria to support Al-Qaeda linked factions there. On Syria, the optimism generated by the destruction of chemical weapons facilities has all but evaporated as the opposition continues to be mired in disunity. In both Saudi Arabia and Egypt last week, Kerry sought to rally opinion to the US position on Syria, but we are told privately that he left his hosts unconvinced.'

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