Sunday, November 30, 2014

What Obama Doesn't Understand About Syria

"... Yet the regime's position around Aleppo is so strong, given its progress toward severing the final rebel supply line to the city, that it currently has little incentive to reach any deal that would leave the rebels' fighting ability intact. Damascus would much prefer to deliver a decisive blow to the mainstream opposition in Aleppo, which would cripple the West's potential partners and leave only the regime as a supposed bulwark against the jihadis. Rebels recognize this, and given their negative experience with cease-fires elsewhere, even those in favor of a freeze are unlikely to invest political capital in convincing the skeptics in their own ranks unless they see new reason to hope for a fair deal.The crux of the American dilemma in Syria is thus clear: Degrading jihadi groups requires empowering mainstream Sunni alternatives, but doing so may prove impossible unless Damascus (or its backers in Tehran) can be convinced or compelled to dramatically shift strategy. For now, the regime treats the Western-, Arab-, and Turkish-backed opposition as the main threat to its dominance in Syria and treats the Islamic State as a secondary concern that the United States is already helping to deal with. Iran has done nothing to suggest that it objects to the regime's strategy; instead, it is enabling it.Damascus and Tehran appear to believe that achieving regime victory is simply a matter of maintaining the conflict's current trajectory. This view, however, is shortsighted and would yield an unprecedented recruiting bonanza for jihadi groups. If Washington wishes to prevent this -- and the unending cycle of conflict that it would perpetuate -- it must better balance its Iraq and Syria strategies, refine its airstrike tactics, and find ways to change calculations in Damascus and Tehran."

Friday, November 28, 2014

Lebanon’s Dangerous Downward Spiral

"... While everyone seems loath to admit it, Lebanon now has—for the first time in its history—a Sunni majority. This has been obscured by the fact that about half of these Sunnis are Syrians who are theoretically supposed to return home at some unspecified date in the future (just like the Palestinians). But unless the war in Syria winds down in the near future, there’s nothing temporary about their presence in Lebanon. Rather, their reality is now one of complete disenfranchisement and economic misery in a place they must sooner or later begin to call home. And they’re going to want to change that...."

Monday, November 24, 2014

Aaah those 'vetted moderate' rebels

"... They have also launched homemade rockets, often inaccurate, at government forces stationed in landmark structures, frequently killing civilians. In the process, they are helping destroy Syria's history and infrastructure and, with the deaths of civilians, undermining popular support for their cause..."

"... Instead & in the Interim, Iran ..."

"... Instead, British Foreign Secretary Philip Hammond said it "was not possible to meet the deadline"....He stressed that while July 1 was the new deadline for a comprehensive deal, the expectation was that broad agreement would be in place by March 1.In the interim, expert level talks will resume in December at an as yet undetermined venue and Iran will receive about $700 million per month in frozen assets, Hammond said..."

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Contrary to Turkish pronouncements, the US is not considering a no-fly zone over Syria

"... When asked about the US position on the establishment of a no-fly zone in Syria, as Turkey is pushing for, White House sources said the US is in constant discussion on a full range of possible ways Turkey can contribute to the anti-ISIL coalition and reiterated that at the moment, the US is not considering a no-fly zone or the establishment of a buffer zone...."

'The US recognizes Hezbollah for shared anti-ISIS enmity & the stabilization of Iraq & Lebanon'

"... Despite Hezbollah’s role in anti- American rhetoric, the organization shares many interests with the United States—though both sides would be loath to admit it. Both actors are at war with the Islamic State and other Sunni extremists, and both want to prop up Iraqi Prime Minister Haidar Abadi’s government in Baghdad. Even within Lebanon, while Washington supports Hezbollah’s political rivals in the anti-Syrian March 14 coalition, it recognizes that Hezbollah is helping hold the country together, and that either an Islamic State expansion or a descent into chaos would be worse than the status quo.
Open cooperation, however, is politically out of the question for both parties. Indeed, a slight shift could turn suspicion into conflict. The US campaign in Syria is focused on Sunni extremists, and thus is indirectly helping the Assad regime, Hezbollah’s ally. Yet, if Washington decides to live up to its anti-Assad rhetoric and take on the Syrian regime as well as Sunni jihadists, it will also be taking on Hezbollah. Hezbollah’s hostility to Israel remains strong, another point of friction. In addition, Hezbollah is more in bed with Iran now than ever before, and any military action against Tehran over its nuclear program or other issues must seriously factor in Hezbollah’s response.
Hezbollah remains a key regional player. It is also a stalking horse for Iran and a prop to the Syrian regime. Nevertheless, the organization is also overtaxed militarily and on the defensive politically. The United States must recognize this mix of strength and weakness if its regional policies are to meet with success." 

Iran and the Syrian and Iraqi Crises

Wilson Center

"... With regard to recent events, the Obama Administration seems to be pursuing a contradictory
policy. On one hand, the Obama Administration is assisting the Iraqi Kurds and the newly-
formed government of Haider al-Abadi to fend off and roll back the advances of ISIS, and at the
same time, it is committing itself to helping the moderate opposition in the Syrian conflict and
striking ISIS strongholds. There is no military solution to the conflict in both countries,
especially in Syria. In Iraq, al-Abadi’s administration must take substantive steps to include the
Sunni Arab population. Otherwise any military gains on the ground against ISIS will prove to
be short-lived. In Syria, funneling more arms, resources, and money to the Syrian opposition
will only aggravate the situation. It may lead to further empowerment of radicals, the
emergence of new extremist groups,
and the spillover of the war into other neighboring states,
such as Lebanon, Jordan, Turkey and Israel. The only sound solution is some form of political
settlement through negotiations...."

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Remarks by President Obama at G20 Press Conference | November 16, 2014 | The White House

Q But just to put a fine point on it -- are you actively discussing ways to remove him as a part of that political transition?

The FSA toy army: 'Ceasing activity & fleeing to Turkey'

While Saudi prince Miteb bin Abdullah is in Washington primarely to prode the WH to go after Assad, ...
"... The Free Syrian Army (FSA), the recognized armed opposition group against the Bashar al-Assad in Syria, has ceased its resistance in Aleppo, Syria’s second biggest city, withdrawing its 14,000 militia from the city, a ranking Turkish security source told the Hürriyet Daily News on Nov. 17.“Its leader Jamal Marouf has fled to Turkey,” confirmed the source, who asked not to be named. “He is currently being hosted and protected by the Turkish state.” 

Monday, November 17, 2014

'Executive Orders'

'The most closely watched foreign policy deadline in Washington is the November 24thtimeline for concluding a nuclear agreement with Iran. While Secretary of State Kerry has described these negotiations as “difficult but serious,” there is a rising sense among officials close to the issue that an agreement is within reach. Our expectation is that this will be a highly technical document that will be carefully constructed to avoid any obvious identification of “winners and losers.”  An agreement – if one emerges – will face fierce opposition on Capitol Hill, not only from Republican opponents like Senator McCain, the incoming chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee, but also from prominent Democrats. Whether they have the power to block an agreement seems doubtful, as the Administration can take most of the actions it needs through Executive Orders. Nonetheless, President Obama will need to deploy some political capital to gain support for an agreement. US officials are also aware that any agreement may face opposition from hardliners in Tehran. They are also concerned that Israel might contemplate unilateral action aimed at upending a deal...  On a more optimistic note for the Administration, the Pentagon now sees signs that its bombing campaign against ISIL is starting to take a toll on their logistics. Some observers are quietly confident that the tide of war has turned against ISIL.'

'Official Stresses Iran's Key Role in Iraqi Army's Ground Operations against ISIS'

"... "The Iranian advisors were present in the battle ground during the Jarf Asakhr operations and provided excellent counselling to the fighters of popular front," Governor-General of Karbala province Aqil al-Tarihi told FNA on Sunday.Stressing that the cleanup and liberation operations in Jarf Asakhr were all carried out by the Iraqi forces, he said, "Iran helped the success of the operations with its useful consultations."
Late September, Deputy Chief of Staff of the Iranian Armed Forces Major General Gholam Ali Rashid announced that Iran's military advisors were present in Iraq, Lebanon and Palestine to provide those nations with necessary military recommendations.
"Some of our commanders are in the field to give military advice to the Iraqi army, Lebanon's Hezbollah and the Palestinian resistance movement," Major General Rashid said, addressing a conference attended by a group of senior military commanders in Tehran..."

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

'Israeli infested sections!'

'Some may see President Obama's decision to deploy an additional 1,500 troops to Iraq in support of the anti-ISIL campaign as an early outcome of the heavier than expected  setbacks for the Democrats in the November 4th mid term elections. It is certainly true that, with Senator John McCain's assumption of the leadership of the Senate Armed Services Committee, the Republicans will set a much more hawkish tone in Washington. However, our understanding of the decision is that, as we have foreshadowed, it emerged from rapidly increasing unease in the Pentagon, notably from Chairman of the Joint Chiefs General Dempsey, that Obama's resistance to ground troops and reliance on air power risked a serious deterioration in the situation on the ground. For the time being, the role of the new troops will be to intensify the training of the Iraqi National Army and the Kurdish Pesh Merga. They will complement the already significant deployment of US Special Forces and Intelligence Officers. Pentagon strategists have told us privately that they highly doubt that this training role will be sufficient to achieve Obama's announced goal of "degrading and ultimately defeating ISIL". The debate about the eventual deployment of US forces in a combat role is thus underway. The new tone of hawkishness also extends to Russia where concerns about President Putin's intentions following the elections in Eastern Ukraine continue to rise. Controversy over assurances allegedly given by Obama in his letter to the Iranian Supreme Leader is rising among both parties in key sections of the Senate and House (See Israeli infested sections!). This will additionally constrain his freedom of maneuver to reach an agreement on the nuclear issue in time for the November 24th deadline...'

'Injecting the ISIS into Egypt

"On Monday, Egypt’s most dangerous militant group, Ansar Beit al-Maqdis, also pledged obedience to the organization that calls itself the Islamic State, becoming its first significant international affiliate in the bet that the link will provide new money, weapons and recruits to battle the government in Cairo..."

“I Sent ISIS Fighters To Europe”

“The Western world thinks there is no ISIS in their countries — that all the jihadis have gone to fight and die in Syria.” BuzzFeed News’ Mike Giglio speaks with the men who claim to have helped ISIS slip into Europe...."

RAND: "Syrian Regime collapse, not a likely outcome, is the worst possible outcome for U.S. strategic interests."

Thanks to MoA:
"... While still seeing the Assad regime as an adversary based on its patron-client relationship with Iran and its implacable hostility toward Israel, U.S. decisionmakers are also dealing with the threats caused by the dramatic recent gains made in Iraq by ISIS and the influence it wields within the Syrian rebel movement. To examine these challenges, this perspective draws on a December 2013 RAND workshop to assess four possible future scenarios for the conflict in Syria: prolonged conflict, regime victory, regime collapse, and negotiated settlement. The authors update and reassess these scenarios based on developments in Syria and Iraq through August 2014 and explore the implications that each has for Syria, the region, and the United States.
  • Negotiated settlement was deemed the least likely of the possible scenarios.
  • Regime collapse, while not considered a likely outcome, was perceived to be the worst possible outcome for U.S. strategic interests..."
"So you rub it a little on this side and Genie will solve all your middle eastern problems & make you charismatic!"

Confirmation long-time Iranian accusations of US ties with Jundallah?

".... Just as hinting falsely that Iran was negotiating away its enrichment technology was a move by the Times that could have disastrous effects on the ongoing negotiations, I felt that providing this strange story on McHale would give ammunition to those in Iran who see the CIA behind Jundallah. However,there is another possibility. In a Twitter discussion with Arif Rafiq on the disclosure, Rafiq suggested that “the US is coming clean about something that has concerned Iranians for years. Could be a plus”..."

Are you: “A) Moderate, B) Very moderate, C) Crazy moderate or D) Other.”

“We’re completely out of our league,” one former CIA vetting expert declared on condition of anonymity, reflecting the consensus of intelligence professionals with firsthand knowledge of the Syrian situation. “To be really honest, very few people know how to vet well. It’s a very specialized skill. It’s extremely difficult to do well” in the best of circumstances, the former operative said. And in Syria it has proved impossible,,"

Thursday, November 6, 2014

Regardless, 'the American public mood remains skeptical about further ground wars...'

'... The (US) election outcome will not turn on foreign issues and, while there is a widespread perception among experts and some emerging evidence of top-level tension between the White House and Pentagon over Iraq, the public mood remains skeptical about further ground wars. President Obama will be able to continue to argue, therefore, that his policy of restraint is more attuned to public opinion than that of the those who want to go beyond air strikes in Iraq. The conduct of foreign policy, notably with regard to any moves to lift or ease sanctions on Iran, will undoubtedly become less comfortable for the Administration, but will not, in our judgment, face the same level of dysfunction that is likely on domestic issues. Returning to Iraq, the official narrative in public presentations and briefings remains that the airstrike policy against ISIL is on track to achieve its long-term objective of degrading and destroying ISIL. Behind the scenes, however, we understand that serious concern is rising in the Pentagon that confusion over the White House’s aims in Syria is undermining the operation. There are also signs of bickering among the generals. No one in Washington believes that there is an easy answer to the Syrian dilemma, so there appears to be little prospect that the strategic coherence for which critics are calling will materialize in the immediate future. In the face of rising tensions in Jerusalem Secretary of State Kerry has been forced to mount a strong defense of US relations with Israel in response to media allegations of a crisis between Washington and Tel Aviv. Nonetheless, there is little doubt that Obama and Prime Minister Netanyahu hold each other in low regard, with the result that Israeli influence over US policy is near non-existent. ...'

'The neocons’ revenge or the year of the hawks'

"... You could call it the neoconservatives’ revenge or the year of the hawks. But it has produced an interesting moment in Washington, where even the dovish side of the Republican Party now acknowledges the midterms were a win for their party’s American exceptionalists...."

Hawks & Kooks to dominate US Foreign policy? ...

Hawks & Kooks to dominate Foreign policy ..

'Jamal Ma`ruf and the moderate rebels'

The AA News Service

"Did you notice how restrained the US media have been about the defeat and humiliation of Jamal Ma`urf forces in around Idlib? And this is the guy who was the last hope for Western policies of liberating Syrians. Does that mean you will have to resurrect, Dr. Engineer Actor Plumber, General Salim Idriss?"

'Covering Syria; Anne Barnard & Liz Sly'

Covering Syria; Anne Barnard and Liz Sly

Do you notice that the propaganda pitch by those Western correspondents in Beirut ... ...?