Sunday, April 28, 2013

The Syria Tango - Assad Calls Obama's Bluff On Chemical Weapons Use


President Obama was perfectly clear, to use a favorite cliche of his - use of chemical weapons by the Assad regime in Syria would be a 'red line' for American intervention.

Here's the president on March 21st, 2013:

I’ve made it clear to Bashar al-Assad and all who follow his orders: We will not tolerate the use of chemical weapons against the Syrian people, or the transfer of those weapons to terrorists. The world is watching; we will hold you accountable.

This is something the president and various members of his administration have said this numerous times.

Well, Assad has crossed that particular red line. Israeli intelligences claims that the Assad regime has used sarin gas against the Islamist rebels have now been confirmed by American authorities and by Britain’s Defence Science Technology Laboratory analyzing blood samples.

The chief samples came from attacks that occurred last month in Aleppo’s Khan al-Asal suburb and in Oteibeh, a suburb of Damascus.

The Assad regime claims that the chemical weapons used in Khan al-Asal were fired by the rebels from Kafer Da’al, about 30 miles north of Khan al-Asal, where the al-Qaeda-affiliated Jabhat al-Nusra fighter have control of the Syrian-Saudi Chemicals Company...which by the way doesn't make sarin. Nor do the rebels have any way of delivering a gas weapon at that distance.

That attack was aimed at a pro-Assad rally and killed 25 people. Given the logistics, there's a good chance it was a case of friendly fire the regime is blaming on the rebels, not that the rebels would shy away from using chemical weapons if they were able to.

The other attack, at Oteibeh is a little more clear cut in that it was a direct attack on a rebel position using a missile armed with sarin gas that killed between 60 and 70 people. The rebel Syrian Support Group (SSG)has since claimed there were two more gas attack launched on the Damascus suburb of Daraya that injured about 130 people, although no deaths were reported.

What Assad is doing makes sense from a logistical standpoint. Daraya is fairly close to the front where Assad's own forces are located, and gas weapons kill indiscriminately.No sense using a full on attack at full strength which could backfire and affect his own forces, and attract unwelcome attention from the West. Daraya's close to the Mezze Military Airport and headquarters of Assad's Fourth Armored Division. So a small, very concentrated attack works far better than an all out assault.

Oteibeh is close to the barracks of the Republican Guard’s 104th and 105th regiments, elite units of Assad, but a heavier attack was likely made there because of its strategic location. Oteibah is the chief destination for rebel weapons paid fo rby the Saudis and Qatar coming in from Jordan.

And the attack was effective.The rebels were pushed out of Oteibeh, and many of them reportedly fled, fearing another gas attack.

Assad also probably used this particular attack to send a message to Jordan's King Abdullah, reminding him that the al-Qaeda and Muslim Brotherhood fighters he's enabling today could easily turn oh him and oust him from his throne tomorrow. Like Assad, Abdullah also is part of a minority regime ruling over a different majority.

It remains to be seen what the Obama Administration plans to do about this.

As I've pointed out before, there's absolutely no dog the United States or the West has in this fight.

Basher Assad is a ruthless, murderous tyrant and his regime has been a supporter of terrorism for years. If it wasn't for enablers like former Speaker Nancy Pelosi ( D-CA) and former Senator and now secretary of State John Kerry pushing 'engagement' with Assad, we might have taken his regime to task a long time ago for allowing jihadis free access and use of training facilities en route to fighting our troops in Iraq, let alone Syria's involvement with Hezbollah.

Unfortunately, it isn't as simple as just 'supporting the Syrian rebels'. We'd be idiots to get involved..and yes, I'm looking in your direction, Senator McCain.

The twists and turns in the Administration allegiances rival Libya.

Obama administration started out by actually supporting Bashir Assad - remember Secretary of State Hillary Clinton referring to Assad as a 'reformer' and Senator John Kerry shilling for U.S. aid to him?

Next, the Obama administration switched to support the insurgents, consisting of the Syrian National Council(SNC) and the Syrian Free Army, a group put together with the 'help'  of President Obama's good friend Tayyip Erdogan and the Islamist Turkish government. The U.S. government was   supplying them with a few light arms and some training via Turkey and Jordan while Qatar and the Saudis supplied most of the funding. It's important to remember that this is essentially a Sunni vs. Shi'ite battle, which is why Hezbollah is so heavily involved.

Of course, the problem was that the SNC and the Syrian Free Army were controlled in their entirety by the Muslim Brotherhood and other Salafists, some of them outright al-Qaeda affiliates like the aforementioned  Jabhat al-Nusra, still the most prominent group of opposition fighters in Syria.

President Obama and his team eventually came to the realization that our supplying arms and training to these people was not such a great idea, so we formed yet another 'official' Syrian resistance group, the Syrian Opposition Coalition,(SOC)and the associated Joint Military Council.

Just some minor  minor problems...first of all, the SOC and the JMC, formed in Qatar, are also controlled by the Muslim Brotherhood. The leader of the SOC is one Ahmed Mouaz al-Khatib, former imam of the Umayyad Mosque in Damascus,  a religious cleric closely allied to the Damascus branch of the Muslim Brotherhood and fairly hardline and radical himself.

Not only that but most of the actual boots on the ground belonged to  the SNC, the Syrian Free Army and groups like Jabhat al-Nusra. And they did not take kindly to the Obama Administration dumping them and telling them whom represents the resistance and whom doesn't.

So once again, the president and his foreign policy team have demonstrated  their ability to get both sides of a conflict angry at them.

There's absolutely no way a pro-western government is going to emerge from this morass no matter who wins. Even worse, if the rebels win, aside from the possibility of arming these people with Assad's chemical weapons and missiles, there's a major possibility that a salafist Islamist regime could destabilize Jordan, where the Muslim Brotherhood is already powerful.

Russia and China will veto any sort of UN action against Syria, so the administration, if it actually is silly enough to get involved in something like a no fly zone is going to have to go it alone.

Let's hope that any action we take is geared towards a raid destroying Assad's chemical and missile arsenals, no matter whose hands they're in.Even better, let's see if we can't somehow convince the Israelis to do the job. Their intel on Syria's been consistently a lot better than our own.

Once the chemical and missile arsenals are taken care of, we can then back off and let Assad and the rebels resolve the matter themselves of which totalitarian faction ends up ruling Syria, or what's left of it.

UPDATE: Apparently President Obama and his team plan to start sending serious U.S. arms to Syria's al-Qaeda and Muslim Brotherhood rebels.

This is exactly what this president and his team did in Libya, taking out Khaddaffi and letting his weapons stockpiles fall into the hands of the Islamist and al-Qaeda forces. Those arms were used to attack our embassy, kill our diplomats, foment terrorism in Algeria and to invade Mali, and a number of them have turned up headed in the direction of Hamas in Gaza.

If Obama's gambit is successful and Assad is ousted, the arms we're sending to the Syrian opposition along with Basher Assad's arsenal including his chemical weapons will be turned against Israel, just like the heavy weapons we gifted to the Brotherhood regime in Egypt will at the earliest opportunity. And of course, against America.

If the opposition takes over, you can add Syria to the growing Caliphate President Obama has had such a hand in creating and cross Jordan off our fast diminishing list of allies and assets in the region, since King Abdullah's regime will almost certainly be destabilized and fall to the Islamists.

I'll let you decide whether President Obama's course in the region is simply abysmally stupid and amateurish or willfully destructive.


Anonymous said...

Two points.
1. I think Israel has already hit arms being transfered to Hezbollah.
2. The US is not prepared militarily to do anything much due to budget cuts.
Did you read the post at The Optimistic Conservative by JE Dyer?

B.Poster said...

At this point, the US military is incapable of carrying out a successful "raid" on Syrian chemcial weapons facilities. Such an attempt would result in abject failure and it would get our people killed or worse held hostage where they could make demands of us and further humiliate us. I would only hope and pray that no US military commander would be foolish enough to go along with such an order.

Having Israel carry out the raid would be a much better bet. They are much closer, much more directly affected by Syrian chemical weapons, have much better military equipment, better trained pilots, and better intellegence than the US. You are correct to point this out. While these weapons do pose a far greater threat to America than any thing Nazi Germany or Imperial Japan ever had or ever could have had, there is little we can do about it. If Israel takes these out, this would be a great benefit to us. The best thing for us to do is to STAY OUT OF ISRAEL'S WAY!!

The same metric applies to Iran. Any attempt to take out Iranian nuclear weapons facilities or Iranian nuclear weapons facitilites would result in abject failure. All these military assets would be completely destroyed and Iranian casualties would be minimal to non existant. All of this assumes Russia and China the two most powerful military forces on earth sit on the sidelines. Should these nations choose to get involved the impossible on the part of America becomes even more impossible.

Since Israeli military hardware is superior to America's, Israeili forces are better led and better trained, and Israel is not hampered by horrific economic problems, Israeli forces would have a much better chance than America's would. Also, the Russian and Chinese militaries are geared to fight America not Israel. As such, Israel might be able to challenge them in ways America could never hope to. Again, the best course of action is for America to STAY OUT OF ISRAEL'S WAY!! Iran is a greater threat to America than Nazi Germany or Imperial Japan ever were or ever could have been. A successful Israeli action would be a huge benefit to both us and Israel.

I read the article at "the optimistic conservative." I'm pleased to see that at least few people are starting to grasp the problem. Unforutnately the author of this articel, while beginning to grasp the gravity of the situation, is WAY to optimistic. America's only real option at this point is to redeploy all military assets to defensible positions along the US coast and along the borders and pray for the best. Such an approach gives us a fighting chance to defend the American mainland. Also, upgrades to the nuclear arsenal would be very helpful. These weapons have the advantage of being very effective and generally less costly than many conventional forces.

Additionally, I'd like to see US allies like South Korea and Japan nuclear armed. This way the so called defense "pivot" to Asia is unnecessary. We'd get a valuable buffer between us and Russia and China. Whether they do this or not is not any thing we can control but it would be good. Ultimately all we can control is our own defense. As such, all forces should be deployed in positions that make sense for this endeavor and they should not be wasted on fruitless endeavors int he middle east and elsewhere in the world.

Given our dire economic situation and massive debt problem, we would expect defesne spending to take massive cuts. Such things cannot be helped. What is appalling is the utter meaness toward our military service personnel that these cuts have been taken out on. These men and women who have sacrificed so much for us deserve so much better than they've been given.

B.Poster said...

When analyizing and comparing the relative military strength of Russia and America, I may have been in error. I may not have properly distinguished between a "tactical nuclear weapon" and a "strategic nuclear weapon." While it seems clear that Russia has a huge advantage in tactical nuclear weapons, the powers seem to be close to even in the area of strategic nulcear weapons, at least in raw numbers.

In the event of a military confrontation between the powers that seems inevitable at this point because Russian leaders seem to be itching for this fight and American leaders seem stupid enough to blunder their way into this, perhaps America's strategic nuclear arsenal would be enough to eliminate enough of Russia's industrial capabilties to cancel out Russia's edge in tactical/battlefield nuclear weapons.

At this point, it appears that Russia's forces are better led, better trained, and have much better morale than US forces do. As such, my considered opinion remains unchanged but admittedly it may need to be reevaluated. Additionally, the Russians seem to busily upgrading their nuclear arsenal while America seems eager to scale its arsenal back. Hopefully this trend will not continue because if it does it does not bode well for America.

B.Poster said...

I'm not in favor of America's leaders be they Republcian or Democrat setting "red lines" for foreign leaders in areas that have no effect on American interests. Whether the thugs who lead Syria or the thugs who are trying to remove the thugs who lead Syria use chemical weapons against one another is of no concern to me nor shoudl it be any concern of Amrican leaders.

Furthermore such things as setting "red lines" in a situation like this risks setting a bad precedent. If America faced an invading force either from outside the country or from within, I would expect American leaders to use whatever means necessary to repel this force even if it means using chemical weapons against this invading force. Would some foreign power use this as an excuse to get invovled in America's internal affairs on the side of an enemy of America because America used such weapons to preserve its territorial integrity or or to otherwise maintain control of the nation?

I think it is very possible they could. As such, this sets a bad precedent all the way around.

The only times am American leader should be issuing "red lines" to foreign leaders is in areas where an American interest is at stake. Examples of "red lines" for American military invovlement might be if a foreign nation acts to jepordize America's access to stable sources of oil or if they act to disrupt the shipping lanes that America uses to send and receive cargo that is needed for its functioning.

The use of chemcial weapons by Syria's leadership or Syrian rebels affects no American interest. Furthermore, Syria's leadership and Syria's rebels are both bitter enemies of America. It would be far better for America to stay out of this one. Hopefully two bitter enemies would tear each other apart.

Furthermore, as correctly pointed out above at this time the US lacks the military assets for a coherent intervention and as an added bonus intervention in Syria risks a military confrontation with Russia and possibly China. There's nothing good that can possibly come of this for America and the only things that can come of intervention here are bad. The fact that our leaders would even give a first thought to such a thing clearly show that, at least when it comes to foreign policy, these people haven't "sense enough to come in out of the rain" as one of my relatives used to refer to complete idiots.