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.