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08 May 2013

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Medicine Man

I'll confess I can't quite make sense of the ebb-and-flow of what is described above. It looks to me like the Syrian government is indeed winning, though slowly, as they are re-capturing territory faster than the rebels can counter.

If things continue on their present trajectory, do you have a sense of when the fighting might be over, Col?

turcopolier

MM

No. I do not. pl

DH

"Forcing Assad's removal remains a formidable hurdle for Moscow, one that looms large in any prospective peace plan that may emerge from the latest U.S.-Russian initiative.

But Moscow's softening position now may reflect a growing urgency in finding a diplomatic solution at a moment when it appears Syria's 2-year-old civil war could explode into a regionwide proxy struggle entangling the United States, Israel, Russia, Iran and its neighboring states. The Obama administration has been threatening in recent days to increase its military role in support of the rebels, and over the weekend, Israel reportedly struck Syrian targets twice.
***
In Washington, President Obama, facing criticism that he has fallen short of his commitments on Syria, promised that he would follow through as he had in killing Osama bin Laden and ousting former Libyan leader Moammar Kadafi.

"I would just point out that there have been several instances during the course of my presidency where I said I was going to do something, and it ended up getting done," Obama said during a White House news conference with South Korean President Park Geun-hye.

He said that there have been times when there had been "folks on the sidelines wondering why" a promise hadn't been fulfilled by a certain date.

"But in the end, whether it's Bin Laden or Kadafi, if we say we're taking a position I would think at this point the international community has a pretty good sense that we typically follow through on our commitments," he said.

Obama said that "understandably, there's a desire for easy answers." But he said he was measuring decisions "not based on a hope and a prayer but on hard-headed analysis in terms of what will actually make us safer and stabilize the region.""

http://www.latimes.com/news/nationworld/world/middleeast/la-fg-syria-20130508,0,7091823.story

ISL

It does seem as if the pro-govt forces are achieving traction. I wonder if this is in part because the "fish" have poisoned the sea they are swimming in, to paraphrase Mao, I think.

This would of course seriously complicate US efforts to impose a fundamentalist Sunni Al Qaeda government on Syria, which as far as I can tell, is the US goal, on the theory that it would be more enlightened than the current regime...? !! Ummmm

I believe the incoherence of current policy has already been noted at SST. I wonder what echo chamber advise the POTUS is receiving.

Clifford Kiracofe

Guardian reports that Free Syria Army fighters shifting to join al-Nusra.
http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2013/may/08/free-syrian-army-rebels-defect-islamist-group

toto

ISL,

Ask and you shall receive, courtesy of the New Yorker:

http://www.newyorker.com/reporting/2013/05/13/130513fa_fact_filkins?currentPage=all

Apparently Obama is the lone holdout, resisting calls for intervention from his entire administration.

Favorite quote:

“What does that sound like? Lebanon. But it’s Lebanon on steroids.”

b

There is now proof from ammunition debris that two of the alleged "chemical weapon" attacks were with riot control gases which incidentally jihadist Al-Nusra fighters obtained from Turkey.

http://www.moonofalabama.org/2013/05/syria-al-nusra-chemical-weapons-sourced-from-turkey.html

ISL

Thanks Toto, a very detailed article.

Two items I note: Not ONE discussion of what are US strategic interests or national interests (even when it is discussing aid to Al Q), and not one iota of evaluation of whether the "intelligence" is correct.

Paints a picture of the president's only concern is whether it could turn out bad and unpopular, versus the consensus echo. No opinion on what our benefit is.
-ira

Clifford Kiracofe

McClatchey has some data on Free Syrian Army/FSA:

http://www.mcclatchydc.com/2013/05/07/190602/syrian-rebel-leader-salim-idriss.html#.UYos5ErJL5k

William R. Cumming

The President now is desperately hoping that his only legacy will not be a the first "Black" President in the USA! Time will tell.

steve

That seems to be sop in Washington whether the policy is domestic or foreign.

The problems of marketing a policy take precedence over the substance.

confusedponderer

all,
from the New Yorker article: "When he arrived, dozens of people were streaming in, choking, vomiting, crying, saliva bubbling out of their mouths."

Jihadis have used chlorine 'spiced' bombs in Iraq.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Chlorine_bombings_in_Iraq

How far away from that is them just using the chlorine, in order to create the impression Assad used CW, to make a case for intervention? The described symptoms are similar.

They're on the record. They have a motive.

Al Arabist

Salim Idriss is probably a courageous defector. But I wouldn't really consider him a military leader as much as a figurehead. And I don't see how more arms would unify the FSA-affiliated militias who are known to withhold help from one another and scalp weapons. Think again about what "military" in Syria meant and how much "leadership" it had.

Al Arabist

I recommend the executive summary of this report for more on the assumption that arms create army.
http://www.understandingwar.org/sites/default/files/The-Free-Syrian-Army-24MAR.pdf

Clifford Kiracofe

Yes, there seems to be magical thinking on the part of some that more "weapons" will lead to the inevitable victory of the good terrorists in FSA.

The issue of the control of the FSA by the Syrian Muslim Brotherhood has been raised for some time. It is known that the Syrian MB has over the years linked with AQ and AQI.

Meanwhile, reporting indicates FSA terrorists are shifting over to al-Nusra.

Would you have any comment on Kerry's Moscow visit?
Will the proposed conference or any conference result in the pacification of Syria in the near term?

Why should the hardline Islamist jihadis put their arms down and leave Syria prior to the establishment of their expressed goal of a sharia state?

The beaver

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-middle-east-22484115

Like they say in French , celui qui s'excuse s'accuse ( he who excuses himself accuses himself)

Mr Erdogan said he did not think that the rebels had access to chemical weapons.

"There is no way I can believe in this now," he said in an interview with American broadcaster NBC.

"First of all, how are they going to obtain this? And who will give this to them? But if it exists, we are against this. We are against whoever holds the weapons."

Yep: where are the rebels getting their weapons?

Babak Makkinejad

All:

On cue:

http://www.acus.org/new_atlanticist/obama-should-remember-rwanda-he-weighs-action-syria

Al Arabist

That incendiary language - mentioned previously on SST- is all about triggering the old missionary salvation impulse. does she want to save writhing bodies or use use them as a ruse to re-align policy? The whole premise is unwanted, unhelpful and should be sharply dismissed. It really is the stuff that got the jesuits in trouble. At least they were smarter...

Clifford Kiracofe

Dennis Ross and WINEP etal want "humanitarian buffer zones." Here is some data. If Dennis Ross and WINEP want it then "The Lobby" wants it. Then Congress wants it. Then The White House, too?


...."Humanitarian buffer zones have to be set up by ground troops and secured against potential attacks from forces loyal to the regime," said Markus Kain, an expert in security policy at the German Institute for International and Security Affairs (SWP) in Berlin. Together with military officials, Kaim calculated that to establish a humanitarian corridor that is 80 kilometers wide and 50 kilometers deep (31 by 50 miles), a contingent of 40,000 to 50,000 soldiers would be necessary.

There would also have to be guarantees that a humanitarian corridor could not be attacked from the air, which would require the establishment of a no-fly zone over Syria. But the regime of President Bashar Assad would almost certainly not permit the creation of a no-fly zone. At the point international powers moved to establish the no-fly zone, it would essentially be a declaration of war. "The line will have been crossed turning this into an international conflict," Kaim said.

Other experts also share the belief that engagement in Syria only makes sense if it takes place on a large scale and over a longer period of time. At the end of last year, the US Defense Department looked into the commitment required to secure Syrian chemical weapons depots. The scenario concluded that for this task alone, a force of more than 75,000 soldiers would have to march in to Syria.

Another possibility would be to create a buffer zone that would be secured by Arab troops, an operation the Wall Street Journal recently reported the Pentagon is reviewing. The plans envision establishing a buffer zone along the Syrian-Jordanian border that would be secured by the Jordanian army, according to the paper.
...."
http://www.spiegel.de/international/world/syria-experts-warn-against-military-intervention-a-899189.html

Al Arabist

Jihadis already have a "caliphate" with sharia law in Raqqa, hence their burning of liquor stores and restaurants plus taking the Saudi morality police idea. Idlib has its own little caliphate too. Plus, rebels are already smuggling 800,000 barrels to Turkey related to the E.U. lifting of embargo. Also smuggled is wheat and cotton from the Euphrates, kind of a blow to the Asad regime. Turkey also has gained the machines and chemical supplies of Aleppo's pharmaceutical industry, minus the workers who are left in Aleppo.
As for the switching from FSA to al-Nusra, it can be a move from a looting militia to a cleaner one. Case in point: Palestinian houses were pretty well picked clean wherever the FSA entered. Mukhayam Yarmouk, Husseiniyya, Barzeh, Khanishi near Golan are absolutely beset by the FSA, who have supposedly seized maybe 8000 houses, fighting the regime from them with the former inhabitants living in parks. OH, ditto in Homs and Aleppo. And then the regime is bombing from above. So the future of Syrian Palestinians seems quite reminiscent of how it went down for Iraqi Pals.- who've basically all exited. Digression there.
Back to the jihadi popularity, some provinces are asking al-Nusra to come and clean their areas, administer their marriages, solve their fights, be the judges and not just run but impose law. There is a calculus that jihadis are good to have around. Aleppans have a saying that they'd rather "jaysh al-islami" "jaysh al-harami."
Between the Russians and Americans it's hard to imagine constructive action other than stopping the flow of weapons. I don't know buffer zones but I know the Asad forces would love to have the heads of the jordanian military on that border. Sad.

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