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26 August 2013

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Kerim

That's what I've been waiting for. Some kind of proof. I'm astounded that just saying that "there is no doubt, El Assad is behind it" is proof enough. Especially after the Irak fiasco.
What is also disheartening, is the ease and enthusiasm with which government officials in a number of countries are ready to go to war. As if this were just a game of cricket.
Actually I think it should be mandatory for officials involved in these decisions to spend a week in the front lines in a hot war. Just for them to get a sense of what they're talking about.

WP

Now history is repeating itself. Hindsight shows that using our "might" only proved our fundamental weakness.

http://archives.cnn.com/2002/WORLD/meast/01/17/iraq.america/index.html

http://www.afr.com/p/world/syria_assad_warns_us_of_failure_NBffWHNnvXLW8tbsyZzs8M

Our inability to learn from experience is stunning We will see whether the American establishment or Assad is right after another ten or twenty years if we survive that long.

As most others on this blog infer, it seems to me that military action in Syria will not end well for US.

Utopian

Great comment, Col. Lang. This morning the UN inspectors were reported to be on their way to the site of the alleged CW attack & were fired on by snipers. As you said in
Drinking the Kool-Aid 2004, the fact that UN inspectors in Iraq were finding no WMD in the Iraq inspections in 2002/2003 was swept aside. This appears to be another parallel.

William R. Cumming

PL! Several items that may be related to your post! First I think it is clear that US policy in Syria and elsewhere has almost nothing to do with promotion of 1st Amendment Freedoms or democracy or even representative secular governments. That is all a fiction utilized by many for their own reasons.

A very interesting article has appeared in the NY Times about how of the 13 M or so GREENCARD holders in the USA over 8 M never intend to become citizens. A breakdown of the citizenship of these 13 M now would be of interest. And although the article points out that resident aliens [Green card holders] cannot vote they have no restrictions on campaign contributions or lobbying. Perhaps they dictate FP?

And certainly of no particular interest except perhaps to me is that the countries of the MENA that were the source of most of my MENA friendships are in the past and present, Iraq, Syria, and Israel.

William R. Cumming

Is the border between Iraq and Syria completely open?

Jack

Thank you, Pat. You provide your country a great service in sharing your views and expertise regarding the Mideast. I always read your blog for reality checks concerning that part of the world.

When I was growing up it was an automatic response to believe in our government's basic integrity.

I wish the same were true now that I grow old.

Bill H

Perhaps I am niave, but even if Assad did use chemical weapons, should we use military force in Syria on the behalf of either side? My vote would be no. Where are the US national interests?

I agree that proof is required if the justification for military intervention is use of chemical weapons but since, imho, use of chemical weapons does not justify military intervention then we should not intervene and such proof is irrelevant.

Basilisk

I was disheartened to see the time-honored "we have imagery evidence of activity at chemical storage facilities." The problem is there is ALWAYS activity at chemical storage facilities. Where is the PROOF?

I have that disconcerting feeling you get on a roller-coaster, those last few portentous clicks just before all hell breaks loose.

kao_hsien_chih

Astonishing though it seems, the Littler Bush (aka BHO) is even more contemptuous of the intelligence of the American people than the Little Bush (W). If we fall for this sort of not-even-nonsense, we'd really deserve the contempt.

David Habakkuk

It seems that the Western powers may have now decided to operate on the principle of the Red Queen in ‘Alice in Wonderland’: ‘sentence first – verdict afterwards.’

From the WSJ piece on the Saudi strategy in Syria and Lebanon, spearheaded by Bandar, to which Al Arabist linked in the previous thread, it would seem that one of the driving forces behind all this may be a clear determination in the Kingdom to escalate the conflict alike against the Assad regime and Hezbollah.

According to the WSJ, ‘the Saudi plan is to steadily strengthen carefully selected groups of rebel fighters not in the radical Islamist camp, with the goal of someday seeing them in control in Damascus.’ Of course, with Bandar in charge, what could conceivably go wrong?

It was reassuring – up to a point – to learn from the WSJ that ‘not everyone in the Obama administration is comfortable with the new U.S. partnership with the Saudis on Syria.’ The article recalls the involvement of Bandar in Iran-Contra, and the fact that the affair did not end altogether well. It also suggests that Bandar threatened Putin with a rerun of Afghanistan – but fails to raise the question of the later activities of Saudi-sponsored mujahedin against targets nearer home.

Also in the previous thread, ‘walrus’ linked to a report back in January raising the possibility that planning had been going on for rather sophisticated ‘false flag’ operations designed to demonstrate that Assad had crossed Obama’s ‘red line’. It is interesting to look at this in conjunction both with the suggestions in the WSJ report of a clear Saudi determination to embroil the U.S. in Syria, and also the latest in a series of interesting DEBKAfile reports. This starts:

‘Five days after the event, a United Nations team of experts Monday, Aug. 26, start scouring a site in eastern Damascus for shrapnel left over from the poison gas shells or rockets fired by the Syrian army’s 155th Brigade last Wednesday.’

That brings us back to the question of whether or not it is possible that a sophisticated ‘false flag’ operation could by some means of other plant fragments of munitions which could plausibly be supposed to have been fired by the 155th brigade. Would it in fact be so very difficult for networks in which Bandar is involved to access Soviet-era munitions which could plausibly be represented as having been fired by the Syrians?

The DEBKAfile report anticipates that initial findings by the U.N. inspectors will be submitted by Tuesday or Wednesday morning, and that ‘the Obama administration made clear that it was not prepared to hang around and wait for the results of more extensive tests’. It claims that ‘limited, targeted Western military action is scheduled for the coming week.’ And it continues:

‘The position of the Gulf emirates and Saudi Arabia is less cut and dried. Riyadh doesn’t want a targeted strike but an early all-out offensive for overthrowing the Assad regime once and for all. This opens up the possibility of a separate Saudi-Qatari-UAE assault in Syria, coordinated with Washington, but conducted in different regions from those targeted by the US-led lineup. The result is potentially the pursuit of a broad-based pan-Arab offensive on the Syrian regime, alongside a surgical Western strike.’

(See http://www.debka.com/article/23222/UN-experts-to-hunt-for-chemical-shell-shrapnel---as-West-poised-to-strike-Syria-this-week )

John Adamson

It's my understanding that Assad was turning the tide.

Is there any reason for him to use chemical weapons? How could he benefit by "crossing the red line?"

Is it possible that some lunatic below him could give an order to use them and have it carried out? Could a rebel plant in the chain of command do this?

None of this makes any sense to me outside of the possibility that the rebels did it themselves to bring U.S. intervention.

Fred

So how is President Obama going to stretch the Authorization for Use of Military Force to justify these attacks? Isn't this an act of war against a sovereign nation with even less camouflage than used by the Bush administration? Coincidentally this shredding of the Constitution is happening on the 50th Anniversary of the march on Washington. I can’t imagine Dr. King, architect and leader of a non-violent civil rights movement, would be very pleased with our first black president (who appears just as trigger happy, if not more so, than his white predecessors).

How much of the administration's actions are influenced (if any) by Russia’s granting Mr. Snowdon conditional asylum? What is a likely Russian response? Have they deployed any naval units to the Med to trail our frigates? (Wouldn't that have been a response of the USSR? Also, Russia still has 8,000 nuclear weapons, don't they?) Provocation like this for an 'anybody but Assad' regime change seems particularly idiotic.

Steve Pelletiere

Keep it up Pat, for all the good it will do.

Steve Pelletiere

turcopolier

David Habakkuk

"This opens up the possibility of a separate Saudi-Qatari-UAE assault in Syria. " No. They have no real military power, just a lot of equipment. pl

David Habakkuk

Colonel Lang,

That was what I suspected.

My reading of the WSJ story was that Bandar was selling 'snake oil' to gullible people in Washington, and London, who wanted to believe.

zanzibar

We know that our political leaders are shameless scoundrels. We also know that many of the government apparatchiks that drive policy decision making are just panderers to power, primarily only interested in their career goals of "moving ahead". National interest and principle long disembarked the ship of state. The oath to defend and protect the Constitution are mere words. Officials lie with impunity.

What are the differences between the Democrats and Republicans when it comes to material national policy? Both corrupt and only interested in their petty tribalism. And what about the British, French and other western governments? Broke while amassing all the tools of tyranny yet lecturing everyone else with their false morality.

And what about us citizens of this supposed constitutional republic? So willing to be conned repeatedly on all matters that directly effect our lives. Where are we in exercising our sovereignty?

turcopolier

David Habakkuk

The peninsula Arabs have never had significant armed forces. Qatar, Saudi Arabia and the UAE have always needed Pakistani and Bangla Deshi seconded soldiers to have anything like real forces. I think they are pretty much gone now. The modernised force of the Saudi National Guard is made up of beduins from the old Ikhwan tribes, but they are really an internal security force aimed at the Shia in the Eastern Province. They have two brigades of wheeled armored vehicles. None of these forces have any power projection capability and could not maintain themselves logistically in Syria. pl

Medicine Man

I'm seeing more of what you are reporting in the papers up here (in Canada), Col. They are just uncritically repeating how the administration is sure that the loyalists are behind the chemical attack.

This is so familiar I feel like throwing up.

Bill H

In reflection, I'm surprised I didn't get my hand spanked by the colonel. Lying to us is always relevant, and always outrageous. I have been focused on the snowballing stupidity with which BHO is handling this issue, and kind of overlooked the dishonesty part, but I should not have done. Between stupidity and dishonesty, I think the latter is worthy of the greater outrage.

The reason for intervention is, imo, not a valid reason. So we will, evidently, be intervening for an invalid reason which is a lie. Does it get any worse?

kao_hsien_chih

The new neocons (the Obama people) are betting that Russians won't go nuclear over Syria, I wonder. They might be right.

Of course, the Austrians 100 year ago didn't think Russians would go to general mobilization over Serbia, especially when Serbian criminality was so self evident, I suppose...

walrus

Kerry: Live 2pm.

http://www.politico.com/livestream/

steve

Great article, thanks.

"The latest polling indicates that there is little support among Americans for ANY KIND of military intervention in Syria. Perhaps people are tired of being lied to."

The opposition of Nato's citizenry (I am assuming here that there is also strong popular opposition in France and the UK) is most likely of little concern to Nato national governments.

steve

@ Medicine Man

Yes, it seems that Canada went down the rabbit hole awhile back.

You are Canadian?

OT--My wife and I recently returned from a long, meandering car trip through BC, Alberta, SK, and Manitoba. 43 years ago, I hitchhiked from Vancouver to Calgary along the TCH and thought it the most breathtaking scenery on earth, each bend in the road revealing a view more beautiful than the last.

But this trip--we also headed up the Icefields Parkway to Jasper and it was even more breathtaking than the TCH.

I saw a roadsign between Jasper and Edmonton--"Scenic Route to Alaska--next left". Having been to every province, I was sorely tempted to make the turn to visit the only state I've missed.

Maureen Lang

Those portentous clicks are from the braking mechanisms built into the track the coaster is running on. They prevent any possibility of the coaster rolling backward as it is drawn up to the top of the ride & into the rapid descent downhill.

Interesting choice of image, Basilisk.

Karim

I assume that Assad would have the chemical weapons under very tight supervision, no? A plant would therefore have to be very high-ranking. Syrians I know (pro-opposition) believe Assad's brother Maher may be responsible because he thinks Bashar Assad is being too gentle (!!!). But I don't buy it given that everyone on this website seems to be in agreement that Assad was gaining ground using conventional means. Still, any thoughts here on the possibility of a rift at the top?

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