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Thread: Syria under Bashir Assad (closed end 2014)

  1. #381
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    A simple glimpse into the reality of a civil war, a map of NW Syria towns controlled by rebels (green), regime (red) & Kurds (yellow):https://twitter.com/KureseL_hain/sta.../photo/1/large

    I wonder if the author has one for the whole country? I shall ask.

    I expect parts of Western USA were like this in parts of the US Civil War.
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    Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Seymour Hersh has dropped yet another bombshell allegation: President Obama wasn't honest with the American people when he blamed Syrian President Bashar al-Assad for a sarin-gas attack in that killed hundreds of civilians.

    In early September, Secretary of State John Kerry said the United States had proof that the nerve-gas attack was made on Assad's orders. "We know the Assad regime was responsible," President Obama told the nation in an address days after this revelation, which he said pushed him over the "red line" in considering military intervention.

    But in a long story published Sunday for the London Review of Books, Hersh — best known for his exposés on the cover-ups of the My Lai Massacre and of Abu Ghraib – said the administration "cherry-picked intelligence," citing conversations with intelligence and military officials

    A former senior intelligence official told me that the Obama administration had altered the available information – in terms of its timing and sequence – to enable the president and his advisers to make intelligence retrieved days after the attack look as if it had been picked up and analysed in real time, as the attack was happening. The distortion, he said, reminded him of the 1964 Gulf of Tonkin incident, when the Johnson administration reversed the sequence of National Security Agency intercepts to justify one of the early bombings of North Vietnam. The same official said there was immense frustration inside the military and intelligence bureaucracy: ‘The guys are throwing their hands in the air and saying, “How can we help this guy” – Obama – “when he and his cronies in the White House make up the intelligence as they go along?”’
    http://news.yahoo.com/seymour-hersh-...204437397.html
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    Last night Twitter had a number of critics saying Seymour Hersh was wrong on significant aspects; illustrated by "Brown Moses":https://twitter.com/Brown_Moses/stat...73066994626560

    (Added) Now found a number of UK-based comments. First on 'old' -v- 'new' journalism:http://www.al-bab.com/blog/2013/dece....oXCE4dAr.dpbs

    Then "Brown Moses" under his real name in FP, which is about the sarin attacks aspects, with video clips:http://www.foreignpolicy.com/article....tuT6a7Er.dpbs

    A wide ranging dissection by Enduring America (Scott Lucas), which concludes (in part):
    Hersh’s article is based on suspect, unnamed sources and precious little examination of the evidence — the real evidence — that has accumulated since August 21.
    Link:http://eaworldview.com/2013/12/syria...ive-dissected/
    Last edited by davidbfpo; 12-10-2013 at 02:19 PM.
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    Default Moderates fade away, extremists gain and Assad remains

    A grim assessment by Shashank Joshi, of RUSI, the title says:
    The good guys have lost in Syria – only the bad guys are left fighting
    Then in the text:
    In truth, moderate rebels are being obliterated as a force. Their best units have peeled away and their foreign support is dwindling to nothing.
    Link:http://blogs.telegraph.co.uk/news/sh...left-fighting/
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    Another strategic failure by the West.

    Back when this started to come to the boil the 'smart guys' had all the smart ideas... and look where that lead to.



    Quote Originally Posted by davidbfpo View Post
    A grim assessment by Shashank Joshi, of RUSI, the title says:

    Then in the text:

    Link:http://blogs.telegraph.co.uk/news/sh...left-fighting/

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    Quote Originally Posted by JMA View Post
    Another strategic failure by the West.

    Back when this started to come to the boil the 'smart guys' had all the smart ideas... and look where that lead to.
    I suspect this assessment is nonsense because it assumes if we provided more support to the so called moderates early in the conflict they would have triumphed and a peaceful democracy would have bloomed over Syria. Hell if you carry that myth a little further they even would have joined NATO along side Turkey in another 10 years or so.

    This assessment in my view casually dismisses several factors. First, the moderates were always a majority and the opposition forces we now (Iran, Hezbollah, AQ, etc.) would still be there. At best more support to the moderate faction would have resulted in the removal of Assad, but it is highly unlikely they would be able to retain power. Iran and Hezbollah consider Syria critical to your interests, so it unreasonable to assume they wouldn't be a force to deal with even if provided support to the moderates. It is highly unlikely the moderates could defeat them. The AQ and AQ linked extremists with a relatively secure base of operations next door in Iraq would be a player regardless of whether we provided support or not. If you look at the history a rather large extremist element in Syria's population has been suppressed for decades by Assad and his father, and they're not pushing for democracy or an inclusive society. Christians, Alawites, some Kurds and other minorities would still be in considerable danger.

    We clearly made mistakes in Syria by promising aid and support that never came. We gave the moderates a sense of false hope which was unethical in my opinion. However, to assume we could have changed the course of history by more than a few months I suspect is hubris.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Bill Moore View Post

    We clearly made mistakes in Syria by promising aid and support that never came. We gave the moderates a sense of false hope which was unethical in my opinion.
    Bill, you said it.

    The poor fools did not study history... the Hungarians are still waiting for the Americans to come to their aid since the 1956 uprising.

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    Bill:

    What you described is Assad being backed by who you would figure, Iran and Hez. The takfiri killers are being backed by who you would figure, pious Saudi money. You would figure the moderates would be backed by the west. They are not. To say they may not have prevailed with western backing is a conjecture. It is an absolute certainty they won't prevail with the west turning its back on them. A chance or no chance at all? Our decisions insure no chance at all.

    The smart guys on our side seem to figure that things are going to go our way with minimal effort. Once that effort fails, as it is bound to when up against these guys, our smart guys throw up their hands, say nothing can be done and leave, leaving people in the lurch.

    Our smart guys don't seem to get that if you want to contest hard eyed killers, you got to actually try and that means backing people who will fight with weapons, and as Forrest said "fighting means killing." The silliness of our smart guys is revealed when the types of aid we openly give is told, commo equipment, body armor, vehicles etc. Anybody looking at that knows our leaders are not serious minded people.

    It is not good for the Americans or the west for all those ruthless killers to know that our leaders are not serious minded people.
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    Quote Originally Posted by carl View Post
    Bill:

    What you described is Assad being backed by who you would figure, Iran and Hez. The takfiri killers are being backed by who you would figure, pious Saudi money. You would figure the moderates would be backed by the west. They are not. To say they may not have prevailed with western backing is a conjecture. It is an absolute certainty they won't prevail with the west turning its back on them. A chance or no chance at all? Our decisions insure no chance at all.

    The smart guys on our side seem to figure that things are going to go our way with minimal effort. Once that effort fails, as it is bound to when up against these guys, our smart guys throw up their hands, say nothing can be done and leave, leaving people in the lurch.

    Our smart guys don't seem to get that if you want to contest hard eyed killers, you got to actually try and that means backing people who will fight with weapons, and as Forrest said "fighting means killing." The silliness of our smart guys is revealed when the types of aid we openly give is told, commo equipment, body armor, vehicles etc. Anybody looking at that knows our leaders are not serious minded people.

    It is not good for the Americans or the west for all those ruthless killers to know that our leaders are not serious minded people.
    If we're not smarter after Iraq then we never will be. It is much more than conjecture that the moderates would have failed. We didn't go in with minimal force in Iraq and we spent several years trying to make a doctrine that never would work lead us to victory. I agree with you wholeheartedly that war/fighting means killing, and our alternative approach of making the population the center of gravity instead of the enemy is partially why we failed. The population is an enabling factor that must be addressed, but it isn't the center of gravity. The moderates didn't stand a chance against the forces that would be brought to bear on them. Even if managed to force Assad out, to assume they could form a government that wouldn't be resisted by superior forces both external and internal to Syria is a illusionary. We would have been drug into the fight, and over time we would be blamed for the troubles. We need to pick our fights carefully, and decisively win them when we decide to fight. The COINdistas discounted the so called Powell Doctrine, but it is still valid, and if we're going to discard it we need to have to good reason to do so.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Bill Moore View Post
    If we're not smarter after Iraq then we never will be. It is much more than conjecture that the moderates would have failed. We didn't go in with minimal force in Iraq and we spent several years trying to make a doctrine that never would work lead us to victory. I agree with you wholeheartedly that war/fighting means killing, and our alternative approach of making the population the center of gravity instead of the enemy is partially why we failed. The population is an enabling factor that must be addressed, but it isn't the center of gravity. The moderates didn't stand a chance against the forces that would be brought to bear on them. Even if managed to force Assad out, to assume they could form a government that wouldn't be resisted by superior forces both external and internal to Syria is a illusionary. We would have been drug into the fight, and over time we would be blamed for the troubles. We need to pick our fights carefully, and decisively win them when we decide to fight. The COINdistas discounted the so called Powell Doctrine, but it is still valid, and if we're going to discard it we need to have to good reason to do so.
    What does our various trials and errors in Iraq have to do with Syria? Not much I think except as an excuse not to confront things when they appear. Same thing with the Powell Doctrine. You set the minimum requirements so high that you have a dandy reason not to do anything ever. The world didn't stop when we left Iraq and things still happen that will not be good for us in the long run, like Syria.

    If by being drug into the fight you mean US soldiers in Syria, that is another excuse to do nothing. There is no validity at all the the idea that if we get involved backing one side strongly that means our troops will inevitably go in. You back 'em and if they win great and if they lose we at least tried rather than having stood around feeling sorry for ourselves.

    The moderates don't stand a chance against forces arrayed against them because we don't have the spine to back them as fully as Assad and the takfiri killers are backed. What do the killers have that the moderates don't? Support. And the support comes because there are people on that side who won't stop trying. Our side wrings our hands and wishes the whole thing will go away. It won't.

    The killers have always believed they have firm hearts and ours are soft. No matter what our tech advantages are, they will win if what they believe is true. If they win, a lot of people who don't deserve to die, will. The slow motion, or if you are an unlucky individual, not so slow, slaughter of Christians in parts of the Muslim world is only going to get worse if we can't learn to shake things off and get on with it.
    "We fight, get beat, rise, and fight again." Gen. Nathanael Greene

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    A couple thoughts. Its doubtful that many if anyone on this board knows the full extent of any support being given indirectly. If someone does it isn't being discussed with reason. So we are all working with partial information.

    Second, I think its entirely predictable that after iraq and afghanistan we wouldn't touch this situation with a ten foot pole. The "moderates" may not have the ability to win simply because they are moderate. In a civil war when the participants view the struggle as an existential one, the force with the highest propensity to violence may have an advantage. Additionally, the unifying force of the desire for good government, inclusiveness and restraint is hard to turn into a stirring call to battle especially in a situation plagued by old religious and ethnic strife. Easy to turn those tensions into blind hate once you begin losing friends and family.

    If we end up in a situation where we have Salafi Sunnis and the gulf states vs Assad, Hez and Iran in a war of attrition we will have a good opportunity to gather intelligence on all the above. This may not be the case but I imagine that when forces are employed in warfare they become exposed to exploitation. Im thinking along the lines of getting a better idea of existing relationships and the capabilities that hez, quds, and the saudis can bring to bear. The more active the network the more risk to make mistakes and be exposed.

    My final thought is somewhat jaded. Isn't it a positive for us that we have Hezbollah, Assad forces, Quds force and Salafis all killing each other in one big party? They are mowing the grass for us. Of course the risk is that it spreads and endangers allies like the Jordanians and the Israelis.

    Im new to UW and small wars so I could have made many poor assumptions.

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    Quote Originally Posted by JMA View Post
    Another strategic failure by the West.

    Back when this started to come to the boil the 'smart guys' had all the smart ideas... and look where that lead to.
    We have Saudi-backed jihadis and their AQ allies and Hezbollah and Iran and their Shi'a allies pouring resources and fighters into beating the stuffing out of each other. The US, for a welcome change, has managed not to stick its face into a situation where it has no compelling national interest at stake and slim to zero chance of obtaining a favorable outcome. How exactly is that a "strategic failure"?

    Syria is a completer mess. It was going to be a complete mess no matter what the US did. The US didn't create this situation and never had any reasonable option for preventing it, and it is in no way a US responsibility to "fix" it.

    I'm not sure any part in the US Government can be reasonably described as "smart guys", but at least on this occasion they were able to not wade in and make the mess our mess, which shows some vestige of smartness.

    Quote Originally Posted by Bill Moore View Post
    I suspect this assessment is nonsense because it assumes if we provided more support to the so called moderates early in the conflict they would have triumphed and a peaceful democracy would have bloomed over Syria. Hell if you carry that myth a little further they even would have joined NATO along side Turkey in another 10 years or so.
    Agreed. It's very easy to claim that if the US had done x, the outcome would have been y, but such claims are generally based on insupportable assumptions.

    Quote Originally Posted by Bill Moore View Post
    We clearly made mistakes in Syria by promising aid and support that never came. We gave the moderates a sense of false hope which was unethical in my opinion. However, to assume we could have changed the course of history by more than a few months I suspect is hubris.
    Agree that making the promise in the first place was a huge and cringe-worthy mistake, but trying to fulfill the promise in the face of evidence that the "moderates" are not able to maintain control of what they receive would have been an even bigger one.

    Quote Originally Posted by carl View Post
    What you described is Assad being backed by who you would figure, Iran and Hez. The takfiri killers are being backed by who you would figure, pious Saudi money. You would figure the moderates would be backed by the west. They are not. To say they may not have prevailed with western backing is a conjecture. It is an absolute certainty they won't prevail with the west turning its back on them. A chance or no chance at all? Our decisions insure no chance at all.
    Why would you assume that the US or "the West" must necessarily back anyone?

    Quote Originally Posted by carl View Post
    The smart guys on our side seem to figure that things are going to go our way with minimal effort. Once that effort fails, as it is bound to when up against these guys, our smart guys throw up their hands, say nothing can be done and leave, leaving people in the lurch.
    Maybe the guys on our side realized that this isn't going our way in any event and we have neither compelling national interest at stake nor an available course of action with a realistic probability of a favorable outcome, and decided that this mess needn't be our mess. That realization may have been hastened by the overwhelming public disinterest in entering yet another Middle Eastern quagmire. As for "leaving people in the lurch"... well, there are people in the lurch all over the world. The US has no inherent responsibility for getting them out of the lurch and no realistic capacity to get them out of it. Appointing ourselves as saviour to the world's lurching populace is a one way road to bankruptcy and exhaustion.

    Quote Originally Posted by carl View Post
    Our smart guys don't seem to get that if you want to contest hard eyed killers, you got to actually try and that means backing people who will fight with weapons, and as Forrest said "fighting means killing." The silliness of our smart guys is revealed when the types of aid we openly give is told, commo equipment, body armor, vehicles etc. Anybody looking at that knows our leaders are not serious minded people.

    It is not good for the Americans or the west for all those ruthless killers to know that our leaders are not serious minded people.
    We have two general groups of ruthless hard-eyed killers, both of whom hate us, killing each other instead of us. Where exactly is there a necessity for us to intervene and stop them?

    I wish some of the people who think the smart guys aren't smart would offer some smarter suggestions. If I saw two guys who want to kill me busily trying to kill each other, I'd be inclined to make a cup of coffee, put my feet up, and watch from a distance. Yes, that sucks for the Syrians. NOFP.
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    Quote Originally Posted by Wyatt View Post
    A couple thoughts. Its doubtful that many if anyone on this board knows the full extent of any support being given indirectly. If someone does it isn't being discussed with reason. So we are all working with partial information.

    Second, I think its entirely predictable that after iraq and afghanistan we wouldn't touch this situation with a ten foot pole. The "moderates" may not have the ability to win simply because they are moderate. In a civil war when the participants view the struggle as an existential one, the force with the highest propensity to violence may have an advantage. Additionally, the unifying force of the desire for good government, inclusiveness and restraint is hard to turn into a stirring call to battle especially in a situation plagued by old religious and ethnic strife. Easy to turn those tensions into blind hate once you begin losing friends and family.

    If we end up in a situation where we have Salafi Sunnis and the gulf states vs Assad, Hez and Iran in a war of attrition we will have a good opportunity to gather intelligence on all the above. This may not be the case but I imagine that when forces are employed in warfare they become exposed to exploitation. Im thinking along the lines of getting a better idea of existing relationships and the capabilities that hez, quds, and the saudis can bring to bear. The more active the network the more risk to make mistakes and be exposed.

    My final thought is somewhat jaded. Isn't it a positive for us that we have Hezbollah, Assad forces, Quds force and Salafis all killing each other in one big party? They are mowing the grass for us. Of course the risk is that it spreads and endangers allies like the Jordanians and the Israelis.

    Im new to UW and small wars so I could have made many poor assumptions.
    I agree it is a positive in some regards that AQ related and Iran sponsored groups are killing each other. If the Iran groups win it will return to the former we're back to where we were, and if the AQ groups win Christians, Alawites, etc. will be displaced and slaughtered. We never could separate the so called moderate Sunnis from the radicals, and as you stated once family and friends start dying the character of the conflict changes at a personal level. John McCain was nave enough to pose with AQ linked extremists during his visit to Syria, if our intelligence organizations couldn't steer him straight I think that is an indicator we have no business pumping arms into the country that will (not may) go into the hands of our enemy.

    Iran is a threat to the region, but Iran is a rational actor despite their rhetoric. Sunni Extremists are a threat to the region and the U.S., and they're not rational actors. Assad and his father kept the extremists at bay. Saddam did the same, and Saddam balanced Iranian influence. I'm having a hard time rationalizing the world is a safer place without strong (suppressive) Sunni leadership in Iraq. Like most I'm gland Saddam and his sons are dead, but I think we erred strategically when we pushed for democracy as soon as we did. I think the AQ threat coming out Iraq combined with the increased Iranian influence in the region threatens our interests at least as much as Saddam did.

    If the purpose of committing to a war is a better peace, I'm not sure what the end state in Syria would be if we decided to intervene that would result in a better peace? Just offering to give assistance that we may or may not be giving the resistance has simply prolonged the conflict and may have resulted in a chronic conflict that will continue for decades. I would like to know how the strategic thinkers in Israel view this, do they think it would be to their advantage if the West supported the moderates? Are do they think leaving Assad in place with the best of the bad options?

    Posted by Carl

    What does our various trials and errors in Iraq have to do with Syria? Not much I think except as an excuse not to confront things when they appear.
    Quite frankly it has quite a bit to do with it, just as the results of the Vietnam War limited our willingness to engage in other conflicts for years which in some cases was probably best, in others not so much. We don't do a good job of thinking in time, and the so called human domain at home is more important than the human domain in the conflict zone. We're a democracy, wars have to be justified and ends met, or we will lose our political will (time after time). When we know this is true then I think we have to consider the moral consequences of getting involved when victory or a better peace appears elusive unless it is a direct threat to our country. Never say always, never say never, but we do need to think this through. Our political will is already damaged by a badly run war in Iraq, adding another one to our list could paralyze us further.

    I'm not opposed to covert aid to someone we consider an alley, but anymore covert aid tends to be reported on a regular basis on Fox and CNN news, so that option is only viable if people in the know can keep their mouths shut. If covert was happening we wouldn't be debating it because we wouldn't know about it. If we know we are or aren't, then we're talking about something else.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Bill Moore View Post
    If the Iran groups win it will return to the former we're back to where we were, and if the AQ groups win Christians, Alawites, etc. will be displaced and slaughtered.
    I doubt that things will ever go back to the way they were. Assad and his allies may well win, but they are likely to be faced with a running insurgency fueled by persistent external support and safe havens over several borders. A clean and decisive "win" by the AQ/Islamist groups is equally unlikely, for many of the same reasons. Extensive killings and displacements are likely outcomes no matter who wins, or if nobody does: ugly truth, but still truth.

    Quote Originally Posted by Bill Moore View Post
    Like most I'm gland Saddam and his sons are dead, but I think we erred strategically when we pushed for democracy as soon as we did. I think the AQ threat coming out Iraq combined with the increased Iranian influence in the region threatens our interests at least as much as Saddam did.
    True on all counts IMO, but there are real-world constraints on US policy posed by domestic and international opinion. For better or worse, the US is expected to follow the dismissal of a dictator with a transition to something that Americans can call "democracy". Installing a compliant general as the new dictator is no longer acceptable. That may not make sense in all cases, but the constraint remains, and has to be built into the exit strategy calculation from the start.

    Quote Originally Posted by Bill Moore View Post
    I would like to know how the strategic thinkers in Israel view this, do they think it would be to their advantage if the West supported the moderates? Are do they think leaving Assad in place with the best of the bad options?
    It would be interesting to know what the Israeli inner circle thinks of it, but I doubt that we ever will. I don't expect they'd see any realistically probable outcome as positive, but I'd guess they see a continued Assad presence, especially an Assad presence constrained and weakened by long term internal conflict, as liveable.

    It's important, I think, to recognize that this is not "about us" and is not (and never was) a case where we are going to control or dictate the outcome. That's not to say we couldn't dictate the outcome, but trying to do so would require a commitment of resources and an acceptance of risks that are totally out of proportion to the US interests at stake.
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    I doubt that things will ever go back to the way they were. Assad and his allies may well win, but they are likely to be faced with a running insurgency fueled by persistent external support and safe havens over several borders. A clean and decisive "win" by the AQ/Islamist groups is equally unlikely, for many of the same reasons. Extensive killings and displacements are likely outcomes no matter who wins, or if nobody does: ugly truth, but still truth.
    True, I should have clarified that more. I doubt Syria will enjoy a relative peace again for decades which is sad, my intent with that poorly worded claim is that a rational state actor would remain in control of Syria that Israel, Jordan, and Turkey could manage more effectively than the alternative.

    In my mind there is no doubt that Assad's incompetent response to some disgruntled youth acting out resulted in a war that shouldn't have happened, but it is too late to rewrite history. I suspect he was excessively paranoid based on the Arab Spring events throughout the region and cracked down out of fear. He probably would have been more effective if he followed the King of Morocco's approach.

    True on all counts IMO, but there are real-world constraints on US policy posed by domestic and international opinion. For better or worse, the US is expected to follow the dismissal of a dictator with a transition to something that Americans can call "democracy". Installing a compliant general as the new dictator is no longer acceptable. That may not make sense in all cases, but the constraint remains, and has to be built into the exit strategy calculation from the start.
    Perhaps, but based on our recent experience our national leadership and our people may be more receptive to other forms of governance. Democracy works for us, but clearly it does not work in some nations. We can always state our ultimate aim is to help that nation evolve into a democracy over the years, but our first goal is enable an appropriate form of government control to prevent a humanitarian disaster.

    It's important, I think, to recognize that this is not "about us" and is not (and never was) a case where we are going to control or dictate the outcome. That's not to say we couldn't dictate the outcome, but trying to do so would require a commitment of resources and an acceptance of risks that are totally out of proportion to the US interests at stake.
    I have mixed feelings on this, I think this conflict is much larger than Syria, it involves the larger Shia-Sunni conflict taking place in the Muslim world, it also involves local state actors, and state actors beyond the region (principally Russia, China, and the U.S.) It certainly isn't about us, but we do have interests in how this turns out. We did a more job of responding to this also. I suspect Kerry's response would have been more seasoned and practical than Clinton's, but that is only speculation.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Wyatt View Post
    A couple thoughts. Its doubtful that many if anyone on this board knows the full extent of any support being given indirectly. If someone does it isn't being discussed with reason. So we are all working with partial information.

    Second, I think its entirely predictable that after iraq and afghanistan we wouldn't touch this situation with a ten foot pole. The "moderates" may not have the ability to win simply because they are moderate. In a civil war when the participants view the struggle as an existential one, the force with the highest propensity to violence may have an advantage. Additionally, the unifying force of the desire for good government, inclusiveness and restraint is hard to turn into a stirring call to battle especially in a situation plagued by old religious and ethnic strife. Easy to turn those tensions into blind hate once you begin losing friends and family.

    If we end up in a situation where we have Salafi Sunnis and the gulf states vs Assad, Hez and Iran in a war of attrition we will have a good opportunity to gather intelligence on all the above. This may not be the case but I imagine that when forces are employed in warfare they become exposed to exploitation. Im thinking along the lines of getting a better idea of existing relationships and the capabilities that hez, quds, and the saudis can bring to bear. The more active the network the more risk to make mistakes and be exposed.

    My final thought is somewhat jaded. Isn't it a positive for us that we have Hezbollah, Assad forces, Quds force and Salafis all killing each other in one big party? They are mowing the grass for us. Of course the risk is that it spreads and endangers allies like the Jordanians and the Israelis.

    Im new to UW and small wars so I could have made many poor assumptions.
    I figure that if enough support to make a difference were being given by us or other Western countries it probably could not be easily hidden. The secret squirrel stuff that was small enough to be kept secret would be too small to be of consequence...to the Syrians. It is very useful for Americans politicians, civilian and military, who want to be seen to be 'doing something'.

    That is a very good point about moderates being shy of violence. But I think being personally moderate is a very different thing from being politically moderate. There is no reason a person who is a strong advocate of the rule of law, religious toleration and the other things we associate with 'moderate' polities can't be a hell on wheels fighter. The US military is full of people like that. The Mexican Revolution of 100 years ago resulted in a government that was fairly moderate given what it could have been and evolved into a pretty good example of a western polity now. Those guys fought quite hard. Menachem Begin was a killer and Israel (if you're not Palistinian) is quite the moderate place politically. Those moderates in Syria, moderates being defined as people who will run a gov that will more acceptable to us than the two leading contenders at this time, could probably fight as well as Menachem or the Mexicans if the had the stuff and money to fight with.

    People seem to like the idea of our enemies over there killing each other. Your idea about getting intel is the first time I've heard that one. The problem is that this conflict won't go on forever. Somebody is going to win. And when they do, the way it is shaping up now, we ain't gonna like it. The people that backed the winning side will be that much stronger, and we won't like that either. Then we will really need that intel.
    "We fight, get beat, rise, and fight again." Gen. Nathanael Greene

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    Council Member Dayuhan's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Bill Moore View Post
    In my mind there is no doubt that Assad's incompetent response to some disgruntled youth acting out resulted in a war that shouldn't have happened, but it is too late to rewrite history. I suspect he was excessively paranoid based on the Arab Spring events throughout the region and cracked down out of fear. He probably would have been more effective if he followed the King of Morocco's approach.
    I think you're right, but as you say, water under the bridge.

    Quote Originally Posted by Bill Moore View Post
    Perhaps, but based on our recent experience our national leadership and our people may be more receptive to other forms of governance. Democracy works for us, but clearly it does not work in some nations. We can always state our ultimate aim is to help that nation evolve into a democracy over the years, but our first goal is enable an appropriate form of government control to prevent a humanitarian disaster.
    Our experience with installing non-democratic governments has not been very good either. Ideally we would be able to avoid situations that would require us to install a government or force us to make decisions about how others should be governed... but that is perhaps too much to ask.

    Quote Originally Posted by Bill Moore View Post
    I have mixed feelings on this, I think this conflict is much larger than Syria, it involves the larger Shia-Sunni conflict taking place in the Muslim world, it also involves local state actors, and state actors beyond the region (principally Russia, China, and the U.S.) It certainly isn't about us, but we do have interests in how this turns out. We did a more job of responding to this also. I suspect Kerry's response would have been more seasoned and practical than Clinton's, but that is only speculation.
    Agree that this is part of a broader Sunni-Shia conflict. How it turns out will inevitably affect our interests, but I don't see that we have a clear interest in any specific outcome that we have any ability to promote. I don't think wading in and getting involved, in the absence of any clear and reasonably achievable exit strategy, is going to do us any good.

    Quote Originally Posted by carl View Post
    The secret squirrel stuff that was small enough to be kept secret would be too small to be of consequence...to the Syrians. It is very useful for Americans politicians, civilian and military, who want to be seen to be 'doing something'.
    If it's secret, it's not going to help anyone who wants to be seen "doing something"... secrets are by definition not seen. That's probably why it's not secret.

    Quote Originally Posted by carl View Post
    That is a very good point about moderates being shy of violence. But I think being personally moderate is a very different thing from being politically moderate. There is no reason a person who is a strong advocate of the rule of law, religious toleration and the other things we associate with 'moderate' polities can't be a hell on wheels fighter. The US military is full of people like that. The Mexican Revolution of 100 years ago resulted in a government that was fairly moderate given what it could have been and evolved into a pretty good example of a western polity now. Those guys fought quite hard. Menachem Begin was a killer and Israel (if you're not Palistinian) is quite the moderate place politically. Those moderates in Syria, moderates being defined as people who will run a gov that will more acceptable to us than the two leading contenders at this time, could probably fight as well as Menachem or the Mexicans if the had the stuff and money to fight with.
    I don't see any problem with moderates being able to fight. I suspect that there is a bit of a problem defining who exactly these "moderates" are, and how moderate they are, and who else they're associated with. I'm not convinced that there's a clear and discrete moderate faction that provides a partner that we can work with. I'm sure lots of people will fall all over each other trying to tell us what we want to hear, but that doesn't mean they are really our buddies.

    Quote Originally Posted by carl View Post
    People seem to like the idea of our enemies over there killing each other. Your idea about getting intel is the first time I've heard that one. The problem is that this conflict won't go on forever. Somebody is going to win. And when they do, the way it is shaping up now, we ain't gonna like it. The people that backed the winning side will be that much stronger, and we won't like that either. Then we will really need that intel.
    Somebody might or might not win. It's entirely possible that there might be no clear winner. In the Iran/Iraq war our policy was to assure that neither party emerged as a clear winner... cynical, but not unreasonable. It doesn't solve the problem, but it doesn't make it worse... and is there any really credible alternative that does not involve choosing a side and sticking our collective putz into the meatgrinder?
    “The whole aim of practical politics is to keep the populace alarmed (and hence clamorous to be led to safety) by menacing it with an endless series of hobgoblins, all of them imaginary”

    H.L. Mencken

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    A few weeks ago I had a conversation with two local Muslims who had been to Syria - on a humanitarian mission - whose description of the situation was far more graphic than what I've read.

    It was clear that they could not understand how the UK had welcomed the first signs of 'Spring' in Syria and then when a violent response took hold how little influence the West actually had. Their preference was H2P, neither had heard of R2P. H2P is Help to People (copyright pending).

    Whatever happens in Syria I have considerable doubts whether it will have much public impact in the UK. It maybe different in those countries that have far stronger links, France and Turkey come to mind. Yes there will be some regrets - for the suffering the people endured.

    How the 'Arab World' will react is very unclear and I don't mean the states, rather the public. Shame maybe, bewilderment and IMHO an acceptance that so much of their aspirations and lives are far beyond their personal influence, let alone control.
    davidbfpo

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    Quote Originally Posted by Dayuhan View Post
    We have Saudi-backed jihadis and their AQ allies and Hezbollah and Iran and their Shi'a allies pouring resources and fighters into beating the stuffing out of each other. The US, for a welcome change, has managed not to stick its face into a situation where it has no compelling national interest at stake and slim to zero chance of obtaining a favorable outcome. How exactly is that a "strategic failure"?
    Well I was hoping I would not have to explain this...

    Take what was said and promised at the start of all this (Google is your friend) and compare that with what transpired. Simple as that really.

    Syria is a complete mess.
    Yes, another failure.

    It was going to be a complete mess no matter what the US did.
    No, no, no. That does not follow.

    The US didn't create this situation and never had any reasonable option for preventing it, and it is in no way a US responsibility to "fix" it.
    The US meddled ... go back and see (Google is your friend), the US and the West contributed to the resulting cock-up.

    As the US had a hand in what has developed it DOES have a responsibility to help fix it.

    I'm not sure any part in the US Government can be reasonably described as "smart guys", but at least on this occasion they were able to not wade in and make the mess our mess, which shows some vestige of smartness.
    In their own minds they certainly see themselves as being 'smart-guys'.

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    Default The Islamic Front - Romeo, Romeo ....

    The Obama administration, apparently realizing that its moderate Syrian allies were getting nowhere fast; e.g., per Robert Ford:

    Q: Moving to the situation on the ground inside Syria, in your assessment, how much territory does the Syrian regime continue to hold control over?

    I have never seen a definitive number of how much of the Syrian geography is controlled by the regime and how much is controlled by the opposition. What I can tell you is that lines of control have only shifted a little bit week to week. The regime has made some advances outside of Aleppo, but the regime also lost a very big supply depot in Homs and they have also lost ground in Dera’a. And so this war continues without either side being able to deliver a decisive blow. ...
    is flopping about, looking for a new dancing partner.

    Take your pick from these weekend news article.

    Reuters: Syrian Islamist rebels to meet U.S. officials: opposition sources (by Mariam Karouny and Dasha Afanasieva, BEIRUT/ISTANBUL Sat Dec 14, 2013):

    (Reuters) - Syrian rebel commanders from the Islamic Front which seized control of bases belonging to Western-backed rebels last week are due to hold talks with U.S. officials in Turkey in coming days, rebel and opposition sources said on Saturday.

    The expected contacts between Washington and the radical fighters reflect the extent to which the Islamic Front alliance has eclipsed the more moderate Free Syrian Army brigades - which Western and Arab powers tried in vain to build into a force able to topple President Bashar al-Assad.

    The talks could also decide the future direction of the Islamic Front, which is engaged in a standoff with yet more radical Sunni Muslim fighters from the al Qaeda-linked Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL).

    A rebel fighter with the Islamic Front said he expected the talks in Turkey to discuss whether the United States would help arm the front and assign to it responsibility for maintaining order in the rebel-held areas of northern Syria.

    He declined to be identified because of the sensitivity of the talks, and gave no further details. Diplomatic sources in Turkey said that U.S. Syria envoy Robert Ford was expected in Istanbul soon but his schedule was not yet confirmed.

    The Islamic Front, formed by the unification of six major Islamist groups last month, seized control a week ago of weapons stores nominally under the control of the Free Syrian Army's Supreme Military Command (SMC). ...
    Please note that the Islamic Front is a coalition of Islamist groups.

    CSM (via Gulf News): US mulls aiding Islamist groups - Islamists have zoomed past the moderate rebel forces in organisation and control of territory (by Howard la Franchi, Christian Science Monitor, December 14, 2013):

    Damascus: The gradual collapse of Syria’s moderate rebel forces is forcing the US to consider extending its support to the Islamist groups it has long rejected but which are steadily rising to become the Al Assad regime’s principal opponents.

    The irony, as some of Syria’s forlorn moderate rebels are noting, is that the US may have unwittingly aided in the demise of moderate forces because it for so long held off extending lethal and nonlethal aid to them – out of fear that some of that aid might fall into the hands of Islamists.

    Now it’s the Islamists who, without any US assistance, have zoomed past the moderate rebel forces in organisation, control of territory, and staying power.
    ...
    ... The US envoy to Syria, Robert Ford, met last month with leaders from the recently formed Islamic Front – a coalition of seven groups fighting for a strict Islamic state in Syria.

    Ambassador Ford could continue those discussions in the coming days as part of a trip to London and Turkey to meet with Syria’s political opposition and its international supporters.

    US officials and other members of the international Friends of Syria group have privately fretted for more than a year about the eclipse of the moderate rebels by Islamist factions, which include groups the US has designated as terrorist organisations.

    The reversed fortunes of Syria’s rebel coalitions burst into the open last weekend when fighters from the Islamic Front overran the northern Syria base of the moderate, US-backed Supreme Military Council (SMC). The Islamists took control of the base’s warehouses of US-supplied nonlethal material, including pickup trucks, communications equipment, medicines, and thousands of ready-to-eat meals.

    The US, joined by Britain, quickly suspended all nonlethal aid to the rebels. US officials insist the suspension is only temporary and could end soon, especially if the Islamic Front returns the seized material as the US is demanding.

    But the episode showcases both the weak state of Syria’s moderate rebels – and the disarray in America’s Syria policy. ...
    The Observer: Growing strength of Syria's Islamist groups undermines hopes of ousting Assad - The west is being forced to rethink its support for rebel alliance in civil war as forces linked to al-Qaida gain ground (Peter Beaumont, The Observer, 14 December 2013):

    The Bab al-Hawa crossing post sits under a low ridge on the Syrian-Turkish border, not far from the Turkish town of Reyhanli. There is a concrete canopy and a handful of buildings. It is important because of what lies not far away in the village of Babisqa – one of the main storage depots for the supreme military council of the Free Syrian Army including weapons and other equipment.

    In the Syrian conflict, who controls crossings like Bab al-Hawa and depots like Babisqa is crucially important.

    On the evening of 6 December, a series of events began, with ramifications threatening to be far-reaching. They point to a development many observers have been fearing: a dangerous new fracture opening within the fragmented ranks of Syria's opposition fighters, which threatens to pit the FSA against a powerful Islamist coalition. The ideological frontiers on the map of Syria's civil conflict are shifting.

    Accounts are confused and contradictory. But according to one version, members of a powerful new alliance of Islamist groups – the Islamic Front, which includes among its seven core groups some which in the past have co-operated with the al-Qaida-affiliated Jabhat al-Nusra – took control of the warehouses at gunpoint, claiming they were defending them from an attack, and later the Bab al-Hawa crossing.

    Within days, the US and the UK announced they had "suspended" all deliveries of non-lethal materials to the supreme military council through Turkey, which has included sophisticated communications equipment. ...
    Debka: US explores ties with Syrian Islamist rebels, possibly Assad too - for a lineup to fight al Qaeda (DEBKAfile Special Report December 15, 2013):

    The Obama administration is again doubling back on its Syrian war policy, this time engaging in a secret approach to the Islamic Front, the most powerful force now battling the Assad regime. Recently set up by six Muslim militias with 40-50,000 fighting men, the new front is led by Hassan Aboud Abu Abdullah al-Hamawi and his Ahrar al Sham militia. Debkafile’s counter-terrorism forces report that, although its Salafist members aspire to impose Sharia law on Syria, in common with Al Qaeda, they are against its methods of warfare.

    On Dec. 11, fighters of the Islamic Front seized Free Syrian Army headquarters, the Syrian Military Council, and weapons warehouses, as well as the Bab al-Hawa crossing from northwestern Syria into Turkey. This was a devastating setback for FSA, once the leading rebel force against Bashar Assad, and virtually extinguished the group as an effective fighting force after its recent setbacks.

    It was bad enough for its commander, Brig. Gen. Salim Idris, to flee to Qatar. Despite protestations to the contrary, he is unlikely to return to Syria in the hurry.

    Announcing the cut-off of “non-lethal assistance to the opposition in northern Syria,” Washington more or less turned its back on the FSA and launched an approach to its vanquisher.

    Robert Ford, former ambassador to Syria through whom the US has maintained contact with Syrian rebel militias, was dispatched to Turkey to start talks with the Islamist Front leader Al Hamawi. ...
    The rest of the Debka report, though interesting, may or may not have credence.

    IMO: US policy in the Middle East has been in disarray since this romantic 1945 event:



    because it has fluctuated with the fortunes of either the Saudi Lobby or the Israeli Lobby to purchase and/or intimidate the USG. Neither lobby resonates in America's Heartland (aka "flyover country"); and neither lobby cares - so long as it resonates in the Beltway and furthers the interests it represents.

    So, if you really want the US to intervene in the Middle East (or anywhere else in the World), be careful what you wish for - it might not be what you expect.

    In the meantime, I've a Bactrian camel I want to sell; a low maintenance beast with a pedigree (certificate on bond paper !) from a herd of President Karzai's brother. Any offers ?

    Regards

    Mike

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