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Thread: Syria under Bashir Assad (closed end 2014)

  1. #701
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    Default You can't make this stuff up...

    Obama seeks $500M to train, equip Syrian rebels

    With the conflicts in Syria and Iraq becoming increasingly intertwined against the same Sunni extremist group, President Barack Obama moved on Thursday to ratchet up U.S. efforts to strengthen more moderate Syrian rebels.
    First he does nothing (or very little) then he does the wrong thing.

    Reminds me of the Churchill quote (which is certainly applicable to this administration):

    "You can always count on Americans to do the right thing - after they've tried everything else."

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    Default Obama Wants $500 Million to Train Syrian Rebels. Now What?

    Obama Wants $500 Million to Train Syrian Rebels. Now What?

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    A long article by a SME via Open Democracy; with a short opening summary:
    Why is the Syrian Army, against all predictions, winning the war in Syria? One has to delve into the history of the Syrian state since independence to understand how the military shaped the state and learned to divide its opponents.
    Link:http://www.opendemocracy.net/arab-aw...-allconquering

    Some history given refers to fighting the IDF, which was a "hot" topic on another thread on the 1982 war.
    davidbfpo

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    Quote Originally Posted by JMA View Post
    Yea, over the bodies of 160,000 civilians.

    I guess you don't understand the concept I propose. No matter.
    I think I understand it, I just think it is simplistic.This is from research on killing the head of terrorist organizations as a tactic, but the principal is the same.

    In general, the study found that the decapitation strategy
    appears to have little effect on the reduction of terrorist activity. The most notable trend from the statistical analysis was that decapitation strikes on religious terrorist groups tended to be followed by sharp increases in fatalities. This could be an important indication that decapitation strikes should be carefully considered on the basis of the type of group targeted. As this strategy is currently viewed to be effective by policy makers and is supported by public opinion, more data should be gathered in order to thoroughly study the efficacy of the tactic.
    The British finally gave us these types of targeted killing of IRA members in part because there was never anyone in power long enough to negotiate a final peace. Killings don't change the nature of the grievances, the reason people fight, or the dynamics of the game, it only alters the players.

    I doubt that killing Assad, even if accomplished in the early days of the conflict, would have resulted in a lower death toll. It is not a solution that can bring a conflict to an end. There will have to be trials for war crime, reintegration of fighters, and a peace and reconciliation commission to bring closure to the war.

    Without a massive commitment of forces from outside Syria, it will end in one of two ways. Assad, or someone like Assad (probably more brutal) wins; or the country is divided with Assad remaining in power in "South Syria" and a food fight over the north. That food fight will be just as bloody.
    Last edited by TheCurmudgeon; 07-02-2014 at 11:16 PM.
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    Quote Originally Posted by davidbfpo View Post
    A long article by a SME via Open Democracy; with a short opening summary:

    Link:http://www.opendemocracy.net/arab-aw...-allconquering

    Some history given refers to fighting the IDF, which was a "hot" topic on another thread on the 1982 war.
    Not all of predicted the Syrian army would lose. I never saw any indication they would. They maintained external support, they're moderately well trained for an Arab army, they're willing to fight, and their opposition is divided.

    Those that predicted his fall were the hardcore population centric crowd who think popular will is the determining factor. Hopefully this serves as a wake up call to challenge some of our naive views on warfare. I also don't think we should have provided support to the rebels. The only faction organized enough to establish control were the extremists. Live and learn or not.

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    Quote Originally Posted by TheCurmudgeon View Post
    I think I understand it, I just think it is simplistic.This is from research on killing the head of terrorist organizations as a tactic, but the principal is the same.
    Your reference relates to: "Does Killing or Capturing its Leaders Reduce a Terrorist Group’s Activity?"

    Did I ever say that it did?

    Would that be the only possible reason to target insurgent leadership?

    You clearly neither understand what I stated nor the wider view towards he targeting of insurgent/terrorist leadership.

    Then again we see from the following study: Attacking the Leader, Missing the Mark where it concludes:

    Ultimately, however, leadership targeting alone is not enough to effectively fight a strong and emboldened terrorist organization.
    Again, I would ask the author - with tears in my eyes - why she assumes that leadership targeting is the sole strategy employed to fight the organisation.

    The British finally gave us these types of targeted killing of IRA members in part because there was never anyone in power long enough to negotiate a final peace. Killings don't change the nature of the grievances, the reason people fight, or the dynamics of the game, it only alters the players.
    I am not aware of the British policy in this regard but would assume that the legality of 'murdering' citizens of their country was a significant factor.

    I doubt that killing Assad, even if accomplished in the early days of the conflict, would have resulted in a lower death toll. It is not a solution that can bring a conflict to an end. There will have to be trials for war crime, reintegration of fighters, and a peace and reconciliation commission to bring closure to the war.
    No, no, no. Where do you get this stuff from? Syria is not the US and they have never been concerned with what the US thought - certainly since 1971 when daddy took charge. Let us assume that the CIA was in fact a competent outfit and they had an accurate assesment of the Syrian hierarchy and the importance and value of each of the component role players. They would be in a position to identify the demise of which persons would lead/contribute to the strategic result sought by the US in Syria (taking into account any possible negative or unintended consequences).

    Without a massive commitment of forces from outside Syria, it will end in one of two ways. Assad, or someone like Assad (probably more brutal) wins; or the country is divided with Assad remaining in power in "South Syria" and a food fight over the north. That food fight will be just as bloody.
    No...

    Once again you miss the point.

    The world is now faced with the outcome - 160,000 dead and massive infrastructure damage - as a result of the actions (or inaction if you prefer) over the last few years. In any such situation it is always a matter of who dies/gets killed. In this case we have seen (the majority of the) 160,000 killed being as civilians and citizens rising up against an illegitimate and brutal dictatorship. I certainly would not be outraged if the dead comprised the military and supporters of the Assad regime. Because of the carnage there must be no doubt that the need for revenge (a beast alive and well in the heart of the Arab) will have its day and this is not only as a result of the years under the brutal Assad dictatorship but in addition the 160,000 deaths in the last few years. Yes the blood will flow... and probably with some justification. Why would you want to protect the perpetrators?

    Now please read this:

    Does Decapitation Work? Assessing the Effectiveness of Leadership Targeting in Counterinsurgency Campaigns

    Is killing or capturing insurgent leaders an effective tactic? Previous research on interstate war and counterterrorism has suggested that targeting enemy leaders does not work. Most studies of the efficacy of leadership decapitation, however, have relied on unsystematic evidence and poor research design. An analysis based on fresh evidence and a new research design indicates the opposite relationship and yields four key findings. First, campaigns are more likely to end quickly when counterinsurgents successfully target enemy leaders. Second, counterinsurgents who capture or kill insurgent leaders are significantly more likely to defeat insurgencies than those who fail to capture or kill such leaders. Third, the intensity of a conflict is likelier to decrease following the successful removal of an enemy leader than it is after a failed attempt. Fourth, insurgent attacks are more likely to decrease after successful leadership decapitations than after failed attempts. Additional analysis suggests that these findings are attributable to successful leadership decapitation, and that the relationship between decapitation and campaign success holds across different types of insurgencies.
    Thanks for the references, Mike
    Last edited by JMA; 07-03-2014 at 11:02 AM.

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    Quote Originally Posted by JMA View Post

    Once again you miss the point.

    The world is now faced with the outcome - 160,000 dead and massive infrastructure damage - as a result of the actions (or inaction if you prefer) over the last few years. In any such situation it is always a matter of who dies/gets killed. In this case we have seen (the majority of the) 160,000 killed being as civilians and citizens rising up against an illegitimate and brutal dictatorship. I certainly would not be outraged if the dead comprised the military and supporters of the Assad regime. Because of the carnage there must be no doubt that the need for revenge (a beast alive and well in the heart of the Arab) will have its day and this is not only as a result of the years under the brutal Assad dictatorship but in addition the 160,000 deaths in the last few years. Yes the blood will flow... and probably with some justification. Why would you want to protect the perpetrators?
    I am afraid that I am missing your point. I will go back over the conversation and see where I missed the mark. If there is a post you made that has your central thesis please point me to it.



    I am familiar with this paper. I don't like it for two reasons. The first is that, while Mr. Johnson complains about other research using poor data sets, he cherry picks his data to include only instances where there was an attempt on the life of key leaders. He then breaks it into two groups; successful and unsuccessful attempts. There is no comparison to any other situation where an insurgency or civil war ended.

    He also considers success in a very short term temporal way. For example of the 44 successful decapitations Chad appears 3 times, Indonesia – 3, Philippines – 2, Pakistan – 2, Sri Lanka – 2, Algeria - 6 times, and India a whopping 11 times. So India successfully decapitated the insurgent leaders eleven times but did not find peace. In Algeria the government killed the leader of the same group, the GIA, 5 times. This is what the author sees as success. Of the 44 instances of successful decapitation only 8 nations appear only once on the list. One of those is the US and the killing of Abu Musab al-Zarqawi which allegedly ended the insurgency in Iraq. So no, I find this work less than convincing.

    He is using a well recognized effect, the short term disorganization that occurs after a key leader is killed, to extrapolate that killing key leaders is an effective tactic for ending insurgencies. There is little in this paper that changes my opinion that you cannot truely end an insurgency or civil war without addressing the key issues and bringing closure through the appropriate trials and tribunals.

    Quote Originally Posted by JMA View Post
    Thanks for the references, Mike
    No problem, I just wish I could link to articles on JSTOR, but most people don't have access.
    Last edited by TheCurmudgeon; 07-03-2014 at 01:46 PM.
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    Quote Originally Posted by TheCurmudgeon View Post
    I am afraid that I am missing your point.
    Yes you are in assuming that advocates of targetting insurgent leadership believe it is a 'sliver bullet' for ending the conflict.

    It is not... if correctly implemented it can and does dislocate the insurgent's command and control and thereby its operations as a component of the overall strategy.

    US and Brit special forces in both Iraq and Afghanistan have 'taken out' (probably) hundreds of 'leaders' over the years. They are replaced by more junior and less experienced fighters and the war continues... but each time a little less effectively.

    I would accept any criticism that the McChristal/Lamb team placed way too much emphasis on such killing. They may have had their reasons for doing so.

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    Default The 'shock & awe' campaign plan that fizzled out

    A short BBC story, by Newsnight, which in summary was a British military designed option:
    The plan was called Extract, Equip, Train... a shock and awe attack that would allow the Syrians themselves to defeat Assad....Once the Syrian force was ready, it would march on Damascus, with the cover of fighter jets from the West and Gulf allies.
    Link:http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-28148943 and http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/worl...an-rebels.html
    davidbfpo

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    David,

    Assad is a tyrant and a leader who made a relatively small crisis a regional crisis due to his poor response to it. On the other hand, what I fail to understand is why the West and others are so adamant that getting rid of Assad at this time is in our interests. I believe the greatest threat to the West is AQism linked extremists. Assad is fighting the same adversary we are for very different reasons. Removing Assad could expand the safe haven for AQ, not shrink it. We assume that if Assad is removed a moderate government will form, and go after the al-Nusra and ISIS. Maybe, but that seems to be a very optimistic assumption. Thoughts?

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    Quote Originally Posted by Bill Moore View Post
    David,

    Assad is a tyrant and a leader who made a relatively small crisis a regional crisis due to his poor response to it. On the other hand, what I fail to understand is why the West and others are so adamant that getting rid of Assad at this time is in our interests. I believe the greatest threat to the West is AQism linked extremists. Assad is fighting the same adversary we are for very different reasons. Removing Assad could expand the safe haven for AQ, not shrink it. We assume that if Assad is removed a moderate government will form, and go after the al-Nusra and ISIS. Maybe, but that seems to be a very optimistic assumption. Thoughts?
    Bill,

    Part of the problem, certainly from my UK viewpoint,, is that very few understood Syria, including the almost fascist regime apparatus and rather stupidly thought the initial peaceful protests should be supported - if only with rhetoric or political statements.

    To be fair the UK, along with some Western states, has got intself into a situation where few understand let alone argue about 'interests' that may overwhelm domestic / universal principles of human rights. An argument hard to make when the regime's response was so harsh, children being tortured @ Der'ea and shooting protestors.

    Into the Syrian civil war came the AQ-linked groups, which had virtually no independent presence in Syria beforehand. Funded by the "usual suspects" and neighbours having their own interests.

    I was struck by the almost complete absence of any reporting on the still considerable Palestinian community being caught in the middle, until June this year:http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-middle-east-27969293 The 'radical' or rejectionist factions of the PLO for years were hosted in Syria, not that a record of success e.g.http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/As-Sa%27iqa

    Elsewhere SWC have debated IIRC what is the greatest threat to the West, which is wider than the UK & USA. It is not AQ IMHO; our greatest threat is ourselves - preferring comfort at home and please stop showing footage of 'orrible people doing dastardly things to each other.
    davidbfpo

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    Posted by David

    Into the Syrian civil war came the AQ-linked groups, which had virtually no independent presence in Syria beforehand. Funded by the "usual suspects" and neighbours having their own interests
    .

    Once more information is made available by analysts instead of the media spin masters I believe the above statement will be proven to be false. al-Qaeda wasn't the cause of the rebellion, but as a networked organization they had nodes in Syria that were established during the U.S. occupation of Iraq, and those logistics networks which can support movement both ways still exist.

    This enabled AQ linked groups to respond quickly to the opportunity the rebellion created. It is unfortunate that AQ is present in both Iraq and Syria, because it does distort the West's perception that every Sunni fighter is affiliated with AQ. They're not, but AQ is active, and they have the most the effective groups, and those groups pose a threat to us. To pretend otherwise is as foolish is pretending AQ is the only faction opposing the governments in Iraq and Syria.

    There also seems to be some truth that groups that are successful create their own gravitational pull and members from less effective groups join the winning team.

    More important than AQ centeral is the concept of al-Qaedaism which is various groups and individuals embracing the idea of violent jihad to establish a caliphate, so the idea behinds UBL's AQ will always remain relevant despite our attempts to wish it away. I'll shock some readers, but it relevant much like Jesus remains relevant to the over 200 plus sects of Christianity. A lot of nuances between the sects, but they all believe in Jesus being the son of God.

    In Syria, and Iraq, we have both the idea and a network that was able to exploit the situations there to become a central actor in the rebellions. It really doesn't matter if they're directed by AQ leadership in Pakistan does it? Networked groups don't have to have central leadership. Networks have a lot of characteristics we still haven't come to grips with yet, but one of them is the ability to surge, or swarm, to exploit opportunity, which is what happened in Syria, and now Iraq. We have asymmetrical views of the conflict, as state actors we attempt to view the revolts in Syria and Iraq as two separate fights, the non-state actors don't recognize the borders, so they view it differently and until we understand that I doubt our ability to come up with an effective strategy to more effectively manage this threat. It is easy to see this when we hear our political leaders talking about the governments in Syria and Iraq as the primary determinants in our response, when in reality the government in Iraq is becoming less relevant. This is where a case for adapting and exploring the human domain concept can be made to develop alternative options to supporting or opposing a particular government, but I digress.

    http://www.google.com/url?sa=t&rct=j...70138588,d.cGU

    In his July 18, 2013, testimony to the House Committee
    on Foreign Affairs Subcommittee on Terrorism,
    Nonproliferation, and Trade, Thomas Joscelyn
    defined al-Qaeda as:
    a global international terrorist network, with a general
    command in Afghanistan and Pakistan and affiliates
    in several countries. Together, they form a robust
    network that, despite setbacks, contests for territory
    abroad and still poses a threat to U.S. interests both
    overseas and at home.6
    Not familiar with the next journal, but the information seems to jive with what I know and suspect.

    http://www.vox.com/2014/6/13/5803712...aq-crisis-isis

    11 facts that explain the escalating crisis in Iraq

    3. ISIS thrives on tension between Iraq's two largest religious groups

    Perhaps the single most important factor in ISIS' recent resurgence is the conflict between Iraqi Shias and Iraqi Sunnis. ISIS fighters themselves are Sunnis, and the tension between the two groups is a powerful recruiting tool for ISIS.
    When ISIS reestablished itself, it put Sunni sectarianism at the heart of its identity and propaganda. The government persecution, according to the Washington Institute for Near East Studies' Michael Knights, "played right into their hands." Maliki "made all the ISIS propaganda real, accurate." That made it much, much easier for ISIS to replenish its fighting stock.

    That wasn't the only way the Iraqi government helped ISIS grow, according to Knights. The US and Iraqi governments released a huge number of al-Qaeda prisoners from jail, which he thinks called "an unprecedented infusion of skilled, networked terrorist manpower - an infusion at a scale the world has never seen."
    7. The Syria conflict has made ISIS much stronger

    When fighting Syrian troops, ISIS can safely retreat to Iraq; when fighting Iraqis it can go to Syria. Statistical evidence says these safe "rear areas" help insurgents win: "one of the best predictors of insurgent success that we have to date is the presence of a rear area," Jason Lyall, a political scientist at Yale University who studies insurgencies, said.
    At the end of the day Bob is right, poor governance (greatly understated in this case) created the opportunity, but I think once the fighting escalates to the point it is now that good governance won't stop it. It has its own momentum, and the issues become broader, the people become militarized, compromise is a dream at this point, so if there is a desire to end the fighting a side must be defeated militarily. Then good governance may be able to consolidate the peace gained.

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    Default Have The Islamist Militants Overreached In Iraq And Syria?

    Have The Islamist Militants Overreached In Iraq And Syria?

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    Default 6 Strategies for Syria and Iraq

    6 Strategies for Syria and Iraq

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    Default LANDPOWER: Russia, Syria, China, and Drones

    LANDPOWER: Russia, Syria, China, and Drones

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    Default Raqqa: From Regime Overthrow to Inter-Rebel Fighting

    Raqqa: From Regime Overthrow to Inter-Rebel Fighting

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    Default Bashir Assad: a canny, ruthless player

    A short article by a Syrian diplomat who has defected. Maybe nothing new for SWC readers, but IIRC not written by a Syrian who was an insider.

    Here is one passage:
    ISISís role in Syria fits into a plan that has worked for Assad on several occasions. When a crisis emerges, Assad pushes his opponents to spend as much time as possible in developing a response. While implementing such diplomatic stalls, he floods the crisis with distractions designed to divert attention away from Syrian government misdeeds. His favorite diversion is terrorism, because it establishes him as a necessary force to contain it. In the meantime, world events wash away international focus on the initial crisis.
    Link:http://www.atlanticcouncil.org/blogs...5hN19.facebook
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    Default US Airstrikes Helped, But Kurds From Syria Turned Tide Against Islamic State

    US Airstrikes Helped, But Kurds From Syria Turned Tide Against Islamic State

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    Default State Piracy in Syria (And Iraq)

    State Piracy in Syria (And Iraq)

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    Default Would arming Syriaís rebels have stopped the Islamic State?

    A detailed WaPo article, with many links, that looks back to the early days of the Syrian Civil War 'Would arming Syriaís rebels have stopped the Islamic State?':http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/...islamic-state/

    It starts with:
    Former secretary of state Hillary Rodham Clinton made news this weekend by suggesting that the rise of the Islamic State might have been prevented had the Obama administration moved to more aggressively arm Syrian rebels in 2012. Variants of this narrative have been repeated so often by so many different people in so many venues that itís easy to forget how implausible this policy option really was.

    (And ends with) Had the plan to arm Syriaís rebels been adopted back in 2012, the most likely scenario is that the war would still be raging and look much as it does today, except that the United States would be far more intimately and deeply involved. Thatís a prospect that Clinton frankly acknowledged during her interview, but that somehow didnít make it into the headline. As catastrophic as Syriaís war has been, and as alarming as the Islamic State has become, there has never been a plausible case to be made that more U.S. arms for Syrian rebels would have meaningfully altered their path.
    davidbfpo

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