Posted by Joshua on Thursday, March 8th, 2012
Syrian deputy oil minister Abdo Hussameddin announced his resignation from the Syrian government in a YouTube video, becoming the highest-ranking civilian official to join the revolt against President Bashar al-Assad. Hussameddin had worked for the Syrian government for 33 years, and had served as deputy oil minister since August 2009.
“I am joining the revolution of the people who reject injustice and the brutal campaign of the regime,” Hussameddin said in his filmed statement. “I tell the regime, which claims to own the country, you have nothing but the footprint of the tank driven by your barbarism to kill innocent people.”
I presume this is only the beginning of high level defections. So far upper-level Sunnis have stood by the regime, whether out of self interest, conviction, or fear. But that is not likely to remain the case for ever. The brutality of this war will drive them out of the regime as Syria’s sectarian divide widens. Syria’s sectarian communities have the habit of living together peacefully.
It will take time for Syrians to put hate in their hearts and become fully sectarian, as the Iraqis and Lebanese did. It took Iraq three years before the sectarian, civil-war began in earnest — that was in 2006 with the bombing of the al-Askari Mosque bombing in Samarra. The process of sectarian alienation is likely to happen more rapidly in Syria. High level defections will become more frequent as the regime weakens.
Leon Panetta pushes back on calls for military intervention in Syria
Defence secretary cautions call by Senator John McCain and others to launch airstrikes against Bashar al-Assad’s regime
Associated Press,Wednesday 7 March 2012
US secretary of defence Leon Panetta, left, and Chairman Joint Chiefs of Staff General Martin E Dempsey testify at a hearing of the Senate Armed Services Committee. Photograph: Karen Bleier/AFP/Getty Images
The US defence secretary, Leon Panetta, has pushed back against fresh demands for US military involvement in Syria to end President Bashar al-Assad’s deadly crackdown on his people.
“What doesn’t make sense is to take unilateral action right now,” Panetta told the Senate Armed Services Committee Wednesday about advising President Barack Obama to dispatch US forces. “I’ve got to make very sure we know what the mission is … achieving that mission at what price.”
The panel’s top Republican, Senator John McCain, said the estimated 7,500 dead and the bloodshed calls for US leadership that a Democratic president, Bill Clinton, displayed during the Bosnian war in the 1990s and that Obama eventually showed on Libya last year.
“In past situations, America has led. We’re not leading, Mr Secretary,” McCain told Panetta.
The Pentagon chief later added that the United States is not holding back and is leading in Iraq, Afghanistan, Syria and fighting terrorism.
Testifying before the committee, Army General Martin Dempsey and Panetta offered a cautionary note to the call by McCain to launch US airstrikes against Assad’s regime.
“This terrible situation has no simple answers,” Panetta told the panel.
Obama has resisted calls to step into the turmoil in Syria to stop Assad’s crackdown on protesters. He told a news conference Tuesday that the international community has not been able to muster a campaign against Syria like the one in Libya that ousted Muammar Gaddafi last year.
“For us to take military action unilaterally, as some have suggested, or to think that somehow there is some simple solution, I think is a mistake,” Obama said. “What happened in Libya was we mobilised the international community, had a UN Security Council mandate, had the full cooperation of the region, Arab states, and we knew that we could execute very effectively in a relatively short period of time. This is a much more complicated situation.”
Obama’s strategy has been to use sanctions and international diplomatic isolation to pressure Assad into handing over power.
The Pentagon chief said the United States is currently focused on isolating the Assad regime diplomatically and politically, arguing that it has lost all legitimacy for killing its own people. He left open the possibility of military action, saying the Obama administration continues to assess the situation and would adjust its strategy as necessary.
Dempsey said among the military options are enforcement of a no-fly zone and humanitarian relief. He said a long-term, sustained air campaign would pose a challenge because Syria’s air defences are five times more sophisticated than Libya’s. He said Syria’s chemical and biological weapons stockpile is 100 times larger than Libya’s.
He said suppressing the Syrian air defences would take an extended period of time and a significant number of aircrafts, an effort that would have to be led by the United States. One complication, Panetta and Dempsey pointed out, is the location of the sophisticated air defences: populous neighborhoods. If the US unleashed its military power, that could mean scores of unintended deaths.
“We also need to be alert to extremists, who may return to well-trod ratlines running through Damascus, and other hostile actors, including Iran, which has been exploiting the situation and expanding its support to the regime,” Dempsey said. “And we need to be especially alert to the fate of Syria’s chemical and biological weapons. They need to stay exactly where they are.”
A document released by the WikiLeaks website has revealed that undercover US-led NATO forces are operating inside Syria against the Syrian government. According to Press TV, WikiLeaks released a confidential email from an analyst working for the US …
The following email is from the Stratfor emails posted on wiki leaks:
Re: [alpha] INSIGHT – IRAN/US/SYRIA – Iran reaching out to US on post-Assad set-up? – ME1 and ME1386
Date 2011-12-13 17:09:09
What does the source think about the possibility of a palace coup that isn’t accepted by the SNC, FSA, people in the street or some combination thereof? Also does source know what the Iranians think about such ascenario (assuming they have considered it)
From: “Reva Bhalla”
To: “Alpha List”
Sent: Tuesday, December 13, 2011 6:07:16 PM
Subject: Re: [alpha] INSIGHT – IRAN/US/SYRIA – Iran reaching out to US on
post-Assad set-up? – ME1 and ME1386
my bad, that should read HZ politburo
From: “Michael Wilson”
To: “Alpha List”
Sent: Tuesday, December 13, 2011 10:00:59 AM
Subject: Re: [alpha] INSIGHT – IRAN/US/SYRIA – Iran reaching out to US on
post-Assad set-up? – ME1 and ME1386
You say HZ source but notes say member of Hamas politburo
On 12/13/11 9:29 AM, Marc Lanthemann wrote:
Reva’s note – this is extremely interesting, especially the bolded part below. DOes Iran really think it can convince the US to collaborate with them on regime change in SYria in such a way that will end up in Iran’s favor? the whole point of the US focusing in on Syria is to contain Iran in the first place. This sounds like the Iranians are getting to be in
an increasingly desperate position. Always be wary of source bias, but why would a HZ source want to spread info on the weakness of the Syrian regime and the lack of options for Iran? I do believe the part about Iran preferring a palace coup over the Turkish strategy of building up an opposition via FSA.
SOURCE: ME1 and ME1386
ATTRIBUTION: STRATFOR source
SOURCE DESCRIPTION: ME1 and member of Hamas politburo
PUBLICATION: Yes – worth a tactical analysis
SOURCE RELIABILITY: B-C
ITEM CREDIBILITY: B-C
SPECIAL HANDLING: Alpha
SOURCE HANDLER: Reva
I strongly believe that Asad’s regime will fall in 2012. The conventional wisdom that Asad will survive, because both Iran and Israel view him with favor, is a thing of the past. The situation in Syria has reached the point of no return. It is true than nine months of demonstrations have not brought down the regime but, by the same token, regime brutality and heavy handedness have not quelled the uprising. If anything, the level of hostilities and army defections is on the rise.
The breaking point will come when the military establishment realizes that Asad must go. There are signs that the military establishment is beginning to disintegrate. I talked to [ME1386] and he told me that Alawite officers and enlisted men are beginning to join the ranks of the FSA. This represents a major development. Alawite officers are divided since many of them are unhappy about the use of excessive force against Sunni protesters. Alawite officers are aware that Asad is trying to find an asylum for himself and his family should his regime become unslavageable. This is upsetting many Alawites who are coming to realize that Asad will abandon them. If so, they reason that it would be suicidal to continue to win the wrath of the Sunnis. Walid al-Muallim offered to resign but Asad turned down his request. This is a clear indicator that many of Asad’s men are realizing that they are putting a vain fight against the burgeoning uprising.
The Iranians are weighing in the situation in Syria very carefully. One must read beyond the public statements of the Iranians, especially ayatollah Khamenei. Both Khamenei and Ahmadinejad have concluded that Asad’s regime cannot be rescued. It is perfectly understood that the regime in Damascus will fall along lines similar to the Libyan model.
There will have to be a coup in Damascus, be it a military or political one.
One must not dismiss the pragmatism of Khamenei. Iran appears to be willing to use its influence in Syria to stage a coup, provided that it is able to ensure that the new leadership will continue to pursue excellent relations with Tehran. The Iranians have approached the Americans on this. In the past, Iran collaborated with the U.S. on the ouster of Saddam Hussein and Iran won big in Iraq. The Iranians would not mind working again on ousting Asad if they can secure good results in Syria. Syria’s contiguity to Iraq allows Iran to play a direct role in the affairs of Damascus.
The Iranians feel they need to act on Syria soon because the Turks have their own plans for Syria and are not coordinating with the Iranians. He says the Turks are moving slowly but systematically. Iran does not want to allow Turkey to take over Syria. Whereas the Turks are coordinating with the Brotherhood and the FSA, the Iranians prefer a palace coup in damascus in order to maintain their ties with Asad’s successors. What is delaying action in Syria is the fact that the U.S. has not yet decided on the shape of the post-Asad political system. Nevertheless, he insists that Asad’s regime will fall, although the future of Syria after the regime change remains nebulous.
Michael Wilson, Director of Watch Officer Group
STRATFOR, 221 W. 6th Street, Suite 400, Austin, TX 78701,T: +1 512 744 4300 ex 4112, www.STRATFOR.com
Nick Grinstead, Regional Monitor, STRATFOR, Beirut, Lebanon, +96171969463
See more of these emails, here (Thanks Mina)
“The Turkish plan is centered on civil war in Syria”
SOURCE: TR325 and his business partner
ATTRIBUTION: STRATFOR source
SOURCE DESCRIPTION: Former NSC official in Turkey, adviser to Erdogan, energy expert negotiator
On Syria – the conversation centered on how far Turkey is actually going to go. TR325 explained that the Turkish plan is centered on civil war in Syria. Officially, it’s Turkey providing the main training,a rms and support to FSA. Unofficially, US and TUrkey are doing this together in deploying SOF for this mission. Notice all the talk in the press now about civil war breaking out in Syria. This is the narrative Turkey and US want to build. I pointed out that creating the conditions for civil war – actual neighborhood to neighborhood fighting – is still pretty difficult considering that the Alawite forces are still holding together, but he seemed to think that this can escalate within 2 months time. He also said without saying that they’re working on making that happen. He acknowledges it’ll be messy and it will take a lot of blood and time for a Sunni power to emerge in syria, but that this is the Turkish obligation.
The Turkish plan to preempt the instability that would result from civil war conditions is to implement the buffer zone 5-40km into Syrian territory and set up refugee camps. I asked what levers Iran and Syria have to get Turkey to back off in relation to PKK. He said (half-jokingly) that Karilan is Turkey’s man (ie. turkey can actually negotiate with him.) But he said PKK third-in-command (still need to get this guy’s name) answers to Syria and Iran. Turkey knows this very well and he says Syria and Iran are already making moves to threaten attacks via this faction.
I’m left with a lot of questions —
Given the instability that is likely to result within AKP over Erdogan’s health, would Turkey really be making bold foreign policy moves, such as helping to create a civil war in Syria? Turkey appears very confident that Syria/Iran have the means to play the PKK card. Why risk that?
Turkey knows they’ll be dealing with a massive refugee crisis in Syria – why propel that situation?….
From: “Emre Dogru”
To: “Alpha List”
Sent: Tuesday, November 22, 2011 4:35:07 PM
Subject: Re: [alpha] INSIGHT – TURKEY/SYRIA -Turkey mobilizing forces for Syria? – ME1461
Here is what I talked with Faruk:
He says he just got back from an official meeting in Ankara. He didn’t hear of such a deployment. He says Turkey has no plan to intervene in Syria in a specific time-frame or before a deadline. But Turkey has a very-well developed contingency plan that may be implemented should the need arise according to the events that take place in Syria. The plan was elaborated back in March 2011, and revised in June 2011. Turkey’s allies, including the US, are aware of this plan. The plan includes creating a buffer-zone in northern Syria (I sent specifics of this plan in another insight before – pasted below) only if the unrest or civil war in Syria 1) Creates a massive refugee crisis 2) Threatens the border security 3) Provides PKK with an opportunity to attack on Turkey more easily. But Turkey does not have any intention to take an action on Syria unless these conditions occur. Turkey will not act without US/NATO involvement anyway….
Syria’s Armed Opposition an Irritation Not a Threat to Assad, Says IISS
By Francis Harris – Mar 7, 2012
Syria’s armed opposition is an irritation rather than a threat to the survival of President Bashar al-Assad’s government, according to the International Institute of Strategic Studies.
The lightly armed rebels of the Free Syrian Army cannot control the country’s largest centers of population, and assisting them from abroad would be very difficult, according to the 54 year-old London-based research institute.
The rebels are “no direct threat to the regime,” Toby Dodge, IISS senior fellow for the Middle East, said at a press conference in London today. Meanwhile “there clearly is not the momentum needed” to break the deadlock over international action at the United Nations Security Council, he said. Fighting inside the country continues as a form of “bloody attrition.” ….
There is an assumption that Bashar al-Assad’s military solution to the current crisis in Syria is hopeless – that no matter how many centres of resistance like Baba Amr he brutally crushes, the opposition won’t be quelled and the fall of his …
Zbigniew Brzezinski on Syria: The US must allow Turkey and Saudi to decide what the right policy is and support them.
Smuggling Weapons Into Syria: On The Job With Iraq’s Gun Runners – Niqash
Guns are being smuggled across the Iraqi-Syrian border to arm Syrian rebels. To find out how and why the Iraqi smugglers are doing it, NIQASH went to Rabia and joined a group of gun runners on their trading route. By Special Correspodent / Mosul
….He tells me that he first smuggled guns into Syria in April last year. Then there were only 20 guns. But since then things have changed. “Since then,” Hamid says, “a huge amount of weapons has gone across the border. That first time we smuggled the guns and we didn’t tell anyone what we were doing. But when the revolution got bigger and changed [it has become more violent], almost everyone in our village – and the villages nearby – have become involved.”
I ask Hamid if I can accompany him on a smuggling trip and he agrees, as long as I don’t tell anybody who I am. Two days later, at sun rise, we begin our journey. We drive a dusty Toyota pickup through arid agricultural land for ten minutes until we sight a blue saloon car. The driver of this car motions to us, to park beside him. Some tools are taken out of the vehicle and the two men begin to act as if they are fixing the blue car, stretching out on the ground and fiddling with various pieces of equipment.
While they are doing this they ask me, to my chagrin, to keep watch. This was hardly dangerous; it was easy to do as all the land around us was completely flat. However I definitely felt conflicted, as all of a sudden, I had become complicit in the weapons smuggling business.
By now, the men are removing weapons, wrapped in plastic, from the blue vehicle. By the time they are done, Hamid had hidden 40 Kalashnikovs and 50 containers of ammunition in his own vehicle. He asks me to help cover the guns with a tarpaulin and together we fasten ropes around them.
We then began to drive back to the village. “So where do all these guns come from?,” I ask Hamid. “And how do they get them through all those military checkpoints?” Because often, security personnel at the checkpoints will not just check IDs, they’ll also search the vehicles.
“They come from Baghdad and from Erbil,” Hamid replied. But he said he didn’t really know much more than that. The driver of the other car was Kurdish – when I tried to ask him the same question, he didn’t answer. Back in the village the rest of the day was relatively peaceful. However at sunset, things started getting busy again, as the smugglers headed toward the border crossing points by the dirt barrier and barbed wire. Mobile phones are used to fix times for crossing the barrier and Hamid and I, along with six other men carrying burlap bags filled with guns and ammunition, head for the same area.
When we can’t drive any further, we park next to the border zone. It’s a chaotic scene as large groups of people, carrying cartons of cigarettes and bigger bags, rush around. There are also gunmen who fire their weapons into the air. “That’s to warn the border guards not to interfere,” another smuggler told me.
After less than half an hour, we see the first of the smugglers returning from the border. He is herding cattle! As he came closer, Hamid was exuberant: “Tonight we’re winning,” he exclaims.
Then together with the group of young men, we run across the dirt barrier in the dark. The bags are handed over to Syrians on the other side and they leave as quickly as we came. Not far from us, another delivery is being made. I believe there were many others but because it was so dark, I couldn’t really see what was going on.
Later, I asked Hamid what he had meant when he had spoken about “winning”. “Tonight we felt really safe,” he said. “Because there were so many of us, and because people were firing warning shots, the border guards didn’t dare interfere. A few days ago the soldiers tried to stop us and one of them was shot and injured. After that, they’ve been avoiding us.”
Interestingly, like many weapons dealers around the world, Hamid and his fellow smugglers were not particularly well informed about what was going on in Syria. While discussing this with them, it was hard to tell where their sympathies lay – or if they even had any sympathies for either the Syrian revolutionaries or the current Syrian regime.
However when it came to weapons and money, they could tell me anything I wanted to know. “When the conflict in Syria changed, the prices increased,” one of the other smugglers, Saeed, told me. “A year ago we were selling a machine gun for US$450. Today they pay us US$800. We also smuggle medium sized weapons from here. The price of an RPG-7 [rocket propelled grenade launcher] is US$1,100. We also sell hand grenades, sniper guns, silencers and ammunition and prices vary.”
Saeed estimates that during the past year, his group of smugglers has traded around 1,500 Kalashnikovs, 1,000 boxes of ammunition and hundreds of other weapons.
ادلب جبل الزاوية تشكيل سرية الطائفة العلوية الاحرار بقيادة النقيب صالح الصالح 2012 3 5 This is an group of Alawi soldiers declaring that they have defected and joined the opposition against Bashar al Assad. They are from the Jabal al-Zawiya reagion 40km (25 miles) south-west of the provincial capital Idlib. There was a reported massacre there in January.
Syria Censorship at AOL-Huffington Post?
By Sharmine Narwani – Tue, 2012-03-06
Let me be clear that this blogpost is not about sour grapes.
But the media cacophony on Syria has just become too shrill – reporters, too reluctant to raise obvious questions – to just sit back and let this one slide.
Especially when it is taking place under my nose at the place I have blogged for two and a half years. There’s no other way to look at this: by refusing to publish all but one of my seven Syria articles, AOL-Huffington Post is censoring a viewpoint that challenges the dominant narratives on Syria in the mainstream media.
Op-Ed: The Obama Domino Doctrine: Pro-Iran/Anti-Saudi
Mark Langfan: Tuesday, February 28, 2012
Obama has his own Domino Doctrine for the Muslim world. As a consequence of this doctrine, Obama’s Iranian Nuclear policy can be summed up as “full of sound and fury, signifying nothing” and Saudi Arabia is in even more danger than Israel.
ARM THE FREE SYRIAN ARMY NOW
By David Schenker
March 8, 2012
…Rather than leading from behind and delegating the task of equipping of the FSA to less-discriminating states, like Qatar and Saudi Arabia, the Obama administration should take a lead role in supplying the FSA and mitigate potential leakage of weapons to nihilistic Islamists. At the same time, by providing materiel to these forces in a systematic manner, Washington can help transform these disparate franchise opposition units into a more disciplined and united force tied to a centralized command. Moreover, working closely with the FSA now will establish relationships that can help avoid a Libya scenario — where independent militias continue to run amok — and potentially enable Washington to better shape the post-Assad environment….
This is not going to be a quick fix, but the longer the status quo persists, the higher the risk that Syria will degenerate to a failed state ripe for al Qaeda inroads and sectarian conflict….