The Washington Post says “Syrian rebels have acquired as many as 40 shoulder-fired missile systems in recent weeks to counter assaults by Syrian military aircraft, introducing a possibly decisive new weapon into the conflict, Western and Middle Eastern intelligence officials say.”
The Obama administration has steadfastly opposed arming Syrian opposition forces with such missiles, warning that the weapons could fall into the hands of terrorists and be used to shoot down commercial aircraft….
At least some of the missiles were supplied by Qatar, which has provided most of the weapons smuggled to Syria’s rebels across the Turkish border, according to two Middle Eastern intelligence officials briefed on the matter. The officials, along with others interviewed, spoke on the condition of anonymity because of the sensitive nature of the information …
“It should be worrying to everyone,” said one of the Middle Eastern intelligence officials, whose government closely monitors events in Syria. “When Assad is finished, terrorists could end up with these, and commercial flights would be at risk.”
Good point. Or maybe the terrorists could wind up with Syria itself or parts of it along with Assad’s chemical weapons arsenal. Why settle for a few rockets when you can have a whole country?
The New York Times reports that consequently the US is weighing “deeper intervention to help push President Bashar al-Assad from power, according to government officials involved in the discussions.”
While no decisions have been made, the administration is considering several alternatives, including directly providing arms to some opposition fighters.
The most urgent decision, likely to come next week, is whether NATO should deploy surface-to-air missiles in Turkey, ostensibly to protect that country from Syrian missiles that could carry chemical weapons. The State Department spokeswoman, Victoria Nuland, said Wednesday that the Patriot missile system would not be “for use beyond the Turkish border.”
This suggests that some administration analysts have concluded that “leading from behind” amounts to being “left behind” and the choices are now between trying to seize control of the Syrian insurgency at the last minute or accepting the inevitable and containing it. In other words the administration can either stop leading from behind and take ownership and direction of the anti-Assad effort or they can accept it is out of control and start firewalling it.
“The administration has figured out that if they don’t start doing something, the war will be over and they won’t have any influence over the combat forces on the ground,” said Jeffrey White, a former Defense Intelligence Agency intelligence officer and specialist on the Syria military. “They may have some influence with various political groups and factions, but they won’t have influence with the fighters, and the fighters will control the territory.” …
“Look, let’s be frank, what we’ve done over the last 18 months hasn’t been enough,” Britain’s prime minister, David Cameron, said three weeks ago after visiting a Syrian refugee camp in Jordan. “The slaughter continues, the bloodshed is appalling, the bad effects it’s having on the region, the radicalization, but also the humanitarian crisis that is engulfing Syria. So let’s work together on really pushing what more we can do.” Mr. Cameron has discussed those options directly with Mr. Obama, White House officials say.
Cameron’s statement, deprived of its elegant Oxbridge sytle sounds very much like Yogi Berr’s famous phrase: “we’re lost but we’re making good time”. He seems to say: in Syria people are dying by the thousand, the Jihadis are getting the upper hand, its threatening to spread across borders. Our plan A isn’t working.
Well what’s Plan B?
Maybe they’re heading deeper into the woods. Russia has warned against providing Patriot Missiles to Turkey. The Russian foreign minister quoted Chekhov to make his point. “Our concerns are rooted in the ‘Chekhov’s gun syndrome’ that says that if a gun appears on stage in the first act it will definitely fire by the third”.
That would be Chekhov the playwright, not the Star Trek character. But Russia was definitely suggesting the Patriots would play a role on the stage of regional history at some point, probably implying they would be used to create a “no fly zone” — a favorite Democratic Party foreign policy tool — over Syria.
NATO moved to quash that suggestion. “NATO Allied Land Commander Lt. Gen. Frederick “Ben” Hodges has said it is impossible to use Patriot missiles to establish a no-fly zone or to make offensive attacks against threats, remarks made while a team from NATO is surveying sites in Turkey for the deployment of the missiles.”
“Patriot missiles are a defensive system. It is impossible to establish a no-fly zone or attack with them,” Hodges said during the presentation of the newly established Allied Land Command headquarters in İzmir.
But typically Russia accuses its rivals of doing something when they are fixing to do it themselves. Doubtless Lavarov is right. There are altogether too many guns on stage in the first act. Surely they’ll be fired by the third.
Speaking of guns, events surrounding the attack on the US consulate in Benghazi have never been fully explained, giving rise to reports, such as this one, quoting an “intelligence insider” as saying the administration has been running guns without the appearance of running them:
The entire arms and weapons running operation was headquartered in Benghazi, The weapons were actually being shipped out of Libya from the port city of Dernah, located about a hundred miles east of Benghazi. That was the ‘choke point’ of the weapons being shipped out. Remember the Lusitania? Think in those terms, ships carrying weapons hid among ‘humanitarian aid.’ By the time of the attacks, an estimated 30-40 million pounds of arms were already transported out of Libya.
From there, the weapons were being sent to staging areas in Turkey near the Syrian border, for use by the Free Syrian Army and other ragtag terrorist groups to fight against Assad. The objective was and still is to destabilize the Assad government.
You may say “that’s a likely story”. Who would believe it? But the “intelligence insider’s” story is about as likely as the administration’s tale that the attack was about a YouTube video. Obama’s foreign policy in the Middle East continues full speed ahead into the dark. “I shot an arrow into the air. It fell to ground I know not where.” The President has always acted in a way to shield himself from failure by trying to have it both ways. But maybe this time he has to choose.
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