Tuesday, April 05, 2016

Behind The Responsibility-to-Protect Scene In Syria

"[The White House and CIA leaders] had made it clear from the beginning that the goal of our task force was to find ways to remove President Assad from office."
"We had come up with 50 good options. My ops plan laid them out in black and white. But political leadership hadn't given us the go-ahead to implement a single one."
Douglas Laux, ex-CIA operative
Doug Laux’s book “Left of Boom” is his account of serving on the Afghan/Pakistan border and in Syria as a young CIA officer.

At a time when the Obama administration was facing the need to honour and enforce his personal declaration that the United States would not stand idly by should Syrian President Bashar al-Assad cross his stated 'red line' of using chemical weapons against Syrian civilians, the CIA, under the then-leadership of former U.S. military commander David Petraeus, had been tasked to come up with a solution to the removal of Assad.

Ex-CIA operative Douglas Laux, who left the CIA in disgust at its lack of action on that file, has written a memoir releasing information he was recalling from his time as a principal in a team tasked with finding a method that would back his president's assertion in August of 2011 that "the time had come for President Assad to step aside". That resulted in a number of proposed schemes, the most vital, to arm the "non-jihadist" Free Syrian Army.

While that arming did take place, it was desultory and restrained to only small arms, nothing of significance to match the military might of Assad's armoured forces, the result of which was failure. The regime support from Iran and Hezbollah, with their armaments added to that of the regime easily outstripped the capability of the Free Syrian Army militias to respond in kind.

Each time more elaborate schemes were forwarded backed by Petraeus, then-secretary of state Hillary Clinton and then-defence secretary Leon Panetta, they were rejected, one after the other by the President of the United States. The CIA took no steps to deny any of their former operative's claims. So it seems that President Obama has much in common with his colleague, President Vladimir Putin of the Russian Federation. 
"The division of opinions between Russia and Iran and Hezbollah were stronger than (the Russian's) pact with the Syrian regime, which led to the Russian pullout. In addition, the coordination between Russia and the West in arranging a ceasefire and negotiations in Syria contributed to the downsizing of forces. Iran and Hezbollah got an unhappy surprise from this coordination."
"Iran is worried by the possibility of clashes with ISIS on its border with Iraq. Russia received assurances from its allies that there would be swift victories, however despite this there have been 1,500 Hezbollah and Iranian deaths on the battlefield, and another 5,000 injured."
Elaph, Saudi News source
MiG
MiG-29 jet fighters of the Russian aerobatic team Strizhi (The Swifts) perform during the MAKS International Aviation and Space Salon in Zhukovsky outside Moscow, Russia, August 30, 2015. (photo credit:REUTERS) 

It seems there is a reason that Mr. Putin did not bother informing Syrian President Bashar al-Assad for whom he had pulled out all aerial bombing stops to support his regime and his ongoing presidency, that he was taking immediate action to withdraw most of the Russian jets from the Syrian theatre. Assad, no doubt learned of the pullout from the media highlighting it, but bravado goes a long way in this man's theatrical makeup.

It wasn't a distaste for the grotesque methods of slaughter that Assad imposed on his Syrian Sunni citizens that disgusted Mr. Putin, but the lack of progress he saw from Syria's other allies, Iran and Hezbollah, whose presence might have seemed more of an impediment to Putin than an asset, when coordination was impaired by a decided lack of respect for the superior conflict capability of Russia, while Iran took pride on the brilliant tactician they had deployed heading their al Quds force in Syria.

According to the source that had fed the information to Saudi Arabia, the strategic position of the Iranian regime was one the Russians had no use for, including the manipulation of the Syrian regime as the protector of Shiites in Syria, expanding outward to Tehran's competitive-edge interests in the Middle East, notably with the Gulf countries and in particular Saudi Arabia. Moscow has no wish to completely alienate the larger Sunni aggregation in the region.

As for Iran's intention to move advanced weaponry to the possession of Hezbollah in Lebanon, that represented an additional irritant of rather large proportions, given Mr. Putin's pledge to Israel's Netanyahu that this would be avoided. Then there is the matter of the Kurds, spanning Iraq, Iran, Syria and Turkey. Russia sees the Kurds as the most effective and trustworthy fighters against the threat of the Islamic State. And in recognizing their determination and efficiency, Mr. Putin is in support of Kurdish independence.



Iran, on the other hand, views such a possibility with the alarm of a country that has three million Kurds living within its geography. And, like Turkey, with its PKK agitation for autonomy leading to sovereignty, views them as a threat to be countered. Then there is the issue of the Kremlin's view of the battlefield failures of Iran and Hezbollah who have failed to make any significant progress against the presence of ISIS in the east of Syria.

Through all the barbaric assaults imposed by President al-Assad against his majority Sunni population, slaughtering a third of a million Syrians, bombing the nation's infrastructure to dislodge sympathizers, putting half of the entire population into a position of refugees both within and without the country, Russia could absorb those details. But that the regime, with all its outside assistance was incapable of restoring itself to full sovereignty elicited the kind of disappointment that leads others to disassociate themselves.

The true tragedy of a people abandoned to its fate through barrel bombs and starvation sieges, those who survive seeing their homes and their futures destroyed, seeing little hope in their country of birth and allegiance and being forced to experience additional risks and misery to find haven abroad, misses no one's notice. What appears to be little noted, however, is that despite all of the atrocities committed at the order of a psychopath in charge of a country, he remains confident on the basis of what is occurring that he will continue to remain in charge of a country whose disintegration is close to completion.

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