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Tue Mar 26, 2013, 03:34 AM

Obama’s Syria policy in shambles as Assad opposition squabbles

Source: McClatchy Newspapers

WASHINGTON — The Obama administration’s Syria policy was unraveling Monday after weekend developments left the Syrian Opposition Coalition and its military command in turmoil, with the status of its leader uncertain and its newly selected prime minister rejected by the group’s military wing.

The lack of opposition cohesion raises the specter of a bloody free-for-all should Assad fall, perhaps plunging Syria into anarchy with no credible body poised to take charge.

“We have a leader who resigned, an interim prime minister whose election was conducted without transparency and the formal opposition has failed. I don’t know what happens if Assad falls,” said Rafif Jouejati, a spokeswoman for the Local Coordination Committees, a network of activists with more than 80 branches throughout Syria.

“The Syrian opposition needs to look at itself in the mirror and realize it’s been a colossal failure to the Syrian people,” Jouejati lamented. “It’s time for a complete overhaul.”

Read more: http://www.mcclatchydc.com/2013/03/25/186877/obamas-syria-policy-in-shambles.html

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Reply Obama’s Syria policy in shambles as Assad opposition squabbles (Original post)
cqo_000 Mar 2013 OP
leveymg Mar 2013 #1
bemildred Mar 2013 #2
leveymg Mar 2013 #3
bemildred Mar 2013 #4
leveymg Mar 2013 #5
bemildred Mar 2013 #7
leveymg Mar 2013 #8
bemildred Mar 2013 #9
leveymg Mar 2013 #11
bemildred Mar 2013 #17
leveymg Mar 2013 #20
bemildred Mar 2013 #25
Comrade Grumpy Mar 2013 #21
leveymg Mar 2013 #23
Alamuti Lotus Mar 2013 #27
TwilightGardener Mar 2013 #6
L0oniX Mar 2013 #10
Triloon Mar 2013 #29
Comrade Grumpy Mar 2013 #30
L0oniX Mar 2013 #32
geek tragedy Mar 2013 #12
bemildred Mar 2013 #13
geek tragedy Mar 2013 #14
David__77 Mar 2013 #18
bemildred Mar 2013 #19
Comrade Grumpy Mar 2013 #24
David__77 Mar 2013 #15
alcibiades_mystery Mar 2013 #16
TwilightGardener Mar 2013 #22
Progressive dog Mar 2013 #26
Tarheel_Dem Mar 2013 #31
britaphilter Mar 2013 #28

Response to cqo_000 (Original post)

Tue Mar 26, 2013, 09:18 AM

1. The US, UK and France should never have started this armed regime change operation.

Given the deep ethnic divisions and history of bloody religious war in Syria, genocidal warfare was always the inevitable outcome of destabilization, particularly when Petraeus and Clinton encouraged (and aided) the intervention and arming of Libyan and other foreign Jihadis funded by Saudi Arabia and the GCC.

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Response to cqo_000 (Original post)

Tue Mar 26, 2013, 09:18 AM

2. We have no Syria Policy, so it can't very well be in shambles. nt

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Response to bemildred (Reply #2)

Tue Mar 26, 2013, 09:22 AM

3. We had one (the Petraeus-Clinton covert armed intervention), but that was shut down.

Now, we are pursuing a Big Beirut strategy of Balkanization of Syria into several zones run by ethnic militias. If you can think of any other options at this point, we'd like to hear them.

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Response to leveymg (Reply #3)

Tue Mar 26, 2013, 09:25 AM

4. You think it's a conspiracy. I think it's fecklessness.

Same result either way.

I have never expected anything but Balkanization of Syria, and Iraq too for that matter, and Lebanon and some other places in the neighborhood better watch out. I expect at least 4 pieces when the dust all settles, none of which will think much of the USA.

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Response to bemildred (Reply #4)

Tue Mar 26, 2013, 10:03 AM

5. We seem to largely agree: but, the end result may well be what was sought all along.

Last edited Tue Mar 26, 2013, 10:38 AM - Edit history (1)

Either way, we have two formerly powerful Ba'athist states that have been neutralized or destroyed. Their ethnic Balkanization makes them less a check to the regional expansion of power and influence by Israel, Jordan, the Saudis and the Gulf Emirates.

This might also relatively strengthen Turkey, except that the Syrian Kurds are likely to secede as have those in Iraq. Turkey, if it wishes to hold onto eastern Anatolia will have to be considerably more adept and nimble. Iran and parts of Armenia have the same Kurdish problem.

The biggest problem for Israel isn't Iran. It's a radicalized Egypt and the Jihadis camped out across Syria and Iraq in another civil war, which can be expected to be considerably less cooperative and predictable than were Mubarack, Hussein and Asad. Israel may end up missing the dictators.

Lebanon is already Balkanized. Big Beirut appears to be model.

I also agree that none of which will think much of the USA or the European powers who have set up this process of erasing the post-World War One Whitehall lines in the sand, as well as Post-World War Two Pax Americana.

This likely won't end well for America. We shouldn't have created a vacuum and held the door open for the Saudi/GCC Jihadi militias to rush in.

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Response to leveymg (Reply #5)

Tue Mar 26, 2013, 10:34 AM

7. It is the decay of empire, plain and simple.

The details may vary, the overall drift is towards local control.

It all starts with the Neocons/Bushites and their ignorant narcissism, they destroyed the old order, so to speak, and there is nobody who can put it back together these days, nobody.

I expect Turkey and the Kurds to work things out. Everywhere else it's going to be ugliness for some time to come.

I am doubtful that our foreign policy wonks are even of one mind about Syria, let alone having some effective plan.

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Response to bemildred (Reply #7)

Tue Mar 26, 2013, 10:45 AM

8. Just as decay of the Austro-Hungarian & Ottoman Empires & the rush to fill those vacuums led to WW1

All the shifting secret alliances, colonial intrigues, provocations, assassinations, interventions, proxy wars. It's all too familiar.

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Response to leveymg (Reply #8)

Tue Mar 26, 2013, 10:54 AM

9. You've got it.

You don't want to push the WWI analogy TOO far, but it works surprisingly well.

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Response to bemildred (Reply #9)

Tue Mar 26, 2013, 11:48 AM

11. Most think of WWI as a European war, but it really started in the Balkans & Turkey in 1912

More than anything else, I think, that war resulted from the instability and uncertainties of shifting secret alliances between Great Powers and local proxies, ignited by the covert intrigues of secret services that operated largely beyond the control of governments. Please, see, http://www.dailykos.com/story/2006/11/15/271437/-The-History-of-Political-Dirty-Tricks-Pt-1-The-Okhrana-and-the-Paris-Bourse ; and, http://journals.democraticunderground.com/leveymg/211

Even before the assassination of the Austrian Archduke in Sarajevo, there was several rounds of proxy wars in 1912 that stretched across the Balkans region (Turkey, Albania, Bulgaria, Serbia, Montenegro), and a long history of provocations and manipulation of markets by self-interested intelligence operators that proceeded it.

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Response to leveymg (Reply #11)

Tue Mar 26, 2013, 12:15 PM

17. It is a subject that people disagree about.

I have read many histories of WWI, the Yurpean ones tend to frame it in Yurpean ways, outside of that they all tend to see it from where they sit. I tend to see it as two or three regional wars that impinged on each other, harming or destroying everybody who got involved.

I like the analogy mainly because of the general and global cluelessness of the ruling elites at the time, they were stuck deep in the past and completely unable to adapt or reform. Which is why it was so destructive, and continues to be destructive. It is worth remembering, every day, that the current mess derives in a direct line from that mess. Denial has a steep cost.

But anyway, I see the same thing today, the hubris, the provincialism, the arrogant ignorance and deep faith in the failed status quo. In the period of rapidest change in human history, by orders of magnitude, all effort is bent to stall progress. And denial has a steep cost.

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Response to bemildred (Reply #17)

Tue Mar 26, 2013, 12:34 PM

20. We largely agree, and where we disagree, are agreeable about it. That's all too rare. ;-)

Do you think the elites continue to be truly clueless, or that they're simply running complex competing games, each hoping that they can game the system so as to be able to anticipate and manage uncertain outcomes?

Or, do you think that is just evidence of their collective cluelessness, and is the way it was a century ago when it led to disaster - the system was then and is now actually chaotic, which randomizes the outcomes of all subsets of the game?

I believe we agree that it is unlikely that there is any one ruling elite successfully running the show for its own gain for any extended period. But, there may be several lesser elites who do rather comparatively well out of seeming chaos.

I certainly think you have captured things well in your concluding statement:

But anyway, I see the same thing today, the hubris, the provincialism, the arrogant ignorance and deep faith in the failed status quo. In the period of rapidest change in human history, by orders of magnitude, all effort is bent to stall progress. And denial has a steep cost.





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Response to leveymg (Reply #20)

Tue Mar 26, 2013, 02:57 PM

25. That would take a book, I think, however, in order:

I think you have a combination of the truly clueless and the cluefull and inclined to cling to privilege all the more because of that. Within that context, of course, each pursues their own interest as they see it, all concluding that it would be folly for them to let down their guard.

Well, certainly I would agree that there is too much credulity about our ability to control the events that we set in motion. Even assuming we went about things in a competent way, which we seem largely to have forgotten how to do.

Agreed, hogs at the trough. The modern successors to the old "free companies". Quite breathtaking some of the "returns" these guys "earn".

Thank you, likewise.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Free_company

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Response to leveymg (Reply #3)

Tue Mar 26, 2013, 12:46 PM

21. The covert intervention is ongoing:

http://www.nytimes.com/2013/03/25/world/middleeast/arms-airlift-to-syrian-rebels-expands-with-cia-aid.html?pagewanted=all&_r=0

Arms Airlift to Syria Rebels Expands, With Aid From C.I.A.

With help from the C.I.A., Arab governments and Turkey have sharply increased their military aid to Syria’s opposition fighters in recent months, expanding a secret airlift of arms and equipment for the uprising against President Bashar al-Assad, according to air traffic data, interviews with officials in several countries and the accounts of rebel commanders.

The airlift, which began on a small scale in early 2012 and continued intermittently through last fall, expanded into a steady and much heavier flow late last year, the data shows. It has grown to include more than 160 military cargo flights by Jordanian, Saudi and Qatari military-style cargo planes landing at Esenboga Airport near Ankara, and, to a lesser degree, at other Turkish and Jordanian airports.

As it evolved, the airlift correlated with shifts in the war within Syria, as rebels drove Syria’s army from territory by the middle of last year. And even as the Obama administration has publicly refused to give more than “nonlethal” aid to the rebels, the involvement of the C.I.A. in the arms shipments — albeit mostly in a consultative role, American officials say — has shown that the United States is more willing to help its Arab allies support the lethal side of the civil war.

From offices at secret locations, American intelligence officers have helped the Arab governments shop for weapons, including a large procurement from Croatia, and have vetted rebel commanders and groups to determine who should receive the weapons as they arrive, according to American officials speaking on the condition of anonymity. The C.I.A. declined to comment on the shipments or its role in them.

<snip>

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Response to Comrade Grumpy (Reply #21)

Tue Mar 26, 2013, 01:23 PM

23. The Petraeus-Clinton program was a more direct covert arming of the opposition.

It's a minor difference, but a difference. Since Spring 2011 the policy has been to provide "non-lethal" aid -- coordination, logistics, supplies, money,and attendant vetting of opposition groups, but not to directly arm the rebel groups. Anyone we approved had to go to the Qataris or other sources for their weapons.

The reported movement of SA-7 and other heavy arms from Libya to Turkey that was exposed by the Benghazi attack, however, showed the US was at least tolerating escalation of the arms trade in areas such as Eastern Libya supposedly under our control, and the use of these by Jihadist groups showed we weren't all that particular about who got them and how they were used.

After Benghazi, there was a reevaluation of the existing covert arms program, and a decision to back-off to some degree until some greater controls could be imposed. I believe that program evaluation -- the cutoff of some Saudi-supported Salafist groups -- resulted in a sharper rift within the Administration than is publicly admitted, and led to the departures of those who were pushing the previous program.

Some more of the particulars of those events surrounding Benghazi and the policy rift were made public in February: http://www.nytimes.com/2013/02/08/us/politics/panetta-speaks-to-senate-panel-on-benghazi-attack.html?_r=1&

WASHINGTON — In his first term, President Obama presided over an administration known for its lack of open dissension on critical foreign policy issues.

Related:
Facing Congress, Clinton Defends Her Actions Before and After Libya Attack (January 24, 2013)
Clearing the Record About Benghazi (October 18, 2012)
4 Are Out at State Dept. After Scathing Report on Benghazi Attack (December 20, 2012)

But on Thursday, deep divisions over what to do about one of those issues — the rising violence in Syria — spilled into public view for the first time in a blunt exchange between Senator John McCain, Republican of Arizona, and the leaders of the Pentagon. Testifying before the Senate Armed Services Committee, Defense Secretary Leon E. Panetta acknowledged that he and the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Gen. Martin E. Dempsey, had supported a plan last year to arm carefully vetted Syrian rebels. But it was ultimately vetoed by the White House, Mr. Panetta said, although it was developed by David H. Petraeus, the C.I.A. director at the time, and backed by Hillary Rodham Clinton, then the secretary of state.

“How many more have to die before you recommend military action?” Mr. McCain asked Mr. Panetta on Thursday, noting that an estimated 60,000 Syrians had been killed in the fighting. And did the Pentagon, Mr. McCain continued, support the recommendation by Mrs. Clinton and Mr. Petraeus “that we provide weapons to the resistance in Syria? Did you support that?”

“We did,” Mr. Panetta said.

“You did support that,” Mr. McCain said.

“We did,” General Dempsey added.

Neither Mr. Panetta nor General Dempsey explained why President Obama did not heed their recommendation. But senior American officials have said that the White House was worried about the risks of becoming more deeply involved in the Syria crisis, including the possibility that weapons could fall into the wrong hands. And with Mr. Obama in the middle of a re-election campaign, the White House rebuffed the plan, a decision that Mr. Panetta says he now accepts. With the exception of General Dempsey, the officials who favored arming the rebels have either left the administration or, as in Mr. Panetta’s case, are about to depart. Given that turnover, it is perhaps not surprising that the details of the debate — an illustration of the degree that foreign policy decisions have been centralized in the White House — are surfacing only now. A White House spokesman declined to comment on Thursday.

The plan that Mr. Petraeus developed, and that Mrs. Clinton supported, called for vetting rebels and training a cadre of fighters who would be supplied with weapons. The plan would have enlisted the help of a neighboring state. The proposal offered the potential reward of creating Syrian allies for the United States during the conflict and if President Bashar al-Assad is removed. Some administration officials expected the issue to be revisited after the election. But when Mr. Petraeus resigned because of an extramarital affair and Mrs. Clinton suffered a concussion, missing weeks of work, the issue was shelved.

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Response to Comrade Grumpy (Reply #21)

Tue Mar 26, 2013, 03:46 PM

27. the "covert" intervention leads to brilliantly clumsy lies..

 

there's another excerpt from that same article that I read elsewhere. Somehow, even as jaded and untrusting as I have become, this small burst of epic stupidity surprised me:

"The director of cargo for Jordanian International Air Cargo, Muhammad Jubour, insisted on March 7 that his firm had no knowledge of any flights to or from Croatia.

“This is all lies,” he said. “We never did any such thing.”

A regional air traffic official who has been researching the flights confirmed the flight data, and offered an explanation. “Jordanian International Air Cargo,” the official said, “is a front company for Jordan’s air force.”

After being informed of the air-traffic control and transponder data that showed the plane’s routes, Mr. Jubour, from the cargo company, claimed that his firm did not own any Ilyushin cargo planes.

Asked why his employer’s Web site still displayed images of two Ilyushin-76MFs and text claiming they were part of the company fleet, Mr. Jubour had no immediate reply. That night the company’s Web site was taken down."

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Response to cqo_000 (Original post)

Tue Mar 26, 2013, 10:29 AM

6. I see the opposite--Obama's policy of standing back a little was validated.

Some money and some CIA help, no big intervention, no American arms shipments--probably more than we should have been involved, but it's clear that these people can't get their shit together, and the extremists will dominate. His only mistake was his policy of "Assad must go". Why say that, unless you plan to have some real control over that outcome? Also, don't say "chem weapons are my red line for military intervention", because lying jackasses like McCain and Mike Rogers will try to come up with just that so that we send planes and guns.

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Response to cqo_000 (Original post)

Tue Mar 26, 2013, 11:26 AM

10. If the opposition wins Syria will be a fundamentalist Islamic state with Sharia law.

There is no good side in this. We need to stay out of it.

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Response to L0oniX (Reply #10)

Tue Mar 26, 2013, 04:58 PM

29. It's hard to pat yourself on the back when you're sitting on your hands.

I have to remember that the fighters who started this revolution 2 years ago are now all mostly dead. They were the ones who were begging us for help. They've been killed and have been replaced with more radicalized fighters. That should surprise no one. They have also been replaced with defectors from the Syrian military, latecomers who couldn't believe there was a problem until the kitchen got too hot.
The revolution was never about religion, it was about tyranny and brutality. So we shouldn't be too proud about patting ourselves on the back for doing nothing.

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Response to Triloon (Reply #29)

Tue Mar 26, 2013, 05:15 PM

30. I think the revolution was about the Gulf States seeing a chance to get rid of a rival.

And weaken the Shiite axis of Iran-Iraq-Syria-Hezbollah. They saw their opportunity when the Arab Spring broke out and took time off from repressing their own movements for democracy to try to bring down Assad.

If you follow the Wikipedia timeline, "peaceful demonstrators" were killing Syrian cops very early on, and from there, it was off to the races. But those nice folks like the emir of Qatar and the Saudi royals are ensuring that the revolution continues, no matter how many Syrians have to die for them to achieve their aims. And London and Paris and Washington are on board with that, too.

There are plenty of bloody hands in this mess.

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Response to Triloon (Reply #29)

Tue Mar 26, 2013, 07:31 PM

32. Who the hell has a goal of patting one's self on the back?

Do you spend a lot of time trying to reframe? Where do you see me talking about what the revolution was/is about? I was talking about what I think is going to happen. What the hell do I care about patting myself on the back? WTF? You'll fit in real good here on DU with all the many other reframers.

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Response to cqo_000 (Original post)

Tue Mar 26, 2013, 11:55 AM

12. Our policy has been to do as little as possible

Obviously, doing nothing impresses no one. But sometimes doing very, very little is the right thing to do.

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Response to geek tragedy (Reply #12)

Tue Mar 26, 2013, 12:01 PM

13. Correct. Nothing is the default strategy, and very often the best strategy. nt

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Response to bemildred (Reply #13)

Tue Mar 26, 2013, 12:03 PM

14. But never an emotionally satisfying one.

"DO SOMETHING!"

"Okay, what?"

"I DON'T KNOW, BUT YOU CAN'T JUST STAND THERE AND DO NOTHING."

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Response to geek tragedy (Reply #14)

Tue Mar 26, 2013, 12:15 PM

18. Good analysis.

It is not emotionally satisfying. And the media are engaging in a sort of TMZ/Inside Edition type of reporting in many cases.

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Response to geek tragedy (Reply #14)

Tue Mar 26, 2013, 12:17 PM

19. But it's how you separate the men from the boys, so to speak.

And everybody who knows, knows that.

"I didn't know I didn't have to do what people said."

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Response to geek tragedy (Reply #12)

Tue Mar 26, 2013, 02:07 PM

24. Except to help arm the rebels.

See the New York Times story I linked to above.

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Response to cqo_000 (Original post)

Tue Mar 26, 2013, 12:14 PM

15. Why does Obama have to have a "policy" for stage managing events there?

There is a heavy assumption woven into the headline, to the effect that Obama is necessarily attempting to control events on the ground.

That would be a new form of imperialism. Perhaps, just perhaps, there is also the premise that the Syrian people should decide for themselves.

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Response to cqo_000 (Original post)

Tue Mar 26, 2013, 12:15 PM

16. I have to admit that I haven't paid very much attention to Syria

Largely because I think what happens there is really none of my business. There are states in Africa that have experienced this sort of thing for the last 30 years, and I rarely, if ever, see LBN posts about them.

Yes, it sounds callous from a human rights perspective. I wish it was different, from a human rights perspective. I wish there were better answers and strategies, from a human rights perspective.

But ultimately, there's a limit to what one can accomplish. In any case, I doubt very much that the people of Portugal, say, or Argentina are bemoaning the collapse of their leaders' "Syria policy," precisely because they don't have one. It's probably time that we in the United States get to experience the same luxury of not having X policy.

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Response to alcibiades_mystery (Reply #16)

Tue Mar 26, 2013, 01:22 PM

22. If we make every nation's strife and civil war our business and responsibility, we're seriously

going to collapse.

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Response to cqo_000 (Original post)

Tue Mar 26, 2013, 03:42 PM

26. Being careful not to be involved deeply in Syria

seems to have been the right thing to do. But when events show that it was right, then it's" in shambles".
The author of this article didn't get the memo. Obama isn't the imperialist from Texas. The President is behaving in a way consistent with what he campaigned on. I want him to continue to do so.

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Response to Progressive dog (Reply #26)

Tue Mar 26, 2013, 06:45 PM

31. Thank You!!!!!

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Response to cqo_000 (Original post)

Tue Mar 26, 2013, 03:50 PM

28. I honestly don't understand what's going on in Syria anymore

 

Who's fighting who and who are we against or in favor?

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