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Member since: 2003 before July 6th
Number of posts: 37,305

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Obama Calls in Former Top Aides for Help on Syria

In case the White House hasn’t underscored just how high the stakes are for President Barack Obama in seeking congressional authority on military action in Syria, some of his longest-serving former aides were summoned to the West Wing Tuesday to help with the president’s strategy to win support.

David Plouffe, a former White House senior adviser and Mr. Obama’s 2008 campaign manager, Robert Gibbs, former White House press secretary,Jon Favreau, Mr. Obama’s former chief speechwriter, and Tommy Vietor, a former National Security Council spokesman, were seen arriving at the White House around noon.

White House Chief of Staff Denis McDonough brought the team of Obama loyalists in to coordinate the administration’s message strategy on Syria, according to Mr. Vietor. The group is part of the original Obama brain trust, having all worked for Mr. Obama as he rose from senator to president. Messrs. Plouffe, Favreau and Vietor only recently left the White House; Mr. Gibbs left in 2011.

Some of the president’s former aides also have become high-profile outside voices for his administration. Mr. Gibbs is a contributor on NBC and MSNBC, appearing regularly on “Morning Joe” and last Sunday on “Meet the Press.” Mr. Plouffe is a contributor to Bloomberg TV.


NYT: CIA trained and armed rebels entering Syria.

Officials said that in the same conversation, which included Senator Lindsey Graham, Republican of South Carolina, Mr. Obama indicated that a covert effort by the United States to arm and train Syrian rebels was beginning to yield results: the first 50-man cell of fighters, who have been trained by the C.I.A., was beginning to sneak into Syria.


Bergen: Al Qaeda's potent force in Syria

Al Qaeda's Syrian affiliate is also well supplied as it benefits from the support of Sunni ultra-fundamentalists in the wealthy Gulf states such as Qatar and Saudi Arabia.

Jabhat al-Nusra, which means the "Victory Front," was listed as a foreign terrorist organization by the U.S. State Department in December and is essentially a splinter organization of al Qaeda in Iraq.

Al-Nusra's military prowess and close ties to al Qaeda make it a potentially serious threat to U.S. interests in the region, and the group has shown it has the ability to conduct massive suicide bombings.

In November, al-Nusra claimed responsibility for 45 attacks in the provinces of Damascus, Deraa, Hama and Homs that killed dozens of people, including one suicide bomb that reportedly resulted in 60 casualties.

It was the first insurgent organization in Syria to claim responsibility for attacks that caused civilian casualties.

Despite these civilian casualties, the group has been able to garner considerable support from Syria's Sunni population, not only because it is the premier fighting force in the campaign to topple al-Assad but also because it is involved in providing critical services such as food, medical services and Sharia courts to the embattled population.


7/10/13: Al-Qaida in Syria is most serious terrorist threat to UK, says report

Wednesday 10 July 2013 10.36 EDT

Al-Qaida in Syria is most serious terrorist threat to UK, says report
Intelligence and security committee report warns of catastrophic consequences should militants get hold of chemical weapons

Al-Qaida elements fighting with rebels in Syria constitute the most serious terrorist threat to Britain, and if they were to get their hands on Syria's chemical weapons the consequences could be catastrophic, according to British spymasters.

The warnings, in the latest annual report of the parliamentary intelligence and security committee (ISC) published on Wednesday, come amid growing reports that Syrian rebels are trying to acquire chemical weapons.

Russia said on Wednesday it had proof Syrian rebels used the nerve agent sarin in a missile attack on a government-controlled suburb of Aleppo in March. The British prime minister, David Cameron, said last month that al-Qaida-linked elements in the rebel movement had tried to capture chemical weapons for probable use in Syria.

Britain's security and intelligence chiefs "assess that al-Qaida elements and individual jihadists in Syria currently represent the most worrying emerging terrorist threat to the UK and the west," says the ISC.

It adds: "There is a risk of extremist elements in Syria taking advantage of the permissive environment to develop external attack plans, including against western targets. Large numbers of radicalised individuals have been attracted to the country, including significant numbers from the UK and Europe."


State Dept: The head of Al Qaida in Iraq moved his operations to Syria.

U.S. Condemns Terrorist Attacks in Iraq and Pledges to Help Combat al Qaeda

The United States condemns in the strongest possible terms the cowardly attacks today in Baghdad. These attacks were aimed at families celebrating the Eid al-Fitr holiday that marks the end of the Muslim holy month of Ramadan. The terrorists who committed these acts are enemies of Islam and a shared enemy of the United States, Iraq, and the international community.

The attacks today bear the hallmarks of similar suicide and vehicle bomb attacks in Iraq over the past ninety days. Most of these attacks have been perpetrated by al Qaeda in Iraq (AQI). AQI is led by Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, a Specially Designated Global Terrorist under Executive Order 13224. He is also listed at the United Nations Security Council 1267/1989 al-Qa'ida Sanctions Committee.

Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, also known as Abu D'ua, is now based in Syria and has changed the name of AQI to the Islamic State of Iraq and Sham (ISIS). He has taken personal credit for a series of terrorist attacks in Iraq since 2011, and most recently claimed credit for the operations against the Abu Ghraib prison outside Baghdad, the suicide bombing assault on the Ministry of Justice, among other attacks against Iraqi Security Forces and Iraqi citizens going about their daily lives.


Attacking al-Qaeda in Syria

Regardless, any military intervention that attacks Assad forces and degrades their capabilities will inevitably influence the balance of power in the civil war. The more the regime is weakened, the more the opposition gains. Indeed, critics of President Obama who want greater involvement in the civil war argue for a large-scale attack precisely to assist the opposition.

Since the opposition includes a strong and growing al-Qaeda component, such an approach could mean inadvertently helping that organization. A stronger al-Qaeda in Syria — especially one with the possibility of gaining control over some of that country's chemical arsenal should Assad be weakened — is clearly not an American interest. Whatever policy Congress endorses, it should include a robust effort to disrupt, dismantle and defeat al-Qaeda in Syria before it becomes an even greater threat to US interests.

Al-Qaeda actually has two major factions in Syria. The al-Nusra Front, or Jabhat al-Nusra, was formed in early 2012 with the assistance of al-Qaeda’s Iraqi franchise. The group initially played down its al-Qaeda connection, but now openly trumpets its loyalty to al-Qaeda's leader, the Egyptian Ayman Zawahiri, currently hiding out in Pakistan. Sunnis from across the Arab world have been streaming to al-Nusra, with scores already martyred in the Syrian conflict.

Al-Qaeda in Iraq (AQI) is likewise directly active in Syria. Its leader, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, also known as Abu D’ua, masterminded the July attacks on two Iraqi prisons that sprung hundreds of al-Qaeda members and sympathizers. He had in April announced that AQI, branching out, would henceforth be known as the Islamic State of Iraq and al-Shams. (Al-Shams refers to what is today Syria, Lebanon, Jordan and Israel.)

Baghdadi also proclaimed his assumption of the leadership of al-Qaeda across the Fertile Crescent, pointing out that in 2004 Osama bin Laden had appointed his predecessor, AQI founder Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, commander of the area. In August, the State Department revealed that Baghdadi had transferred his base of operations to Syria, certainly making it harder for Iraqi security forces to pinpoint his whereabouts. The United States is offering a $10 million reward for information resulting in his capture or death.

Read more: http://www.al-monitor.com/pulse/originals/2013/09/undermine-al-qaeda-syria.html#ixzz2docXgTYV

8/21 Gen Dempsey: US 'will not intervene in Syria as rebels don't support interests'

The US will not intervene in the Syria conflict because it does not believe anti-Assad rebels would support American interests, its highest ranking military officer wrote in a letter to a congressman.

General Martin Dempsey, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff and Barack Obama's chief military adviser, said that the US military was capable of taking out the Syrian government's airforce and tipping the deepening struggle back in the favour of the country's opposition.

But, in an extraordinarily frank assessment, Gen. Dempsey said that approach was not favoured by Washington as it would leave the US mired in another Middle Eastern war and offer little chance of peace in a country wracked by ethnic divisions.

In an August 19 letter to Representative Eliot Engel, obtained by the Associated Press, Gen. Dempsey effectively ruled out even limited intervention, including US cruise missile attacks and other options that wouldn't require US troops on the ground.

"Syria today is not about choosing between two sides but rather about choosing one among many sides," he said. "It is my belief that the side we choose must be ready to promote their interests and ours when the balance shifts in their favour. Today, they are not."


Before Obama's "red line" was triggered, officials had decided intervening was a bad idea. This is still the case.

Schatz vs. Hanabusa statements on Syria...

Schatz gives Obama the most wiggle room in what he should do.

"The people of Hawaii and I have confidence in President Obama's decisions as our commander-in-chief," said Schatz.

He added that Obama should consult with Congress without specifying a need for congressional approval.

"I will continue to remain in close touch with the Obama administration as the president determines the best course of action, in consultation with Congress," Schatz said in an emailed response to my inquiry Thursday.

Hanabusa flatly disagreed that Obama should act alone.

"As it stands now, U.S. military involvement in Syria lacks a solid legal basis, a clear long-term strategy, and vital international and domestic approval," Hanabusa said in response to an emailed request for comment.

"Though intelligence has been presented by the Obama administration, I am not convinced that it serves the purpose of justifying military force or other intervention in Syria. This is an issue that deserves a rigorous and transparent debate about its ends and its means," Hanabusa said.

Although Hanabusa also called for "congressional consultation," she urged the president to "await a full review of evidence presented by the UN before considering action in Syria."


I was disappointed in Schatz, then I remembered he rode his path thanks to Obama, and was part of the Obama campaign.

Edit: Schatz voting "no"! Yay.

@politico: Joe Manchin, Brian Schatz both ‘no’ on Syria resolution http://t.co/lPKtbVMI4v

Where Congress might stand on Syria

By Aaron Blake, Darla Cameron and Kennedy Elliott, Published: September 2, 2013
As of Sept. 1, lawmakers appear to be tentatively dividing into four camps over military action in Syria. Each dot represents a lawmaker who has indicated how he or she might vote. Although it's not yet certain how the lawmaker will vote, the sentiment of the quote is mapped across the four categories. Find out about the divisions by reading their own words. Read related article.


The “do it now, already” caucus:
This group includes Sens. Bob Menendez (D-N.J.), Carl Levin (D-Mich.), Bill Nelson (D-Fla.) and Johnny Isakson (R-Ga.), Rep. Peter King (R-N.Y.), House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) and House Minority Whip Steny Hoyer (D-Md.).

The “do it now, already” caucus:
This group includes Sens. Bob Menendez (D-N.J.), Carl Levin (D-Mich.), Bill Nelson (D-Fla.) and Johnny Isakson (R-Ga.), Rep. Peter King (R-N.Y.), House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) and House Minority Whip Steny Hoyer (D-Md.).

The “happy to debate the issue, reserving judgment” caucus:
This is the largest caucus. Most lawmakers in this group, including Sen. Christopher Coons (D-Del.) and Rep. Trey Radel (R-Fla.), agree that the Syrian government’s action are deplorable, but that they will withhold judgment until the debate begins in earnest.



US hasn't been able to figure out how to ensure arms to Syria don't fall into jihadist hands

@stcolumbia: Not surprisingly, the US hasn't been able to figure out how to ensure arms to Syria don't fall into jihadist hands: http://t.co/VOvuoqIKut

MIDDLE EAST NEWS Updated September 2, 2013, 9:01 p.m. ET
U.S. Still Hasn't Armed Syrian Rebels

In June, the White House authorized the Central Intelligence Agency to help arm moderate fighters battling the Assad regime, a signal to Syrian rebels that the cavalry was coming. Three months later, they are still waiting.

The delay, in part, reflects a broader U.S. approach rarely discussed publicly but that underpins its decision-making, according to former and current U.S. officials: The Obama administration doesn't want to tip the balance in favor of the opposition for fear the outcome may be even worse for U.S. interests than the current stalemate.

U.S. officials attribute the delay in providing small arms and munitions from the CIA weapons program to the difficulty of establishing secure delivery "pipelines" to prevent weapons from falling into the wrong hands, in particular Jihadi militants also battling the Assad regime.

Gen. Martin Dempsey, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, has been particularly outspoken with lawmakers about his concerns that weakening Mr. Assad too much could tip the scales in favor of al Qaeda-linked fighters.


Note how the concerns here are opposite what McCain wants which is the overthrow of Assad. What will Obama give to McCain to get his vote and is that counter-productive to what US officials assess is the best strategy?
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