Moon of Alabama Brecht quote
November 07, 2012

Syria After The U.S. Election - Further Escalation

Three month ago I wrote:
The U.S. public is against an open war on Syria. That is the likely reason why the Obama administration is holding back. But that reasoning may well change when the U.S. presidential election is over.
Just a few minutes after the election results were known pressure started to escalate the war on Syria:
Britain and the United States should make finding a way to solve the Syrian crisis a priority following the re-election of President Barack Obama, British Prime Minister David Cameron said on Wednesday.

"Right here in Jordan I'm hearing appalling stories of what is happening inside Syria," Cameron told journalists at a camp for Syrian refugees in Jordan.

"...One of the first things I want to talk to Barack about is how we must do more to try and solve this crisis."

Britain will now open direct talks with the armed insurgent groups.

Meanwhile the Russian foreign minister Lavrov claimed that the insurgents use U.S. made Stinger missiles, not Soviet era SA-7s from Libya, to down Syrian aircraft:

“We have verified information that there are more than 50 stingers in Syria now,” Lavrov told a press conference in Amman, Jordan, referring to a type of surface-to-air missile. The conference followed talks with the minister's Jordanian counterpart, Nasser Judeh.

Lavrov reminded the press that leaders of the Free Syrian Army had many times said that it considered civilian aircraft to be legitimate targets.

Shunted by the U.S., the Syrian National Council is now trying to change its feathers:
Syria's main opposition bloc, under US pressure to reshape into a widely representative government-in-exile, agreed on Monday to broaden its structure to accommodate 13 other groups, a spokesman said.
Participants "have agreed a restructuring plan and to reduce the number of (current) members of the general secretariat to accommodate 200 new members representing 13 political groups and independents," said SNC spokesman Ahmad Kamel.

Kamel said the existing membership would be reduced from 313 to 220 to pave the way for the additional 200 members. The general secretariat will convene in its revamped form on Tuesday, he added.

The meeting is also expected to discuss an initiative by leading dissident Riad Seif, which seems to enjoy US support but has encountered reservations from some SNC members, to unite all Syrian groups opposed to Assad.

Instead of some 300 quarreling members there will now be 400 with even more diverse interests and opinions.

But there is a prize dangling in front of all these people. As Al Jazeerah correspondent Hashem Ahelbarra notes:

Riad Seif told SNC French President Francois Hollande promised him weapons if the Syrian opposition would reunite

Over the last months the insurgents have made zero military advances. They now use more and more bomb explosions and assassinations against those Syrians, likely a majority, who are not with them:

“We are planning to escalate our attacks on the areas of the government thugs,” said one member of the Jundullah Battalion, a unit of the Free Syrian Army full of Sunni Muslim fundamentalists.

The Brits are "talking" to the armed opposition, the French are promising more weapons and U.S. made Stingers are floating around. There are talks between Turkey and the U.S. to deploy Patriot missiles near the Syrian Turkish border. These could create a no-fly zone in northern Syria. All signs are still pointing to a further escalation of the war on Syria. We can expect Obama to join in that.

There is of course an alternative. Obama could tell Hollande and Cameron to stand down. He could tell Erdogan to shut down the weapon and fighter traffic between Turkey and Syria. He could read the riot act to the Qatar and Saudi Arabia. Without outside resources the insurgency in Syria would soon die down. Anyone really interested in stopping the fighting in Syria would chose this path.

There is even a convenient and real excuse to stop the intervention in Syria. The insurgents the U.S. and others supported in Libya took at least part in the killing of ambassador Stevens. But instead of using that to stop the catastrophe Obama will likely escalate in Syria which then might well end up in a Somalia and Libya like anarchy.

Posted by b on November 7, 2012 at 10:19 UTC | Permalink


It is not that there is no change. My exchanges with Syrians that I know suggest a move of opinion against the Islamists. Those who were for the revolution are now dropping their support, through disgust with the extremism of the Islamist militias, the violence of the FSA, and the menaces against their families. It doesn't though mean greater support for the regime.

We'll see if it ends up meaning anything. But it's a similar movement to what happened in Iraq - increasing disgust with the foreign jihadis.

Posted by: alexno | Nov 7 2012 11:04 utc | 1

Let's see. Some people in the media obviously want to make it so. Fact is Obama now does no longer have to prove he is tough so he has some space for decisions.
I guess it depends on how strongly Russia and China feel about all this.

Posted by: somebody | Nov 7 2012 11:35 utc | 2

And they seem to bet on all out civil war now - like in Iraq. Bombing markets to try to spark revenge attacks on other sects.

Posted by: somebody | Nov 7 2012 11:39 utc | 3

How many of these stingers have Libyan monarchist flags glued to them?

Posted by: Crest | Nov 7 2012 11:41 utc | 4

The Brits have spoken before

Posted by: Daniel Rich | Nov 7 2012 11:45 utc | 5

Just verbally supporting a terrorist organization in the UK is a criminal offence, I believe. It is quite obvious that the SNC/FSA is a terrorist organization, so Cameron saying he would increase support to the SNC/FSA should be grounds for prosecuting him.

Posted by: blowback | Nov 7 2012 11:50 utc | 6

Posted by: blowback | Nov 7, 2012 6:50:09 AM | 6

That is what I have been thinking for quite some time now, and I guess that is why Clinton was so shy on support. Cameron seems to be desperate for Saudi money though, but there must a way to prosecute this in a British (or European) Court e.g. by victim families.

The EU does not allow member countries to supply Syria with weapons. That applies to all parties.

Posted by: somebody | Nov 7 2012 12:09 utc | 7

"Cameron seems to be desperate for Saudi money though"

The Saudis rescued the British economy under a Conservative government once before - perhaps he is hoping they will do it again.

Posted by: blowback | Nov 7 2012 12:29 utc | 8

Cameron and the rest of the conservative scum are the most radical since Thatcher. Luckily they have been slightly tempered by the coalition, slightly.

As we know he's been away kissing Saudi ass this week. He's also a friend of Israel. But. if labour had won, things would be no different.

Posted by: billyboy | Nov 7 2012 16:02 utc | 9

Al Qaeda in the Levant (AKA The Free Syrian Army) are certainly bleeding support and manpower. In the last few weeks I've noticed that reports in Aleppo have moved from stories about fighting in the city districts to reports of fighting in the countryside around Aleppo. With the exception of random car/suicide bombings it looks like they have been expelled from holding any of the city and the Syrian Arab Army is moving outwards.

Idleb is the only province that Al Qaeda in the Levant seem to have consolidated recently. Some major fighting in Harem town (200 FSA killed in one day of battles last week). It certainly helps that Harem in right on the Turkish border. In the Southern half of Syria I think the FSA are suffering most. Damascus has seen bombings but no big offensives in weeks now.

There are threats to these developments. It is easier to target large rebel battalions, when they are taking and holding urban districts with a few hundred men. Harder when they shift to more guerilla tactics and smaller units. It's a double edged sword. The more successful the Syrian Army is in killing them, the smaller and harder to locate they become.

Posted by: Colm O' Toole | Nov 7 2012 16:18 utc | 10

Psychological warfare or backtrack? The Khaleej Times hears the British saying different things:

Western efforts on Syria shifting

In London, British Foreign Secretary William Hague said talks with rebel military leaders would not involve advice on military tactics or support for their operations. Hague also insisted that Britain would not consider offering weapons to Assad’s opponents.

Face-to-face meetings with military figures will take place outside Syria, Hague said. Diplomats from the US, Britain, France and Turkey are already scheduled to meet with Syrian opposition groups on Thursday in Doha, Qatar, though there has been no announcement that those talks will include discussion with rebel fighters.

He said UK diplomats will tell rebel commanders to respect the human rights of captured Assad loyalists, amid concern over abuses carried out by both sides.

“In all contacts, my officials will stress the importance of respecting human rights and international human rights norms, rejecting extremism and terrorism, and working towards peaceful political transition,” Hague told lawmakers.

Posted by: somebody | Nov 7 2012 16:28 utc | 11

Turkey seems to be in confusion about Patriot deployment.

According to this:

Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu saidon Wednesday that NATO is preparing to deploy Patriot missiles on Syrian border in Turkey, a development that could add a new dimension to the 19-month-old Syria crisis.

His remarks in Brussels follow statements by Turkish officials earlier in the day who said Turkey is in talks with the US and NATO over the deployment of Patriot missiles along its border with Syria.

But there seems to be disagreement between Davutoglu and others in this:

Confusion is growing over the deployment of NATO’s Patriot missiles along Turkey’s border with Syria following back-to-back statements from senior Turkish officials.

Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan told reporters yesterday in Indonesia that Turkey had no plans over the Patriot deployment. “We do not have any plans to pay money to procure Patriots.”

Later in the day, however, Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu was quoted to be saying NATO was preparing to deploy Patriot missiles on Turkish soil. However, the report was later denied by the Foreign Ministry. Erdoğan said Turkey had not made any request to deploy the missiles. His comments came after a senior Turkish Foreign Ministry official said Turkey planned to make an “imminent” request to NATO for the missiles to be deployed along its border with Syria. NATO’s secretary-general, Anders Fogh Rasmussen, said earlier this week that NATO would consider such a request when it is made by an ally.

Do I smell some disagreement between Erdogan and Davutoglu?

Posted by: b | Nov 7 2012 18:09 utc | 12

@Colm Al Qaeda in the Levant (AKA The Free Syrian Army) are certainly bleeding support and manpower. In the last few weeks I've noticed that reports in Aleppo have moved from stories about fighting in the city districts to reports of fighting in the countryside around Aleppo. With the exception of random car/suicide bombings it looks like they have been expelled from holding any of the city and the Syrian Arab Army is moving outwards.

I agree with this. The insurgents are in retreat. The mop up will be difficult though unless their support gets cut.

Posted by: b | Nov 7 2012 18:25 utc | 13

@b #12;

What I am curious about is as to why Turkey would even look for Patriot systems to be deployed along its border with Syria?

Could it be that NATO is planning to get Turkey more directly involved in the armed conflict (a ground invasion?) and they are thinking of this as a precaution against a possible retaliatory missile attack by Syria?

Or maybe they want to attack Syrian military aircrafts flying inside syria?

I am just trying to come up with some explanation...why would Turkey need Patriots??

Posted by: Pirouz_2 | Nov 7 2012 18:40 utc | 14

12 I think the confusion about the Turkey Patriot news are related to the Cameron news backtracked by Hague and all this presumably related to Al Arabya reporting that there was an attack on the Damascus presidential palace whilst people living there said nothing happened.

Posted by: somebody | Nov 7 2012 18:53 utc | 15

The situation is totally unclear.
I am not so sure those of you who think the rebels are on the brink of defeat estimate the situation correctly.
In the recent days up to 70 soldiers and militiamen were killed/executed around Saraqeb in Idlib. Then a checkpoint was blown up with up to 50 soldiers and militias killed. Prominents, among them a judge, an airforce general and others were assassinated. planes and copters were shot down, pipelines and electricity plants bombed, all along with attacks on military airfields and airdefence bases.
The rebels are back in Damascus with the regime almost daily bombarding suburbs or the near countryside.
Judging from Youtube videos the rebels possess many 4x4 vans with 23mm antiaircraft guns, rocket launchers, antitank guns, thousands of RPGs, heavy machine guns and even tanks.

Posted by: KerKaraje | Nov 7 2012 19:18 utc | 16

KerKaraje, right, we do not believe in youtube videos ...

However, yes, the situation in Syria is bad, the rebels can enter a lot of places at will, they cannot hold them. That has not changed. Politically however the terrorist acts have practically split the opposition and strengthened the governement. People will inform on the FSA in self defense (and have formed neighbourhood defense units).

It is getting a lot like Iraq with some Syrians living and working in strategical green zones and people making sure only people they trust are in their neighbourhood.

In the end the solution will have to be political.

Posted by: somebody | Nov 7 2012 19:29 utc | 17

this is CNN's take

this here seems a key problem to me

Chiefly, the rebels have disagreed on who or what entity would take over Syria after al-Assad. Some feel that there should be a secular government, and others want Islamist rule.

Posted by: somebody | Nov 7 2012 20:11 utc | 18

At some point, the American people will surely wake up and realize that all these wars that are being fought in their name, and for which they are paying a trillion dollars or more a year in taxes, are doing absolutely nothing to improve their lives.

There is absolutely no reason for the US to go to war with Syria. Syria is only slightly more violent in putting down its protesters than the Obama administration is in putting down movements like the Occupy movement.

Whenever you see politicians talking about either human rights or terrorists, hold on to your wallet tightly. Because that's always a sign that they are about to come steal more of your money to pay for the next ridiculous war which will not benefit you in the slightest. And which while it will do nothing at all to protect you as Syria is not a threat to any American in America these days, it might get you killed as the sons and brothers and friends of those we kill in war, after war, have a way of striking back at us poor Americans who do nothing but pay the taxes and put forward the blood of our children to support the deranged delusions of people like Hillary and Obama.

Posted by: Cynthia | Nov 7 2012 20:14 utc | 19

Since the US sells Saudi Arabia some of most advanced stuff, might the Stingers be part of the weapons cache that SA has been funneling to the Foreign Salafist Army since early on?

Posted by: Rusty Pipes | Nov 7 2012 21:20 utc | 20

Turkey owns stingers, I think the Jordan border is tightly controlled by the US for the weapons that go through. Israel is nervous about the West Bank and Jordan is nervous about their own Muslim Brotherhood branch so that border is sealed I should think.

I guess the plan was for Turkey to control the use of stingers to get the Idlib-Aleppo province no fly zone along the Turkish border from the ground, at that point Syria threatened to supply SA-7 to the PKK which stopped Turkish plans somewhat.

It is a complete mess including Hillary Clinton's last ditch failed initiative (looks like that was an on the ground plus political initiative, failed both and killed a lot of innocent people.

Posted by: somebody | Nov 7 2012 22:30 utc | 21

Perhaps now that his reelection is behind him, the President could look to Eisenhower's approach to the Suez crisis in '56 as an example...

Well, I can dream, can't I?

Posted by: Maxcrat | Nov 8 2012 0:20 utc | 22

Maxcrat, it is not just a dream. It is a real possibility, though not close to a certainty. Obama has a mandate to set out in new directions if he so chooses. I think he will. He can pull the plug on the war in Syria without difficulty. Cameron and Hollande will not defy him on this. I also suspect that Turkey would like to find a way out of the mess that it has created for itself. Saudi Arabia and Qatar will not go it alone. I happen to believe and have since last spring that Obama is interested in toning down the conflict with Iran. He won't be able to do this with the war in Syria escalating.

He spent most of the last 4 years posturing his macho so he wouldn't be labelled a wimp in this election. He doesn't need to worry about that now. Furthermore the neocon opposition has been greatly weakened by yesterday's election results. They went all in behind Romney. They will, or certainly should, have lost considerable influence within the American media (the fact that they had any over the last 4 years remains a mystery, so this prediction may need to be tempered). In any case, Obama has the opportunity to pursue peace, should he so desire. Let us hope that is his desire. Obama's soaring speech last night sounded like he is genuinely interested in how people will view him in four years. He must have noticed that his predecessor's name is rarely mentioned in public anymore and no one seeks Shrub's advice or endorsement on anything.

Posted by: ToivoS | Nov 8 2012 0:57 utc | 23

"Just a few minutes after the election results were known pressure started to escalate the war on Syria"

Well, it was pretty obvious the Israeli-American fascists were waiting for the [s]election to restart their bellicosity towards Syria. And it is also obvious that the escalation of aggression would take place regardless Obama or Romney won. Another example how these fascists run things behind the political frontmen and that the frontmen are little more than a face for the public.

The Europeans and "Arab" nations supporting these terrorists operating against the Syrian people are essentially fronts for Israeli-American policy. They are used for the same reasons they are used in Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya and many of the other "international" aggressions initiated by Israel-America. To defray costs and put an "international" face on naked Israeli-American aggression. These puppet states are operating under Israeli-American leadership and simply following orders.

Watch for an escalation of anti-Iran action, as well. Along with more war against African countries not fully under the Israeli-American thumb. Look for an increase in hostility towards China and Russia, and further escalation of the Israeli-American covert and terrorist ops against those countries, and against the countries in Central Asia.

Posted by: вот так | Nov 8 2012 1:39 utc | 24

Obama is a cult figure now; and it's all based on illusion. His acceptance speech last night was pure puffery. It was a long, unbroken exhalation of platitudes and cliche, It was all empty language, of which he is a specialist. And let no one be under the illusion that he has any mandate. Years ago they used to prominently display the popular vote alongside the Electoral College numbers; but last night the popular vote was on screen, but about as tiny as the fine print on a credit card contract. The United States is a tragically polarized society, and last night's dog and pony show did nothing to change that.

Posted by: Copeland | Nov 8 2012 1:51 utc | 25

Copeland I disagree with one thing you said. Mostly you are correct and the speech was puffery. But hidden in those cliche's are hints of policy. Obama does have a mandate to change policy if he wishes to do so. That does not mean that he will do so. But I think he will.

Posted by: ToivoS | Nov 8 2012 3:04 utc | 26

Expanded Conflict in Syria Promised by Romney Will Proceed Under Obama

"Most irrelevant election in US history comes and goes as long-planned regime change using Al Qaeda death squads against Syria continues unabated.

Almost as if to affirm the absolute irrelevance of elections in the "democratic" West, expanded conflict promised by the perceived "hawkish" Republican candidate Mitt Romney is proceeding immediately ahead under the re-elected President Barack Obama. Aside from superficial window dressing via an elaborate array of proxies through which US cash and weapons will flow, more direct military aid, including securing a defacto no-fly zone over parts of northern Syria using US-made Patriot missile batteries is now being discussed...."

Posted by: вот так | Nov 8 2012 4:24 utc | 27

Obama does have a mandate to change policy if he wishes to do so.

I see the use of the word mandate widely used to describe the result of this election. Despite the increase in eligible voters, 14.8 million fewer votes were cast this year than in 2008 and of those the Democrats lost more votes than Republicans at almost a 3 to 1 ratio.

Posted by: hans | Nov 8 2012 4:35 utc | 28

ToivoS, I think there may be a question about Obama's wishes, against his weakness of character. If he is president, does he do what he wants? On the other hand, if the foreign policy is prefabricated, if it is a pre-existing agenda; then he just follows the pattern, the path of least resistance. So if Obama signals or drops hints, it may be a repetition of deceptions he has practiced before. In other words, it may resemble a grifter's clear enunciation, to make sure that the mark hears every word of the con. He may only wish to disarm the public, assuring them again that his policy is provident and benign, and that he means well. The real policy is probably not benign; and he likely understands that the result of the true policy will bring more death.

Posted by: Copeland | Nov 8 2012 5:04 utc | 29

Syria rebels appear to be shifting strategy in Damascus

Bombings and assassinations seem to be less about holding territory than making guerrilla-style strikes, some of which have caused civilian casualties.


The rebel tactics could complicate efforts to build international support at a time when Western governments are worried about an influx of militants. Car bombs and sectarian-tinged attacks appear to many outsiders as the domain of extremists, not democracy-seeking revolutionaries.

Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton last week urged the opposition leadership to be "on record strongly resisting the efforts by extremists to hijack the Syrian revolution."

Posted by: somebody | Nov 8 2012 7:33 utc | 30

Kidnapped Reporter in Syria Asks for Help in Online Message

"...Anhar Kochneva, 40, has been missing since October 15 after she traveled alone to the city of Homs.

“My name is Anhar. I am in Homs. I implore the Ukrainian and Russian embassies, and the Syrian authorities to meet the demands of my captors,” Kochneva said in Arabic in a video message posted on a Facebook page.

She did not identify her kidnappers or specify the details of their ransom demand.

Kochneva, known as an expert on Syrian affairs and an outspoken supporter of President Bashar al-Assad, has been covering events in various parts of the conflict-torn Arab country freelancing for various media outlets, including Russia’s NTV and Russia Today television.

Her relatives earlier claimed that Kochneva had received several threats from the Syrian rebels as she had frequently criticized the opposition forces.

Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych has instructed the government to take urgent measures to free Kochneva and the Russian Embassy in Damascus earlier said it was working in close contact with local authorities and the Ukrainian Embassy to locate the missing journalist.

At least three more foreign journalists have been missing in Syria since August.

Mika Yamamoto, a veteran war correspondent with the Japan Press, was killed in Aleppo in August, bringing to four the number of foreign reporters who have lost their lives since the Syrian uprising began in March 2011."

Posted by: вот так | Nov 8 2012 7:35 utc | 31

Seems like the Brits (Guardian) are the warmongers whilst the US is not convinced (Los Angeles Times Link above)

Call to lift Syria arms embargo to aid rebels

UK to review EU ban after Cameron visits refugee camps as Turkey says it will ask Nato to put Patriot missiles along border

Posted by: somebody | Nov 8 2012 7:38 utc | 32

Another follow up to #24, this time about Iran.

Haaretz on Obama's Reelection

"Harel said expect Obama to focus heavily on Iran. Robert Satloff, executive director for the pro-Israeli Washington Institute for Near East Policy (WINEP), said he'll soon present Tehran with a "big program."

"Big" for Washington won't likely please Iran. US policy is all take and no give. Whatever's offered won't change regime change plans. Tehran justifiably is wary.

Satloff claims a comprehensive deal will be proposed in exchange for Iran abandoning its legal nuclear program. Expect it to fall flat. If so, says Satloff, military measures may follow.

Netanyahu's "red line" will get more headlines. His electoral campaign will prioritize it. Fear is a powerful motivator. Western media will support him. Expect a bogus Iranian threat to take center stage. Obama has lots more on his plate at home and abroad..."

Posted by: вот так | Nov 8 2012 8:29 utc | 33

seems like Cameron is isolated

"In Washington, the State Department said the Obama administration was open to considering the deployment of Patriot missiles along the Turkish border, as was done previously during the 1990 Gulf War and at the beginning of the Iraq War in 2003.

Officials said such a deployment had been raised by Turkish officials several weeks ago at NATO but that there had been no formal request from Ankara. They stressed that Patriots are defensive and would not be used to help enforce potential no-fly zones over Syrian territory."

Posted by: somebody | Nov 8 2012 8:29 utc | 34

Question - viewing Obama simply on a personal level as a professional and sportsman - what do you think would he try to achieve now?

And what policy do you think would be objectively in US citizens' interest and would be easy to make them buy in?

And how do you think will he solve the tax and debt issue which in history has sparked all bourgeois revolutions?

Posted by: somebody | Nov 8 2012 8:37 utc | 35

More confusion, Obama's first foreign trip will not be to Turkey

Syria just is not a US priority.

Obviously someone (British, Saudi?) tried to use the exhaustion after the US elections to create facts.

In other news Assad gave an interview to Russia Today to be aired Friday and Syrian Army bombs and mortar shells are close to the Turkish border.

Posted by: somebody | Nov 8 2012 12:11 utc | 36

@ ToivoS,

Q: They will, or certainly should, have lost considerable influence within the American media (the fact that they had any over the last 4 years remains a mystery...

R: A mystery? Are you serious?

Posted by: Daniel Rich | Nov 8 2012 12:46 utc | 37

Question - viewing Obama simply on a personal level as a professional and sportsman - what do you think would he try to achieve now?

My view on Obama, the thing that always worried me most about him is that he is a very effective leader of the Empire. Generally speaking if you are to go against an Empire you would naturally want the Empire to be run by a fool like Bush. Obama is ice cold effective: Using his favourable view in Europe to increase Iran sanctions, killing Bin Laden, perfecting the "color revolution" model used by Condi Rice, pivoting to Americas real challenge China. The guy is effective at running an Empire, which is more dangerous than Bush being an idiot with Empire.

On what Obama's future positions will be, its hard to tell (but who he picks to replace Hillary Clinton as Sec of State will give an indication, John Kerry or Susan Rice seeming likely). From his hesitation to get involved in Syria more, to the rumours of high level Iran meetings behind the scenes. It would seem Obama knows that the Middle East is quicksand for Empires (the more you get involved, the faster you sink). I think Obama got his eyes firmly on China and his pivot. Think he wants to walk away from the Middle East. But realities may not make it as easy.

Posted by: Colm O' Toole | Nov 8 2012 13:09 utc | 38

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