Moon of Alabama Brecht quote
February 18, 2014

Syria: U.S. Option Review Finds All Are Still Bad

We questioned in  Real Or Propaganda? New Weapons To Syrian Mercenaries the report about MANPAD deliveries to mercenaries in Syria. Some U.S. official now claims that the U.S. is opposed to such deliveries. That may well be true but could also be an attempt to achieve plausible deniability. Either way it means that the number of MANPADs going to insurgents will likely be very limited.

The U.S can still not come to terms with a survival of the syrian government under president Assad and is again looking at all the options of what it could do that it had already looked at and found to be bad. They are still all bad. There are some signs of panic though. How else to explain that the administration is asking the guy who helped to lose two wars on how to win one?

Mr. Kerry recently discussed military and intelligence options in Syria in a private meeting with retired Army Gen. David Petraeus, who resigned as director of the Central Intelligence Agency in 2012, according to an official close to Mr. Petraeus. While CIA director, Mr. Petraeus, a former top U.S. commander in Afghanistan and Iraq, was a leading behind-the-scenes advocate of aiding the rebels in Syria.

None of the new-old options listed in the linked piece, from no-fly zones to training more mercenaries, makes any sense. Syria and its allies would surely successfully counter any of them. But the administration is under constant pressure to do "something" and Obama is a rather weak person and may give in to it.

It is interesting that all the options listed are somehow connected to action in south Syria. The north seems to no longer be in play. Did Turkey, after Erdogan's recent visit to Tehran and with upcoming election, say no to further involvement? The concentration on a southern schwerpunkt might also be the reason why the Syrian Military Council leader Idris was pushed out and replaced with a southern puppet.

In total the state of play in Syria continues to move in favor of the government side. More and more groups agree to truce offers, give up their heavy weapons and essentially concede to have lost the fight. On can indeed argue that the civil war is dying a slow, agonizing death.

Posted by b on February 18, 2014 at 16:08 UTC | Permalink


"Obama is a rather weak person." Absolutely, and he's getting weaker all the time. His base of support has finally had a "morning after" moment, and I believe there is no turning around his low approval ratings (as he continues to cannibalize his base by supporting Keystone XL and TPP).

The Obama national security brain trust is wedded to a Kosovo-style air campaign against Damascus. The thinking is if Assad is subjected to bombing like Belgrade experienced in 1999, he'll crumble like Milosevic.

But this analogy is purely wishful thinking on the part of obscenely stupid elites. Obama has neither the popular support or the NATO alliance that Clinton had. The fourth estate is doing its part though, as b's post on CNN's lone child in the desert shows. Barrel bombs have replaced sarin; images of children pulled from bomb rubble have replaced the writhing bodies in a hospital emergency room. The war must go on.

Posted by: Mike Maloney | Feb 18 2014 17:02 utc | 1

The north seems to no longer be in play. Did Turkey, after Erdogan's recent visit to Tehran and with upcoming election, say no to further involvement?

Talks between Iran and Turkey are still continuing. I heard that Erdogan was still pretty hardline during the Tehran talks, insisting on Assad stepping down, but that he conceded that rebels have become more extremist and have become a national security threat to both Iran and Turkey. So he is not changing on Assad but may be changing on backing the rebels.

Interestingly Al Manar (the Hezbollah media wing) had this to say today on Turkey.

Turkish authorities have given up all attempts to overthrow President Bashar Al-Assad by military means and accepted a political solution to the Syrian crisis, yet political and diplomatic pressures continued to postpone the date of announcing his candidacy to no avail.

Source: Al Manar - Behind the Scenes: Turkey gave up on topple Assad. Accepts political Solution.

Posted by: Colm O' Toole | Feb 18 2014 17:18 utc | 2

The US had a flotilla of warships bobbing along the Syrian coast; reports of the dastardly Assad regime using chemical weapons on its own people had forced Obama to act.

If there was to be intervention that was going to shift the balance of power on the ground then this was it. But nothing happened. They went home.

The notion of a no-fly zone was, and is, a dead duck - so too any visible US intervention. Public opinion remains totally opposed to such measures, despite efforts by the risible CNN to change this.

However, there does seem to be an action plan in Syria's South. Idris's dismissal is peculiar otherwise. It was from here that an earlier, disastrous attempt was made by the militants to march on Damascus. Presumably, supporting a fresh assault with MANPADs is meant to help prevent a repeat of the previous eye-watering casualty figures incurred in the face of the Syrian Air Force. All deniable, of course.

Developments around Damascus could yet undermine this, with an acceleration in local ceasefires being agreed. Peace is the death of the 'revolution'.

I have long hoped that, fearful of a repeat of the 1980 Olympic boycott, Russia has somehow held back on Syria. It remains to be seen what Putin plans next.

Posted by: Pat Bateman | Feb 18 2014 17:45 utc | 3

Legit news story of Israel-FSA collaboration. Literally hundreds of FSA fighters getting treated in Israel:

Posted by: nickel | Feb 18 2014 18:30 utc | 4

In the USA Frontline has been broadcasting FSA propaganda, the latest “Syria’s Second Front” is interesting in that it depicts a revolution going bad:

Into its third year, radicalization is the natural outcome of the Syrian revolution; moderates don’t stay long in bombed out high rises. I wondered how the fighting could be continuing within sight of Assad’s Presidential Palace. Damascus is Stalingrad all over again but without the tanks and manpower to end it. However, barrel bombs flattening the apartment buildings and the Shiite militias have turned the tide if not ended the revolt yet.

The 19th Century fantasies of our Western Elite of unbridled economic and military power are being crushed by the real world. A peaceful Middle East, good jobs for everyone, and secure borders are beyond their skill set.

Here’s hoping we survive the next Crash when it comes.

Posted by: VietnamVet | Feb 18 2014 19:18 utc | 5

As much as I like the western lifestyle, I am slowly realizing that this isn't what life is supposed to be. I can't wait for the day when poor countries break the back of NATO and I can move back to my country.

Posted by: Shoes | Feb 18 2014 19:34 utc | 6

'But the administration is under constant pressure to do "something" and Obama is a rather weak person and may give in to it'

now who would be applying the 'pressire'? hmm? esp as Obama is not so keen for war on wont make him look good in the history books

Posted by: brian | Feb 18 2014 21:43 utc | 7

Keep in mind the agenda of some of these sources. The WSJ, which at one time was noted for its crack journalism and crackpot opinion page, has had its news coverage compromised since the Murdoch takeover. The WSJ elevates the opinions of its neocon inside sources:

Officials said advocates of reconsidering the options don't believe Russia will pressure Syria to agree to a transitional government unless it believes the U.S. is prepared to act more forcefully.

They note that Russia decided to push Syria to give up its chemical weapons last year after Mr. Obama threatened military strikes in response to a large-scale chemical weapons attack.

Among options under reconsideration is one that would supplement the Central Intelligence Agency's limited, covert arming and training program for moderate rebels by creating a parallel training mission led by U.S. Special Operations forces.

A military train-and-equip mission, officials said, could focus on training rebels in ways to counter al Qaeda and hold territory outside the Assad regime's control. Officials say it would take months to get such a program off the ground and that other options would have a more immediate impact, with the goal of changing Mr. Assad's and Russia's calculations about the regime's staying power to bring them back to the negotiating table.

One U.S. concern is that the Assad regime could retaliate against Jordan, where an expanded training mission would take place, officials said.

As part of the train-and-equip option, military planners have proposed creating a limited no-fly zone inside Syria that would be enforced from Jordanian territory to protect Syrian refugees and rebels who would train there, according to U.S. officials.
Opposition officials have long complained about the small size of the CIA's train-and-equip mission, authorized by Mr. Obama last spring. He initially rebuffed the proposal in 2012 after it was backed by Gen. Petraeus and then-Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.

But the CIA effort took months to get off the ground and critics inside and outside the administration say it was too small to make a difference against Assad forces aided by Iran, Lebanese Hezbollah and Russia.

Initially, the CIA program turned out between 50 and 100 "vetted" rebels a month. Officials said, however, that the vetting process was being sped up to allow the CIA to turn out about twice that number of trained rebels.

The CIA program only turned out 50 to 100 vetted rebels a month, but when it started stepping up its efforts there were concerns that underage youth in Za'atari were being pressured to volunteer in the FSA. Neocon and neolib hawks in the government are still trying to pressure the US to intervene in Syria. If the White House ignores them, they take their gripes to the MSM.

Posted by: Rusty Pipes | Feb 18 2014 21:43 utc | 8

'Turkish authorities have given up all attempts to overthrow President Bashar Al-Assad by military means '

casual as you like...what if this read: 'Turkish authorities have given up all attempts to overthrow President Barack Obama by military means '/ would this play out in the worlds media and the 'international ommunity'?

Posted by: brian | Feb 18 2014 21:45 utc | 9

What is all of the MSM talk about "barrel bombs" about? You'd think that the SAA had a lot more sophisticated weapons in its arsenal.

Posted by: Rusty Pipes | Feb 18 2014 21:47 utc | 10

Posted by: Rusty Pipes | Feb 18, 2014 4:47:03 PM | 9

Don't take this as gospel ... but someone (here at MoA I think) said that barrel bombs (cheap) can be carried by helicopter to a target. Then the chopper can be GPS-ed over the target - guaranteeing a bulls-eye when the Barrel Bomb is dropped.
It makes sense to me...

Posted by: Hoarsewhisperer | Feb 19 2014 3:43 utc | 11

ad 10.
Barrel bombs can probably be customised - anti-personnel for hoards of vermin, demolition for vermin 'strongholds' etc etc.

Posted by: Hoarsewhisperer | Feb 19 2014 4:00 utc | 12

Barrel bombs is just a meme. But I have been thinking about Prince Bandar Bush, the Magnificent. It seems to me that what happened a couple of weeks ago was that he decided to stay out of the newspapers from now on. So he prepared a couple of stories, along the lines of that he "was no longer at his desk." But that refers to his desk at the Intelligence Ministry. I wouldn't expect him to waste his time there, when he is also head of the Mukhabarat, that is the general security service, and has a desk there too, if not a mobile field headquarters. So I would persist in painting all the pseudo-gangs, from ISIS/ISI/ISIL on down, as "Bandar's Baboons".

Posted by: Rowan Berkeley | Feb 19 2014 8:20 utc | 13

"Obama is a rather weak person and may give in to it."

This statement only serves to reinforce the belief that Obama is manipulated by, and unable to stand up to the rightwing.

I don't think Obama is a weak person at all. He is as rightwing domestically and in foreign affairs as his so-called opponents and knows exactly what he's doing. His election in 2008 was a master stroke of a public relations campaign. In fact, that campaign won Ad Master's marketing campaign of the year.

He ran as a candidate vaguely and falsely to the left of the republican establishment under the guise of being anti-war and pro-labor. He was anything but that.

His success has been in neutering US public antiwar and pro-labor policies. After all, he's a lefty and anything rightwing he does he conveniently blames on those evil repubs who make him do it.

He is not weak at all.

Posted by: sleepy | Feb 19 2014 10:55 utc | 14

my letter to HRW on their claims of the use of cluster bombs
At it again?
i saw this item in your site...on claims of the use of cluster bombs by the SAA in north syria.
Your article states:
'Syrian government rocket attacks on Keferzita on February 12 and 13 killed at least two civilians and wounded at least 10 others, according to a local activist from Hama who is not affiliated with rebel groups and a doctor who spoke to Human Rights Watch.
Photographs of rocket remnants provided to Human Rights Watch by local activists who said they took them after the attack show sections of a 9M55K 300mm surface-to-surface rocket – including parts of the rocket motor, its cargo section, nose cone, and the associated connectors. Also pictured is an unexploded cylindrical 9N235 antipersonnel fragmentation submunition, the type delivered by the 9M55K rocket, with markings indicating the submunition was manufactured in 1991.'
This smacks of AlGhouta redux.

the technial detail is nice, but :

1. who are the activists? who says they are not affiliated with 'rebel groups'? who is the doctor?: what is his affiliation? is HRW in Syria? legally?
2. what evidence is there the syrian govt has used cluster bombs in its territory?
3. what govt ever uses cluster bombs on its own territory? they render any territory uninhabitable for a long time.
4.'Syria’s cluster munition use has attracted widespread media coverage and public outcry. ' what widespread media coverage? when you source unknown 'activists'? and given the media agttacks on syria, why trust a media that is clearly biased?
5 the use of cluster bombs was also alleged in Libya: but never proven; AND
'Although Spain has apparently gone to extraordinary effort to try and clear the USA of any involvement in the use of cluster munitions in Misrata, the USA has refused to sign the Convention on Cluster Munitions and these weapons are an important part of their arsenal with the USA possessing a large stockpile of cluster munitions.'
did US use cluster bombs in Misrata? that would make sense

youve made a very serious charge, based the 'evidence' of unknown persons of unknown affiliation, with no proof the photos are even from syria, or that these have anything to do with the syrian army. HRW is known to be a supporter of the 'rebels' which include proscribed terrorists groups like al-nusra and ISIS,
Givent he current toxic media climate with its vicious attacks on President Assad, and support for the overthrow of the state , any such claims would have to be fully documented and the persons making the claim identified...or it would be assumed they ARE affiliated with 'rebel' groups like annusra

If they are not affilated with any rebel groups, what have they to fear their names being released? who are they?

Your report is once again highly dubious


Posted by: brian | Feb 19 2014 11:45 utc | 15

forced Obama to act. "

this keeps popping up as if it is really "a thing".

so far I've yet to see any evidence that the Emperor is "Forced" to do anything he doesn't want to do

Posted by: LMAO | Feb 19 2014 11:59 utc | 16

@Rowan Barrel bombs is just a meme. But I have been thinking about Prince Bandar Bush, the Magnificent. It seems to me that what happened a couple of weeks ago was that he decided to stay out of the newspapers from now on.

Agree on barrel bombs. Just nonsense talk. A bomb is a bomb.

According to CIA spokesperson David Ignatius' column today Bandar is out (for "health" reasons) and the show is now run by the Saudi interior minister.

This was rumored by some Hizb supporters for some time.

It seems plausible to me. Bandar used the ISIS and Jabhat al-Nusra folks and the Saudis finally decided that this was a bit too risky for them personally. The interior minister was once nearly killed when some Jihadist blew himself up next to him. He will have remembered that episode.

Posted by: b | Feb 19 2014 18:13 utc | 17


It sure sounds as though alleged cluster bombs are the latest ploy for western intervention. The BBC just covered HRW's report, noting that cluster bombs are condemned by many nations and treaties.

Posted by: Rusty Pipes | Feb 19 2014 21:39 utc | 18

Maybe we should just go back to calling HRW, Helsinki Watch -- as a reminder of its role in hyping every Soviet flaw back in the day when the USSR was being pressured to Free Soviet Jewry. Currently, its Beirut bureau echoes Saudi and Israeli propaganda about Syria.

Posted by: Rusty Pipes | Feb 19 2014 21:46 utc | 19

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