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Syrian endgame playbook: options we have?


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#1    Jessica Christ

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Posted 11 June 2013 - 03:26 PM

An interesting article from the Guardian runs down the gamut and gambits of all available options when it comes to donating weapons to Syrian rebels. Saudi Arabia is already providing $3 billion worth of aid to the rebels. We cannot simply provide surplus small arms when the terrorists we want to support have many and better than what we could easily give.

Then we have the gambits, true risk, for we have to send in our own soldiers to train the rebels in any use of the more sophisticated weaponry that could turn the tide. We already have suits on the ground (financing) but as soon as we send in boots we might risk more than dollars but men, our men and women. If we think we already have a problem with green-on-blue attacks in Afghanistan imagine how much worse it could be if we send in our troops to train certain elements of the rebels while their own already terrorist allies, who hate us, who became experienced fighting us, have us right in their camp and sights?

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The first question any sensible politician needs to ask is: "If we're doing this, with what kind of weapons shall we 'arm the rebels?' What can we provide over and above the more than $3bn of weapons supplied by Saudi Arabia and Qatar?" Let's assume that those "rebels" who are minimally militarily competent are not jihadists linked to al-Qaida who learned their trade killing British and American soldiers in Iraq.

Let's also assume, rightly, that jets, artillery and tanks are off the menu. These require years of training. What about "small arms", rifles, mortars and such things? A batch of past-their-sell-by-date British SA80 rifles will be unwelcome in a country already knee-deep in more suitable Kalashnikovs. What about anti-tank missiles? The trouble with more effective weapons, such as the UK's Javelin, is that they need extensive training by experienced soldiers to be useful. Those would be our soldiers.

The same applies for the far more dangerous question of anti-aircraft missiles, known as "manpads" in the trade (man-portable anti-aircraft defence systems), all of which require experienced handling. The US, Britain and other countries have made great efforts, but had little success, in trying to track down stray manpads in Afghanistan, Iraq and Libya. In Aleppo or elsewhere, these weapons may well take down a few MIGs or helicopters; the trouble is that they are even more effective against Airbuses or Boeings.

The next question, and the really uncomfortable one, is: "What if 'arming the rebels' has no effect?" The Syrian opposition knows very well that no "game-changer" weapons are on the agenda. The real objective of the anti-Assad forces is full-scale western military intervention. We need to understand that once we start down the road marked "arming the rebels", we are on a journey that will take us to "no-fly zones", and beyond.

Syria is likely by then to be armed with the latest, and highly effective, Russian missiles. A serving RAF officer recently told me that the Syrian air defence system was "layered and serious. We would take casualties." That means dead or captured British airmen. Our no-fly zone would of course lack UN backing as we have spent the last two years antagonising Russia. We will then hear talk of "safe havens" protected by whatever few thousand British troops can be spared from the baleful, sputtering Helmand campaign. A case-hardened US armed forces, backed by an equally reluctant President Obama, are not at all keen to get involved in another Middle East quagmire. They know that once again they will be doing the heavy lifting. We need to get beyond appeals to false analogies: "remember Bosnia" – the Bosnian Serbs had the support of clapped-out Serbia – or "what about Rwanda" – the killers had no external support at all. We need to be absolutely clear, and clear now, what exactly we are trying to achieve and whether we can in fact achieve it. In other words we need a clear strategy. The last 10 years would indicate that we are not particularly good at that.

We can't just say 'arm Syrian rebels' – we must be clear what this means


So what is the endgame? A full scale Western intervention? If we are serious about winning that is what it will cost and as in the case of Iraq and Afghanistan, where we saw no victory, the only winners might be the financiers and war profiteers through our debt and declining standard of living.

Are we willing to embrace further austerity measures here at home to fund a war over there? Are we willing to continue ruining our schools and hospitals? Are we willing to incur more PTSD on our boys and girls? Just to become more involved over there?

Maybe there is no endgame planned, there seems to be none in Iraq or Afghanistan, maybe it was just about a few profiting after all without respect to whoever gets hurt, the Syrian civilians or our own.


#2    and then

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Posted 11 June 2013 - 03:51 PM

If the CT's about oil and pipelines are correct then this is a dangerous confrontation between eastern and western PTB.  If restraint is not shown it could spin into a global war.  If the story is really about Assad doing whatever it takes to maintain power and his allies helping for reasons of their own power then it has the same potential though perhaps less so.  The unarmed civilians, women, children, the elderly and sick lose regardless who wins.  The region is being re-sculpted no matter who wins.  If the west actually arms the rebels with sophisticated weaponry or imposes a no-fly zone then the rebels probably defeat Assad and his allies.  UNLESS this is all so important to Putin that he escalates beyond all reason (possible imo) and the war becomes much more than it is now.  If they fail to arm them or give them an air umbrella then the rebels lose, and do so rather quickly, as an "organized" fighting force.  Syria as a united country appears to be a thing of the past.  It looks to be carved up into cantons of warlords.  The Russians are probably very aware of the possibilities of fighting in a M.E. country against a committed Islamist enemy.  The whole darned thing is like a hodgepodge of bad outcomes - you pays your money and you takes your chances.

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#3    Jessica Christ

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Posted 11 June 2013 - 03:56 PM

Of course the wildcard here is Israel. Should they enter full-scale for their own reasons it will cause more havoc, force regime changes, but the end result might not be any better. They cannot outright contain all the elements or annex all of Syria and rule it forever. Sectarian conflict is guaranteed to almost continue no matter who wins just as in Iraq and Afghanistan. The only difference is the ruling government might be an Israeli or Saudi puppet instead of of an Iranian one as in the case of Iraq. If Syria ends up with a government beholden to Israel cannot see that as being popular at all among the current rebels so this is very unlikely.

A situation where we end up with an Iraq (proxy of Iran) and a Syria (proxy of Saudi Arabia) as forever-neighbors poses its own set of problems. Shia-Sunni fault lines and all.

Edited by The world needs you, 11 June 2013 - 03:57 PM.


#4    Yes_Man

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Posted 11 June 2013 - 04:44 PM

We all know that Syria does not have much oil


#5    and then

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Posted 11 June 2013 - 04:48 PM

View PostThe world needs you, on 11 June 2013 - 03:56 PM, said:

Of course the wildcard here is Israel. Should they enter full-scale for their own reasons it will cause more havoc, force regime changes, but the end result might not be any better. They cannot outright contain all the elements or annex all of Syria and rule it forever. Sectarian conflict is guaranteed to almost continue no matter who wins just as in Iraq and Afghanistan. The only difference is the ruling government might be an Israeli or Saudi puppet instead of of an Iranian one as in the case of Iraq. If Syria ends up with a government beholden to Israel cannot see that as being popular at all among the current rebels so this is very unlikely.

A situation where we end up with an Iraq (proxy of Iran) and a Syria (proxy of Saudi Arabia) as forever-neighbors poses its own set of problems. Shia-Sunni fault lines and all.
The idea that Israel would have any influence is a non-starter I think...no matter who wins they will hate Israel.  I expect it to be a Sunni/Shia conflict that goes on for many years.

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#6    Jessica Christ

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Posted 11 June 2013 - 05:42 PM

View PostThe New Richard Nixon, on 11 June 2013 - 04:44 PM, said:

We all know that Syria does not have much oil

A stable Syria is where a proposed pipeline would lay allowing Russia, Iran, and Syria to compete with Turkey and Israel who already have a pipeline.

They don't want competition. Naturally if Syria is destabilized they won't get competition because a pipeline requires stability.


#7    Jessica Christ

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Posted 11 June 2013 - 05:44 PM

View Postand then, on 11 June 2013 - 04:48 PM, said:

The idea that Israel would have any influence is a non-starter I think...no matter who wins they will hate Israel.  I expect it to be a Sunni/Shia conflict that goes on for many years.

Hope not. We can simply stop funding those conflicts. That is their oxygen above any other sources that fuel those conflicts.


#8    and then

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Posted 11 June 2013 - 06:50 PM

View PostThe world needs you, on 11 June 2013 - 05:44 PM, said:

Hope not. We can simply stop funding those conflicts. That is their oxygen above any other sources that fuel those conflicts.
I agree that we should "sanction" whoever "wins".  Cut off aid and promise to bomb whatever infrastructure they have into oblivion if they decide to attack us or our allies.

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#9    Jessica Christ

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Posted 11 June 2013 - 07:06 PM

View Postand then, on 11 June 2013 - 06:50 PM, said:

I agree that we should "sanction" whoever "wins".  Cut off aid and promise to bomb whatever infrastructure they have into oblivion if they decide to attack us or our allies.

I can imagine the rebels spreading their ideological wings and turning their ideological claws on us if they win. Certain elements from within definitely.

On the other hand cannot imagine Assad or his Russian backers doing so, business and stability is more profitable than schemes of destroying the West.


#10    and then

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Posted 11 June 2013 - 08:55 PM

View PostThe world needs you, on 11 June 2013 - 07:06 PM, said:

I can imagine the rebels spreading their ideological wings and turning their ideological claws on us if they win. Certain elements from within definitely.

On the other hand cannot imagine Assad or his Russian backers doing so, business and stability is more profitable than schemes of destroying the West.
Raises quite a moral dilemma.  Turn a blind eye to continuing slaughter for a vested self interest or act to save the innocents and strengthen those who despise us.

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#11    Jessica Christ

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Posted 11 June 2013 - 09:06 PM

I appreciate the sentiment but in my view it is more along the lines of which slaughter do we chose to side with and which victims do we choose to save.

As you know my original position was to take no sides, suppress both, and send in the peacekeepers. After seeing the child soldiers, beheadings, car bombs, and cannibalism it is certain elements within the rebels that cause me more concern.

Of course we cannot expect the moderate rebels themselves to tell off their extremists counterparts when they need all the help they can get so it seems to me intelligence gathering and accountability will be our only recourse after all is said and done. Hope the international war crime trials that will ensue are fair and grab all those responsible and not just those who we don't like now.


#12    Tutankhaten-pasheri

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Posted 12 June 2013 - 05:06 PM

View Postand then, on 11 June 2013 - 03:51 PM, said:

UNLESS this is all so important to Putin that he escalates beyond all reason (possible imo)
I rather think it is US that tends to escalate things beyond all reason, Iraq come to mind. And of course their meddling in various places since 1945. Russia has not meddled anywhere, has invaded nobody except to defend against naked agression (Georgia), and has not engaged in any proxy war, and does not send drones to kill often innocent people. Your comment is designed as propaganda to make it seem, as always, that Russia under Putin is some unstable banana republic about to wage war any moment. Remove beam from your American eye before pointing out mote in mine. Tell me, were are Russian forces fighting outside RF? Tartus is the only Russian base outside RF, and there is no fighting. How many American bases outside US territory? How many countries do you meddle in? Should the world worry about unreasonable reactions from Russia? I think perhaps we should all be worried about US and your meddling and spying on everybody. Gradually you become hated as bullies with one aim, $$$$$$


#13    Helen of Annoy

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Posted 12 June 2013 - 05:48 PM

View PostTutankhaten-pasheri, on 12 June 2013 - 05:06 PM, said:

I rather think it is US that tends to escalate things beyond all reason, Iraq come to mind. And of course their meddling in various places since 1945. Russia has not meddled anywhere, has invaded nobody except to defend against naked agression (Georgia), and has not engaged in any proxy war, and does not send drones to kill often innocent people. Your comment is designed as propaganda to make it seem, as always, that Russia under Putin is some unstable banana republic about to wage war any moment. Remove beam from your American eye before pointing out mote in mine. Tell me, were are Russian forces fighting outside RF? Tartus is the only Russian base outside RF, and there is no fighting. How many American bases outside US territory? How many countries do you meddle in? Should the world worry about unreasonable reactions from Russia? I think perhaps we should all be worried about US and your meddling and spying on everybody. Gradually you become hated as bullies with one aim, $$$$$$
:lol:
So... what was your army doing in Afghanistan? Picking mushrooms? (I love stories of Russian ghosts whispering in American ears in that same Afghanistan that has no luck since Alexander the Great.)

US can’t have proxy war without Russia, you are the other party essential for a war by proxy. Otherwise, without you, it would be plain war against someone, for something.  

Russia became strongly disliked as political entity despite their aim was bringing communism (lol, I know) to occupied Eastern Europe. It was done by brute force and spying on everyone. Maniacally spying.

That being said, I missed you so much.
Seriously. When you root for Russia, that’s patriotism, when westerners root against themselves, that’s pathetic.

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#14    Yes_Man

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Posted 12 June 2013 - 06:00 PM

The question is does the Russian public really care about Syria? No


#15    DarkHunter

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Posted 12 June 2013 - 07:12 PM

View PostTutankhaten-pasheri, on 12 June 2013 - 05:06 PM, said:

I rather think it is US that tends to escalate things beyond all reason, Iraq come to mind. And of course their meddling in various places since 1945. Russia has not meddled anywhere, has invaded nobody except to defend against naked agression (Georgia), and has not engaged in any proxy war, and does not send drones to kill often innocent people. Your comment is designed as propaganda to make it seem, as always, that Russia under Putin is some unstable banana republic about to wage war any moment. Remove beam from your American eye before pointing out mote in mine. Tell me, were are Russian forces fighting outside RF? Tartus is the only Russian base outside RF, and there is no fighting. How many American bases outside US territory? How many countries do you meddle in? Should the world worry about unreasonable reactions from Russia? I think perhaps we should all be worried about US and your meddling and spying on everybody. Gradually you become hated as bullies with one aim, $$$$$$

How do you explain all these wars that Russia has been involved in since 1945

Korean War, 1950, Soviet pilots fly combat missions for North Korea
Hungarian Revolution, 1956, Soviet and Communist Hungarian forces crush an anti-communist revolution
War of Attrition, 1967, Soviets back Egypt in its war against Israel by supplying anti-air weaponry and soviet crews to man them along with Soviet pilots flying missions against Israel
Warsaw Pact Invasion of Czechoslovakia, 1968, Soviets along with other Pact countries invade Czechoslovakia to stop political reforms
Sino-Soviet border conflict, 1969, Soviets and Chinese have minor battles on border disputes
Soviet war in Afghanistan, 1979, Soviets invade Afghanistan
Civil war in Tajikistan, 1992, Russia backs one side of the civil war sending about 15000 troops
First Chechen War, 1994, Chechnya fighting for independences
Second Chechen War, 1999, Islamist from Chechnya invade Dagestan causing Russia to invade Chechnya ending the Chechen Republic of Ichkeria and having Chechnya fall under Russian control again
Russia-Georgian war, 2008, Russia backs separatist factions in Georgia

Those are just the wars Russian troops have fought in, if you want to add the wars Russia either supplied, trained, or unofficially fought in then it is every war that occurred during the Cold War period.

While Russia does not send out drones to kill people they do order assassinations.

Russia doesn't seem to be as non-meddling as you seem to suggest.

Edited by DarkHunter, 12 June 2013 - 07:13 PM.





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