U.S. weighs objectives, outcomes of a strike on Syria

Introduction — August 29, 2013

Britain and America’s insistence that the Syria government was behind the chemical weapons attack — when so much convincing evidence indicates that the foreign-backed ‘Syrian rebels’ were responsible — suggests that they intend more than a limited strike.
As yet neither Britain and America have provided any hard evidence to substantiate their claims, probably because they don’t have any. Nonetheless, their insistence that Assad was responsible, when so many facts indicate otherwise, suggests they are simply using the allegations as a pretext for something more.
That being the case, then however limited the planned military strikes might be they would be intended to do more than “make Assad think twice”. Particularly when Western intelligence must know he wasn’t responsible in the first place.
All the more so as so much evidence points to Western backed ‘Syrian rebels’ as having been behind the atrocity.
No, the Western powers want to do more than send a message. At the very least they want to initiate regime change in Syria and probably Iran too and the foreign backed ‘Syrian rebels’ have provided a convenient pretext to do precisely that.
So forget all the talk about “limited strikes”. This is going to get much bigger than that and many of those advocating action “to deter future chemical weapons attacks in Syria” must surely know that.

U.S. weighs objectives, outcomes of a strike on Syria

Julie Pace — Associated Press August 21, 2013

U.S. officials are still grappling with how to design a military strike to deter future chemical weapons attacks in Syria and assessing how President Bashar Assad might respond, two senior officials said Wednesday, as the Obama administration insisted the Syrian government must be punished.

U.S. intelligence agencies are preparing a report laying out the evidence against Assad’s government in last week’s alleged chemical weapons attacks on civilians. The classified version would be sent to key members of Congress and a declassified version would be released publicly. The White House says it’s already convinced, however, and is planning a possible military response while rounding up support from international partners.

“If there is action taken, it must be clearly defined what the objective is and why” and based on “clear facts,” said one of the senior administration officials, speaking on condition of anonymity because he wasn’t authorized to discuss internal deliberations publicly.

The official said the administration is considering more than a single set of military strikes and “the options are not limited just to one day” of assault.

In broad terms, the U.S. and international goals in striking Syria would be to damage the Syrian government’s military and weapons to make it difficult to wage chemical attacks, and to make Assad think twice about using such weapons in the future. Such a strike likely would be led by low-flying cruise missiles fired from any of four U.S. Navy destroyers off Syria’s coast.

The manner and timing of Syria’s response are among the so-called “next day” questions that the administration is still thinking through as it prepares a possible military action. No additional U.S. defensive weapons have been deployed in the region in anticipation of Syria reprisals, the official said. The U.S. already has Patriot anti-missile batteries in Jordan and Turkey.

The other senior U.S. official said the administration has determined it can contain any potential Syrian military response in the event that President Barack Obama orders a U.S. attack.

Both officials were granted anonymity in order to discuss internal deliberations on complex questions that surround crafting a response to the Aug. 21 attack in which hundreds of Syrian civilians were killed.

In Congress, which is in summer recess, members from both parties have expressed reservations about a rush toward launching a military action without congressional approval. On Wednesday, Washington Rep. Adam Smith, the ranking Democrat on the House Armed Services Committee, cautioned that an attack might be ineffective and draw the United States into the Syrian civil war.

“Simply lashing out with military force under the banner of ‘doing something’ will not secure our interests in Syria,” Smith said in a statement.

The administration in recent days has made clear it believes it must take punitive action against Syria for its alleged use of chemical weapons, which are banned by international convention. But the senior officials’ comments Wednesday made clear that questions about using military force in this circumstance are still being worked out.

The officials said diplomatic and legal issues also are still being discussed internally.

“If any action is taken it will not be taken until all these pieces are in place: the legal issues, the international piece, the consequences thought through, the facts and everything that needs to be tied together,” the first senior official said.

The official did not go into detail. Questions may include to what degree military strikes would prevent Assad from using poison gas in the future, and how to respond if he does.

The administration also is concerned that if Assad is not punished, dictatorial leaders of other nations in possession of chemical weapons, like North Korea, might see the failure to act as a sign that they, too, could get away with using the weapons.

In Israel, a close U.S. ally in the Middle East, the military and citizens were preparing for what officials said was a slim possibility of a retaliatory attack by Syria after a U.S. strike.

Administration officials have said Assad’s actions posed a direct threat to U.S. national security, providing Obama with a potential legal justification for launching a strike without authorization from the United Nations or Congress. However, officials did not detail how the U.S. was directly threatened by an attack contained within Syria’s borders. Nor have they yet presented concrete proof that Assad was responsible.

Assad has denied using chemical weapons, calling the allegations “preposterous.”

“Allowing the use of chemical weapons on a significant scale to take place without a response would present a significant challenge to, threat to the United States’ national security,” White House spokesman Jay Carney said Tuesday.

The U.S. and its international partners were unlikely to undertake military action before Thursday. That’s when British Prime Minister David Cameron will convene an emergency meeting of Parliament, where lawmakers are expected to vote on a motion clearing the way for a British response to the alleged chemical weapons attack.

The prime minister’s office said Wednesday that it will put forward a resolution to the U.N. Security Council condemning the Syrian government for the alleged chemical attack.

Obama and Cameron spoke Tuesday, their second known conversation since the weekend. A Cameron spokesman said the two leaders agreed that a chemical attack had taken place, and that the Assad regime was responsible.

Also Tuesday, Vice President Joe Biden became the highest-ranking U.S. official to charge that Assad’s government fired chemical weapons last week near Damascus.

“There’s no doubt who is responsible for this heinous use of chemical weapons in Syria: the Syrian regime,” Biden said.

Ahead of any strike, the U.S. also planned to release additional intelligence it said would directly link Assad to the attack in the Damascus suburbs. Syrian activists said hundreds of people were killed in the attack. A U.S. official said the intelligence report was expected to include “signals intelligence” — information gathered from intercepted communications.

Even before releasing that information, U.S. officials said Assad was culpable in the attack, based on witness reports, information on the number of victims and the symptoms of those killed or injured, and intelligence showing the Syrian government has not lost control of its chemical weapons stockpiles.

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