Showing posts with label Syria. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Syria. Show all posts

24 April 2018

How Can We Know If a Chemical Weapons Attack Took Place in Syria?


Every atrocity in the Syrian civil war provokes a furious row about whether it happened and, if so, who was responsible for carrying it out. The merciless brutality of all sides combines with partisan reporting and lack of access for independent investigators to make it possible for doubts to be generated about even the most blatant war crime. One good rule is that participants in the war are often accurate about the crimes of their opponents while they invariably lie or are silent about their own. This rule appears to hold good in the case of the poison gas attack on the city of Douma on 7 April, which killed at least 34 people and possibly twice as many. The Russian military claim that the attack was faked by pro-opposition activists and that samples taken from the site of where the civilians died were not toxic. The Syrian government issues blanket denials when accused of using poison gas.

A Thirty Years’ War?

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For those of you who have forgotten, here is a short reminder. The Thirty Years’ War started in May 1618 when the Protestant Estates of Bohemia revolted against the Catholic Emperor Ferdinand II. They threw his envoys out of the windows of the palace at Prague. Fortunately for them, the moat into which they fell was filled with rubbish and nobody was killed. Had the revolt remained local, it would have been suppressed fairly quickly. As, in fact, it was in 1620 when the Habsburgs and their allies won the Battle of the White Mountain. Instead it expanded and expanded. First the Hungarians and then the Ottomans were drawn in (though they did not stay in for long). Then came the Spaniards, then the Danes, then the Swedes, and finally the French. Some did less, others more. Many petty European states, cities, and more or less independent robber barons also set up militias and joined what developed into a wild free for all. For three decades armies and militias chased each other all over central Europe. Robbing, burning, raping, killing. By the time the Treaty of Westphalia ended the hostilities in 1648 the population of Germany had been reduced by an estimated one third.

4 essential elements of a U.S. strategy on Syria

Michael E. O’Hanlon
In April 16’s Wall Street Journal, former U.S. ambassador to Syria Ryan Crocker and I suggest how President Trump can build on the recent U.S.-U.K.-French reprisal attacks against Syrian chemical weapons facilities. In our view, this should be with an eye toward developing a fuller strategy for the Syria conflict that could prove at least moderately effective and durable at modest cost. The ideas build on related writings that Ambassador Crocker and I have done recently with Brookings nonresident scholar Pavel Baev of PRIO in Oslo. Specifically, we lay out the following four elements for a broad strategy, some of which build on ideas the Trump administration has itself supported at times:

23 April 2018

Missile Strikes Are Unlikely to Stop Syria’s Chemical Attacks, Pentagon Says

By Thomas Gibbons-Neff

A military intelligence report found that the Syrian government is expected to resume its chemical weapons program, despite President Trump saying “mission accomplished.” Here’s how the strike unfolded. ImagePlanning for the strike of 105 missiles on three targets — chemical weapons storage and research facilities near Damascus and Homs — took nearly a full week.

Trump, promising hellfire in Syria, blinked. Why that could bode well for the Iran deal

Suzanne Maloney

In the hours after last week’s joint U.S.-U.K.-French airstrikes on Syria, President Trump tweeted that the operation was a “mission accomplished.” That declaration reinforced other signals from the administration that the retaliation against Bashar al-Assad’s latest chemical attacks on civilians would firmly avoid any open-ended military engagement in the Middle East, a region that Trump described in his statement as “a troubled place” whose “fate…lies in the hands of its own people.” By coupling his show of force with an insistence on extracting Washington from the Middle East, Trump was speaking to his domestic constituency, whose weariness over the human and economic cost of the Iraq and Afghanistan conflicts contributed to the appeal of his unconventional candidacy in the first place. But his message was heard—and welcomed—well beyond his base.

22 April 2018

Israeli intelligence: Objectives of Western strike in Syria not achieved

Ronen Bergman

The US-led attack on Syria’s chemical weapons facilities did not achieve most of its objectives and will not deter President Bashar Assad, according to Israeli intelligence assessments. “If President Trump had ordered the strike only to show that the US responded to Assad’s use of chemical weapons, then that goal has been achieved,” according to a senior defense establishment official. “But if there was another objective—such as paralyzing the ability to launch chemical weapons or deterring Assad from using it again—it’s doubtful any of these objectives have been met.”

How Social Media Built the Case for Trump’s Strike on Syria

by Colum Lynch and Elias Groll - Foreign Policy 

Social media has emerged as a key battleground in the U.S. and Russian media campaign to promote their sharply divergent accounts of chemical weapons in Syria. The intelligence assessments presented over the weekend by the United States and France to justify missiles strikes against Syria for its alleged use of chemical weapons in a Damascus suburb relied to an unusual degree on information gleaned from open source material and social media. Russia, meanwhile, is mustering an army of internet trolls to shift blame for the chemical weapons attack.The development reflects the evolution of social media as a key source of propaganda on Syria but also as a critical source of evidence in building a case for airstrikes…

21 April 2018

Operational-Level Strikes Finally Enforce Obama’s Red Line | National Review

by Lauren Fish

A Syrian firefighter is seen inside the destroyed Scientific Research Centre in Damascus, Syria, April 14, 2018. (Omar Sanadiki/Reuters)Plenty of future challenges remain, in Syria and elsewhere around the globe. But Friday’s strikes are victory worth celebrating.By all accounts, Friday night’s strikes against the Assad regime’s chemical-weapons facilities were successful — they reduced their targets to rubble, and there were no reported threats to allied forces or equipment in their aftermath. Armchair strategists are quick to point out that the strikes didn’t fit into any broader American Syria strategy. But the chemical-weapons attack of April 7 demonstrated, once again, the Syrian regime’s flagrant disregard for international moral and legal norms. And unlike last April’s retaliatory American strike on aircraft used for chemical-weapons delivery at Shayrat Air Base, Friday’s strikes sought to hit the heart of the regime’s chemical-weapons capabilities, and were coordinated with our oldest and closest allies.

How Social Media Built the Case for Trump’s Strike on Syria


Portraits of the Russian and Syrian presidents are displayed at the government-held Wafideen checkpoint on the outskirts of Damascus on April 3. Social media has emerged as a key battleground in the U.S. and Russian media campaign to promote their sharply divergent accounts of chemical weapons in Syria. The intelligence assessments presented over the weekend by the United States and France to justify missiles strikes against Syria for its alleged use of chemical weapons in a Damascus suburb relied to an unusual degree on information gleaned from open source material and social media. Russia, meanwhile, is mustering an army of internet trolls to shift blame for the chemical weapons attack.

Trump's Syria Strategy Actually Makes Sense


The Trump administration is coming in for an avalanche of complaints that it conducted military operations against Syria without having a strategy for Syria. This is inaccurate.
President Obama had grandiose goals that he omitted to attain. He wanted Bashar al-Assad to go. He wanted the Russians to leave Syria. He wanted to promote democracy and protect human rights unless it became too costly (see: vacillation on military aid to Egypt). He wanted to advance the remit of international organizations and international law. His administration talked about “whole of government operations” but failed to conduct them.

19 April 2018

The Real Next War in Syria: Iran vs. Israel

By Thomas L. Friedman

SYRIA-ISRAEL BORDER, Golan Heights — Stop me if you’ve heard this one before: Syria is going to explode. I know, you have heard that one before, but this time I mean really explode. Because the U.S., British and French attack on Syria to punish its regime for its vile use of chemical weapons — and Russia’s vow to respond — is actually just the second-most dangerous confrontation unfolding in that country. Even more dangerous is that Israel and Iran, at the exact same time, seem to be heading for a High Noon shootout in Syria over Iran’s attempts to turn Syria into a forward air base against Israel, something Israel is vowing to never let happen. This is not mere speculation. In the past few weeks — for the first time ever — Israel and Iran have begun quietly trading blows directly, not through proxies, in Syria.

U.S. Seeks Arab Force and Funding for Syria

Michael R. Gordon

WASHINGTON—The Trump administration is seeking to assemble an Arab force to replace the U.S. military contingent in Syria and help stabilize the northeastern part of the country after the defeat of Islamic State, U.S. officials said.

John Bolton, President Donald Trump’s new national security adviser, recently called Abbas Kamel, Egypt’s acting intelligence chief, to see if Cairo would contribute to the effort, officials said.

The initiative comes as the administration has asked Saudi Arabia, Qatar and the United Arab Emirates to contribute billions of dollars to help restore northern Syria. It wants Arab nations to send troops as well, officials said.

18 April 2018

The Syrian Tangle

About a year ago, the Trump administration carried out a cruise missile strike on a Syrian airfield within 48 hours of a major chemical weapons attack on civilians, allegedly carried out by the Assad regime. The strike did some damage but nothing of such significance as to force the regime to change its strategy, either in general or on chemical weapons. Indeed, there was no expectation of change. The response was the military equivalent of a strong diplomatic note and was treated as such by the Syrians.

Lawmakers Ask: Where’s the Broader Syria Strategy?


No surprise that Democrats questioned Friday’s retaliatory strike, but even a few GOP defense hawks wondered aloud. Democrats widely questioned President Donald Trump’s decision to strike Syria in response to a suspected chemical weapons attack, calling it “unconstitutional” and “reckless.” But lawmakers on national security committees — even those endorsing the Friday night strikes, and some in the president’s own party — said the U.S. needed a comprehensive strategy for its involvement in Syria. Republican lawmakers largely endorsed the strikes on Friday night. Senate Majority Whip John Cornyn, R-Texas, tweeted “Good,” a response to Trump’s statement that “We are prepared to sustain this response until the Syrian regime stops its use of prohibited chemical agents.”

Legal Questions Loom Over Syria Strikes

by Jonathan Masters

In the wake of recent air strikes on Syria by the United States and its allies, some lawmakers in Washington and other world capitals are questioning the attacks’ legal basis. The Trump administration claims the recent assault was justified, but it has not laid out a rationale based on international law, says CFR’s John Bellinger, legal advisor at the National Security Council and the State Department during the George W. Bush administration. This leaves the United States open to charges of acting lawlessly and inviting similar behavior by other countries, he says. The United Kingdom is the only government that has explicitly said its use of force comports with international law, citing humanitarian grounds.

The Great Distraction of Punitive Airstrikes

by Jonathan Spyer

Despite escalating worries about Russia in past weeks, the skies did not fall as a result of the American-led punitive raid on Syria’s chemical weapons storage and research facilities Saturday morning. Great care was taken to avoid hitting the many sites within “Assad-controlled” Syria which are in fact administered by powers other than the Syrian dictator—namely, Russia and Iran. “A perfectly executed strike,” the president declared on Twitter. “Mission accomplished.” U.S. ambassador to the UN Nikki Haley struck a similar tone of satisfaction. ‘“If the Syrian regime uses this poisonous gas again,” she told an emergency meeting of the UN Security Council, “the United States is locked and loaded.”

Military Strikes on Syria: Critical Considerations

Michael Eisenstadt

Military action should seek to restore deterrence by hitting not just chemical weapons-related targets, but also ground and air units that are key to the Assad regime's war effort. In response to the latest reported use of chemical weapons (CW) by Assad regime forces near Damascus on April 7, which reportedly killed dozens of civilians in the town of Douma, President Trump tweeted that there would be a "Big price to pay." He subsequently told a cabinet meeting on April 9, "We cannot allow atrocities like that. Cannot allow it...Nothing's off the table." He then warned that regardless of whether Russia, the Assad regime, or Iran was responsible, the U.S. response would be "very tough," repeating that everybody involved would "pay a price."

Can a one-off military strike deter Syria’s Assad from using chemical weapons again? The data suggests no

Chris Meserole

On Saturday, the Assad regime used chemical weapons on the last remaining rebel enclave of Douma, outside Damascus, killing over 40 civilians. In response, the Trump administration has vowed to respond forcefully, with President Trump most recently taunting Russia to get ready for a barrage of “smart” missiles. President Trump’s justification for his response rests on two arguments. The first is that the Assad regime’s use of chemical weapons owes directly to the Obama administration’s failure to uphold its red line after the horrific attack in Ghouta in August of 2013. The second is that a single, retaliatory missile strike is enough to deter future chemical weapons attacks.

17 April 2018

Pentagon Declares Strike Successful. Here’s A Look at What Went Into It

U.S., French, and British planes and ships used a wide variety of precision weapons to hit Syrian chemical weapons facilities. Some saw their first day of combat.
Saturday’s U.S.-French-British strike “overwhelmed” the Syrian air defenses and degraded the Assad regime’s chemical weapons capabilities, Pentagon leaders told reporters this morning. Three facilities were targeted in the 4 a.m. strike, in which allied warships and -planes fired 105 weapons, including the first combat use of the Joint Air to Surface Standoff, or JASSM, missile, Lt. Gen. Kenneth McKenzie, Jr. said.

McKenzie said the Syrians responded by firing 40 surface-to-air missiles, most of them after the allied munitions had already struck their targets. The head of the joint staff called the defensive fire “materially ineffective” against the coalition forces, but said it likely did pose a threat to civilians on the ground. “It is likely that the regime shot many of these missiles on a ballistic trajectory – without guidance,” he said. “When you shoot iron in to the sky without guidance, it will inevitably fall to earth.”

The most significant target was the Barzah Research and Development Center, located close to downtown Damascus, and heavily protected by Syrian air defenses. It was targeted by U.S. warships, which launched 57 Tomahawk cruise missiles and B-1 bombers 19 JASSM missiles. The bombers were escorted by attack aircraft and an EA-6B electronic warfare jet. McKenzie said initial assessments indicated the Barzah center was destroyed. “This Is going to set the Syrian chemical weapons [program] back years” he said. (Story continues below.)

Pentagon: Syria Struck From All Sides, No Missiles Intercepted


WASHINGTON: In one of the largest coordinated international air operations in years, over 100 American, British and French guided missiles slammed into three Syrian chemical weapons facilities early Saturday morning, launched from an armada of aircraft, submarines, and ships offshore.

The Pentagon was careful Saturday to say that the assault didn’t seek to topple the regime of Syrian strongman Bashar al Assad. But the strike — and the Syrian failure to stop any of the missiles — represents a stark reminder that despite the protection of Russian air defenses, the United States and its NATO allies can hit Syria at will.