Christopher Lee

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Obama’s Syrian Problem – What Should He Bomb?

9th September

The frightening aspect of the Do We Bomb Syria debate is simply put: even if President Obama got the go-ahead to strike he does not know what to bomb?

What do his cruise missile commanders aim for?  Chemical stocks? Command HQs of Syria’s 4th Division? President Assad’s palace? His brother’s command post? Think about it.

The order to the Syrian army to take Moudhamiy, the suburban rebel stronghold had not shown any result.  The local commander had failed to get his troops in to the district and eject the rebels.  The division responsible for retaking the area was the so-called elite 4th Division. 4 Div is commanded by General Maher al-Assad who is the unquestionably ruthless and crippled by his wounds from another occasion, brother of the Syrian President.

The spearhead brigade in the Syrian assault was 155 brigade in which there is an element on the two Syrian chemical warfare battalions.

The brigade attack was not producing results. Maher al-Assad does not tolerate failure.  When a local commander is failing, he may return to last resort weapons release.  In NATO procedure that would be low kiloton tactical or theatre nuclear warhead release.  CW is the poor man’s kiloton warhead. The procedure would be to fire binary chemical warheads into the area and follow on with an artillery attack. All of this happened on 21st August.

It is possible that President Assad was not in the loop that took the decision to use CW. It is even possible that this was a local and tactical decision. All this is discussed elsewhere.

Given these circumstances, President Obama said that the red line had been crossed. Secretary of State John Kerry in London this morning gave voice to the circumstances, the thinking of the President, the moral as well as the military case for attacking Syria.

Later today (9 September) he will do so to Congress. Kerry knows the Congress and what it has to hear and understand.  After all, he was a celebrated Senator as well as a one time prosecutor.  Kerry understand s evidence and jury.  Congress is the jury today.

Every procedure aside from a UN supporting resolution is in place for Obama to take the decision to attack, even if Congress says No.  The President does have that option.

What is not clear, is the target list. The purpose of bombing is to show Assad and any other  CW holder anywhere in the world- and there are plenty of them – that America will tolerate CW use. The next purpose is to disable the Assad option to use them again – if again he did. The third purpose is to bomb a Syrian leadership (not necessarily Assad’s) to the conference table.

Obama et al say the plan is not regime change.  This is clearly nonsense.  Perhaps the plan is not to bomb Assad in his palace bunker. But if the logical targets are given a GTG (Green To Go) then the conclusion has to be that Washington believes that the Syrian regime will be so vulnerable as result of lost assets, that it will fall or, as Washington would hope, those close to Assad will remove him from power and that they will then agree to meet in a Geneva Two-type peace negotiation.

If any of this could be true, then here are the targets:

  • Command and Control of Syrian air force units plus the avgas, repair and logistics capability. His air force could perhaps disperse to Iran and fight on from there. So some effort has to be put into taking out aircraft and aircrews – not at all easy.  Some have already gone to Iran.
  • Air defence radar and communications
  • 4 Division HQ and its back-up command systems.
  • Military fuel supply dumps
  • Remaining brigade HQs

Many of these targets could patched and regrouped. But battle damage assessments from US satellite and overfly, plus signals intelligence, would quickly put together a second attack list.

The people (apart from the Assads) who will be watching the Congressional vote and the GTG moment are not in Damascus, nor Aleppo. They are in the southern Turkish garrison at Antakya which is now the headquarters of the Free Syrian Army along with its, US, UK, Saudi and Qatari advisers and sponsors. If you believe that the rebels fired the CW, that would be the place they planned. Very unlikely of course, but so is the whole Syrian affair.

 

 

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