Posts Tagged ‘Syria’

The Ethics of War?

November 3, 2015

christopher_lee180-11

3rd November 2015

Westminster

I was through the Amargosa Valley in Nevada which boasts a gas station and the second best bordello in the state.  Nevada’s like that. I was heading for US Highway 95 and Creech Air Force Base close by India Springs. It is bare country and bare country has simple rules. You do what you got to do and never stand around unless maybe there’s a beer.

Forget the bordello. There’s not a batwing door to be seen and you won’t hear the clink of a dollar set of spurs. The nearby abandoned MX missile test site is known for its scorpion collection.  Packs a megaton sting they tell me.

We had moved from the base and were approaching Creech and a beer with a top sergeant who runs a four or five target analysis on some regular guy in a beat-up Toyota. The sergeant says that when Intelligence confirms that he is a baddie then the sergeant’s partner  a young lieutenant signs off the To Go sheet and takes a shot from an RPA. Goodbye says the sergeant and moves onto the tracking habits of another potential hit.

Could be a good morning for crispy bacon, easy over and maybe a beer.  The sergeant tells me that  the Predator drones (that is what a Remotely Piloted Aircraft is) are a good way to do some of the war. She says you get to track a baddie’s habits. You have a time from cover to automobile to destination. When the people at command one are sure then the baddie is as good as toast.

The score rate is high and most of the time the target is the only casualty.  Aborting a hit is easy.  You simply don’t press go. There will be another time. Clean.  What are we to make of this?

In World War One admirals talked about submarines not being fair weapons. Sneaky.  You watch the folk at Creech AFB and it cannot be sneaky. The technology is not a secret and, it is mostly clean.  War being mostly mucky that single fact could easily make it right.  Could it?

I was listening to something of an answer. I was listening to an Oxford professor discussing “Applying Ethics to Public Policy”. When it came to tracking a guy in a Toyota 7,800 miles away and then blowing him to seven waiting virgins the seemed no problem. But the ethics of what? Ethical revenge? Does it exist?

The ethics of using technology to do the damnedest thing because you have the technology is dangerous ground. In its simplest form ethical public policy has nothing to do with an eerie sensation of knowing that the baddie was about to get his. Is this not how it should be?

Taking out the enemy with no thought other than if he had a drone and I had a Toyota there would be no ethical discussion.

Then we get to think the next stage.  They say down here at Westminster the home of the world’s first bordello of democracy that the political risk of joining in the Global Coalition effort to air strike Syria is looking shakier every day.  They need a UN Resolution because President Assad has not asked the RAF to do it.

The ethicist cannot be certain of course.  To strike and prevent a massacre seems the very stuff of Biggarean moral philosophy.  I mentioned that at Creech.  The top sergeant looked puzzled.  You need a beer?

Cameron and Co need know nothing of all this.  He may not even ask Parliament to let him unleash what is left of the RAF (they have not really got enough assets to do this anyway) onto targets in Syria.  For there is the awesome fascination of the war against an unsophisticated enemy with the ethics of a zealot.

One is based at Raqqa.  One is based at Creech. One arouses horror, The other rouses ethical wonder.  And the British (complete with their own drones) don’t want to get their boots bloodied. No ethics. No uncompromising zealotry. Simply a frightened off political caste whose indecision is final.

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Iraq, Chilcot, IS – Why Blair Is Still On The Run

October 25, 2015

christopher_lee180-11

26 October 2015

London

If Iraq had not happened I wonder how Tony Blair would have rated today? But it did happen and now Mr Blair is having to explain his case all over again – this time on a CNN TV show.

He says to go into Iraq after Saddam Hussein was the toughest decision he had to make. Wrong Mr Blair.

The then US President George W Bush was already going into Iraq.  Mr Blair went along for the ride to glory being overwhelmed by the aura surrounding true power. He would have enjoyed being a US President.

He says he was sorry that the Intelligence that swung his decision to go get Saddam was not so good.  Wrong Mr Blair.

The Intelligence at all levels was enough to tell us that the military threat was non-existent.  Weapons of Mass Disappearance.

He says if they had not gone after Saddam then Iraq would have become the same as Syria is today. Wrong Mr Blair.

Syrians started the Damascus demos because the Arab Spring was running and Syria joined in and Assad had a second rate security operation.

There was no revolution brewing in the Middle East in 2003 and Saddam ran the tightest Sunni security operation anyone had seen.  Only a dead man walking would have tried a demo in Saddam’s Iraq that year.

He says that just maybe IS or Daesh or ISIS may have emerged because of the war in Iraq.  Wrong Mr Blair.

IS emerged not because there was a war but because the coalition pulled out far too soon leaving a state convulsed by revenge politics and no military and security apparatus capable of identifying extremism.  Above all, IS started in Syria, not Iraq.

So what is this all about? It is about the forthcoming preliminary publication of the Chilcot inquiry set up to  look at the who did what and why of the Iraq war. Mr Blair gave evidence and did a good job.  Others who also gave evidence – but contradicted Mr Blair.  That they gave their evidence in a way to protect there own skins is neither here nor there now. Mr Blair is an easy and not much a moving target.

The point is that Mr Blair has already read the Chilcot paragraphs about himself.  He knows the criticisms and by having his people go through the transcripts (the evidence text is on line for anyone to read) he also knows that the general public impression is that the war was bad news and his part in it is condemned by his own people.  That is not Chilcot’s fault.  Most people believed that anyway.

So Mr Blair is going public with his defence anticipating reaction to Chilcot.  Simple as that. It matters not what Chilcot says. In fact most people will never read it. Anyone left who cares wants the Blair Guilty headlines.  We have had them so many times that except for insiders, Chilcot matters not.

You may think Mr Blair is cutting a sad enough figure; then again you may be among those who say he has become a multi millionaire so what’s the problem.  The truth is somewhat deeper.

It is hard to remember sometimes that Mr Blair was not just Iraq.  For example he made his Party electable and since he left office it has never again been so. Tony Blair’s supreme achievement was not teaming up with George W Bush but being a main figure in bringing about a peace settlement in Northern Ireland. There was a string of successes for PM Blair and but for one thing he could today even be on some one’s list of a future Prime Minister returning to rescue a Party that has descended to almost nothing without him. A grand old man of politics. A world statesman.

Instead? Forever in British eyes: Tony Blair is on the run.

Just how dangerous is the world today?

October 10, 2015

christopher_lee180-11

12 October 2015

London

The way it sounds on the networks and the OpEd pages the world is close to WWIII. Syria is on the brink of something although few pundits can say what. Afghanistan is about to go under. A second Intifada is revving up. NATO is sending more troops to the old Soviet borders. Oil is creeping back – a sure sign that no one is in control. Gold is up – a sure sign that a global problem is slipping into crisis status.

But is the world really in such a social and security meltdown? Could it just be that the globe is coping with little local difficulties and not much more? A quick round-up from East to West is in everyone’s interests.

North Korea beloved leader Kim Jong-un said a couple of days ago that his country is easily ready to defend itself if the United States starts trouble. His corps de ballet militaire performed exquisitely in Pyongyang’s main square, jets flew above in tight formation, tanks and full missile carriers rumbled below and Mr Kim made his first public speech in three years. Then they went home. Not even a missile test worth the bang.

China is building artificial islands in South China Sea and America and Japan says they should not and so China has carried on building knowing that no one is going to war over this.

In Sri Lanka the civil war moral tragedy is a matter for the UN but no one is fighting.

To the north, Pakistan and India still disagree over Kashmir, but apart from a few practise shots, no one is going to war over that blunder as once they did.

In Afghanistan, the security mess will get worse, Taliban (Afghanistan) and Taliban (Pakistan) will make inroads, the Americans will deploy troops for longer than expected, but there is nothing going on that suggests a return to the events of the opening decade and a half of this century.

In Africa, there is no way that Libya is on the road to peaceful government but nor is the carnage of just a couple of years back being repeated.

Further south the Boko Haram threat is broadened but not any greater.  The gunmen are on the streets of Guinea but the elections will go ahead as planned.

The UN has 19,000 troops in the Democratic Republic of Congo, 12500 in South Sudan, 12,000 in the Central African Republic and 10,000 in Mali.  Something’s working there in spite of minor conflicts, skirmishes, coups and corruption as a matter of course.

In Europe, there is Ukraine.  Potentially but mostly theoretically, there is a chance of an East West confrontation but not really. Why?  Because in spite of posturing and statements from NATO, the Alliance will not go to the mattresses over Ukraine and Russia bets on this.  There’s nothing doing in the rest of Europe other than a few separatist groups.

Of course there is Syria etc.  Is it so bad in historical warfare terms? Just about. Two years from the original protest in Damascus in March 2011, the deaths had reached 100,000.  That was a landmark figure that continued to multiply and does not look like stopping. Daesh or whatever we are to call the butcher terrorists is all about asymmetric warfare.  It is not state on state and thus, and this is hard to say, not so bad as might have been.

So this very crude audit of world warfare says there is plenty of politics, plenty of $m ordnance being used but not so many killed.

In truth 95% of the world is not at war. Most people have never heard a shot fired in anger. We might think on that as part of the reason that there are no boots on the ground anywhere that matters.

British Bake-Off beats Putin’s Missiles for top Headlines

October 9, 2015

Christopher Lee - photo (1)

9 October 2015

London

The Royal Navy has fired submarine launched cruise missiles in Middle East for some years. The US Navy has maintained an even bigger missile firing operation in the region.  Both the Royal Navy and the US Navy have had sea launched missiles go astray.

So why all the fuss about 18 per cent of Russian cruise missiles fired from the Caspian Sea landing in Iran and not on target?

Obviously it is part of the anxiety to portray President Putin personally as a bandit causing strategic and moral havoc in the Syria conflict.  That is an Okay thing to do.  It has been that way in European warfare ever since October 1415 when Henry V flew his long red banner at Agincourt signifying that no prisoners would be taken – chivalry-speak for guys caught in the middle would be massacred.

That is the case today – without the red banner.

The Russian missile launch was tactically effective, especially those that fell on the IS headquarters at Raqqa. Its triumph was that Putin’s commanders were showing that there is more in their locker than 34 ground attack aircraft that have limited effect.  Moreover, Putin’s decision to put the arm on Belarus to allow Russia to rebuild an airbase in that state facing NATO was a reminder that the military eye-balling that Putin understands more than anything else is still very much on the morning briefing diary of every Western commander, politically as well as military.

At the end of a week that has seen an escalation in the ISPs of the Syria conflict what is new and what is important?

Russia hit IS targets as well anti Assad rebel points including destroying an important CIA communications point in Syria. Syria announced an offensive beefed up with Russian close air support against rebel positions. A low key operational command from Moscow checked out the readiness status of a mechanised infantry brigade in Chechnya should it be needed in Syria as a protection force for Russian bases.

NATO member state Turkey warned that Russian jets were intruding Turkish air space. President Obama said this was bad news and made matters worse. NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg said it was bad news and made matters worse. No one remembers what Prime Minister Cameron said. NATO members promised to increase its rapid reaction capability to 40,000 although no one knew by when, what sort of troops and who would decide both.  Britain said it was sending 100 army trainers to the Eastern Front. Saudi Arabia said it would give more weapons to the anti-Assad Free Syrian Army, Jaysh al-Fatah and Southern Front.

A big news day.  The world’s premier news broadcaster BBC led on the winner of a national baking competition. Maybe that is about right. Most Brits anyway care more about fairy cakes. Most Syrians do not bake. A twitchy Turkish pilot and a wayward Russian one could change that view.

How Did UK-US Intelligence Get It Wrong About Syrian Rebellion

October 2, 2015

 christopher_lee180-11

5 October 2015

London

This week an inquiry begins inside the British Parliament to establish the government’s policy and Syria.  Given the events of the past seven days it is quite possible that no one knows the answer – including Prime Minister Cameron. He will.  But not yet.

Note Well: the inquiry wishes to know what IS the policy rather than what WAS the policy.

Nevertheless, the introduction to the inquiry must first establish the following: why did Britain back the anti-Assad rebellion? Why did Prime Minister Cameron agree so easily to support the rebels that wanted President Assad out?

The inquiry may well provide a question beyond its terms of reference and one that few would have expected to ask a year ago.  It is this:Will Syria turn out to have been Cameron’s dirty dossier war?

The House of Commons Foreign Affairs Committee of all-Party lawmakers starts its inquiry on 8 October. Before the Committee of Members of Parliament will be military and academical witnesses as well as Intelligence evidence.  The base line to the inquiry is simple:

Was the original decision to support anti-Assad rebels taken too quickly and based on poor or even corrupted analysis of Intelligence Assessments?

The original protest against Assad was not heading for civil war – it became war because UK/US promises to back the rebellion

Does the British government now think that the United Kingdom and the USA UK should have left the Syrian protest to come to its own conclusion?

Given the above and the intervention of Russia’s President Putin what today is British policy on Syria?

This is a major evidence taking exercise by the Select Committee under its new chairman, the Conservative MP and former Minister Crispin Blunt.  Blunt has one of the more analytical minds in the Commons.  His Committee is balanced and its members well informed. It will have to be.

Some witnesses will by their established positions declare whatever the circumstances Assad has to go  – just as Tony Blair declared the Gulf War was justified to depose Saddam Hussein – therefore the UK role  against Assad’s forces has been the correct one.

Therefore the Committee must first and foremost discover the original grounds for becoming sponsors of the rebellion and if they were based on sound Intelligence analysis or were they simply teaming up with US policy.

That sorted, the Committee can be in a more reasonable position to judge the UK’s present policy towards Syria.

The present picture suggests something like this:

The UK supported the Syrian rebels without a sound analysis of what was really going on in the protests four and a half years ago and where the rebellion would lead.

The level of a threat by IS was not then a factor, but today it is.

Assad with Russian and more significantly Iranian help is still there even though he has lost much of his territory.

Russia now dominates Western thinking as to what happens next.

So the obvious statement to the Committee is that all that went before was simply that – stuff that went before and now is now.

But we are where we are because of miscalulation and shabby scholarship of Intelligence analysis and broadly speaking the people who made misjudgements and systems that supported them are still advising the same political leaders.

So we should recognise that the attempt to define British Syrian policy is about the same as the countryman’s advice to the bewildered traveller: “To get where you want to go I wouldn’t start from here.”

And there we have the problem. When the Syrian conflict began there was no Putin input that we worried about. Today there is exactly that. In short, Britain has to declare its Syria policy by accepting that it is not certain what it can achieve. Moreover just one military miscalculation could explode that policy.

The Committee’s task is a solemn one therefore. It is not about political point scoring.  It is not about handing out blame.  It is to tell us if our leadership is capable of making the judgements that will cope with what has become an international crises of considerable proportions.

The Prime Minister says the first duty of Government is the security of the nation. The first hope of the nation is that it has government that can deliver on that promise.

The recent record says that may be a false hope.

East v West – The Battleground Is Syria

October 1, 2015

christopher_lee180-11

I October 2015

London

Russia is now at war with America. Let there be no diplomatic illusion. Putin has sent his bombers against American and British supported rebels. That is not even a proxy war. That action is a straight forward confrontation.

Putin is saying there are once more two, not one, superpowers. The Russian’s measure might in sheer military terms. There is more to come.

Talks in New York last night to make sure there is no miscalculation between USAF jets and Russian Air Force operations in Syria is nothing to do with good military practice.  Russia and America are on different sides.

The New York talks were in reality Russia telling America to stay out of Putin’s way and his determination to destroy US-UK backed rebels and for the moment, to keep Assad in power.

Whitehall is already asking what next does it do?

What happens for example when an RAF Intelligence gathering drone is brought down?

In Washington they are asking what military response does the President authorise when the anti-Assad rebels demand that the US stops Russian attacks on their forces now heading for the Assad held territory of Western Syria.

There is no way that Obama can authorise a combat air patrol over over the rebels. The next stage to that, by miscalculation or commission, is a shooting war over Syria. You don’t have to blink to imagine what that will lead to.

The military sandbox scenario is simple: Russia bombs rebels. Russia tells America and anyone else on the anti-Assadl side including Australia, France and the UK to stay out of the area because Putin is operating an emergency war to keep Assad in power.

If the USAF does not obey Putin what are the possibilities of a mistake or a retaliation?  The answer is High.

Or for students of Machiavelli is there an even darker story here?

Could this be the dangerous game in Syria: the US has decided that the rebels should be abandoned? Why would they do that? Answer: it is the only way in which they could end the war.

The Whitehall and Washington have concluded rebels in power will mean another Libya and the USA will be seen as the power that brought that about.  Worse still, the US and allies will have to maintain what could so easily become a blood-letting regime on the Syrian throne.

So let Russia successfully defend Assad, then let the Syria leader stay in power until a new leadership is established – not from the rebels but from people already in Assad’s palace. The next stage would be to go for IS.

The whole thinking in Washington and London is flawed.  It takes no account of Putin’s own plan. Like all Russian leaders from Tsarist times, through the history of the USSR to this century, Putin does not trust the idea of alliance. This is his war and as far as he thinks he is winning.

President Putin asks this question of his analysts: Does America abandon the rebels? Does America just want a deal in a war it cannot win because it cannot guarantee the outcome?  They tell him what he already thinks: America wants out.

What does he do next? Bomb more rebels.  Keep them out of Assad’s backyard. Lead a coalition against IS positions. Do a better job of occupation than his Soviet predecessors did in Egypt before they were kicked out in the early 1970s. Accept the idea of a partitioned Syria.

There is another plus: tell the US to stand back and Iran will like that. The rest of the world will nod wisely. Another Washington foul-up.

So Putin believes he’s on a roll.  The Military Mo is with him. He could be right.

This is all high military and political drama but let us not forget it all means more misery for the 7 million or so displaced Syrians.  The war ain’t over for generations to come.

Has Obama, Cameron & Co Underestimated Putin Again?

September 27, 2015

christopher_lee180-11

27 September 2015

New York

Putin is a dangerous ex-KGB bodybuilder who plans to knock over as many democracies as possible and if not rule the world then say how it should be ruled.

That is the mix of mocking and alarm bell ringing image put about by Washington and London and their client states such President Poroshenko’s Ukraine. Whereas London, Washington and the coffee morning gathering that runs the Western Alliance, NATO have the true masterplan to peace, prosperity and the eventual downfall of the leader of modern Russia.

The slight problem of it all is that when Putin ordered the taking of Crimea the West posted bare back and chested pictures of horse riding Putin and told him him to get out of Crimea and East Ukraine. The West’s Make My Day Punk plan did not work.  Putin put on his shirt and doubled the deployment.  The West did nothing about that.  Putin has already assessed that they would not. Obama, Cameron et al did not mention the subject again.

Then President Putin started loading its port facility in Syria and took over the main airbase south of Latikia.  Now at the UN General Assembly Putin (during his first visit in ten years – he does not need the UN) said the deal is that we all back Assad, bin and deals with the rebels and then go for IS in Syria.

The Western punditry, echoed by London and Washington leaders said Putin should wind in his military neck, get out of Syria and forget any deals with Assad.  Now there is an idea that Putin is right but no one can say so.

Today the plan is looking something like this:

The West has long realised that it should never have backed the Syrian Free Army etc but cannot say so.

The West should never have rushed in to the anti-Assad camp without thinking through the strategic end game. Putin did think it through.

Putin’s Russia has long been an ally of Assad and knows from decades of fighting rebel forces, especially in Chechnya, that backing Assad’s enemies was a mug’s game.

Now we have squeaky briefings in Whitehall and here at the United Nations that Assad can stay for a while but should agree to go eventually and that zapping IS should be the main effort.  The French have started.  The Australians are in on it.  The British have done so and will do more and the Americans are leading the way.

No one of course will put boots on the ground. No one that is other than the Russians. Russia is now running the show and the West is playing a dangerous catch-up.

There are three reasons for this change of tune and tactic by the Western coalition:

1  Bad Intelligence four years back made them back the wrong horse and they are only just realising that.

2  Secondly (and reluctantly) they are privately saying that Putin’s game could be the surest bet

3  Thirdly (and most significantly) there is every evidence that IS is beatable thanks to a combination of better Intelligence gathering, drone reconnaissance and attack and the fortitude and bravery of Kurdish Peshmerga fighters

What does this tell us today at the UN?

Firstly, Western Intelligence analysis four years back of what was going on in Syrian and the likely outcome was a failure.  (They should have listened to Sitrep on BFBS Radio – that programme has consistently got it right!)

Secondly, Putin may not have been right but his crude opportunism was based on what was possible and now he is looking right and although they will not say so Western governments know this

Thirdly, Syria is not a single example of Western failure to get Intelligence analysis right. Western assessment of what was happening in Libya, Egypt, Iraq, Yemen and Syria? All wrong.

When the critics of what goes down here at the UN blame the United Nations then they should think again.  It is not the UN that is consistently wrong.  The misjudgements are to be laid at the doors of foreign policy analysts who are either failures or who cannot overcome the preconceptions of political leaders too busy to think through the jumble of reality and possibility.

The shorthand for that is that Western leadership (the French and Germans are honourable exceptions) for all their assets are not up to the task of the management – never mind the crisis management – of today’s world.

Putin may be loaded with all the terrible characteristics our leaderships say he is but so far he has out thought them by sticking with the basics of Intelligence and Opportunity Assessment: it is easy to assess capability it is then the hard job of assessing intentions of an enemy and opportunities to exploit the current situation. So far at least, Putin is ahead of the game.

Il Papa, Putin, Obama – A Word In Your Ears

September 20, 2015

christopher_lee180-11

21 September 2015. London

Today is the United Nations Day of Peace. It is the day the Secretary General says “stop the killings and the destruction, and create space for lasting peace.”  What Secretary General Ban Ki-moon would like to see is an end to the 16 big wars in the world (each with about 10,000 deaths a year) and the 22 minor wars (each with about 1000 killings a year).

The UN says it would be a good idea to halt the wars during this Day of Peace. Maybe the nearly 40 states or factions at war do not get the Secretary General’s Good Luck Peace cards.

But in one particular area of conflict, Syria, there is at least public demonstration of trying for a fix – however unlikely that is. Because this week, the world goes to New York and the General Assembly of the United Nations. It is the time when heads of government give speeches to the UN.  They talk of rights and wrongs.

On Friday Vatican flag will fly outside UN Headquarters, an unusual event because the Vatican is not a member of the UN. It is there on the day that the Pope will speak to the 180 or so delegates on his mood for peace, his hope for a world without hunger and his belief that it is possible for sides bitterly opposed to come together. It is more than a Have A Nice Day speech. The influence of the Holy Father should never be underrated – even Nikita Khrushchev admitted that after papal intervention in the 1962 Cuban Missile Crisis.

But the focus at the end of this week is on the seemingly intractable moment of the civil war in Syria.

The man with considerable influence who will be most carefully listened to is President Vladimir Putin of Russia. He has, or so we are led to believe, a plan to change the course of the war and to set a proper battle against IS – all in one.

Putin thinks he understands the weakness of the so-called Western Position. He believes that some allies of the United States are coming round to the idea that under America’s bidding they were too eager to jump into the war against Assad.  He believes that after four years bloodletting allies of the US believe that the rebel leaders are not to be trusted, that there is not unquestionable common leadership among them and that should they ever overthrow Assad then little would achieved but another Libya.

Putin on the other hand is building a military stronghold in Syria in support of Assad that has not been seen since the Soviet Union in the 1970s had a similar arrangement with the Egypt of the then President, Anwar Sadat.  The fact that the pact broke down and that the Soviet Union troops were told to leave matters not in the existing circumstance.  Putin is in.  Without him and Iran, Assad would be done for.

Mr Putin’s outline for his speech at the UN is that it would be best to support Assad and then bend a combined force against IS.  That could even, initially, mean Assad falling back on the Western Provinces of Syria, regrouping and then with a combined land-air operation for IS. Putin’s generals even see this as a combined operation with the counter-IS conflicy in Iraq.

The present state of US and UK thinking plus the support of other allies including Australia that has joined the bombing campaign against Assad’s forces is that it would be an unacceptable about face. It is not even certain that American President Obama will meet with Putin.

It might be remembered that the coming weekend in New York is a major part of the 70th anniversary of the signing of the UN Charter. Putin, who has not visited the UN General Assembly for ten years, understands the symbolism of the event. It will give him an opportunity to grandstand his plan (at home as well as abroad) and with it he hopes to get some of the adverse diplomatic and world opinion of his back.

Putin believes his master plan is such an obvious solution to the Syrian war. He understands also that the war is part of the great scheme to realign the 20the century origins of the Middle East and now the imagery of Sunni versus Shia. In this case Putin supposes  the whole region is used to surviving by undated compromise and volte face and therefore his position has more support than publicly demonstrated.

In short, we may not see the results of public and backstairs meeting at the end of this week. But it will not be a time to write off those rarely understood meetings in the margins that mean so much at the General Assembly.

Putin will need credible allies and so far there is none. Putin’s people have hoped to put together meeting with someone they may just rate more than Barak Obama on this occasion.  Putin wants the support of the Pope.

The Pope will be briefly at the UN.  But the Pope is not going to get involved in a very possible public failure in such a tragedy that plays in Syria.  The Pope will speak on Friday. Putin is due to arrive on Sunday.  The Pope will not wait for the Russian President. All a macabre political gavotte? Maybe. But the reality is that somewhere between them all is the start of an effort get people talking in this dreadful war.  Could be we should be watching the mood at the UN by the end of this week. It’ll not be a mundane General Assembly.

Putin Moves Into Syria – The War Just Got Worse

September 6, 2015

christopher_lee180-11

6 September 2015. London.

Russian advisers and equipment are moving into Syria on an increased scale.  Intelligence agencies in Washington, London and Paris suggest the evidence of this move is now documented.

British Prime Minister David Cameron wants his UK air force to join in on bombing raids against President Bashar al-Assad ground forces, airfields and communications centres.

American air forces have been active for some time.

Has any one in London or Washington worked out the consequences of an UK or American guided system knocking out a Russian unit?  Sorry may not be enough.

We cannot write off such an incident as miscalculation especially with President Putin in his usual Make My Day mood.

Miscalculations start proper wars. The 4 year old Syrian conflict is a brush fire compared with what could follow the knocking out of Russian hardware & operational forces.

Russian intervention in Syria is not new. Russia along with Iran for different reasons has supported President Assad since the war against rebels began.  But the latest intervention is different.  Electronic, photographic and Human Intelligence sources now combine to show that Russian force protection units have been sent to a Syrian airfield.

The purpose of the units is to protect Russian armoured assets and a full air traffic control operation. This is not an in-out Russian operation.  Satellite monitoring shows that accommodation blocks including a medical unit have also been airlifted in.

The general operational conclusion is that the Russians have taken command of the airbase to begin further weapon deployments and even strike aircraft.

If you want to really get scared about Russian involvement then listen to what President Putin had to say on 4 September. It is “premature” to talk about Moscow getting involved in direct fighting.  That was not Putin saying the reports were rubbish.  That was Putin saying watch this space.

Unless Putin is about to change sides, then Prime Minister Cameron will have to answer this simple question when he goes to the Commons for permission to bomb Syria: “Does he want permission to bomb ALL pro-Assad forces? US Secretary of State John Kerry knows this.  That’s why he’s spending time this weekend talking to Russia’s Foreign Minister Lavrov.

Cameron who has displayed little tactical or strategic understanding of the use of force and the long term consequence has a problem

One of his Brimstone missiles into the wrong armoured personnel carrier in Syria could start the rollout of an even harsher conflict in Northern Europe. According to some of his former military advisers, Cameron’s past view is that the military job is to go fight when he tells them to. Best listen very closely Mr Cameron.

And perhaps the House should listen if the British chairman of the Commons Foreign Affairs Committee Crispin Blunt (who does understand these things)  asks his PM for a target list when legislators debate airstrikes in the coming weeks.

Christopher Lee

September 9, 2013

Image

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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