It appears that American military forces are now in Syria, and have been there since before the recent alleged chemical attack by the regime of Bashar al-Assad. As happened in Libya two years ago, foreign troops — in this case, Americans, Israelis, and Jordanians — have been secretly inserted into the country to train the rebels and assist them in overthrowing the regime.
This is the scenario put forward by Le Figaro, in an article translated from the French:
Syria: Anti-Assad operation has begun
By Isabelle Lasserre
According to our information, the regime’s opponents, supervised by Jordanian, Israeli and American commandos, have been moving towards Damascus since mid-August. This attack could explain the possible recourse to chemical weapons by the Syrian president.
If it is still too early to categorically rule out the argument put forward by Damascus and Moscow, who blame the massacre on the Syrian opposition, it is already possible to provide answers to a troubling question: What benefit would Assad have realized by launching an unconventional attack at the precise moment he had to allow UN inspectors — after being held up for several months — to investigate the use of chemical weapons?
First of all, operational logic. According to information obtained by Le Figaro, the first contingent of Syrian troops trained in guerrilla warfare by the Americans in Jordan have reportedly been sent into action since mid-August in southern Syria, in the region of Deraa. A first group of 300 men, undoubtedly supported by Israeli and Jordanian commandos, as well as by CIA operatives, crossed the border on August 17. A second was to have joined on the 19th. According to military sources, for several months the Americans, who do not want to put troops on the Syrian soil, nor arm any rebels controlled in part by radical Islamists, quietly assembled handpicked ASL fighters, the Free Syrian Army, in a training camp set up at the Jordanian-Syrian border.
Sense of impunity
During the summer their protégés have begun to push against Syrian battalions in the south, approaching the capital. “Their impact would now be felt in the Ghouta, where formations of the FSA were already at work, but really can make a difference on the outskirts of the fortifications of Damascus,” says David Rigoulet-Roze, a researcher at the French Institute for Strategic Analysis (IFAS).
According to this expert on the region, the idea proposed by Washington would be the possible establishment of a buffer zone separating the south of Syria, or even a no-fly zone, which would permit the opposition to train in complete security until the balance of power changes. This is the reason why the United States deployed Patriot batteries and F16s in Jordan in late June.
Recent military pressure exerted against al-Ghouta threatens the capital Damascus, the heart of the Syrian regime. In July the spokesman for President al-Assad publicly stated that the regime would not use chemical weapons in Syria “except in case of external aggression.” The intrusion of foreign agents into the south, for example…
The other reason, assuming the army actually perpetrated a chemical massacre in Damascus, is more diplomatic in nature. Since August, 2012, when Barack Obama warned that the use of chemical weapons was a “red line” that, once crossed, could trigger a military intervention, thirteen smaller chemical attack have been identified without causing any American reaction. Admittedly, the evidence is difficult to obtain, since Damascus routinely blocks the work of UN investigators. The sense of impunity felt by the Syrian regime is reinforced by the Russian protection afforded in the UN Security Council. Upon entering the White House, Barack Obama had proposed a “reset” of relations with the Kremlin, and did not want to break the link with Moscow. The Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Martin Dempsey, the president’s principal military adviser, justifies his opposition to intervention, even a limited one, by the fragmented Syrian opposition and the influence exerted by extremist groups.
What are the options?
If the Syrian regime is actually behind the chemical attack in Damascus, it will require a further escalation in a conflict that has already claimed more than 100,000 lives. “This is more of a small-scale test, as before. Chemical weapons are now part of the war, where they play a deterrent role. This is a message to the Americans. It is also a challenge to Barack Obama, who risks the loss of America’s legitimacy with its allies in the world,” says an expert analysis of the situation.
Along with clandestine operations from Jordanian soil, the international community, every time the crisis reaches a new peak, reconsiders the various military options. Arming the rebels? “If it is to be done one day, no one will say so,” said a diplomatic source. Surgical air strikes? Possibly, but that solution would risk extending the conflict to the entire region. Special forces to secure and neutralize chemical weapons sites? Israel has hit neighboring Syria repeatedly. But Western intelligence services did not want to risk the possibility that stocks of chemical weapons may fall into the hands of jihadist groups. Final option: inaction. That seems to be what Bashar al-Assad has bet on in Damascus.
Hat tip: JD.