United States will hit Syria in 72 hours, says Pentagon source
The Pentagon has expanded its possible plans to attack against Syria, which now include a strong round of missile fire. This attack will last for three days and will come both from the sea and from the air, reports the newspaper Los Angeles Times.
“There will be different rounds of attacks and an evaluation after each, but all within 72 hours and with a clear idea of what has been done,” said a military official to the American newspaper. The source requested anonymity in exchange for discussing the new plans.
Thus, it appears that the U.S. is expected to carry out an attack with even more intensity than it was first admitted. It will also intends to have a greater impact on the forces of the regime of Bashar al-Assad, which have been dispersed in recent weeks trying to stop US-backed terrorists from attacking Christians in Syria.
In principle, the US moved five destroyers to a location east of the Mediterranean which are loaded with Tomohawk missiles that would be used to bomb military targets in Syria.
However, the Pentagon now included, among the possible scenarios, employing B-2 B-2 and B-52 bombers from the American Air Force to complement these attacks.
According to reports, the White House requested an extension in the number of targets last week and now there are way more than the 50 identified in the first list.
This information was made public after the U.S. President Barack Obama and senior administration officials tried to pressure the Democratic and Republican lawmakers to support a military intervention of “limited” scope in Syria in response to the alleged use of chemical by the Bashar al-Assad regime.
Obama will now offer a series of morning TV interviews to emphasize the importance of attacking Syria and on Tuesday he will deliver a speech to the nation in which he will officially announce his intention to bomb Syria for one last time.
The president has asked Congress for permission to order to attack, but at the moment most Congressmen and women remain skeptic about the military intervention .
The deadly violence percolating half a world away in Syria and the warnings of a possible U.S. attack have some people not only looking ahead to what might happen in the coming days — but also looking backward into ancient, apocalyptic prophecies in the pages of the Old Testament. In recent weeks, some dire prophecies have turned up on websites, in book stores, as the subject of Bible studies and in sermons by some Christians and others who see a link between the old passages and modern-day events in Egypt, Libya and Syria. ”Behold, Damascus is about to be removed from being a city, and will become a fallen ruin,” reads Isaiah 17, a passage some Christians say they believe details a horrific event that leaves the city uninhabitable and leads to worldwide tribulation and the second coming of Christ.
Damascus is the Syrian capital and one of the world’s oldest cities. Another passage in Isaiah 19 deals with civil war in Egypt and the rise of a “fierce king.” Talk of those prophecies has intensified as President Barack Obama considers a U.S. military strike on Syria in response to what Washington says is evidence that the Syrian leadership used chemical weapons against its own people. In turn, Syria vows to retaliate against neighboring Israel if the U.S. strikes. ”The prophecies are not new to our group because we do (Bible) studies every Friday night. We have looked at that prophecy, but one of the things I try not to do is make a big assumption. That can be dangerous,” said Pastor Gary Cristofaro of the First Assembly of God in Melbourne. “We try to find balance by immersing ourselves in prophecy rather than being affected by it.” ”The situation in Syria as it relates to scripture could be something that we’re witnessing, but we should be cautious. What prophecy really is about is the faithfulness of God’s word.” More
ISLAMABAD (AP) — Militants in Pakistan’s most populous province are said to be training for what they expect will be an ethnic-based civil war in neighboring Afghanistan after foreign forces withdraw in 16 months, according to analysts and a senior militant. In the past two years the number of Punjab-based militants deploying to regions bordering on Afghanistan has tripled and is now in the thousands, says analyst Mansur Mehsud. He runs the FATA Institute, an Islamabad-based think tank studying the mix of militant groups that operate in Pakistan’s tribal belt running along much of the 2,600-kilometer (1,600-mile) Afghan-Pakistan border. Mehsud, himself from South Waziristan where militants also hide out, says more than 150 militant groups operate in the tribal regions, mostly in mountainous, heavily forested North Waziristan. Dotted with hideouts, it is there that Al Qaida leader Ayman al-Zawahri is thought by the U.S. to be hiding, and where Afghanistan says many of its enemies have found sanctuary. While militants from Punjab province have long sought refuge and training in the tribal regions, they were fewer in number and confined their hostility to Pakistan’s neighbor and foe, India. All that is changing, say analysts. ”Before, they were keeping a low profile. But just in the last two or three years hundreds have been coming from Punjab,” said Mehsud. “Everyone knows that when NATO and the American troops leave Afghanistan there will be fighting between Pashtuns and non-Pashtuns.”
And the Punjabi militants will side with the Afghan Taliban, who are mostly Pashtun, Afghanistan’s dominant ethnic group and the majority ethnic group in Pakistan’s northwest region that borders Afghanistan. Like many in the Taliban, the Punjabi militants share a radical and regressive interpretation of Islam. ”We will go to Afghanistan to fight alongside the Taliban as we have done in the past,” said a senior member of the Lashkar-e-Jhangvi (LeJ), a militant Sunni Muslim group, who goes by a nom de guerre, Ahmed Zia Siddiqui. In an interview with The Associated Press in Pakistan, he said the Taliban haven’t yet requested help, but when asked whether Punjab-based militants were preparing for war in Afghanistan after the foreign withdrawal, he replied: “Absolutely.” Despite being outlawed in Pakistan, Siddiqui’s group is among the most active and violent, providing a cadre of suicide bombers for attacks both in Pakistan and in Afghanistan. It has taken responsibility for dozens of attacks that have killed hundreds of minority Shiites in Pakistan. It has also been implicated in some of the most spectacular attacks in Pakistan, including the 2008 bombing of a five-star hotel in the capital and an assassination attempt on former dictator and U.S. ally Gen. Pervez Musharraf. Zahid Hussain, whose books plot the rise of militancy in Pakistan, said at least two dozen militant groups are headquartered in Punjab province, while in Waziristan their numbers are growing as mainstream religious parties such as Jamaat-e-Islami recruit young men to the militant cause. ”Even if a settlement occurs in Afghanistan there are still a lot who will continue to fight and those who are most likely to resist a settlement are Pakistani militants,” Hussain said. He said that during a recent trip he made to North Waziristan, local tribesmen spoke of the influx of Punjab-based militants into their area. Foreign journalists are not allowed in the tribal regions. Pakistan’s new elected civilian government has promised a strategy to tackle the militants whose actions, says Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, are a scourge that has killed upward of 40,000 Pakistanis in recent years. In a televised speech last month, he lamented Pakistan’s inability “to restrict the culprits or even identify them, to spot their hideouts and take them to task.”
“Pakistan cannot tolerate this anymore,” he said. While Sharif suggested that “incompetence or insensitiveness” were to blame, analysts accuse the government of lacking the political will to go after the militants. They say Sharif’s conservative Pakistan Muslim League rules Punjab province, where militant headquarters are easy to spot and are left undisturbed. In the south Punjab city of Bahawalpur, the al-Qaida linked Jaish-e-Mohammed is expanding its headquarters and building bigger religious schools for its adherents, said Ayesha Saddiqa, a defense analyst from Bahawalpur. The militant group has radicalized locals, and its leader, Azhar Masood, freed from an Indian jail in 1999 in exchange for a hijacked Indian Airlines plane, moves about freely, she said. Punjab “is infested with numerous jihadi outfits that support the Taliban based in the tribal areas from time to time,” said Saddiqa. “The Punjabi jihadis are critical of the war in Afghanistan and Western presence in the region. This is not just an objection to foreign presence in a Muslim country but is part of a larger war they hope to fight in establishing supremacy of Islam according to their interpretation and imagination.” Omar Hamid Khan, the Interior Ministry spokesman, says violence has escalated since the Sharif government took office in June, with 68 attacks in 60 days. In a recent interview he acknowledged the difficulties the new government faces in meeting its stated goals of creating a counter-terrorism authority and competent police force, and finding experts to translate its national security blueprint into action. Dr. Simbal Khan, a regional security expert with the Islamabad Policy Research Institute in Islamabad, said Pakistan doesn’t want to see Afghanistan return to the 1990s, when civil war destroyed the country and gave rise to the repressive Taliban regime which in turn strengthened Pakistan’s militants. Yet Pakistan’s options are few, and according to Dr. Khan exclude an all-out assault on militant hideouts in Punjab that would turn the full force of militancy against Pakistan. ”We know where they are. We could bomb the whole area, flatten it. That would solve Afghanistan’s problem but what would that leave for us?” she asked. “We might solve the Afghan problem but our problem would be far worse. We would suffer for the next 40 years.” Associated Press
There has been a 60 per cent increase in the amount of ocean covered with ice compared to this time last year, they equivalent of almost a million square miles. In a rebound from 2012′s record low an unbroken ice sheet more than half the size of Europe already stretches from the Canadian islands to Russia’s northern shores, days before the annual re-freeze is even set to begin. The Northwest Passage from the Atlantic to the Pacific has remained blocked by pack-ice all year, forcing some ships to change their routes. A leaked report to the UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) seen by the Mail on Sunday, has led some scientists to claim that the world is heading for a period of cooling that will not end until the middle of this century. If correct, it would contradict computer forecasts of imminent catastrophic warming.
The news comes several years after the BBC predicted that the arctic would be ice-free by 2013. Despite the original forecasts, major climate research centres now accept that there has been a “pause” in global warming since 1997. The original predictions led to billions being invested in green measures to combat the effects of climate change. The change in the predictions has led to UN’s climate change’s body holding a crisis meeting, and the the IPCC was due to report on the situation in October. A pre-summit meeting will be held later this month. But leaked documents show that governments who fund the IPCC are demanding 1,500 changes to the Fifth Assessment Report – a three-volume study issued every six or seven years – as they claim its current draft does not properly explain the pause. The extent to which temperatures will rise with carbon dioxide levels, as well as how much of the warming over the past 150 year, a total of 0.8C, is down to human greenhouse gas emissions are key issues. The IPCC says it is “95 per cent confident” that global warming has been caused by humans – up from 90 per cent in 2007 – according to the draft report. However, US climate expert Professor Judith Curry has questioned how this can be true as that rather than increasing in confidence, “uncertainty is getting bigger” within the academic community. Long-term cycles in ocean temperature, she said, suggest the world may be approaching a period similar to that from 1965 to 1975, when there was a clear cooling trend. At the time some scientists forecast an imminent ice age. Professor Anastasios Tsonis, of the University of Wisconsin, said: ‘We are already in a cooling trend, which I think will continue for the next 15 years at least. There is no doubt the warming of the 1980s and 1990s has stopped.” The IPCC is said to maintain that their climate change models suggest a pause of 15 years can be expected. Other experts agree that natural cycles cannot explain all of the recorded warming. The Telegraph
On the day Bennie Coleman lost his house, the day armed U.S. marshals came to his door and ordered him off the property, he slumped in a folding chair across the street and watched the vestiges of his 76 years hauled to the curb. Movers carted out his easy chair, his clothes, his television. Next came the things that were closest to his heart: his Marine Corps medals and photographs of his dead wife, Martha. The duplex in Northeast Washington that Coleman bought with cash two decades earlier was emptied and shuttered. By sundown, he had nowhere to go. All because he didn’t pay a $134 property tax bill.The retired Marine sergeant lost his house on that summer day two years ago through a tax lien sale — an obscure program run by D.C. government that enlists private investors to help the city recover unpaid taxes.For decades, the District placed liens on properties when homeowners failed to pay their bills, then sold those liens at public auctions to mom-and-pop investors who drew a profit by charging owners interest on top of the tax debt until the money was repaid.
But under the watch of local leaders, the program has morphed into a predatory system of debt collection for well-financed, out-of-town companies that turned $500 delinquencies into $5,000 debts — then foreclosed on homes when families couldn’t pay, a Washington Post investigation found.As the housing market soared, the investors scooped up liens in every corner of the city, then started charging homeowners thousands in legal fees and other costs that far exceeded their original tax bills, with rates for attorneys reaching $450 an hour. Families have been forced to borrow or strike payment plans to save their homes.Others weren’t as lucky. Tax lien purchasers have foreclosed on nearly 200 houses since 2005 and are now pressing to take 1,200 more, many owned free and clear by families for generations.Investors also took storefronts, parking lots and vacant land — about 500 properties in all, or an average of one a week. In dozens of cases, the liens were less than $500.Coleman, struggling with dementia, was among those who lost a home. His debt had snowballed to $4,999 — 37 times the original tax bill. Not only did he lose his $197,000 house, but he also was stripped of the equity because tax lien purchasers are entitled to everything, trumping even mortgage companies.“This is destroying lives,” said Christopher Leinberger, a distinguished scholar and research professor of urban real estate at George Washington University.Officials at the D.C. Office of Tax and Revenue said that without tax sales, property owners wouldn’t feel compelled to pay their bills.“The tax sale is the last resort. It’s also the first resort — it’s the only way in the statute to collect debt,” said deputy chief financial officer Stephen Cordi.But the District, a hotbed for the tax lien industry, has done little to shield its most vulnerable homeowners from unscrupulous operators.Foreclosures have upended families in some of the city’s most distressed neighborhoods. Houses were taken from a housekeeper, a department store clerk, a seamstress and even the estates of dead people.
The hardest hit: elderly homeowners, who were often sick or dying when tax lien purchasers seized their houses.One 65-year-old flower shop owner lost his Northwest Washington home of 40 years after a company from Florida paid his back taxes — $1,025 — and then took the house through foreclosure while he was in hospice, dying of cancer. A 95-year-old church choir leader lost her family home to a Maryland investor over a tax debt of $44.79 while she was struggling with Alzheimer’s in a nursing home.Other cities and states took steps to curb abuses, such as capping the fees, safeguarding houses owned by the elderly or scrapping tax sales altogether and instead collecting the money themselves.“Where is the justice? They’re taking people’s lives,” said Beverly Smalls, whose elderly aunt lost her home in Northeast Washington. “It’s just not right.” More
The new Iranian foreign minister Mohamad Javad Zarif parroted Tehran’s repeated threat that a US attack on Syria would “ignite a fire across the Middle East,” on his arrival in Baghdad Sunday. Iraqi foreign minister Hoshyar Zebari pledged that his government would not permit any party to use Iraqi territory to attack Syria. Debka
In a move to intensify its defense near the Syrian border, Turkey has deployed additional troops and more weapons to the country’s southeast. Earlier this week, Turkey sent reinforcement to the south amid Washington’s calls for a military strike on Syria. The Turkish military dispatched additional units to Suruc, located in the southern province of Sanlıurfa, on Sunday, Today’s Zaman reported. According to the report, semi-trailer trucks loaded with armored vehicles and tanks were sent midday from a command post in the southeastern city of Gaziantep. Local newspaper Hurriyet also reported on Sunday that Turkish fighter jets conducted a patrol flight over the Syrian border due to “increased activity” in the area. Automated firing units using Stinger missiles for very short range air defenses have been set up on top of a high hill on the Syrian border town of Yayladagi in Hatay province, Reuters reported, citing a witness who said that the defense system’s radar was active. Over the past week, Turkey also moved convoys of military vehicles carrying equipment and personnel between its bases near the southeastern border. Reinforcement units were sent on Wednesday from a military command in the southern province of Gaziantep to Kilis province, located on the Syrian border. On Thursday, additional convoys of military units, weapons, and vehicles were also dispatched to the southern province of Hatay.
Turkish armed forces have also begun to establish a new base on the top of Kel Mountain, adjacent to the Syrian coastal city of Latakia, according to Hurriyet. Military equipment, which was carried by trucks for two days from the Yayladağı district to the southern Hatay province, is being assembled on top of the mountain. It remains unclear what prompted the decision to send reinforcements to the border, as neither the Turkish military nor the Ministry of Defense were available to provide comment to Reuters. Local media speculated that the move could be related to a Tuesday accident which occurred when a package of live ammunition exploded while being smuggled into Turkey. Six people were killed at the border. It has been also suggested by the media that the additional troops will be the first to respond to a possible strike by Syria. But in his recent statement, Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan reiterated that Turkey – which has been openly supporting the rebel opposition – was ready to take part in any international coalition against Syria. ”Whether it would be as an opposing force or supplying forces to provide logistical support, all this would be determined by circumstances,” Erdogan said on Sunday. Turkey has been bolstering security along the 900km (560 mile) border with Syria over the past year. Meanwhile, US Congress is set to debate whether to give a green light for military intervention after President Barack Obama proposed limited strikes in response to what Washington insists was the use of chemical weapons by the Assad regime against Syrian civilians. RT
Barack Obama-backed Syrian rebel terrorists this week have dismembered a girl while she was alive along with other similar atrocities in a Christian village in Syria, according to Russia Today. Hit-and-run attacks on the ancient village of Maaloula, one of the few places in the world where residents still speak “the original language of Christ,” Aramaic, has intensified fears among Syria’s religious minorities about the growing role of U.S.-backed rebel extremists among those fighting to topple President Bashar al-Assad’s regime.. President Barack Obama has aimed to topple Assad with support from Congress and the public, first using US-backed rebels to create atrocities and chaos, blame Assad, and then target assassinate Assad with air strikes, according to news reports. Obama has used the CIA to kickstart atrocities in Syria, as 12 former military and intelligence officers revealed on Saturday. This is how Obama wormed his way into Libya and started an illegal war of aggression there, without Congressional approval or even debate.
In the latest widely circulated news, Obama-backed rebels decapitated and committed other atrocities on Christians in hit and run attacks in Maaloula. A video widely published has depicted Syrians injured and killed by chemicals that Obama unjustifiably claims was the work of Assad and his army. Over 100,000 people have been killed, with nearly 7 million uprooted from their homes. U.N. officials estimate 5 million Syrians have been displaced and another 2 million have fled to neighboring countries. The total amounts to almost a third of Syria’s population, that was 23 million before fighting began. U.N. humanitarian chief Valerie Amos met with Syrian government officials, lobbying for access to civilians trapped in areas where fighting has raged. After that meeting with the president of the Syrian Arab Red Crescent, Amos told the Associated Press that she is “extremely concerned that the situation on the ground is becoming worse.” Rather than offering real humanitarian aid, Obama is offering to bomb the country, his brand of “humanitarianism.” Mother Agnes, a catholic nun living in Syria 20 years and reporting on the war-ravaged country, has carefully studied the video featuring alleged victims of chemical weapons attack in the Syrian village of Guta in August. She questions its authenticity. Rather than blaming Syrian’s government for terrorist atrocities across Syria, Mother Agnes blames the United States and Obama-backed Syrian Rebels. Atrocities and other human rights violations being carried out by the rebels, including dismembering a live young Syrian girl, far outweight any type of actions by Assad-backed Syrian government forces, according to Mother Agnes. This reflects exactly what happened in Libya where US abuses were far worse than what Gadhafi allegedly did. ”When a well-packaged web of lies has been sold gradually to the masses over generations, the truth will seem utterly preposterous and its speaker a raving lunatic,” best-selling author and television writer Dresden James has said. Teresa Stover’s words are also poignant today, as Obama-backed rebels attack innocent Syrians in the worse ways to gain support for him to take over Syria and the gas pipeline there for Israel: Understand that all battles are waged on an unconscious level before they are begun on the conscious one, and this battle is no different. The power structure wishes us to believe that the only options available are those which they present to us, we know this is simply not true, and therefore we must redefine the terrain of this conflict, and clearly, it is a conflict of worldviews and agendas. Examiner.com
Former U.S. intelligence analysts claim current intelligence analysts have told them Syrian President Bashar al-Assad was not responsible for the Aug. 21 poison gas attack on the outskirts of Damascus, Syria, which killed 1,429 people, of whom more than 400 where children. They claim the “growing body of evidence” reveals the incident was a pre-planned provocation by the Syrian opposition and its Saudi and Turkish supporters. “The aim is reported to have been to create the kind of incident that would bring the United States into the war,” one former U.S. intelligence analysts said. The analysts referred to a meeting a week before the Aug. 21 incident in which opposition military commanders ordered preparations for an “imminent escalation” due to a “war-changing development” that would be followed by the “U.S.-led bombing of Syria.” In addition, the former U.S. analysts said that Israel welcomed limited U.S. military action but not so much that it would strengthen rebel groups, which are “increasingly dominated by Sunni jihadis.” In an open memorandum to U.S. President Barack Obama, who is contemplating a strike on Syria’s military in response to this incident, members of the Veteran Intelligence Professionals for Sanity, or VIPS, said that even British officials are aware that it wasn’t al-Assad who committed the atrocity.
The British Parliament recently voted not to engage British military forces, even though British Prime Minister David Cameron sought such an endorsement in support of the Obama administration. Following the vote, Cameron said there would be no British participation in any military action against the Syrian government. The veteran former U.S. intelligence analysts who remain in contact with current U.S. intelligence officials said they believe Obama wasn’t informed in order to preserve “plausible denial.” Formed in January 2003, VIPS is a group of current and former U.S. intelligence community officials. Members include analysts from CIA, the State Department’s Intelligence Bureau, or INR, and the Defense Intelligence Agency. Those signing the memorandum were Thomas Drake, former senior executive of the National Security Agency; Philip Giraldi, retired Central Intelligence Agency officer; Matthew Hoh, former Marine Corps captain with experience in Iraq and Afghanistan; Larry Johnson, retired CIA and State Department official; W. Patrick Lang, former senior executive and Defense Intelligence Officer; David MacMichael, who was on the National Intelligence Council; and Ray McGovern, former U.S. Army infantry intelligence office and CIA analyst. Other signers of the memo were Elizabeth Murray, former deputy national intelligence officer; Todd Pierce, former U.S. Army judge advocate; Sam Provance, former sergeant, U.S. Army in Iraq; Coleen Rowley, former Division Council and FBI special agent; and Ann Write, retired U.S. Army colonel and foreign service officer.
The memorandum, with a subject line titled “Is Syria a Trap?” pointed out that the weight of the Obama’s evidence is reminiscent of intelligence used by then-Secretary of State Colin Powell in a Feb. 5, 2003, speech before the United Nations, in which he “peddled fraudulent intelligence” – according to the memo – to support the March 18, 2003, U.S. military attack on Iraq for its weapons of mass destruction. “Then, also, we chose to give President (George W.) Bush the benefit of the doubt, thinking he was being misled – or, at the least, very poorly advised,” the analysts said. “Our sources confirm that a chemical incident of some sort did cause fatalities and injuries on Aug. 21 in a suburb of Damascus,” the analysts said, suggesting that they maintain contact with current U.S. intelligence community analysts. “They insist, however, that the incident was not the result of an attack by the Syrian Army using military-grade chemical weapons from its arsenal.” In an apparent direct attack on CIA Director John Brennan, the former high-ranking analysts said that he was “perpetrating a pre-Iraq-War-type fraud on members of Congress, the media, the public – and perhaps even you,” referring to Obama. “We have observed John Brennan closely over recent years, and, sadly, we find what our former colleagues are now telling us easy to believe,” the memo said. “Sadder still,” it said, “this goes in spades for those of us who have worked with him personally; we give him zero credence. And that goes, as well, for his titular boss, Director of National Intelligence James Clapper, who has admitted he gave ‘clearly erroneous’ sworn testimony to Congress denying NSA eavesdropping on Americans.” In claiming that the Aug. 21 chemical weapons incident was a provocation of the Syrian opposition, the former U.S. analysts said that the growing body of evidence came mostly from sources affiliated with the Syrian opposition and its supporters. They said that these reports revealed that canisters containing chemical agents were brought into a suburb of Damascus, where they were then opened. “We are unaware of any reliable evidence that a Syrian military rocket capable of carrying a chemical agent was fired into the area,” the analysts said.
“In fact, we are aware of no reliable physical evidence to support the claim that this was a result of a strike by a Syrian military unit with expertise in chemical weapons. “In addition, we have learned that on August 13-14, 2013, Western-sponsored opposition forces in Turkey started advance preparations for a major, irregular military surge,” the analysts said. “Initial meetings between senior opposition military commanders and Qatari, Turkish and U.S. intelligence officials took place at the converted Turkish military garrison in Antakya, Hatay Province, now used as the command center and headquarters of the Free Syrian Army and their foreign sponsors.” The analysts claimed that senior opposition commanders who came from Istanbul pre-briefed the regional commanders on an “imminent escalation in the fighting due to ‘a war-changing development,’ which, in turn, would lead to a U.S.-led bombing of Syria.” The analysts said that the opposition leaders then were ordered to prepare their forces to “exploit the U.S. bombing” and march into Damascus to remove the al-Assad government. The Obama administration refuses to admit that the Syrian opposition possesses or has the capability of delivering chemical weapons. The VIPS memo to Obama reinforces separate videos, which show foreign fighters associated with the Syrian opposition firing artillery canisters of poison gas. One video shows Nadeem Baloosh, a member of an al-Qaida-affiliated group Riyadh al-Abdeen, admitting to the use of chemical weapons. In the video clip, al-Abdeen, who is in the Latakia area of Syria, said that his forces used “chemicals which produce lethal and deadly gases that I possess.” He added that they decided to use them against women and children.
As WND recently reported, a 100-page report on an investigation turned over to the U.N. by Russia concludes that the Syrian rebels – not the Syrian government – used the nerve agent Sarin in an attack in the Syrian city of Aleppo last March. Sources familiar with the content of the documentation said that deadly Sarin gas was manufactured in a Sunni-controlled region of Iraq and then transported to Turkey for use by the Syrian opposition, whose ranks have swelled with members of al-Qaida-affiliated groups. The documentation is said to have pointed specifically to a Saddam-era general working under the outlawed Iraqi Ba’ath party leader, Izzat Ibrahim al-Douri. Al-Douri was a top aide to Saddam Hussein before he was deposed as president. The general, Adnan al-Dulaimi, then supplied the Sarin to Ba’ath-affiliated foreign fighters of the Sunni and Saudi Arabian-backed Jabhat al-Nusra Front in Aleppo, with Turkey’s cooperation through the Turkish town of Antakya in Hatay Province. The analysts suggested that the Israeli government of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has every reason to get Washington involved in another war in the Middle East region. “But with outspoken urging coming from Israel and those Americans who lobby for Israeli interests, this priority Israeli objective is becoming crystal clear,” the former intelligence analysts said. They referred to a New York Times article that addressed Israeli motivation. “For Jerusalem, the status quo, horrific as it may be from a humanitarian perspective, seems preferable to either a victory by Mr. Assad’s government and his Iranian backers or a strengthening of rebel groups, increasingly dominated by Sunni jihadis,” the Times article said. “This is a playoff situation in which you need both teams to lose, but at least you don’t want one to win – we’ll settle for a tie,” the Times quoted Alon Pinkas, a former Israeli consul general in New York, as saying. “Let them both bleed, hemorrhage to death. That’s the strategic thinking here. As long as this lingers, there’s no real threat from Syria.” The former U.S. analysts said that in looking this way, the Israelis believe that U.S. military intervention will insure that there is “no early resolution of the conflict in Syria. The longer Sunni and Shia are at each other’s throats in Syria and in the wider region, the safer Israel calculates that it is.” WND
BEIRUT (AP) — The US government insists it has the intelligence to prove it, but the American public has yet to see a single piece of concrete evidence — no satellite imagery, no transcripts of Syrian military communications — connecting the government of President Bashar Assad to the alleged chemical weapons attack last month that killed hundreds of people. In the absence of such evidence, Damascus and its ally Russia have aggressively pushed another scenario: that rebels carried out the Aug. 21 chemical attack. Neither has produced evidence for that case, either. That’s left more questions than answers as the US threatens a possible military strike. The early morning assault in a rebel-held Damascus suburb known as Ghouta was said to be the deadliest chemical weapons attack in Syria’s 2½-year civil war. Survivors’ accounts, photographs of many of the dead wrapped peacefully in white sheets and dozens of videos showing victims in spasms and gasping for breath shocked the world and moved President Barack Obama to call for action because the use of chemical weapons crossed the red line he had drawn a year earlier. Yet one week after Secretary of State John Kerry outlined the case against Assad, Americans — at least those without access to classified reports — haven’t seen a shred of his proof. There is open-source evidence that provides clues about the attack, including videos of the rockets that analysts believe were likely used. Some experts also think the size of the strike, and the amount of toxic chemicals that appear to have been delivered, make it doubtful that the rebels could have carried it out.
The Obama administration, searching for support from a divided Congress and skeptical world leaders, says its own assessment is based mainly on satellite and signal intelligence, including indications in the three days prior to the attack that the regime was preparing to use poisonous gas. But multiple requests to view that satellite imagery have been denied, though the administration produced copious amounts of satellite imagery earlier in the war to show the results of the Syrian regime’s military onslaught. When asked Friday whether such imagery would be made available showing the Aug. 21 incident, a spokesman referred The Associated Press to a map produced by the White House last week that shows what officials say are the unconfirmed areas that were attacked. The Obama administration maintains it intercepted communications from a senior Syrian official on the use of chemical weapons, but requests to see that transcript have been denied. So has a request by the AP to see a transcript of communications allegedly ordering Syrian military personnel to prepare for a chemical weapons attack by readying gas masks. The US administration says its evidence is classified and is only sharing details in closed-door briefings with members of Congress and key allies. The assessment, also based on accounts by Syrian activists and hundreds of YouTube videos of the attack’s aftermath, has confounded many experts who cannot fathom what might have motivated Assad to unleash weapons of mass destruction on his own people — especially while UN experts were nearby and at a time when his troops had the upper hand on the ground. Rebels who accuse Assad of the attack have suggested he had learned of fighters’ plans to advance on Damascus, his seat of power, and ordered the gassing to prevent that.
“We can’t get our heads around this — why would any commander agree to rocketing a suburb of Damascus with chemical weapons for only a very short-term tactical gain for what is a long-term disaster,” said Charles Heyman, a former British military officer who edits The Armed Forces of the UK, an authoritative bi-annual review of British forces. Inconsistencies over the death toll and other details related to the attack also have fueled doubts among skeptics. The Obama administration says 1,429 people died in 12 locations mostly east of the capital, an estimate close to the one put out by the Western-backed Syrian National Coalition. When asked for victims’ names, however, the group provided a list of 395. On that list, some of the victims were identified by a first name only or said to be members of a certain family. There was no explanation for the hundreds of missing names.
In Ghouta, Majed Abu Ali, a spokesman for 17 clinics and field hospitals near Damascus, produced the same list, saying the hospitals were unable to identify all the dead. Casualty estimates by other groups are far lower: The Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights says it only counts victims identified by name, and that its current total stands at 502. It has questioned the US number and urged the Obama administration to release the information its figure is based on. The AP also has repeatedly asked for clarification on those numbers. The humanitarian group Doctors Without Borders says it has not been able to update its initial Aug. 24 estimate of 355 killed because communication with those on the ground around Damascus is difficult. That estimate was based on reports from three hospitals in the area supported by the group. Moreover, the group, whose initial report was cited in US and British intelligence assessments, has rejected the use of it “as a justification for military action,” adding in a disclaimer published on its website that the group does not have the capacity to identify the cause of the neurotoxic symptoms of patients nor the ability to determine responsibility for the attack. French and Israeli intelligence assessments back the US, as does reportedly Germany’s spy agency, on its conclusion the Syrian regime was responsible. However, none have backed those claims with publicly presented evidence. Some have suggested the possibility, at least in theory, that the attack may have been ordered by a “rogue commander” in Assad’s military or fighters seeking to frame the regime. Testifying Wednesday before the House Foreign Affairs Committee, Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel rebuffed a congressman’s bid to declassify one of the key pieces of intelligence Kerry publicly cited last week: intercepted communications telling Syrian military units to prepare for the chemical strikes.
Still, there was very little pushback from members of Congress on the government’s conclusion that the Syrian regime was responsible. Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., said the intelligence was “very compelling” and that senators have had more access to classified information on Syria than they’ve had on anything in her two decades in the Senate. Asked if that was enough to merit a US military reaction, she said: “Yes, it’s enough for me. I think the prohibition on chemical weapons is well-founded.” But Hisham Jaber, a retired Lebanese army general who closely follows Syria’s war, said it would be “political suicide” for the regime to commit such an act given Obama’s warning. He also questioned US assertions that the Syrian rebel fighters could not have launched sophisticated chemical weapons. He said that some among the estimated 70,000 defectors from the Syrian military, many of them now fighting for the opposition, could have been trained to use them. “It is conceivable that one or more know how to fit a rocket or artillery shell with a chemical agent,” said Jaber, who also heads the Beirut-based Middle East Center for Studies and Political Research. He claimed Syrian insurgents have acquired chemical weapons, bought from tribes in Libya after the fall of dictator Moammar Gadhafi, through Saudi interlocutors. Other weapons from Libya have been used in the conflict, though Jaber did not offer evidence to support his chemical weapon claim. Saudi Arabia has been a chief supporter of the opposition. Prince Bandar bin Sultan, head of Saudi intelligence, recently flew to Moscow, reportedly on a mission to get Russia to drop its support for Assad. Syrian government officials and Assad accused foreign fighters of carrying out the attacks with the help of countries like Saudi Arabia and Turkey in the hopes of prompting an international military intervention. Syria says some of its own soldiers were badly contaminated in Jobar, on the edge of Damascus, as they went into tunnels cleared by the rebels. UN experts, who had been collecting tissue and other samples from victims in Ghouta, also visited the Mazzeh military hospital in Damascus, taking samples from injured soldier there. Two days after the Ghouta attack, state television broadcast images of plastic jugs, gas masks, medicine vials, explosives and other items that it said were seized from rebel hideouts.
One barrel had “made in Saudi Arabia” stamped on it. In the US, the case for military action has evoked comparisons to false data used by the Bush administration about weapons of mass destruction to justify the 2003 invasion of Iraq. Multiple US officials have told AP that the intelligence pictures on the Aug. 21 attack was “not a slam dunk” — a reference to then-CIA Director George Tenet’s insistence in 2002 that US intelligence showed Iraq had weapons of mass destruction — intelligence that turned out to be wrong. They cite the lack of a direct link between Assad and the chemical assault — a question the administration discounts by arguing Assad’s responsibility as Syria’s commander in chief. A second issue is that US intelligence has lost track of some chemical weaponry, leaving a slim possibility that rebels acquired some of the deadly substances. Russian President Vladimir Putin — a staunch ally of Assad — said if there is evidence that chemical weapons have been used, specifically by the regular army, it should be submitted to the UN Security Council. “And it ought to be convincing. It shouldn’t be based on some rumors and information obtained by intelligence agencies through some kind of eavesdropping, some conversations and things like that,” he told The Associated Press in an interview late Tuesday. David M. Crane, an international law professor at Syracuse University in New York, said the scale of the attack makes it very unlikely that anyone other than the regime was behind it. “I think it was a calculated risk by the Assad regime to push to see how far he can go while causing a great deal of political disruption,” he said. “It’s a huge gamble, but he’s in a very risky situation.” The Times of Israel
WAR DRUMS: Syria sends jets to taunt Cyprus as More than 600 Royal Marines from 30 and 42 Commando units will arrive in Aqaba, Jordan,
The incursion, later dubbed a “goad-and-probe” sortie, happened within days of six Typhoon fighters, the UK’s newest interceptor jets, arriving at RAF Atrokiri, Britain’s military base in Cyprus, in readiness for any attack by Syrian forces. The scare also led to Turkey scrambling two F-16 fighters from its base in Incirlik after radar detected “suspicious flights” over Northern Cyprus’s eastern coast. Last night the Ministry of Defence confirmed the deployment of two Typhoons after the unidentified fighter jets, thought to be Russian-made Sukhoi Su-24s, were spotted but said they did not leave international airspace before flying away. However, Cypriot newspapers cited reports by local air traffic control sources that the Syrian air force jets had been observed flying over the city of Famagusta well within North Cypriot airspace. Last night one senior RAF source said: “As the delivery of six Typhoons would suggest, Atrokiri is on high readiness in case of any Syrian incursion. “It seems that this incident may have been a case of a goad-and-probe sortie by a Syrian air force acting more brazenly than ever after recent inaction by the West.” While all British activities within Syria were suspended after Parliament failed to support David Cameron’s vote for intervention, the UK is still involved in “non-kinetic” operations. These are focused on electronic counter measures, monitoring Syrian air force movements and communication intercepts gathered at the British top-secret “Pluto” signals base on Mount Olympus.
More than 600 Royal Marines from 30 and 42 Commando units will arrive in Aqaba, Jordan, next week for planned war-games, kitted out with chemical warfare equipment. Their numbers will include signallers from the Y Troop unit, mobile cyber war specialists attached to 3 Commando. Foreign Secretary William Hague was last night expected to meet resistance as he urged EU involvement at a meeting of European foreign ministers and US Secretary of State John Kerry in Vilnius, Lithuania. On Friday French President Francois Hollande indicated for the first time that he would wait for a UN report before committing France to military action. Monday’s sortie happened just two days after US President Obama announced that he would seek a vote in Congress before launching any unilateral US military strike against Syria. Despite support in the Senate, indications last night remained strong that Mr Obama was heading for a defeat in the House of Representatives. Many, mostly Republican, districts in key states have already declared that they will oppose any resolution for military intervention in a vote expected to take place in the next few days. Wisconsin congressman Jim Sensenbrenner summed up the mood when he told the Sunday Express: “President Obama set a red line for action in Syria and is now in denial. “The actions by Syrian President Bashar al-Assad and his regime are reprehensible but Congress did not set a red line for military action in Syria, President Obama did. “His plan for military force will not help the Syrian people or promote the freedom or security of the United States.” All so-called “votes of conscience” in Congress are free and without pressure from whips. However, the substance of any resolution is likely to be considerably watered down by amendments imposed by both sides of the House. Express
Investigators are examining whether four recent deaths in three Eastern cities might be linked to a bad batch of the club drug “Molly,” a supposedly pure form of ecstasy, or MDMA. Three of the deaths occurred on August 31. Two people died at the Electric Zoo music festival on New York’s Randall’s Island, forcing city officials to cancel the final day of proceedings. That same day, in Washington, D.C., 19-year-old University of Virginia student Mary Goldsmith collapsed at a rave concert at a local nightclub called Echo Stage. She was rushed to a local hospital, where she was pronounced dead after attempts to revive her failed.
Three days earlier, another 19-year-old, Brittany Flannigan, a student at Plymouth State University in New Hampshire, took a fatal overdose while attending a concert at the House of Blues in Boston. In addition to the deaths, four more people had to be hospitalized after overdosing on the drug at the Electric Zoo festival. In Boston, two other people suffered non-fatal overdoses of the drug at the same concert Flannigan was attending. Three days later, on the same Saturday as the deaths in New York and Washington, three people were treated for overdoses at another Boston-area concert venue, the Bank of America Pavilion. The Washington Post reported that authorities were investigating a nightclub in the Boston suburb of Quincy where 12 people suffered reported overdoses during the summer. ”There’s no ‘good batch’ of molly, MDMA, Ecstasy,” Anthony Pettigrew, a spokesman for the Drug Enforcement Agency’s New England division, told the Boston Herald “This is stuff that’s made in somebody’s bathtub in either Asia, the Netherlands, Canada, you have no idea what is in this stuff. Dealers want to make more money, so they’ll mix and adulterate the stuff with meth and any number of other drugs to addict people to it.” DEA special agent Joseph Moses told the Post that Molly, mentioned in pop songs by stars like Rihanna and Miley Cyrus, may now be better described not as a form of ecstasy, but part of a class of new, dangerous synthetic drugs. ”Molly for years has been the generally accepted street name for ecstasy,” Moses said. “In the past, if you ordered up Molly, you got ecstasy. That’s no longer true.” Toxicology tests on the four bodies have yet to be completed, but The Washington Post reported that Goldsmith had taken the drug before she collapsed. Goldsmith’s father, Robert, told the paper that his daughter’s friends had also told him that Goldsmith had taken the drug and the family had decided to go public to warn others of the drug’s effects. ”[My daughter] deserves a legacy of being someone who cared for people, someone who achieved, someone who contributed, and not a druggie who died,” he said. “That’s not who she was. But if her death can open someone’s eyes, then we need to talk about it. ”This might have been the first time she did it,” Goldsmith added. “It might not have been the first time. I hate to admit it, but I’ve never heard of this drug before. It seems to be the drug of choice.” Fox News
Rebels including al-Qaida-linked fighters gained control of a Christian village northeast of the capital Damascus, Syrian activists said Sunday. Government media provided a dramatically different account of the battle suggesting regime forces were winning. It was impossible to independently verify the reports from Maaloula, a scenic mountain community known for being one of the few places in the world where residents still speak the ancient Middle Eastern language of Aramaic. The village is on a UNESCO list of tentative world heritage sites. The rebel advance into the area this week was spearheaded by the Jabhat al-Nusra, or Nusra Front, exacerbating fears among Syrians and religious minorities about the role played by Islamic extremists within the rebel ranks. It was not immediately clear why the army couldn’t sufficiently reinforce its troops to prevent the rebel advance in the area only 43 kilometers (26 miles) from Damascus. Some activists say that Assad’s forces are stretched thin, fighting in other areas in the north and south of the country. Rami Abdurrahman of the Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said the Nusra Front backed by another group, the Qalamon Liberation Front, moved into the village after heavy clashes with the army late Saturday. ”The army pulled back to the outskirts of the village and both (rebel groups) are in total control of Maaloula now,” he told The Associated Press in a telephone interview. He said pro-government fighters remain inside the village, in hiding. Initially, troops loyal to President Bashar Assad moved into Maaloula early Saturday, he said, “but they left when rebels started pouring into the village.” Now, Abdurrahman said, the army is surrounding the village and controlling its entrances and exits.
A Maaloula resident said the rebels, many of them sporting beards and shouting Allahu Akbar, or God is great, attacked Christian homes and churches shortly after moving into the village overnight. ”They shot and killed people. I heard gunshots and then I saw three bodies lying in the middle of a street in the old quarters of the village,” said the resident, reached by telephone from neighboring Jordan. “So many people fled the village for safety.” Now, Maaloula “is a ghost town. Where is President Obama to see what befallen on us?” asked the man, who spoke on condition of anonymity for fear of reprisal by the rebels. Syria’s state SANA news agency said the army reported “progress” in its offensive against the rebels in Maaloula. “The army inflicted heavy losses in the ranks of the terrorists,” it said, using a government term to describe the rebels. ”Military operations are continuing in the vicinity of Maaloula and its entrances,” SANA said. State-run TV reported that all churches in Maaloula were now safe and the army was chasing gunmen in the western hills. The development came as President Barack Obama’s administration pressed ahead with efforts to win congressional backing and international support for military strikes against Syria over an alleged chemical attack in August outside Damascus. The U.S. says Assad’s forces fired rockets loaded with the nerve agent sarin on rebel-held areas near the capital before dawn on Aug. 21, killing at least 1,429 people. Other estimates put the death toll from the attack at more than 500. Back in Washington after a trip to Europe that included a two-day visit to Russia to attend a Group of 20 summit, Obama will intensify his efforts to sell a skeptical Congress and a war-weary American public on a military strike against Syria. A passionate debate is already underway in Congress and the administration’s lobbying campaign culminates Tuesday, as Obama gives an Oval Office speech the evening before a critical vote on the possible Syria action is expected in the Senate. French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius questioned in a television interview Sunday Assad’s willingness for a political solution to the Syrian crisis. ”No one is for war,” Fabius told France 3 TV. “The question we ask is if we want to get to a political resolution, will Bashar Assad accept if nothing is done? My opinion is no. There has to be a firm response to push toward a political negotiation.” Fabius said that a military intervention didn’t require every country to be behind it. He said: “We must be vigilant against barbarity.” Associated Press
The dirty little not-so-secret behind President Obama’s much-lobbied-for, illegal and strategically incompetent war against Syria is that it’s not about Syria at all. It’s about Iran—and Israel. And it has been from the start. By “the start,” I mean 2011, when the Obama administration gradually became convinced that it could deal Iran a mortal blow by toppling President Bashar al-Assad of Syria, a secular, Baathist strongman who is, despite all, an ally of Iran’s. Since then, taking Iran down a peg has been the driving force behind Obama’s Syria policy. Not coincidentally, the White House plans to scare members of Congress into supporting the ill-conceived war plan by waving the Iranian flag in their faces. Even liberal Democrats, some of whom are opposing or questioning war with Syria, blanch at the prospect of opposing Obama and the Israel lobby over Iran. Item for consideration: a new column by the Syria analyst at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy, the chief think tank of the Israel lobby. Andrew Tabler headlines his piece: “Attacking Syria Is the Best Way to Deal with Iran.” In it, he says: At first glance, the festering Syria crisis seems bad news for diplomatic efforts to keep Iran from developing nuclear capabilities.
In actuality, however, achieving U.S. objectives in the Syria crisis is an opportunity to pressure Iran into making hard choices not only in Syria, but regarding its nuclear program as well. More U.S. involvement to achieve its objectives in Syria will inevitably run counter to Tehran’s interests, be it to punish the Assad regime for chemical weapons use or to show support for the Syrian opposition in changing Assad’s calculus and forcing him to “step aside” at the negotiating table or on the battlefield. Many in U.S. policymaking circles have viewed containing swelling Iranian influence in Syria and preventing Iran from going nuclear as two distinct policy discussions, as the Obama Administration only has so much “bandwidth” to deal with Middle East threats. But the recent deepening of cooperation between Tehran, Hezbollah and the Assad regime, combined with their public acknowledgement of these activities, indicates that they themselves see these activities as furthering the efficacy of the “resistance axis.” Like every alliance, its members will only make hard policy choices if the costs of its current policies far outweigh the benefits. U.S. strikes on the Assad regime, if properly calibrated as part of an overall plan to degrade the regime, would force Tehran to become more involved in Syria in order to rescue its stalwart ally. This would be costly for Iran financially, militarily and politically. Those costs would make the Iranian regime and its people reassess aspirations to go nuclear. Needless to say, such a strategy is bound to be counterproductive, since—by slamming Syria, never mind toppling Assad—Washington is likely to undermine doves and bolster hawks in Tehran and undermine the chances for successful negotiations with Iran’s new president, Hassan Rouhani, who’ll be speaking at the UN General Assembly later this month. In fact, both Russia and Iran have signaled recently, in the wake of Syria’s obvious deployment and use of sarin gas and other deadly weapons that they might be getting ready to join the rest of the world in condemning Syria’s chemical warfare, and that makes it far more likely that the much-postponed US-Russia “Geneva II” peace conference on Syria might work.
The hawkish Washington Post today notes Rouhani’s new administration in Tehran is softening its tone on Syria, and it reports that the new Iranian foreign minister, Javad Zarif, has acknowledged the Syria has erred, saying: “We believe that the government in Syria has made grave mistakes that have, unfortunately, paved the way for the situation in the country to be abused.” Meanwhile, Russia’s President Vladimir Putin, while issuing scathing denunciations of the coming U.S. attack on Syria, has dropped broad hints that he might be willing to join with other nations if and when the United Nations weapons team concludes that Assad used nerve gas, suggesting that Russia might not block a UN Security Council resolution against Syria. In his much-reported interview with the Associated Press, Putin insisted on waiting for the UN report: “If there is evidence that chemical weapons have been used, and used specifically by the regular army, this evidence should be submitted to the U.N. Security Council. And it ought to be convincing. It shouldn’t be based on some rumors and information obtained by intelligence agencies through some kind of eavesdropping, some conversations and things like that.” Then, according to the Washington Post, Putin declared that he might join a UN-sponsored coalition on Syria: He said he “doesn’t exclude” backing the use of force against Syria at the United Nations if there is objective evidence proving that Assad’s regime used chemical weapons against its people. But he strongly warned Washington against launching military action without U.N. approval, saying it would represent an aggression. Russia can veto resolutions at the U.N. Security Council and has protected Syria from punitive actions there before. But a change in tone on the part of Russia and Iran—the latter of whom the Obama administration still refuses to invite to Geneva II if and when it occurs—won’t mean a thing if the object of war with Syria is to send a message to Iran. As Jeffrey Goldberg, writing for Bloomberg, says, for Israel it’s all about Iran: Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of Israel would prefer that Obama enforce his red line on chemical weapons use, because he would like to see proof that Obama believes in the red lines he draws. From Netanyahu’s perspective, Israel isn’t unduly threatened by Assad. Syria constitutes a dangerous, but ultimately manageable, threat. Netanyahu believes, of course, that Iran, Syria’s primary sponsor, poses an existential threat to his country, and so would like the Iranians to understand very clearly that Obama’s red lines are, in fact, very red.
As Robert Satloff, the executive director of the Washington Institute for Near East Policy, told me last night, the formula is simple: “If the Iranians do not fear Obama, then the Israelis will lose confidence in Obama.” In his round-robin television appearances on Sunday, Secretary of State John Kerry—now the administration’s über-hawk—repeatedly said that bombing Syria would send a message to Iran. As he told Fox News on Sunday: “The fact is that if we act and if we act in concert, then Iran will know that this nation is capable of speaking with one voice on something like this, and that has serious, profound implications, I think, with respect to the potential of a confrontation over their nuclear program. That is one of the things that is at stake here.” The Nation
yria’s rebels and soldiers agree: military strikes will change nothing
Syria’s rebels and President Bashar al-Assad’s soldiers agree on next to nothing. They’ve killed each other by the tens of thousands in a war mired in stalemate. But they’re now agreed on one thing. The military strike America is preparing will not change anything.
For the rebels, the attack will be too little, too late; a strike so long delayed that it will destroy only empty buildings and broken warplanes.
For the government and its troops, it would be a petulant volley of Western frustration, born of the lies America has told the world about Assad’s responsibility for firing chemical weapons and of its determination to overthrow him.
The soldiers I meet on the front lines are defiant. “When they send their rockets we’ll shoot them out of the sky,” says one grizzled fighter, raising his battered Kalashnikov rifle in the air. When I ask them what weapons they have to take down the cruise missiles likely to be fired, they assure me they have secret weapons that will do the job.
For all the bravado, soldiers and citizens of the capital are watching events with growing concern. There are reports that a military radar system has been dismantled at Damascus International Airport; that missiles, tanks and aircraft have already been hidden; that Intelligence and Defence buildings have been emptied of vital computers. The Information Ministry has a new satellite television set-up in case the State Broadcasting building is attacked.
On Mount Qassioun, the hilltop overlooking Damascus, there are few soldiers to be seen, which is odd, because it is the site of huge military bases and of the artillery positions that have pounded suburbs like Daraya and Ghouta, where hundreds died in the chemical weapons attack.
One army commander trained in missiles at Mount Qassioun’s base told me the Americans might hit the mountain but the soldiers and the key equipment would be deep inside; the cruise missiles would not penetrate.
Around the swimming pools of the rich areas of Damascus, the middle class and business leaders, or at least those of them who haven’t chosen to flee, predict the unintended consequences of an American raid. If it destroys enough of the planes, airfields, helicopters and equipment that has given Assad a clear military advantage over the rebels, they say, America might give al-Qaeda linked groups the opening they need to push on to the capital and take down the whole regime. Many Christians and Sunnis, as well as Assad’s key Alawite supporters, are concerned that the secular Syria they remember may be destroyed by an Islamist offensive on the back of American missiles.
But most believe the American strike will achieve little. Command buildings may be struck but the commanders are unlikely to be inside. It has been a week since I heard a MiG warplane fly over the capital, once a regular sound. No-one imagines they’re still on the runways. As one rebel put it “the Americans will scratch the surface, hit five per cent of the regime’s power and save face. That won’t save us from another attack.”
Meanwhile, the street fighting and the killing goes on. In Tadamon, a southern suburb of Damascus, I watched intense gun battles, bullets taking chunks off a mosque underneath pro-Assad fighters who’ve made 400 yards of progress against rebels in a year. One of the fighters is Abu Issa, 70, dressed in full camouflage. On a street strewn with bullet casings and stinking of rotting animals, he fires volleys of shots at the rebel positions just 50 yards away and breathes deeply as he walks back towards me. “I fought the Israelis in ’67 and ’73,” he says proudly. “The Americans can shoot their missiles but they’ll get nowhere. Our real enemy is over there, on the ground – al-Qaeda!”
An educated young commander, his English good, is genuinely puzzled. “How can it be”, he asks me, “that America is going to fight us, on the side of al-Qaeda? How can America be against a secular country and for Islamists who kill their prisoners and dump their bodies in a well?”
Bill Neely is International Editor of ITV News
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