UPDATE 12:45 EDT/19:45 IST 30 August 2013: The UN chemical weapons investigation team has departed Syria and is enroute to Beirut, Lebanon. The question is now whether or not the US and France will actually strike Syrian targets, and which targets they might be now that intelligence reports are confirming that most of Syria's ballistic missile forces have redeployed into hardened shelters or are on-the-move making real-time targeting that much more difficult. Could be an interesting evening... and morning.
Also found in today's pile of 'must read' OSINT is an article by Ernesto Londono published yesterday by the Washington Post. Here are the key bullet items I have taken from this article:
- Former and current officers, many with the painful lessons of Iraq and Afghanistan on their minds, said the main reservations concern the potential unintended consequences of launching cruise missiles against Syria.
- Some questioned the use of military force as a punitive measure and suggested that the White House lacks a coherent strategy. If
the administration is ambivalent about the wisdom of defeating or
crippling the Syrian leader, possibly setting the stage for Damascus to
fall to fundamentalist rebels, they said, the military objective of
strikes on Assad’s military targets is at best ambiguous.
CORROBORATION UPDATE 30 August 2013: About 12 hours ago a full, 100% corroboration of the substance of the Signals Intelligence (SIGINT) intercept report from the IDFs highly classified Unit 8200 I noted below was published by Kenneth Timmerman, President of the Foundation for Democracy in Iran, on the Daily Caller website. Page 1 of the article, "Verify chemical weapons use before unleashing the dogs of war" is quoted below in its entirety.
"The Obama administration has selectively used intelligence to justify military strikes on Syria, former military officers with access to the original intelligence reports say, in a manner that goes far beyond what critics charged the Bush administration of doing in the run-up to the 2003 Iraq war.
According to these officers, who served in top positions in the United States, Britain, France, Israel, and Jordan, a Syrian military communication intercepted by Israel’s famed Unit 8200 electronic intelligence outfit has been doctored so that it leads a reader to just the opposite conclusion reached by the original report.
The doctored report was leaked to a private Internet-based newsletter that boasts of close ties to the Israeli intelligence community, and led to news reports that the United States now had firm evidence showing that the Syrian government had ordered the chemical weapons attack on August 21 against a rebel-controlled suburb of Damascus.
The doctored report was picked up on Israel’s Channel 2 TV on Aug. 24, then by Focus magazine in Germany, the Times of Israel, and eventually by The Cable in Washington, DC.
According to the doctored report, the chemical attack was carried out by the 155th Brigade of the 4th Armored Division of the Syrian Army, an elite unit commanded by Maher al-Assad, the president’s brother.
However, the original communication intercepted by Unit 8200 between a major in command of the rocket troops assigned to the 155th Brigade of the 4th Armored Division, and the general staff, shows just the opposite.UPDATE 19:30 29 August 2013: Resolution on the issue of British participation in a Syrian strike has come earlier than expected after an unanticipated vote in Parliament proceeded. Prime Minister Cameron lost an authorization for use of force by 13 votes during what should have been a nonbinding motion calling for an international response against Syria this evening in the UK. Nevertheless, PM Cameron conceded defeat by announcing, "I get it", with the meaning that he would not proceed with a strike on Syria that was clearly against the will of Parliament and the British people. The Parliamentary vote was 285 to 272 against strikes on Syria.
The general staff officer asked the major if he was responsible for the chemical weapons attack. From the tone of the conversation, it was clear that “the Syrian general staff were out of their minds with panic that an unauthorized strike had been launched by the 155th Brigade in express defiance of their instructions,” the former officers say.
According to the transcript of the original Unit 8200 report, the major “hotly denied firing any of his missiles” and invited the general staff to come and verify that all his weapons were present.
This means that as of this evening, the Commander-In-Chief of United States armed forces, Barack Hussein Obama II, stands completely alone as still threatening a strike against Syria, without US Congressional authorization or a UN Security Council mandate as was received with respect to use of military force operations against the Ghadhafi government in Libya. Some Obama Administration talking heads are saying that a US strike could still occur as soon as word that the UN inspection team has departed from Syrian territory is received.
Meanwhile in Israel, the extremely prudent decision for no let up in the IDFs guarded defensive posture has resulted from the British decision against and other European powers increasing misgivings about striking Syria without the minimum of a UN intelligence finding support such a strike. Israel's leaders have basically announced that while they have no dog in the current fight plaguing the Western powers deliberations, they stand fully prepared to respond with great force in response any attack against Israel as has been pretty much nonstop threatened from both Damascus and Tehran in the past forty-eight hours.
This situation between Obama still threatening to strike, given the stated direct threat to Israel coming from Iran should a US attack occur, has me wondering: which regime is the most apocalypse-minded, the U.S. Obama Administration or the Islamic Republic of Iran's Ayatollah's Administration? It currently appears to be a toss-up from my perspective.
Additionally, I learned about four hours ago that Bashar al-Assad, with his family and senior Ba'ath Party leaders in tow, arrived in Tehran, Iran early yesterday morning for urgent consultations with Ayatollah Khamenei and senior Iranian military staff. I'm not sure how ominous al-Assad and company's departure from Damascus is at this point, but it's definitely not a good sign.
UPDATE 11:00 EDT 29 August: Media reports today are beginning to corroborate the information contained below and cast doubt upon the punitive strike rationale posited by the Obama Administration in recent days. In fact, US intelligence officials are today painting a much different picture, diametrically opposed to what was stated as fact by President Obama less than 36 hours ago about Syrian government culpability in the chemical attack via the US news program "News Hour" broadcast on PBS. Serious doubts now exist openly on the origin of the Jobar chemical attack as resting upon the shoulders of Bashar al-Assad, his general staff or their subordinate commanders. US intelligence officials have resurrected the "no slam dunk" or "no smoking gun" mantras regarding Syrian culpability, and gone also is any confident insistence that Sunni jihadist rebel elements do not possess a chemical weapons capability as occurred in the Ghouta district neighborhood of Jobar, Syria. Botching intelligence on this would would not only start a major regional war, but it could be the catalyst for impeachment already on the lips of some regarding Benghazi and a few other sordid affairs.
29 August 2013: The blinking began yesterday in Europe. Significant opposition from all political considerations to a stream-roller of Western threats regarding an imminent strike on Syria began bubbling up yesterday and continues at this time.
In the UK outright rebellion in Parliament rose to a level that can best be described as 'mutinous' against PM David Cameron and his government's war planning. Retired General Sir "Mike" Jackson tore PM David Cameron a new one in publicly telling him that his budget cuts have not only cut Britain's warfighting capabilities to the bone, but that the bone itself has been cut clean through. Gen. Sir Mike Jackson then hit a resonant chord with the public that all but guarantees the UK will not participate at this time in a Syrian strike: "Due to you your cuts the British military will sustain heavy losses and defeat." The UK is keenly aware of what occurred to their troops after budget cuts in the 1930s resulted in tail-between legs retreat that ended on the beaches of Dunkirk and land combat powerlessness against Hitler in the early days of the war.
These and other items yesterday forced PM Cameron to postpone a Parliamentary vote on a use of force authorization. One of the key other items to surface was that a full 50% of the Prime Minister's own Tory base of support in Parliament told him they would not vote for the authorization without a full UN investigation being released. The UK Parliament therefore cannot even think about considering having an authorization vote until at least next Wednesday, 4 September. Even then a pro-strike outcome is far from assured.
Similar deep cracks have also appeared in France where opposition to military intervention splits political affiliations - the center-right are evenly split for/against, the socialists are in total disarray, and the hard left and communists are dead set opposed.
In Italy there is significant and rising opposition to participating in the strikes for the same reasons as have presented themselves in Britain and France. Not many in Europe have any interest in launching punishing military strikes against Bashar al-Assad's forces that might effectively further enable the battlefield effectiveness of the Sunni rebels who are clearly led by various Al Qaeda affiliated terrorist "brigades" primarily from Syria and Iraq.
There is an as yet uncorroborated report which has direct implications on the intelligence to be cited by the Obama Administration of Syrian government use of chemical weapons. This report originated in Israel, and again, while it is currently uncorroborated, but I will report it pending a confirmation because of its potential importance.