Major U.S. U-Turn in Syria: Regime Change Hazardous
• Obama, Brits see Putin was right: Syrian government must survive
By Richard Walker
The threat posed by terrorists operating in Syria is now so great, intelligence sources familiar with the situation told AMERICAN FREE PRESS that President Barack Obama has been forced to consider allowing the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) to work directly with the Russians and the Syrian government to counter the threat.
The irony is that Obama and his European allies, as well as the Saudis and the Israelis, have been trying to overthrow the Syrian government by arming and training rebel and mercenary forces that are currently fighting Syria’s military. Some of these have included the same terrorists that United States soldiers fought in Afghanistan and Iraq.
Obama was warned about the dangers posed by arming an opposition that was steadily dominated by terrorist groups. Russian President Vladimir Putin had privately told Obama on several occasions in the past 18 months that these groups pose a serious threat to Europe and the U.S. He predicted Washington’s strategy would lead to a major sectarian conflict spreading out of Syria across the Middle East.
Al Qaeda elements and individual jihadists in Syria currently represent the most worrying emerging terrorist threat to the UK and the West. There is a risk of extremist elements in Syria taking advantage of the permissive environment to develop external attack plans, including against Western targets. Large numbers of radicalized individuals have been attracted to the country, including significant numbers from the UK and Europe. They are likely to acquire expertise and experience which could significantly increase the threat posed when they return home. Furthermore, there is growing concern about the risks around extremist groups in Syria gaining access to regime stocks of chemical weapons.
Obama got the message, too, because the Pentagon asked the CIA to make secret overtures to the Syria government by way of contacts in Moscow to find ways to develop a joint counter-terrorism campaign. A leak about this development came in the wake of a hurried visit to Moscow on December 2, 2013, by Saudi intelligence chief Prince Bandar bin Sultan.
In a private meeting with the Russian president, Bandar was chastised for Saudi Arabia’s role in fomenting strife throughout the Middle East and for trying to derail the Iran nuclear deal. An intelligence source, speaking on condition of anonymity, explained to AFP how events had coincided to create a rethink by Obama and the Saudis.
“The Brits told Obama that Putin was right and the threat from Syria had to be addressed,” he said. “Putin confirmed the Americans accepted that it was vital for Europe and the United States to support the Syrian regime in its battle against al Qaeda and similar groups.”
Syria Moves to Destroy WMDs Despite Hazards
• U.S, Syria working to eliminate weapons of mass destruction, but can they be kept out of terrorist hands?
By Victor Thorn
Despite being dropped from the mainstream media’s news cycle, the bloodshed in the nearly three-year-long civil war in Syria is on the rise. Regardless of that, plans are still moving forward to remove nearly 500 tons of chemical weapons in the possession of Syria’s government as part of a deal brokered in early October by Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov under orders from President Vladimir Putin. The diplomatic move saved the United States from involving itself in yet another costly war in the Middle East and seriously undermined Israeli and Saudi efforts to force the U.S. into the Syrian fighting in the hopes that Syria’s leader Bashar al-Assad would be removed.
According to Erika Solomon of Reuters on December 2: “The death toll in Syria’s civil war has risen to at least 125,835, more than a third of them civilians. But the real figure is probably much higher.”
Notwithstanding this bloodshed and carnage, plans are still moving forward to remove approximately 500 tons of chemical weapons possessed by Syrian Pres. Bashar Assad’s government. This tenuous deal was brokered in early October by Skull & Bonesman John Kerry and his Russian counterpart, Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov.
After reports surfaced on December 5 that the Pentagon offered the services of a merchant ship to destroy Syria’s nerve agents at sea, including VX and sarin gases, this reporter contacted Paul McLeary, a land-warfare reporter for the Gannett-owned publication Defense News.
“Everything the Department of Defense [DoD] is talking about in regard to the disposal of chemical weapons aboard a ship called the Cape Ray is still in the proposal phase,” McLeary explained.
Expanding on these thoughts, McLeary told AMERICAN FREE PRESS, “Sea trials start in the next couple of weeks, but there are plenty of details that need to be worked out. One, of course, is how will these chemical weapons be transported from various on-site facilities in Syria to the ports in question? The hardest part is getting chemicals out of areas where government forces and rebels are still fighting.”
Many other factors are involved, McLeary noted. “A great deal of debate surrounds whether the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) wants to even conduct this undertaking at sea or incinerate the chemicals on land,” he said.
However, McLeary was clear on one point: “The DoD said they’d provide technical services, but under no conditions will the Navy or Air Force play any role in physically getting these chemical weapons out of Syria in the middle of a civil war.”
The complications associated with this endeavor are enormous. Recently, OPCW officials visited the U.S. Army’s Aberdeen Proving Grounds located in Maryland to inspect their Field Deployable Hydrolysis System. This operation involves the use of water and specialized bleaches that, at least in theory, are capable of detoxifying chemical agents.
If agreements are reached on the implementation of hydrolysis at sea, which countries will be responsible for hauling these volatile substances across the war-torn Syrian landscape? This consideration is especially problematic if chemical weapons are hijacked or fall into the wrong hands. In addition, huge numbers of security forces will be required to protect Syrian ports and waterways as chemicals are loaded and shipped.
Reporting on this matter on November 28, Mark Urban, a diplomatic and defense editor for the BBC, wrote, “Nobody is willing to escort the chemicals out of Syria where a civil war still rages in its third year, or to safeguard their security, so this task will now be performed by the Syrian army itself.” Fortunately, as Urban stated, “The fact that nerve agents do not exist in weaponized form has at least made the task a little easier.”
Victor Thorn is a hard-hitting researcher, journalist and author of over 40 books.