Syrian rebels

Did Obama know Syria rebels also may have chemical weapon capability?

photo by Steve Rhodes

The Obama administration based much of their hurried march to war in Syria on the conclusion that the Assad regime was responsible for the attack, and indeed was the only faction with the capability to carry it out. However, a new report based on classified defense intelligence documents directly contradicts those conclusions, in turn questioning the entire rationale for the forestalled military intervention:

The Hersh article is based in part on a four-page secret cable given to a top official at the Defense Intelligence Agency on June 20, one of a group of intelligence community documents allegedly stating that jihadi rebel group Jabhat al-Nusra has the ability to make sarin gas. Sarin is the chemical believed to have been used in the Aug 21 chemical attack in Ghouta that crossed Obama’s “red line” and prompted the administration to push for a strike on Assad’s regime. The story is sourced mainly to intelligence and military officers and consultants.

“When the attack occurred al-Nusra should have been a suspect, but the administration cherry-picked intelligence to justify a strike against Assad,” Hersh writes.

The New York Times promotes Putin’s propaganda

Vladimir Putin

In trying to determine something new to say about what’s happening in Syria and how, with his charmingly offensive op-ed in The New York Times, Russian President Vladimir Putin is essentially trying to do the job of the American President by telling us how we should all view events in the eastern Mediterranean, it became clear to me that what’s potent about these events from a domestic perspective is how they shine a light on something that conservatives and libertarians have long been yelling into the wind: the use of propaganda via media to misinform the public is pervasive and very dangerous.

This hit me hard when a good-hearted person with conservative principles remarked recently on a social networking site that Putin’s op-ed made some kind of sense to him, presumably because he called for the U.S. to stay out of war in Syria, an idea popular with conservatives and libertarians.

I went back and re-read the op-ed and couldn’t make out how passages like this one seemed reasonable:

Thomas Massie introduces bill to keep Obama from sending arms to Syria

Thomas Massie

President Barack Obama’s promise to send arms to rebel forces fighting against Bashad al-Assad alongside al-Qaeda operatives in Syria, has been met with much criticism from multiple Senate members. Senators from both sides of the aisle have come together to push legislation that would prohibit the President and the Pentagon from sending rebels any form of aid.

Now, Rep. Thomas Massie (R-KY) and nine other House members decided to act by introducing legislation that would challenge the President’s decision by blocking aid that wasn’t previously authorized by Congress.

Co-sponsors include Rep. Joe Pitts (R-PA), Rep. Walter Jones (R-NC), Rep. Ted Yoho (R-FL), Rep. Mo Brooks (R-AL), Rep. Justin Amash (R-MI), Rep. Phil Roe (R-TN), Rep. Mark Meadows (R-NC), Rep. Scott DesJarlais (R-TN), and Rep. Louie Gohmert (R-TX).

The War Powers Protection Act of 2013 would keep the U.S. from sending any military assistance to the rebel forces unless Congress has issued a formal declaration of war.

Rep. Massie has stated that “since our national security interests in Syria are unclear,” risks could be far too great if we choose to aid rebel forces, particularly now that it has been noted that al Qaeda’s Iraqi wing in Syria insists on fighting alongside the Al-Nusra Front.

The Article 1, Section 8 of the Constitution states that no war can be declared without Congress’ approval, which doesn’t seem to keep the President from continuing with his plan of aiding the rebels.

Today in Liberty: Senators want congressional approval of Afghan missions, gun rights could surface again at SCOTUS

“If you analyze it I believe the very heart and soul of conservatism is libertarianism….The basis of conservatism is a desire for less government interference or less centralized authority or more individual freedom, and this is a pretty general description also of what libertarianism is.” — Ronald Reagan

— Senators to rollout resolution on future Afghanistan missions: A bipartisan group of senators will hold a press conference today at 11 am in the Senate Radio/Television Gallery to discuss the introduction of a measure that would require congressional approval for military missions in Afghanistan after 2014. Sen. Jeff Merkley (D-OR) appears to be the primary sponsor of the resolution, but he will be joined at the presser by Sens. Mike Lee (R-UT), Joe Manchin (D-WV), and Rand Paul (R-KY).

— House GOP backs down from debt ceiling demands: House Republican leaders don’t have enough support in their conference to try to get concessions from the White House in exchange for a debt ceiling increase. The admission comes a day after key House conservatives urged Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) to avoid debt ceiling “theater” and pass a clean bill.

New doubt cast on Obama’s case for war in Syria

President Barack Obama’s case for military strikes against Syria this summer was based on intelligence which found that the country’s government had used chemical weapons against its own people. He insisted that Syrian President Bashar al-Assad was responsible and urged members of Congress to get behind authorization for military action.

But some security and intelligence experts have casted doubt on these claims, according to a report from McClatchy DC, because the type of rocket reportedly used in the chemical weapons attack couldn’t have been fired from the position held by the Syrian government:

[T]he authors of a report released Wednesday said that their study of the rocket’s design, its likely payload and its possible trajectories show that it would have been impossible for the rocket to have been fired from inside areas controlled by the government of Syrian President Bashar Assad.

John McCain dismisses Ted Cruz, praises Senate Democrats

John McCain

Shortly after Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) ended his 21 hour speech against ObamaCare, Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) turned to Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) to criticize conservatives, as he has so often done in the past.

McCain, who has hinted at retirement, has gone to bat for Reid as he tried to push for onerous gun control measure and push their big spending budget into a conference with the House without a guarantee against a stealth debt limit increase. He defended President Barack Obama’s drones policy, calling opponents “wacko birds.”

This time around, however, McCain gave what was essentially the “Democratic response” to Cruz’s speech, as Rep. Justin Amash (R-MI) put it yesterday on Twitter.

“I would like to make sure that my colleagues, especially those who were not here in 2009, understand that there are many of us who are oppose to ‘ObamaCare,’ as its called — the Affordable Care Act,” said McCain, who gestured quotes with his hands, “and the opposition we mounted.”

Half of Syrian rebels are Islamic radicals, brutality documented

Syrian rebels

Even as the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) arms rebels fighting Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s regime, an upcoming report from IHS Jane’s, a defense and intelligence consulting firm, will estimate that nearly half of the rebel fighters in the Middle Eastern country are Islamic extremists:

The new study by IHS Jane’s, a defence consultancy, estimates there are around 10,000 jihadists - who would include foreign fighters - fighting for powerful factions linked to al-Qaeda..

Another 30,000 to 35,000 are hardline Islamists who share much of the outlook of the jihadists, but are focused purely on the Syrian war rather than a wider international struggle.

There are also at least a further 30,000 moderates belonging to groups that have an Islamic character, meaning only a small minority of the rebels are linked to secular or purely nationalist groups.
Charles Lister, author of the analysis, said: “The insurgency is now dominated by groups which have at least an Islamist viewpoint on the conflict. The idea that it is mostly secular groups leading the opposition is just not borne out.”

This, of course, files in the face of what Secretary of State John Kerry told members of Congress while recently trying to make the case for military intervention against Assad’s regime for its use of chemical weapons.

Report: CIA sending weapons to Syrian rebels

Syrian  war

Despite concerns expressed by many members of Congress that the best organized groups fighting Syrian President Bashar al-Assad are Islamic extremist, the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) is sending arms to rebels who hope to depose the regime:

The CIA has begun delivering weapons to rebels in Syria, ending months of delay in lethal aid that had been promised by the Obama administration, according to U.S. officials and Syrian figures. The shipments began streaming into the country over the past two weeks, along with separate deliveries by the State Department of vehicles and other gear — a flow of material that marks a major escalation of the U.S. role in Syria’s civil war.

The arms shipments, which are limited to light weapons and other munitions that can be tracked, began arriving in Syria at a moment of heightened tensions over threats by President Obama to order missile strikes to punish the regime of Bashar al-Assad for his alleged use of chemical weapons in a deadly attack near Damascus last month.
U.S. officials hope that, taken together, the weapons and gear will boost the profile and prowess of rebel fighters in a conflict that started about 2 1/2 years ago.

Obama fails to make the case for military intervention in Syria

Barack Obama

TL;DR version: President Obama gave a speech last night rehashing the same arguments made for military strikes against Syria. He delivered the speech well, but failed to present a compelling case for intervention, specifically saying several times that Bashar al-Assad isn’t a threat to the United States. Even as he made a specious case for intervention, Obama said that he asked Congress to postpone a vote, making it a mostly pointless speech.

In a televised address last night, President Barack Obama took his case for military intervention in Syria directly to the American people, stating that Bashar al-Assad’s alleged use of chemical weapons is a violation of international law and is a threat to the United States’ interests in the region.

President Obama started off by offering background on the civil war that has ravaged the Middle Eastern country, noting that more than 100,000 people have been killed and millions more displaced by the conflict.

“I have resisted calls for military action because we cannot resolve someone else’s civil war through force, particularly after a decade of war in Iraq and Afghanistan,” said Obama. “The situation profoundly changed, though, on August 21st, when Assad’s government gassed to death over a thousand people, including hundreds of children.”

President Obama emphasized the treaty banning use of chemical weapons, which the United States Senate ratified in 1997. Syria, however, is one of five countries that hasn’t approved the treaty, though they now say they will.

No, military intervention doesn’t deter violent regimes

Bashar Assad

Among the many justifications given by the Obama Administration for military action against Syria is that it would deter Bashar al-Assad or whoever in his government ordered the chemical weapons attack against civilians from doing so again.

But would intervention really deter Assad? We don’t know for sure. But according to a 2012 paper authored by Reed Wood, Jacob Kathman, and Stephen Gent; military intervention generally doesn’t prevent violent regimes from killing their own citizens; it actually leads to more death and destruction.

“Supporting a faction’s quest to vanquish its adversary may have the unintended consequence of inciting the adversary to more intense violence against the population,” concluded the three political scientists.

“Thus, third parties with interests in stability should bear in mind the potential for the costly consequences of countering murderous groups,” they continued. “Potential interveners should heed these conclusions when designing intervention strategies and tailor their interventions to include components specifically designed to protect civilians from reprisals.”

That means that a troop presence would be required on the ground, which the Obama Administration claims isn’t in the cards, though they haven’t hid their desire to see Assad removed from power.

The three political scientists included this chart to highlight their point. It shows the number of one-sided conflicts against rebels leads to an increase in civilian casualties.

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