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Syria Intervention: Generals To Meet In Amman

By Countercurrents.org

26 August 2013

Syria intervention is moving towards wider conflict. Citing a Jordanian high command official an Amman datelined Middle East Online report [1] said: Top military commanders from Western and Muslim countries including the US, Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Turkey, Britain, France, Germany, Italy and Canada are to meet in Jordan to discuss the impact of the Syria conflict.

The meeting is to take place at the invitation of Jordan's chief of staff Meshaal Mohamed al-Zaban and General Lloyd Austin, head of Centcom, the US command responsible for 20 countries in the Middle East and Central Asia.

America's top military officer General Martin Dempsey would take part, as well as chiefs of staff from Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Turkey, Britain, France, Germany, Italy and Canada, said the official.

The meeting would "examine the questions linked to the security of the region and the repercussions of the Syrian crisis, as well as means of military cooperation to assure the security of Jordan".

US Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel suggested on August 23 that the Pentagon was moving forces into place ahead of possible military action against Syria, after Russia dismissed calls for use of force against its ally.

Last week, General Dempsey discussed ways to help the Jordanian military tackle fallout from the Syria conflict, including border surveillance, intelligence and training Jordan's Special Forces.

Fearing the conflict could spill over into Jordan, the US has deployed F-16 fighters and Patriot missile along with about 1,000 US troops to protect its close Arab ally, a major beneficiary of US aid.

Meanwhile, a war of words erupted on August 25 over Syria as Washington said it is ready to take action over chemical weapons attacks and Tehran warned US intervention would carry "harsh consequences". [2]

US president Barack Obama said a year ago that the use of chemical weapons by Assad's forces was a "red line" that could trigger Western intervention.

On August 25 a strident warning came from Washington's archfoe Iran. "If the United States crosses this red line, there will be harsh consequences for the White House," armed forces deputy chief of staff Massoud Jazayeri said.

His comments come a day after Obama held a rare meeting with his top aides and discussed Syria by phone with British prime minister David Cameron.

Cameron's office said they two leaders agreed the use of chemical weapons would "merit a serious response" -- echoing French calls.

On August 25 US defense secretary Chuck Hagel said the US military was "prepared to exercise whatever option" against Syria but intelligence was still being evaluated.

Syria denies it used chemical weapons and has reportedly said it will work with UN inspectors who have been on the ground for a week to probe three other suspect sites.

On a visit to Malaysia, Hagel said the US defense department had prepared "options for all contingencies".

"Again, we are prepared to exercise whatever option, if he decides to employ one of those options," he added.

The French president Hollande said there was "a body of evidence indicating that the August 21 attack was chemical in nature, and that everything led to the belief that the Syrian regime was responsible for this unspeakable act".

But Doctors Without Borders (MSF) president Mego Terzian said that "scientific" proof is still lacking.

"Syrian doctors we work with have no scientific proof. They must take hair samples, for example, and send them to a specialist laboratory," to carry out conclusive tests, he said.

As Syria and its opponents traded accusations on who used chemicals, the radical Al-Nusra Front, a fierce Al-Qaeda-linked group fighting the regime of Bashar al-Assad, vowed revenge against villages of the Syrian president's minority Alawite community.

"The Alawite villages will pay the price for each chemical rocket that struck our people in Damascus," the group's leader Abu Mohammed al-Jawlani said in an audio message posted online.

Russian warning

Russia warned the West that an Iraq scenario in Syria would be a "tragic mistake". [3]

"We strongly urge those who, by attempting to impose their own results on the UN experts, are raising the possibility of a military operation in Syria to use their common sense and refrain from committing a tragic mistake," foreign ministry spokesman Alexander Lukashevich said in a statement.

All this is reminiscent of events from a decade ago, when the US bypassed the UN and used fallacious information on the presence in Iraq of weapons of mass destruction to launch an attack, he said.

Russia welcomed Damascus' offer to allow a mission by UN inspectors probing alleged chemical weapons use. Moscow took credit for the deal, saying it was the result of "relentless efforts" by Moscow with the Syrian regime.

Washington said the Syrian offer was "too late to be credible".

Russia urged the rebel camp to guarantee the safety of the UN team.

A Kosovo scenario?

US officials are looking at the air war over Kosovo in the late 1990s as a possible blueprint for strikes on Syria without a UN mandate, the New York Times reported on August 24. [4]

During the 1998-1999 conflict, Russia supported the Yugoslav regime of Slobodan Milosevic. But since Russia holds veto power in the UN Security Council, there was no chance of getting a resolution authorizing the use of force against the Yugoslav Republic. In March 1999 NATO launched a series of air strikes against Yugoslav forces, arguing that it was the abuses that constituted a grave humanitarian emergency. The attacks lasted 78 days.

One year after warning that the use of chemical arms in the Syrian conflict would cross a US "red line," the administration of president Barack Obama is searching for ways to respond to Basher al-Assad's regime if its use of the banned weapon is proven.

Today, as in the late 1990s, Russia opposes a Security Council resolution authorizing the use of force against Syria.

"It's a step too far to say we're drawing up legal justifications for an action, given that the president hasn't made a decision," an unnamed senior administration official told The Times, speaking on condition of anonymity.
"But Kosovo, of course, is a precedent of something that is perhaps similar," the official said.

Kosovo was one of many subjects under discussion regarding the Syrian crisis, the official said. The possible effects that a bombing campaign on Syria would have on countries like Lebanon, Jordan, Turkey and Egypt are also being studied, the official said.

In an interview with CNN Obama said the alleged use of chemical weapons was "a big event of grave concern."

Obama said that there were questions about whether the United States would infringe international law if it attacked another country without a Security Council mandate.

Spread of fire in Lebanon?

From Beirut Rana Moussaoui reported [5]:

Analysts fear violence will spin out of control in Syria's neighbor Lebanon after deadly bombings struck Sunni and Shiite areas of the country a week apart and killed dozens of people.

The war in Syria, once the power broker in Lebanon, has already spilled across the border, pitting supporters of the Damascus regime against its opponents.

"It is very likely that there will be more car bombs and other terrorist attacks all over Lebanon. There is nothing to prevent it," said Fadia Kiwan, head of the political sciences department at Beirut's Saint Joseph University.
According to her "there is a fifth column operating in the country" whose protagonists are linked to the Syrian conflict.

In any case, she said, "all these attacks will continue".

Charles Lister, an analyst at IHS Jane's Terrorism and Insurgency Centre, said: "Lebanon has become a victim of what has in effect become a proxy conflict in Syria."
"Lebanon is becoming an extension of the Syrian conflict."

The Tripoli attacks outside Sunni mosques killed civilians. In all, around 70 people died and hundreds more were wounded. No one claimed responsibility for the Tripoli attacks -- the bloodiest since Lebanon's 15-year civil war ended in 1990.

As officials grapple with the consequences of both attacks, they have warned that the aim of the unrest is to revive "sectarian strife" that plagued Lebanon during the civil war, and vowed to pursue their fight against terrorism.

The bombings outside Sunni mosques during Friday's weekly Muslim prayers are "symbolic", Lister said, because Tripoli has been raven by strife, often deadly, over the Syria conflict.

"However, the sheer scale of the attacks and the fact that they took place during Friday prayers will undoubtedly have a national impact," he added.

Officially Lebanon has kept neutral in the Syria war.

But as the protracted conflict continues, tensions have grown in Lebanon between Sunnis, who mostly support the rebellion against the Syrian regime, and Shiites, who back Assad's government.

But Kiwan said the latest bombings rang alarm bells for all Lebanese, regardless of their religion or sect.

"While I certainly don't foresee any kind of nationwide explosion in violence, I do think such bombings may become more commonplace, particularly in hotspots like Beirut and Tripoli," Lister said.

Paul Salem, who heads the Carnegie Middle East Centre in Beirut, says it is too soon to say how things will play out in Lebanon.

He said, it could be the beginning of a spiral of violence that "will spin out of control".

Hilal Khashan, chairman of the political science department at the American University of Beirut, said: "It is clear that there is a desire to trigger a confessional war in Lebanon to divert attention from what is happening in Syria."

Friday's car bombings were reminiscent of attacks that shook the country during its civil war, when Lebanese often checked under their cars for explosives before getting in.

That fear was palpable in Tripoli on August 24 as residents buried their dead including children.


[1] “Army chiefs meet in Jordan to discuss impact of Syria conflict”, http://www.middle-east-online.com/english/?id=60872

[2] Middle East Online, 2013-08-25, “War of words erupts over Syria: Washington threatens and Tehran warns”, http://www.middle-east-online.com/english/?id=60878

[3] Middle East Online, 2013-08-25, “Moscow warns West: Iraq scenario in Syria will be tragic mistake”,

[4] Middle East Online, 2013-08-24, “War without UN mandate: Will US repeat Kosovo in Syria?”,

[5] Middle East Online, 2013-08-25, “Fires of Syria conflict burn neighbouring Lebanon”,








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