Hezbollah Goes to War in Syria for Assad
May 25, 2013 3:10 PM   Subscribe

Hezbollah Secretary-General Hassan Nasrallah gave a major speech today to a large gathering of party leaders where he confirmed that Hezbollah militia members have been sent to fight in Syria. Watch him explain in his own words his reasons behind this decision (English Subtitles). (via LiveLeak) Hezbollah soldiers are said to be playing a key role in the battle for Qusayr a strategic rebel held town situated on the road between Lebanon and Homs. More background on the battle of Quasyr is available at Syria Deeply a site featuring the works of independent journalists covering the Syrian civil war. [Previously]
posted by humanfont (125 comments total) 11 users marked this as a favorite

 
Speaking of Qusayr: Syrian rebels fake Hezbollah Twitter feed for psychological warfare.
posted by MartinWisse at 3:23 PM on May 25, 2013


In the speech he speaks of the "Takfiri mindset", he is describing Salafist Takfiris, basically fundamentalists who mainly target other Muslims for, as Nasrallah calls them, mundane reasons such as voting. The linked video isn't the whole speech, it is part that seems to focus mainly on the fact that he justifies entering the war because of the fact that the Syrian opposition is, in his words, the same groups that brag about 4,000 suicide bombings in Iraq that have killed every type of Muslim and Christian.
posted by cell divide at 3:36 PM on May 25, 2013 [2 favorites]


Full speech in Arabic and translated into English (link to part 1 of 5).
posted by humanfont at 3:42 PM on May 25, 2013


Reportedly they aren't doing very well, and a lot of them are getting killed.
posted by Chocolate Pickle at 3:48 PM on May 25, 2013 [2 favorites]


That's a real shame.
posted by Justinian at 3:50 PM on May 25, 2013 [1 favorite]


Never heard of Syria Deeply before, but any report that starts off by quoting Syrian Observatory for Human Rights as though it were a legit source doesn't seem terribly reliable.
posted by fredludd at 4:05 PM on May 25, 2013


Interesting and tragic development. But it doesn't look (from the links, both in the post and in the comments) like Hezbollah is likely to change things significantly on the ground.
posted by AdamCSnider at 4:09 PM on May 25, 2013


Though we can only sorrow for Syrians living through this war, that Hezbollah is fighting on one side and foreign jihaders on the other is a welcome synergy.
posted by Jehan at 4:16 PM on May 25, 2013


The enemy of my friend's enemy is friends with my enemy's friend whose enemy is my friend's enemy friend = Syria today.

And why staying the fuck out militarily is the best thing we can do - so thank you, Obama even though I've been somewhat disappointed by his foreign policy performance in general... this one he got right. And of course what do the GOP advocate? That we jump in with both feet. Reason #9823395923836 why I am not a Republican.
posted by VikingSword at 4:25 PM on May 25, 2013 [5 favorites]


It's not just the GOP. There are plenty of neoliberal interventionist hawks right here on Metafilter. Witness the other Syria threads. It does appear to be mostly GOP politicians advocating for serious military intervention, though.
posted by Justinian at 4:27 PM on May 25, 2013 [1 favorite]


You're assuming their (GOP politicians') position wouldn't be the exact opposite if Obama was advocating jumping in with both feet.
posted by Ghostride The Whip at 4:29 PM on May 25, 2013 [9 favorites]


I support suicide bombers. The more of them there are, the less of them there are.
posted by SPrintF at 4:39 PM on May 25, 2013 [2 favorites]


Interesting and tragic development. But it doesn't look (from the links, both in the post and in the comments) like Hezbollah is likely to change things significantly on the ground.

I have to disagree. Not only is the open involvement of Hezbollah sparking sectarian violence in Northern Lebanon, but it's the first time Hezbollah has been activated for something other than the protection of Lebanon from Israeli invasion.

According to Reuters, they appear to be making progress at least in Qusair which would split the rebels in two at an important point in their history. The United States will soon meet with Russia to possibly begin a peace deal, but if the United States decides to transition their long-running covert war against Assad (which is a proxy war between US and Gulf States against Iran) into a public declaration of support for the Sunni rebels, it could be the final spark that ignites sectarian violence all along the Shia crescent.

The crescent includes Lebanon, Syria, Iraq, Iran, and Bahrain, and a significant portion of Shia live in Saudi Arabia where crackdown on dissent has been recently renewed. So, Hezbollah's open declaration of war against US aligned Sunni elements is not a small development. And as a bonus, they still get to throw Israel in as an official enemy.
posted by tripping daisy at 4:41 PM on May 25, 2013 [7 favorites]


The enemy of my friend's enemy is friends with my enemy's friend whose enemy is my friend's enemy friend = Syria today.

I'm not sure I followed that, which seems somehow apt.
posted by MoTLD at 5:29 PM on May 25, 2013 [2 favorites]




Reportedly they aren't doing very well, and a lot of them are getting killed.
By Al Quaeda
Though we can only sorrow for Syrians living through this war, that Hezbollah is fighting on one side and foreign jihaders on the other is a welcome synergy.
I don't think you're really thinking about this clearly. Whichever side wins is going to come out much stronger then they were when they went in, both in terms of public support and appearance of competence, as well as getting tons of real-world military experience. If AQ wins it will be a huge boost for them, after having bin-laden killed and looking mainly ineffectual. If Hezbollah wins it's basically back to the status quo, but they'll look even more competent after having fending off the Israeli military in 2006
I support suicide bombers. The more of them there are, the less of them there are.
That's not really how it works either. The more there are the more socially acceptable it becomes, which makes it more easy to recruit them, etc.
posted by delmoi at 8:45 PM on May 25, 2013 [5 favorites]




There are no good guys in this fight. There are only bad guys and victims.
posted by SPrintF at 9:53 PM on May 25, 2013 [3 favorites]


And bad guys who are victims, yes.

The original idea was that the UN would have its own army to prevent wars. Instead we have "peacekeepers" supplied by various nations, and their rules of engagement typically mean that they're the first ones out of there when shooting starts. It amazes me that nearly 70 years after WW2 we still haven't got a way of dealing with things like this.
posted by Joe in Australia at 10:55 PM on May 25, 2013


Is there any city on the planet that has more changes of possessions to different armies than Damascus? There is one war historian who has a thesis that 90% of the battles in all of human history are in a dozen or so basic migratory route crossings and he has cool maps dating back to just after Homer but his name escapes me at the moment.
posted by bukvich at 6:02 AM on May 26, 2013


I don't think you're really thinking about this clearly. Whichever side wins is going to come out much stronger then they were when they went in, both in terms of public support and appearance of competence, as well as getting tons of real-world military experience.
Well, I suppose this is true, but I think I'm assuming that the main rebel force will eventually win. Thus is will be a loss for Hezbollah and the jihadists will be excluded from the spoils. Indeed, I hope that after/as the rebel army win they eliminate the jihadists.
posted by Jehan at 6:58 AM on May 26, 2013


Two rockets hit Hezbollah district of Beirut
Syrian rebel commanders have threatened to retaliate against Hezbollah in Lebanon, our correspondent says.

AP reports that an opposition commander in Syria pledged to attack Hezbollah in Beirut.

"We used to say before, 'We are coming Bashar'," Col Abdul-Jabbar al-Aqidi was quoted as saying. "Now we say, 'We are coming Bashar and we are coming Hassan Nasrallah'."
posted by rosswald at 7:22 AM on May 26, 2013


More than 200 injured and approximately 30 killed after fighting erupts in Tripoli, Lebnanon. Things seem to be moving in the direction of regional war.
posted by humanfont at 7:44 AM on May 26, 2013


Bahrain FM: Hezbollah head Nasrallah is a terrorist
[...] The comments represent a departure from the traditional Arab view of Hezbollah as a main force against Israel and show the widening sectarian divisions in the region over the war in Syria.

Sunni-ruled Bahrain has been rocked by political turmoil since majority Shi'ite Muslims took to the streets in 2011 to push for reforms and more say in the government. Bahrain's rulers blame regional Shi'ite power Iran, Hezbollah's main backer, of fomenting the unrest

posted by Joe in Australia at 9:10 AM on May 26, 2013


Israeli official: We underestimated Assad
Defense official: Israel thought Assad would fall sooner; J'lem sees fall of Assad, take over by rebels as less ideal scenario.

posted by Joe in Australia at 10:10 AM on May 26, 2013


The Assads have been a pretty bad deal for Syria and I think people there would do well to see the back of them. But for gods sakes the guys fighting them are Al Qaeda takfiri salafi jihadis. They don't get any worse than the Al Nusra Front, Mefites. In a fight between Al Qaeda and Hezbollah, anyone who isn't a takfiri salafi jihadi, and lines up with the Al Nusra front, is a fucking moron. i.e., for your average reader here:Hezbollah=the good guys.
posted by jackbrown at 1:26 AM on May 27, 2013


The New York Review Of Books: Stay Out Of Syria!
Syria has already largely disintegrated. The government and its Alawite and Christian supporters have secured the west, the Kurds are in the northeast, and the Islamist rebels are in the east (where the al-Nusra Front has already begun to enforce sharia law). The grossness of the chatter about intervention is suggested by a recent debate between American advisers on Syria and the “moderate” rebel forces they are best satisfied with. The question in dispute, as Phil Sands revealed in a May 9 report in The National (“America’s Hidden Agenda in Syria’s War”), turned on whether the moderates should go into combat first against the Assad loyalists, or against the al-Nusra Front whom they will eventually have to kill.
posted by the man of twists and turns at 9:23 AM on May 27, 2013


As for some it was clear that Nasrallah’s speech was Hezbollah’s declaration of war on al-Qaeda directly. Nasrallah mentioned the “Islamic state of Iraq” and linked it to the radical groups in Syria, accusing it and the Taliban of committing crimes in Syria, Iraq and Pakistan. He took time to explain the “takfiri” mentality to his supporters. "takfiri groups' control over Syria and especially in border areas with Lebanon poses a great danger on Lebanese Muslims as well as Christians," he said. "Syria is the resistance's main supporter and the resistance cannot stand still and let takfiris break its backbone; we believe our action to be a defense of Lebanon, Palestine and Syria."

Nasrallah warned, "If Syria falls in the hands of the takfiris and the United States, the resistance will be trapped and Israel will enter Lebanon. If Syria falls, the Palestinian cause will be lost."
Nasrallah on Syria: 'This Battle Is Ours'
posted by tripping daisy at 10:05 AM on May 27, 2013


Old video comes back to haunt Hezbollah chief Nasrallah
[...] The video being circulated online reportedly dates back to 1988 and shows a younger Nasrallah saying: “Our plan, to which we, as faithful believers, have no alternative, is to establish an Islamic state under the rule of Islam.”

“Lebanon should not be an Islamic republic on its own, but rather, part of the Greater Islamic Republic, governed by the Master of Time [the Mahdi], and his rightful deputy, the Jurisprudent Ruler, Imam Khomeini,” he said.
posted by Joe in Australia at 11:26 AM on May 27, 2013


Le Monde reporters claim to have witnessed poison gas attacks in Syria:
Chemical warfare in Syria
No odor, no smoke, not even a whistle to indicate the release of a toxic gas. And then the symptoms appear. The men cough violently. Their eyes burn, their pupils shrink, their vision blurs. Soon they experience difficulty breathing, sometimes in the extreme; they begin to vomit or lose consciousness. The fighters worst affected need to be evacuated before they suffocate.

Reporters from Le Monde witnessed this on several days in a row in this district [...]

posted by Joe in Australia at 11:35 AM on May 27, 2013






At least McCain is putting his money where his mouth is, I guess.
posted by rosswald at 8:05 PM on May 27, 2013




Daily Beast: Obama asks Pentagon for Syria No Fly Plan

The EU has decided not to renew the arms embargo, but the embargo will remain in place until the end of July.

Meanwhile the status of the S300 missiles is uncertain. Russia seems to have indicated that they will transfer the missiles if the EU/US or Israel attack Syria.

Everything seems to be geared towards positioning various factions ahead of the upcoming peace talks. The US/EU is concerned that moderates are sidelined because they lack weapons and materials available to the more extreme rebels. The Russians want to show support for their existing allies based on their naval presence in Syria and long standing ties to the regime. The positioning is also about how the EU, US and Russia will interact with one another on this crisis. There will need to be a give/get between the powers before the current stalemate can be broken.
posted by humanfont at 3:03 PM on May 28, 2013


Hezbollah fighters 'invading' Syria - rebel chief
The military chief of the main umbrella group of Syrian rebels, the Free Syrian Army, has accused Hezbollah fighters of "invading" Syria in a BBC interview.

Gen Selim Idriss said that more than 7,000 fighters of the Lebanese Shia movement were taking part in attacks on the rebel-held town of Qusair.

Gen Idriss made an urgent appeal for more weapons "to defend our citizens".

[...]

Gen Idriss made an emotional appeal to Western powers on the BBC World Service's Newshour programme, saying: "We are dying. Please come and help us."
posted by rosswald at 1:32 PM on May 29, 2013


Testing Turkey
For all the talk of Turkey’s “zero problems with neighbors,” no amount of soft power has been able to protect the country from the protracted civil war in Syria. Now over two years old, that conflict has laid bare Ankara’s inability to match Tehran’s influence in the region -- or even to secure itself against violence as the conflict has spilled over its borders. After years of trying to go it alone in the Middle East, Turkey’s leaders and public must face the fact that their country needs the United States and NATO for security and stability.
posted by the man of twists and turns at 5:53 AM on May 30, 2013


Based on various wire reports:
-The EU embargo will now end on Friday, with France and Britian preparing to send weapons. Though it is unclear when shipments will begin
-Assad has said that the first of the S300 missiles have arrived. Israel is threatening to attack before the are operational. Syria has indicated they will respond with force if Israel strikes again. Israel just concluded a 3 day country wide chemical attack preparedness drill
-Relations between Hezbollah and Hamas in Lebanon have deteriorated as the twi have taken opposite sidees in the civil war in Syria. There have been reports that Hezbollah has told Hamas to leave the country. Hamas has said they are not leaving.
-The siege of Quasayr continues with the rebels holding on to most of then urban center and Hezbollah/Assad's forces holding the airport.
-Jordan has started turning back refugees at the border with Syria, stating that they don't have resources to take in more refugees.
posted by humanfont at 8:16 AM on May 30, 2013 [1 favorite]




A BBC report packed with a lot of separate stories: Syrian president says army 'has balance of power'. The Syrian National Coalition says that it won't attend a Geneva peace conference while killing continues in Qusair. Pictures of the S-300 system which make me doubt Russia's claim that it sent the missiles as a consequence of a European decision reached this week. Confirmation from Assad that his forces are working with Hezbollah.
posted by Joe in Australia at 11:30 AM on May 30, 2013


When Assad shells rebels, Israel goes on alert and learns
(Reuters) - Israel tracks every heavy missile fired in the Syrian civil war, keen to study Damascus's combat doctrines and deployments and ready to fend off a feared first attack on its turf, a senior Israeli military officer said on Thursday.

Colonel Zvika Haimovich of the air defence corps said southward launches against Syrian insurgents by President Bashar al-Assad's forces gave Israel mere seconds in which to determine it was not the true target - a distinction that could prove crucial for warding off an unprecedented regional conflagration.

posted by Joe in Australia at 11:32 AM on May 30, 2013


Hamas used to be based in Syria. Things are different now:

Hezbollah urges Hamas members and officials to ‘leave Lebanon immediately’
BEIRUT - The powerful Lebanese Shiite movement Hezbollah called on Hamas members and officials who are still present in Lebanon to leave the country 'immediately and within hours.' The decision comes as a response to the Palestinian Islamist movement’s role in the ongoing war in Syria against the regime of President Bashar al-Assad.

posted by Joe in Australia at 11:34 AM on May 30, 2013




The Lebanese media organisation Naharnet doesn't think much of Hezbollah. Compare this original report with the editorialising in the last paragraphs of this one. Palestinian Refugees Burn Aid Provided by Hizbullah in Ain el-Hilweh
A number of Palestinian refugees who fled the war in Syria on Thursday set ablaze aid offered to them by Hizbullah in protest at the party's military intervention in the neighboring country, state-run-National News Agency reported.

The refugees at the Palestinian Ain el-Hilweh camp in Sidon called on Hizbullah to withdraw its fighters from Syria and not to interfere in Syrian affairs, NNA said.

The military support of Hizbullah has helped Syrian regime forces gain the upper hand in the battle for control of Qusayr, a key town for both the regime and the insurgents, where a fierce army assault began 12 days ago.

Hizbullah chief Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah had previously justified the group's involvement in Syria by saying they were defending Lebanese-inhabited border villages inside Syria and Shiite holy sites.

But the offensive on the mostly-Sunni town of Qusayr forced the movement to change its argument.

"Syria is the rear guard of the resistance (Hizbullah's fight with Israel), its backbone, and the resistance cannot stay with its arms folded when its rear guard is exposed," Nasrallah said on Saturday in a speech for the 13th anniversary of Israel's withdrawal from Lebanon.

posted by Joe in Australia at 3:04 PM on May 30, 2013 [1 favorite]


Insane Prediction: Hamas and Israel will make peace, team up with Jordan and form a joint expeditionary force to conquer Syria and Lebanon to create a new superstate the Middle East Union with Jerusalem as the capital.
posted by humanfont at 5:58 PM on May 30, 2013


Palestinians warn that Israeli settlement plans could scupper peace talks efforts
Israel’s housing ministry announced yesterday that it was issuing tenders for the construction of 300 units in Ramot, in the north of Jerusalem, and is planning almost 800 new units in Gilo, at Jerusalem’s southern tip. Both neighbourhoods were built on West Bank land captured by Israel from Jordan during the 1967 Six-Day War and subsequently annexed by Israel and incorporated into Jerusalem’s municipal boundaries, moves not recognised by the international community.
Scupper? Israel is draining any serious hopes for a peace agreement with Palestinians off the deck of reality?
posted by Golden Eternity at 8:22 PM on May 30, 2013


The Palestinians' insistence that Israel make concessions prior to the negotiations seems silly, just as the Rebel/FSA's insistence that they won't participate in the peace talks until the fighting in Qusair stops is silly.

I am sure it is a great line for your partisans, but it moves no one forward.
posted by rosswald at 5:54 AM on May 31, 2013


The Israeli's have insisted the Palestinians make a number of concessions as well. Most of the world, including the US government have supported the palestinians in this request. If we are negotiating over how to split a sandwich, it isn't unreasonable for me to demand you put the sandwich down and stop taking nibbles while we talk about where we are going to split it.
posted by humanfont at 7:51 AM on May 31, 2013


The sandwich/cheese metaphors don't strike me as all that great. I could go on to say that they are negotiating on how to split the Sandwich after the Arab states/Palestinians got out their forks and knives and said "we are taking the whole sandwich," only to actually end up getting less of the sandwich then they had already.
posted by rosswald at 8:17 AM on May 31, 2013


more on topic

Seems like most people are confused/skeptical that Syria has already received the Russian S-300 missile system:

BBC - Syria conflict: Assad interview fuels missile confusion
posted by rosswald at 8:23 AM on May 31, 2013


I think Golden Eternity was surprised by the word "scupper" in this context. It has a secondary meaning "to deliberately sink a ship", and by extension "to prevent or sabotage an endeavour" but this is (a) more common outside the USA and (b) rarely used outside newspaper headlines.

As for the news story, it's really a non-story: nobody actually thinks that Ramat and Gilo will ever be anything than Israeli territory and these apartments are hardly a new development. Mahmoud Abbas is just dancing around the possibility of the likelihood of the chance that he will "return to negotiations with Israel", which has been the case forever.
posted by Joe in Australia at 8:46 AM on May 31, 2013


The sandwich/cheese metaphors don't strike me as all that great. I could go on to say that they are negotiating on how to split the Sandwich after the Arab states/Palestinians got out their forks and knives and said "we are taking the whole sandwich," only to actually end up getting less of the sandwich then they had already.
This is a perfect example of why arguing with metaphors is a bad idea. It's one thing to illustrate a point - someone should stop taking pieces of something before you negotiate on how to split it, and extend it to the point where it makes no sense at all - most people don't use knives and forks to eat a sandwich, for example, and unlike a sandwich a piece of land is not a consumable. And most sandwiches don't last 50 or 60 years which is how far back in time you're reaching, even though a majority of Palestinians in Gaza (Where Hamas has power) are under the age of 18.

In any event preconditions for negotiation have been put in place by both sides.
posted by delmoi at 9:17 AM on May 31, 2013




It's okay guys, you can now legally buy an iPhone in Iran:

US lifts ban on mobile phones and software for Iran

Soft power indeed.
posted by rosswald at 10:45 AM on May 31, 2013


And most sandwiches don't last 50 or 60 years which is how far back in time you're reaching, even though a majority of Palestinians in Gaza (Where Hamas has power) are under the age of 18.

I do have to say, it seems bizarre to accuse me of 'reaching back in time' since it is the mainstay of the current Palestinian position that talks should be based on pre-'67 (50 or 60 years later).

And I knew I should have used toothpicks, not knives!

posted by rosswald at 11:47 AM on May 31, 2013


You don't use toothpicks to divide a sandwich, either. In fact you don't use toothpicks except with club sandwiches, which are typically made with bacon. What are you trying to do, Rosswald? Start World War III?
posted by Joe in Australia at 12:33 PM on May 31, 2013


Hezbollah's Syrian Adventure.

This war is spilling.
posted by the man of twists and turns at 12:47 PM on May 31, 2013


What would we do without UN investigators: U.N. Investigators Say Most Syria Rebels Not Seeking Democracy
posted by Joe in Australia at 2:16 PM on May 31, 2013






The prospect for the peace talks actually happening seems pretty slim according to most of the news I have read.

From CNN, May 31st, 2013 - Analysis: Path to Syria peace talks littered with obstacles
American, Russian and U.N. officials are set to meet next week in Geneva, Switzerland, to prepare for peace talks on Syria. Those talks would bring together officials from the Syrian regime of Bashar al-Assad and members of the Syrian opposition to discuss a political transition.

Proposed by U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry and Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov, they are tentatively scheduled for mid-June. But unresolved disagreements among members of the international community and continued disputes within the Syrian opposition cast doubt on whether the talks can be held so soon, or at all.
posted by rosswald at 7:28 PM on June 1, 2013


Workshops to Produce Chemical Weapons Uncovered in Iraq
Defense ministry spokesman Mohammed al-Askari said the workshops, one in Baghdad and the other in an unnamed province, were ran by five suspected members of an Al-Qaeda terror cell. All of them were detained.

Remote-controlled toy planes were also seized at the workshops.
posted by Golden Eternity at 7:59 PM on June 1, 2013


I have to say, the chemical-weapons coupled with RC planes plot from AQ-Iraq absolutely terrifies me.
posted by rosswald at 11:28 PM on June 1, 2013


This is nearly a year old, but very much worth reading: Daydream Believers: A Saturday in Majdal Shams on the Golan Heights
posted by Joe in Australia at 2:04 PM on June 2, 2013 [2 favorites]


I have to say, the chemical-weapons coupled with RC planes plot from AQ-Iraq absolutely terrifies me.

Chemical weapons are mostly very difficult to use effectively. You either have to use huge amounts of it or use it in a confined space. Though I suppose you don't actually have to kill very many people to put the "terror' in "terrorism".
posted by Justinian at 4:23 PM on June 2, 2013


France says it confirms use of sarin gas in Syria
PARIS (AP) — France said Tuesday it has confirmed that sarin gas was used "multiple times and in a localized way" in Syria, including at least once by the regime, making the most specific claim yet by any Western power about chemical weapons attacks in the 27-month-old conflict.

Still, the French announcement left many questions unanswered, highlighting the difficulties of confirming from a distance whether combatants in Syria have crossed the "red line" set by President Barack Obama. The regime of Syrian President Bashar Assad has refused to allow U.N. investigators into the country.

The French findings, based on samples taken from Syria and tested in France, came hours after a U.N. team said it had "reasonable grounds" to suspect small-scale use of toxic chemicals in at least four attacks in March and April.
This seems like a tipping point to me. Obama is going to come under a lot of pressure to act on this (especially if more evidence comes out), but at this point the odds of any side 'winning' seems slim.

A lot more weapons are going to start being pumped into the conflict and lot more people are going to die.

:(
posted by rosswald at 1:18 PM on June 4, 2013






The use of poison gas was always a stupid "red line"; I suspect that Obama just thought that Assad wouldn't be so stupid as to use weapons that are tactically weak but which carry enormous political cost. Now it turns out that he was wrong: Assad really was that stupid, and now the Western alliance may be forced into intervening in another conflict with no clear tactical objective other than "shoot bad guys".

Crap.
posted by Joe in Australia at 1:37 PM on June 4, 2013


The "Western alliance" isn't forced to do anything.
posted by Golden Eternity at 1:38 PM on June 4, 2013


It is tremendously hard for most Western countries to say "no" if the USA asks strongly enough, and the USAn administration may be reluctant to back down.
posted by Joe in Australia at 2:16 PM on June 4, 2013


BBC - Syrian rebels 'can fight Hezbollah in Lebanon' - Idriss

The military chief of the main umbrella group of Syrian rebels says his men are ready to fight Hezbollah militants inside neighbouring Lebanon.
posted by rosswald at 3:52 AM on June 5, 2013


administration may be reluctant to back down.

It seems like the only person in the US govt that wants to do something serious in Syria is John McCain. I would think Turkey, Europe, Israel, Iraq, Jordan, etc., have a lot more at stake in Syria than the U.S. I suspect the U.S. will work closely with them to decide what to do.

Syrian rebels lose strategic town in boost for Assad
Syrian government forces and their Lebanese Hezbollah allies seized control of the border town of Qusair on Wednesday, dealing a major defeat to rebel fighters battling to overthrow President Bashar al-Assad.
posted by Golden Eternity at 10:23 AM on June 5, 2013




If it requires an international response; then France doesn't have to act until alone. Is that really a moral position or just a diplomatic cover to avoid acting?
posted by humanfont at 7:06 PM on June 5, 2013


UN launches 'largest humanitarian appeal in history' for Syria
Half the population of Syria is expected to be in need of aid by the end of the year as millions of people are forced to flee their homes due to the civil war, the United Nations said Friday as it launched its biggest ever humanitarian appeal.
posted by Golden Eternity at 9:19 AM on June 7, 2013


UN seeks fresh Golan troops after Austria pullout
[...] UN leaders held emergency talks to replace the 377 Austrian troops who make up more than a third of the United Nations Disengagement Observer Force, which has monitored a ceasefire between Israel and Syria since 1974
There's a consistent pattern with UN observer forces in the Middle East: they're mostly useless and they leave just when they might actually start to be useful. This has implications for any Israel/Palestinian peace plan that relies on an "international presence" to enforce peace.
posted by Joe in Australia at 3:29 AM on June 8, 2013


I saw that Russia offered to replace the Austrian troops and Assad seemed to welcome the offer. Aside from the fact that it appears that members of the security council seems discouraged from acting in these types of missions, it seems like since Russia is so linked with the Syrian regime neither Israel or NATO will sign on. Still, seems like no one else is rushing to fill that void...
posted by rosswald at 11:06 AM on June 8, 2013


Russia announces permanent Mediterranean naval presence

My take on it: they're making a show of force to discourage Western intervention in Syria, but they're also staking out a position in case Assad falls so they don't lose access to their naval base.
posted by Joe in Australia at 6:29 PM on June 9, 2013 [1 favorite]






NATO's Not Attacking
NATO secretary general Anders Fogh Rasmussen reiterated Friday that the Alliance will not intervene militarily in Syria. While he repeatedly made the same assurances regarding Libya before NATO's ultimate action, there's good reason to believe him this time.
posted by the man of twists and turns at 7:17 PM on June 10, 2013


Hmm. The U.S. has 5,000 troops in Jordan for an air defense and disaster relief excercise

N.B. The typo in the link is as published.

posted by Joe in Australia at 2:06 AM on June 11, 2013




The Dangerous Illusion Of An Alawite Regime - "The regime has a lot riding on this sectarian gamble. They are hoping we fall for it. To the extent we do, it is Assad and his supporters who win the war."
posted by the man of twists and turns at 3:46 PM on June 11, 2013










The New Problem From Hell
Obama's options in Syria are awful. But the United States is headed for intervention anyway.


How the War in Syria Has Helped to Inspire Turkey's Protests - "The anti-Erdogan protesters in Turkey have many grievances - but the prime minister's record of support for the Syrian rebels may turn out to be the most explosive."

"Explosive" in this case meaning, car bombings in the Turkish border town of Reyhanli.
posted by the man of twists and turns at 10:19 AM on June 12, 2013


Yeah, this isn't good, no matter what happens:
White House: Chemical arms used in Syria, US to arm rebels
Assad regime has used chemical weapons on a small scale multiple times over the past year, White House announces; Obama administration says "red line" has been crossed; US mulling implementation of no-fly zone.
Thank you, Bill. How, exactly?
Clinton calls on Obama to act forcefully in Syria
Former US president sides with Republican Senator John McCain, urges aid to rebels to counter Russia, Iran, Hezbollah.

posted by Joe in Australia at 3:29 PM on June 13, 2013


All rightie then, lets get our war on! It's been literally months since we found a new place to kill people.
posted by Justinian at 5:25 PM on June 13, 2013


Oh come on Joe, I'm sure we will be greeted as liberators this time.
posted by humanfont at 5:27 PM on June 13, 2013


I don't remember very many meetings between US Senators and Iraqi opposition leaders...
posted by rosswald at 5:55 PM on June 13, 2013


Ahmed Chalabi was meeting with US Senators all the time.
posted by humanfont at 6:10 PM on June 13, 2013


Interesting, thanks.

I still think the point I made (or was trying to make) is valid - the comparisons of US involvement in Syria to Iraq are easy to make but harder to justify on further examination.
posted by rosswald at 6:16 PM on June 13, 2013


A feelgood story, because we probably need one:
Syrian sent to Israeli hospital with note attached
posted by Joe in Australia at 6:42 PM on June 13, 2013




A Choice, Not An Echo
posted by homunculus at 11:09 AM on June 14, 2013


What the heck is our interest here? Just killing everybody? Replacing a relatively secular government with an Islamist one who will then proceed to shoot our weapons back at us?
posted by Justinian at 2:03 PM on June 14, 2013


Assad's government is not secularist. It doesn't enforce a strict interpretation of Islam, but it does limit power and influence to Alawites. Everyone in Syria has an ID card that lists their religious fairh. Assad has also not been shy about backing various religious fanatics and it is closely allies with Hezbollah and Iran.

America's interests are as follows:
1- Egypt, Israel, Turkey and Saudi Arabia are close allies and are requesting American assistance in dealing with this regional problem.
2- Iran is a regional power that constantly acts against our interests. The current Syrian regime is an ally of Iran. Therefore an outcome of the civil war that weakens Iran or limits their influence in Syria is in our interests.
3- The Russian Navy has a major base in the Mediteranian in Syria. The US has a difficult and sometimes adversarial relationship with Russia. To the extent that we can influence the future of this base our negotiating position with Russia is strengthened.
posted by humanfont at 3:25 PM on June 14, 2013 [1 favorite]


Do you think we're likely to achieve all those goals without major expenditure of blood and treasure, and that it won't lead to further conflict in the region? With Iran for example?
posted by Justinian at 7:13 PM on June 14, 2013




Has anyone seen the evidence that Syria used chemical weapons? Since when do we just take the government's word for it? That worked superbly in Iraq.
posted by Justinian at 1:05 PM on June 15, 2013




Super. Maybe we could get Colin Powell to do another UN presentation for us.
posted by Justinian at 3:31 PM on June 15, 2013


The rationale for invading Iraq was that Saddam had retained a substantial chemical and biological weapons program and had the capability to use them in an attack on other countries. We now know that he had actually dismantled that program, but the rationale made at least a certain amount of sense: WMDs are a threat multiplier and Saddam was a warmonger who could not be allowed to continue threatening the region. So, the decision was factually wrong but at least it was a coherent one.

Assad's alleged use of poison gas doesn't amount to the same situation. There is no real difference between people killed by poison gas and people killed with conventional artillery; if it's worth intervening now it was worth intervening before 90,000 people were killed. We have all the same strategic problems that we found with the invasion of Iraq, but this time we don't even intend to replace a destabilising warmonger with a peaceful democracy: we are just trapped by an incautious declaration that the use of poison gas was "a red line".
posted by Joe in Australia at 4:31 PM on June 15, 2013


Syria is Iran's Stalingrad

Pick your own slogan:

Dig in and wait for winter!

Not a step back!

With comrade [ ] we cannot fail!*

* To be filled in once a rebel leader emerges.
posted by Joe in Australia at 3:05 AM on June 16, 2013 [2 favorites]


The newspaper, The Independent, reports that Iran is sending 4000 troops to support Assad. Meanwhile Egypt has closed its embassy in Damascus, cutting diplomatic relations with Assad. Egypt's president is calling for a no fly zone as well.
posted by humanfont at 12:15 PM on June 16, 2013


Then let him enforce it. I'm so tired of people doing the whole "let's you and him fight!" thing.
posted by Justinian at 1:17 PM on June 16, 2013


With Iraqi Shiites and Sunnis fighting on both sides in Syria, it's easy to see how this could bleed more seriously into Iraq. If that were to happen, I would think Maliki would have to ally himself more closely with Iran.

What's really in the best interest of the U.S. (and the region as whole), it seems to me, is a negotiated peace settlement allowing for autonomous Alawite-Shiite, Sunni, and Kurdish regions of Syria. The U.S. can't enforce this on its own, it would need to cooperation of Russia, Iran, and China. But it doesn't seem like a peace agreement will be possible unless the fighting leads to a true stalemate. Assad and Iran look more organized and confident now; I wonder if they may have a better chance of retaking Aleppo than they are being given credit for. If the U.S. were to try to enforce a no fly zone without a UN mandate it easily could lead to a direct conflict with Iran and by proxy Russia which would be insane.
posted by Golden Eternity at 2:07 PM on June 16, 2013




Then let him enforce it. I'm so tired of people doing the whole "let's you and him fight!" thing.

Egypt doesn't seem unwilling to fight. Give the army and those kids in Tahrir square something to do.
posted by humanfont at 5:27 PM on June 16, 2013








5 Rules for Arming Rebels:
1: Figure out who your friends are.
2: Be prepared to do all the work.
3: Don't give away anything that you would want to have back.
4: Do not invite an equal and opposite response by another great power.
5: Lay some ground rules for the endgame.
posted by the man of twists and turns at 11:53 AM on June 18, 2013










The Price of Loyalty in Syria
posted by homunculus at 9:57 PM on June 19, 2013




Syria: Finding the Lost Cause in China, or, How The US Can Learn From Dealing With China.
posted by the man of twists and turns at 1:21 PM on June 24, 2013 [1 favorite]


Inching Into Syria
When I set out to meet with Syrian rebel operatives in the wake of Obama’s halfhearted shift, I expected a reaction of rolled eyes, too-little-too-late and thanks-for-nothing. What I found was a surprising surge of optimism, a sense that something has changed — specifically, that America is inching toward more serious engagement.

posted by Joe in Australia at 6:45 PM on June 24, 2013


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