Edward Snowden calls U.S. intelligence ‘aggressively criminal’
By Shashank Bengali
June 17, 2013, 11:06 a.m.
WASHINGTON — Edward Snowden, the former U.S. government contractor who leaked secret details of official surveillance programs, pledged Monday to release more information about U.S. intelligence-gathering methods that he described as “nakedly, aggressively criminal.”
Writing from an undisclosed location believed to be in Hong Kong, the former CIA and National Security Agency systems administrator vigorously defended his disclosures about the breadth of U.S. surveillance, including programs that sweep up data about Americans’ telephone calls, emails and Internet use.
U.S. officials have said that under laws governing the surveillance programs, including the Patriot Act and the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, U.S. citizens are not the targets of the surveillance and their information is “minimized,” or set aside, unless it becomes relevant to a national security investigation.
But Snowden alleged that intelligence agencies keep the information on government computers “for a very long time” and are available for analysts to view as long as they produce a “rubber stamp” warrant.
(Reuters) – The former National Security Agency contractor who revealed the U.S. government’s top-secret monitoring of Americans’ phone and Internet data fought back against his critics on Monday, saying the government’s “litany of lies” about the programs compelled him to act.
Edward Snowden told an online forum run by Britain’s Guardian newspaper that he considered it an honor to be called a traitor by people like former Vice President Dick Cheney, and he urged President Barack Obama to “return to sanity” and roll back the surveillance effort.
Taking questions from readers and journalists, Snowden talked about his motivations and reaction to the debate raging about the damage or virtue of the leaks. Snowden remains in hiding, reportedly in Hong Kong.
Snowden said disillusionment with Obama contributed to his decision but there was no single event that led him to leak details about the vast monitoring of Americans’ activity.
“It was seeing a continuing litany of lies from senior officials to Congress – and therefore the American people – and the realization that Congress … wholly supported the lies,” said Snowden, who had worked at an NSA facility in Hawaii as an employee of contractor Booz Allen Hamilton before providing the details to the Guardian and Washington Post.
Snowden referred to Director of National Intelligence James Clapper’s testimony to Congress in March that such a program did not exist, saying that seeing him “baldly lying to the public without repercussion is the evidence of a subverted democracy. The consent of the governed is not consent if it is not informed.”
The Justice Department has opened a criminal investigation into Snowden’s actions, and U.S. officials promised last week to hold him accountable for the leaks.
Since Snowden went public in a video released by the Guardian on June 9, many U.S. lawmakers have condemned his actions and intelligence officials have said the leaks will compromise national security.
Some lawmakers have been more restrained. Republican Senator Rand Paul, a Tea Party favorite, has said he is reserving judgment about Snowden’s methods, and separately encouraged Americans to be part of a class-action lawsuit against the U.S. government for the surveillance programs.
Snowden, who traveled to Hong Kong before details of the programs were published, has promised to stay in the China-ruled former British colony and fight extradition.
China made its first substantive comments on Monday regarding Snowden’s revelations. A Chinese Foreign Ministry spokeswoman said that Washington should explain its surveillance programs to the world, and she rejected a suggestion that Snowden was a spy for China.
Snowden said during the online forum on Monday that he does not believe he can get a fair trial in the United States.
The brief argues that the official declassification, which also included the acknowledgement that three other American citizens have died in such operations outside active combat zones, “should not affect (or be relevant to)” the appeals court’s review of a district court judge’s ruling that legal memoranda sought by the New York Times and the ACLU were exempt from disclosure under the Freedom of Information Act.
In the brief filed with the New York-based U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit (and posted here), Justice Department lawyers do say that the declassification gives them new leeway to describe the relevant DOJ records in general terms.
“Given recent acknowledgments by the President and other senior officials of the previously properly classified fact that the United States carried out the targeted strike that killed Anwar al- Awlaki, DOJ has now determined that it can provide some limited additional information about classified documents in its possession that are responsive to the ACLU request,” says the brief submitted under the names of DOJ Civil Division Chief Stuart Delery and U.S. Attorney Preet Bhahara.
PUBLISHED: 14:16 EST, 29 January 2013 | UPDATED: 14:16 EST, 29 January 2013
Leaked emails have allegedly proved that the White House gave the green light to a chemical weapons attack in Syria that could be blamed on Assad’s regime and in turn, spur international military action in the devastated country.
A report released on Monday contains an email exchange between two senior officials at British-based contractor Britam Defence where a scheme ‘approved by Washington’ is outlined explaining that Qatar would fund rebel forces in Syria to use chemical weapons.
Barack Obama made it clear to Syrian president Bashar al-Assad last month that the U.S. would not tolerate Syria using chemical weapons against its own people.
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War games: An explosion in the Syrian city of Homs last month. It has been now been suggested that the U.S. backed the use of chemical weapons to spur international military intervention
According to Infowars.com, the December 25 email was sent from Britam’s Business Development Director David Goulding to company founder Philip Doughty.
It reads: ‘Phil… We’ve got a new offer. It’s about Syria again. Qataris propose an attractive deal and swear that the idea is approved by Washington.
‘We’ll have to deliver a CW to Homs, a Soviet origin g-shell from Libya similar to those that Assad should have.
‘They want us to deploy our Ukrainian personnel that should speak Russian and make a video record.
‘Frankly, I don’t think it’s a good idea but the sums proposed are enormous. Your opinion?
‘Kind regards, David.’
Britam Defence had not yet returned a request for comment to MailOnline.
Leaked: The email was allegedly sent from a top official at a British defense contractor regarding a ‘Washington approved’ chemical attack in Syria which could be blamed on Assad’s regime
The emails were released by a Malaysian hacker who also obtained senior executives resumés and copies of passports via an unprotected company server, according to Cyber War News.
Dave Goulding’s Linkedin profile lists him as Business Development Director at Britam Defence Ltd in Security and Investigations. A business networking profile for Phil Doughty lists him as Chief Operationg Officer for Britam, United Arab Emirates, Security and Investigations.
The U.S. State Department had not returned a request for comment on the alleged emails to MailOnline today at time of publication.
However the use of chemical warfare was raised at a press briefing in D.C. on January 28.
A spokesman said that the U.S. joined the international community in ‘setting common redlines about the consequences of using chemical weapons’.
Countless losses: Families attempt to identify the bodies of Syrian fighters shot and dumped in a river in the northern Syrian city of Aleppo today
The documents come in 6 parts and total over 423MB compress zip files and inside the compress files appears to be a common layout of three main folders named !!Syria, Iran and Iraq.
Inside these appear to be documents like passports, incident reports about drunk employees which are labelled private and confidential as well.
A quick look into the files shows shocking plans for chemical warfare attacks where they have planned to lure victims to kill zones. The file can be found in the Iran folder under OPLAN (Ruhayyat) 1433H-1.doc.
The House voted down – by 249 to 174 – an amendment to close the naval detention centre by 31 December 2014. Photograph: John Moore/Getty Images
The House of Representatives has overwhelmingly passed a sweeping, $638bn defence bill that would block President Barack Obama from closing the US detention facility at Guantánamo Bay, and limit his efforts to reduce nuclear weapons.
Ignoring a White House veto threat, the Republican-controlled House voted 315-108 for the legislation – which also authorises money for aircraft, weapons, ships, personnel and the war in Afghanistan. It must be reconciled with a Senate version before heading to the president’s desk.
Despite last-minute lobbying by Obama counter-terrorism adviser Lisa Monaco, the House soundly rejected Obama’s repeated pleas to shutter Guantánamo. In recent weeks, the president implored Congress to close the facility in Cuba, citing its prohibitive costs and its role as a recruiting tool for extremists.
A hunger strike by more than 100 of the 166 prisoners protesting against their conditions and indefinite confinement has prompted the fresh calls for closure. Obama is pushing to transfer approved detainees – there are 86 – to their home countries and lift a ban on transfers to Yemen. Fifty-six of the 86 are from Yemen.
The CIA is preparing to deliver arms to rebel groups in Syria through clandestine bases in Turkey and Jordan that were expanded over the past year in an effort to establish reliable supply routes into the country for nonlethal material, U.S. officials said.
The bases are expected to begin conveying limited shipments of weapons and ammunition within weeks, officials said, serving as critical nodes for an escalation of U.S. involvement in a civil war that has lately seen a shift in momentum toward the forces of President Bashar al-Assad.
Areas in Syria with a rebel presence
A look at the Syrian uprising nearly two years later. Thousands of Syrians have died and President Bashar al-Assad remains in power, despite numerous calls by the international community for him to step down.
Syria experts cautioned that the opposition to Assad remains a chaotic mix of secular and Islamist elements, highlighting the risk that some American-provided munitions may be diverted from their intended recipients.
But U.S. officials involved in the planning of the new policy of increased military support announced by the Obama administration Thursday said that the CIA has developed a clearer understanding of the composition of rebel forces, which have begun to coalesce in recent months. Within the past year, the CIA also created a new office at its headquarters in Langley to oversee its expanding operational role in Syria.
“We have relationships today in Syria that we didn’t have six months ago,” Benjamin J. Rhodes, Obama’s deputy national security adviser, said during a White House briefing Friday. The United States is capable of delivering material “not only into the country,” Rhodes said, but “into the right hands.”
“The Syrian puzzle has come into sharper focus in the past year, especially the makeup of various anti-regime groups,” said a U.S. official familiar with CIA assessments of the conflict. “And while the opposition remains far from monolithic, its military structures and coordination processes have improved.”
The official, like most others interviewed for this article, spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss intelligence assessments and planning.
The increased certainty is one of several factors that led to the reversal of a U.S. policy against providing lethal aid that had been in place since the uprising began in Syria more than two years ago.
Rhodes said the change was driven by a new determination by U.S. intelligence agencies that Assad’s regime had used chemical weapons, including sarin gas, on at least four separate occasions. Obama also faced mounting pressure to intervene more aggressively as members of Congress and overseas allies became increasingly alarmed that Assad’s forces were gaining strength with expanded assistance from Russia and Iran.
For the CIA, the shift on Syria marks a return to a covert-action role that was familiar to the agency during Cold War-era conflicts but that gave way to increasingly direct lethal operations as the agency’s drone campaign surged in the years following the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks.
The Russian President, Vladimir Putin, rounded on Britain on Sunday, accusing David Cameron of betraying humanitarian values by supporting Syrian rebels with “blood on their hands”.
In harsh and undiplomatic language, Mr Putin accused the UK and other Western powers of attempting to arm rebels who “kill their enemies and eat their organs”. He insisted that Russia would continue to arm what he said was the recognised “legitimate government” in Syria and called on other countries to respect the same rules.
Mr Putin’s comments, ahead of Monday’s G8 summit in Northern Ireland, suggest that earlier British hopes of a softening of Russia’s position on Syria were misplaced. After around an hour of bilateral talks with David Cameron in Downing Street, Mr Putin’s spokesman told The Independent that the two sides remained as far apart as ever.
“There are very serious disagreements in terms of who is guilty and who is to blame,” he said. Asked what the impact of the American decision to arm Syrian rebels would be on potential peace talks, he added: “It makes it harder.”
In a press conference after the talks, Mr Cameron admitted that “President Putin and I have our disagreements on some of the issues”, but insisted the G8 could bring “new momentum and leadership” to start negotiations in Syria.
“What I take from our conversation today is that we can overcome differences if we recognise that we share some fundamental aims: to end the conflict, to stop Syria breaking apart, to let the Syrian people choose who governs them and to take the fight to the extremists,” he said.
“If we leave Syria to be fought over between a murderous dictator and violent extremists we will all pay the price,” he added.
A group of Conservative MPs and retired officers warned the prime minister that his plan to arm foreign-backed terror groups fighting the Syrian government would be the first step down a path that could lead to another British military invasion of the Middle East region.
This comes as the coalition government is sending redundancy notices to 5,300 Army personnel soon as part of its plan to reduce the number of soldiers from 102,000 to 82,000 by 2017.
The cuts are imposed at a time when David Cameron is contemplating to arm terrorists fighting the popular government of President Bashar al-Assad in Syria.
“Here we are yet again with a government reducing our Armed Services and at the same time talking about military intervention of some sort in Syria”, said Richard Drax, the Conservative MP for South Dorset.
“In such an increasingly unstable world, events like Syria and Turkey can develop at any moment and yet here we are cutting our Armed Services to the size of a gendarmerie. Our Navy is now little more than something you put in the bath”, he said.
Earlier this month, 82 Tory MPs wrote to the Prime Minister to demand a parliamentary vote on any decision to equip Syria’s rebels.
Some Conservative MPs fear that any weapons given to the rebels could fall into the hands of some fighters who have links with al-Qaeda terrorist group.
Meanwhile, David Cameron has said that he will make every attempt to convince the Group of Eight (G8) authorities to support US plans to impose a no-fly zone over parts of Syria, when they gather for the G8 summit in Northern Ireland this week.
The push for action comes after US President Barack Obama said he would give “direct military aid” to terrorists in Syria.
Cameron was central to the development of a no-fly zone over Libya in 2011, which resulted in thousands of sorties and strikes against people on the ground.
Washington’s decision to arm Syria’s Sunni Muslim rebels has plunged America into the great Sunni-Shia conflict of the Islamic Middle East, entering a struggle that now dwarfs the Arab revolutions which overthrew dictatorships across the region.
For the first time, all of America’s ‘friends’ in the region are Sunni Muslims and all of its enemies are Shiites. Breaking all President Barack Obama’s rules of disengagement, the US is now fully engaged on the side of armed groups which include the most extreme Sunni Islamist movements in the Middle East.
The Independent on Sunday has learned that a military decision has been taken in Iran – even before last week’s presidential election – to send a first contingent of 4,000 Iranian Revolutionary Guards to Syria to support President Bashar al-Assad’s forces against the largely Sunni rebellion that has cost almost 100,000 lives in just over two years. Iran is now fully committed to preserving Assad’s regime, according to pro-Iranian sources which have been deeply involved in the Islamic Republic’s security, even to the extent of proposing to open up a new ‘Syrian’ front on the Golan Heights against Israel.
In years to come, historians will ask how America – after its defeat in Iraq and its humiliating withdrawal from Afghanistan scheduled for 2014 – could have so blithely aligned itself with one side in a titanic Islamic struggle stretching back to the seventh century death of the Prophet Mohamed. The profound effects of this great schism, between Sunnis who believe that the father of Mohamed’s wife was the new caliph of the Muslim world and Shias who regard his son in law Ali as his rightful successor – a seventh century battle swamped in blood around the present-day Iraqi cities of Najaf and Kerbala – continue across the region to this day. A 17th century Archbishop of Canterbury, George Abbott, compared this Muslim conflict to that between “Papists and Protestants”.
America’s alliance now includes the wealthiest states of the Arab Gulf, the vast Sunni territories between Egypt and Morocco, as well as Turkey and the fragile British-created monarchy in Jordan. King Abdullah of Jordan – flooded, like so many neighbouring nations, by hundreds of thousands of Syrian refugees – may also now find himself at the fulcrum of the Syrian battle. Up to 3,000 American ‘advisers’ are now believed to be in Jordan, and the creation of a southern Syria ‘no-fly zone’ – opposed by Syrian-controlled anti-aircraft batteries – will turn a crisis into a ‘hot’ war. So much for America’s ‘friends’.
Its enemies include the Lebanese Hizballah, the Alawite Shiite regime in Damascus and, of course, Iran. And Iraq, a largely Shiite nation which America ‘liberated’ from Saddam Hussein’s Sunni minority in the hope of balancing the Shiite power of Iran, has – against all US predictions – itself now largely fallen under Tehran’s influence and power. Iraqi Shiites as well as Hizballah members, have both fought alongside Assad’s forces.
Washington’s excuse for its new Middle East adventure – that it must arm Assad’s enemies because the Damascus regime has used sarin gas against them – convinces no-one in the Middle East. Final proof of the use of gas by either side in Syria remains almost as nebulous as President George W. Bush’s claim that Saddam’s Iraq possessed weapons of mass destruction.
For the real reason why America has thrown its military power behind Syria’s Sunni rebels is because those same rebels are now losing their war against Assad. The Damascus regime’s victory this month in the central Syrian town of Qusayr, at the cost of Hizballah lives as well as those of government forces, has thrown the Syrian revolution into turmoil, threatening to humiliate American and EU demands for Assad to abandon power. Arab dictators are supposed to be deposed – unless they are the friendly kings or emirs of the Gulf – not to be sustained. Yet Russia has given its total support to Assad, three times vetoing UN Security Council resolutions that might have allowed the West to intervene directly in the civil war.
(Reuters) – The United States said on Saturday it would keep F-16 fighters and Patriot missiles in Jordan at Amman’s request, and Russia bristled at the possibility they could be used to enforce a no-fly zone inside Syria.
Washington, which has long called for President Bashar al-Assad to step down, pledged military support to Syrian rebels this week, citing what it said was the Syrian military’s use of chemical weapons – an allegation Damascus has denied.
Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel has approved a Jordanian request for American F-16s and Patriot missiles to remain in the Western-backed kingdom after a joint military exercise there next week, a Pentagon spokesman said.
Western diplomats said on Friday Washington was considering a limited no-fly zone over parts of Syria, but the White House noted later that it would be far harder and costlier to set one up there than it was in Libya, saying the United States had no national interest in pursuing that option.
Russia, an ally of Damascus and fierce opponent of outside military intervention in Syria, said any attempt to impose a no-fly zone using F-16s and Patriots from Jordan would be illegal.
“You don’t have to be a great expert to understand that this will violate international law,” Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said.
The idea of a no-fly zone was endorsed by Egypt, the biggest Arab nation. President Mohamed Mursi, an Islamist more distant from Washington than his deposed military predecessor, made a keynote speech in Cairo throwing Egypt’s substantial weight more firmly than before against President Bashar al-Assad.
Despite their differences, the United States and Russia announced in May they would try to convene peace talks involving the Syrian government and its opponents, but have set no date.
U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry said chemical attacks by Syrian forces and Hezbollah’s involvement on Assad’s side showed a lack of commitment to negotiations and threatened to “put a political settlement out of reach”.
Kerry had not previously expressed such pessimism about prospects for the conference, which has run into many obstacles.
These include disarray in the Syrian opposition and military gains by the Syrian army and its Lebanese Hezbollah allies against rebels who have few ways to counter Assad’s air power.
The involvement of Hezbollah fighters on the side of Assad, a fellow ally of the main Shi’ite power Iran, has galvanized Arab governments, including Egypt, behind the rebels, who mostly follow the Sunni version of Islam that dominates the Arab world.
That has hardened sectarian confrontation across the region, which some Arabs hope might be softened by the election of the moderate Hassan Rohani as Iran’s president – though few believe he can truly influence Tehran’s supreme leader.
Mursi, addressing thousands of cheering supporters at a stadium gathering organized by Egyptian Sunni clerics, demanded Hezbollah pull out of Syria and, after his Muslim Brotherhood joined calls for jihad against Assad and his Shi’ite allies, the president said Cairo had now cut diplomatic ties with Damascus.
Egypt’s powerful, U.S.-backed army seems unlikely to involve itself in Syria, but religious passions are running high and more Egyptian volunteers could travel to join the rebels.
Hezbollah supporters raise their hands in salute as Hezbollah leader Sheik Hassan Nasrallah speaks on a screen via a video link from a secret place, during a rally to mark the “wounded resistants day,” in the southern suburb of Beirut, Lebanon, June 14, 2013. (AP Photo/Bilal Hussein)
BEIRUT—The leader of Lebanon’s Hezbollah group vowed Friday to keep fighting in Syria “wherever needed” and said his Shiite Muslim group has made a “calculated” decision to defend the Syrian regime no matter what the consequences.
The comments by Sheik Hassan Nasrallah in a speech to supporters in southern Beirut signaled for the first time the Iranian-backed group will stay involved in the civil war raging next door after helping President Bashar Assad’s army recapture a key town in Syria’s central Homs province from rebels.
President Barack Obama has authorized lethal aid to Syrian rebels after the U.S. announced it had conclusive evidence that the Syrian regime used chemical weapons. U.S. officials are still grappling with what type and how much weaponry to send, but the announcement buoyed opposition forces, which have found themselves heavily outgunned and outmanned by the Hezbollah-backed regime.
The Syrian government on Friday dismissed U.S. charges that it used chemical weapons as “full of lies,” accusing Obama of resorting to fabrications to justify his decision to arm Syrian rebels.
U.S. officials said the administration could provide the rebel fighters with a range of weapons, including small arms, ammunition, assault rifles and a variety of anti-tank weaponry such as shoulder-fired rocket-propelled grenades and other missiles. The officials insisted on anonymity in order to discuss internal administration discussions with reporters.
Hezbollah has come under harsh criticism at home and abroad for sending its gunmen to Qusair, and Nasrallah’s gamble in Syria primarily stems from his group’s vested interest in the Assad regime’s survival. The Syrian government has been one of Hezbollah’s strongest backers for decades and the militant group fears that if the regime falls it will be replaced by a U.S.-backed government that will be hostile to Hezbollah.
Nasrallah said verbal and other attacks against his militant group “only serve to increase our determination.”
“We will be where we should be, we will continue to bear the responsibility we took upon ourselves,” Nasrallah said. “There is no need to elaborate… we leave the details to the requirements of the battlefield.”
Assad’s forces, aided by fighters from Lebanon’s militant group Hezbollah, captured Qusair on June 5, dealing a heavy blow to rebels who had been entrenched in the strategic town for over a year.
Since then, the regime has shifted its attention to recapture other areas in the central Homs province and Aleppo to the north.
A visibly angry Nasrallah did not say outright whether his fighters would go as far as fighting in Aleppo, but his words strongly suggested the group was prepared to fight till the end.
“After Qusair for us will be the same as before Qusair,” he said. “The project has not changed and our convictions have not changed.”
Nasrallah reiterated that the fight in Syria was one against the “American, Israeli and Takfiri project” that was meant to destroy Syria, which along with Iran has been the group’s main backer. Takfiri Islamists refers to an ideology that urges Sunni Muslims to kill anyone they consider an infidel.
Much of the group’s arsenal, including tens of thousands of rockets, is believed to have come from Iran via Syria or from Syria itself.
In addition to the increased military aid, the U.S. also announced Thursday it had conclusive evidence that Assad’s regime has used chemical weapons, including the nerve agent sarin, on a small scale against opposition forces. The White House said multiple chemical attacks last year killed up to 150 people.
Obama has said the use of chemical weapons cross a “red line,” triggering greater U.S involvement in the crisis.
“The White House has issued a statement full of lies about the use of chemical weapons in Syria, based on fabricated information,” a statement issued Friday by the Syrian Foreign Ministry said. “The United States is using cheap tactics to justify President Barack Obama’s decision to arm the Syrian opposition,” it said.
By DEB RIECHMANN and LOLITA C. BALDOR Associated Press
WASHINGTON June 15, 2013 (AP)
The Obama administration hopes its decision to give lethal aid to Syrian rebels will prompt other nations to beef up assistance, now that the U.S. has cited evidence that the Syrian government used chemical weapons against its people. But the international reaction Friday ranged from flat-out disbelief of the U.S. intelligence assessments to calls for negotiation before more weapons pour into the vicious civil war.
The administration now says it has “high confidence” that President Bashar Assad’s forces have killed up to 150 people with sarin gas. Although that’s a tiny percentage of the approximately 93,000 killed in the civil war so far, the use of a chemical weapon crosses President Barack Obama’s “red line” for escalating U.S. involvement in the conflict and prompted the decision to send arms and ammunition, not just humanitarian aid and defensive non-lethal help like armored vests and night goggles.
The administration’s plan heading into the G8 meeting of industrialized nations beginning Monday is to use the chemical weapons announcement and Obama’s decision on arms to persuade Russia to increase pressure on Assad to send a credible negotiating team to Geneva for talks with the opposition.
In addition, Obama is expected to use the G8 meeting and discussions on the sidelines to further coordinate with the British, French and potentially others an increase of assistance — lethal, non-lethal and humanitarian — to the rebels, the political opposition and refugees.
In a letter to U.N. Secretary General Ban-Ki Moon, U.N. Ambassador Susan Rice said the United States has determined that sarin was used in a March 19 attack on the Aleppo suburb of Khan al-Assal and in an April 13 attack on the neighborhood of Shaykh Maqsud. She said unspecified chemicals, possibly including chemical warfare agents, were used May 14 in an attack on Qasr Abu Samrah and in a May 23 attack on Adra.
U.S. officials have not disclosed any details about the weapons they intend to send to Syria or when and how they will be delivered. According to officials, the U.S. is most likely to provide the rebel fighters with small arms, ammunition, assault rifles and a variety of anti-tank weaponry such as shoulder-fired rocket-propelled grenades and other missiles.
As of Friday, however, no final decisions had been made on the details or when it would reach the rebels, according to the officials, who insisted on anonymity because they were not authorized to discuss internal administration discussions with reporters.
Obama has consistently said he will not put American troops in Syria, making it less likely the U.S. will provide sophisticated arms or anti-aircraft weapons that would require large-scale training. Administration officials are also worried about high-powered weapons ending up in the hands of terrorist groups. Hezbollah fighters are among those backing Assad’s armed forces, and al-Qaida-linked extremists back the rebellion.
The lethal aid will largely be coordinated by the CIA, but that effort will also be buttressed by an increased U.S. military presence in Jordan.
Pentagon spokesman Dave Lapan sent the following statement to The Daily Beast after this story posted: “There is no new planning effort underway. The Joint Staff, along with the relevant combatant commanders, continue to conduct prudent planning for a range of possible military options.”
Along with no-fly zone plans, the White House is considering arming parts of the Syrian opposition and formally recognizing the Syrian opposition council, reports Josh Rogin.
The White House has asked the Pentagon to draw up plans for a no-fly zone inside Syria that would be enforced by the U.S. and other countries such as France and Great Britain, two administration officials told The Daily Beast.
The request was made shortly before Secretary of State John Kerry toured the Middle East last week to try and finalize plans for an early June conference between the Syrian regime and rebel leaders in Geneva. The opposition, however, has yet to confirm its attendance and is demanding that the end of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s rule be a precondition for negotiations, a condition Assad is unlikely to accept.
President Obama’s dual-track strategy of continuing to pursue a political solution to the two-year-old uprising in Syria while also preparing for more direct U.S. military involvement includes authorizing the Joint Chiefs of Staff for the first time to plan for multilateral military actions inside Syria, the two officials said. They added that no decisions on actually using force have yet been made.
“The White House is still in contemplation mode but the planning is moving forward and it’s more advanced than it’s ever been,” one administration official told The Daily Beast. “All this effort to pressure the regime is part of the overall effort to find a political solution, but what happens if Geneva fails? It’s only prudent to plan for other options.”
In a May 8 meeting of the National Security Council Principals Committee, the White House tasked several agencies with reporting on the pros and cons of two additional potential courses of action: arming vetted and moderate elements of the Syrian opposition, such as the Free Syrian Army, and formally recognizing the Syrian opposition council as the government of Syria, which would mean removing formal U.S. recognition of the Assad regime.
Sen. John McCain—who’s advocated for more aggressive U.S. support of the Syrian rebels and who traveled secretly into the country Monday to meet with the leaders of the Free Syrian Army—told The Daily Beast last week that despite the request for plans he doubts the White House will decide to implement a no-fly zone in Syria. The Pentagon and the Joint Chiefs are opposed to the idea, he said.
“One thing about the Pentagon, if they don’t want to do something, they will tell you all sorts of reasons why they can’t do it. It’s going to take significant pressure for them to come up with realistic plans,” McCain said. “They will invent ways for us not to do it until the president of the United States says we’ve got to do it.”
McCain said a realistic plan for a no-fly zone would include hundreds of planes, and would be most effective if it included destroying Syrian airplanes on runways, bombing those runways, and moving U.S. Patriot missile batteries in Turkey close to the border so they could protect airspace inside northern Syria.
In April, Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman Gen. Martin Dempsey told the House Appropriations Subcommittee on Defense that the military was planning for a range of options in Syria but that he did not necessarily support using those options.
Is Obama Starting A War With Syria Just To Distract Us From All The Scandals?
By Michael, on June 13th, 2013
Well, isn’t that convenient? At the moment when the Obama administration is feeling more heat then ever before, it starts another war. Suddenly everyone in the mainstream media is talking all about Syria and not about the IRS scandal, Benghazi, NSA snooping or any of the other political scandals that have popped up in recent weeks. As if on cue, Obama made headlines all over the globe on Thursday by claiming that the Syrian government has used chemical weapons against the rebels “multiple times”, and that the U.S. was now ready to do more to assist the rebels. That assistance is reportedly going to include “military support” for the rebels and a no-fly zone over at least part of Syria is being discussed. Without a doubt, these are acts of war, and this conflict is not going to end until Assad has been ousted. But Assad will not go quietly. And all it would take is for Assad to fire a couple of missiles at Tel Aviv for a huge regional war to erupt in the Middle East. And what happens if Russia or China decides to get involved in the conflict in Syria? Obama is playing with fire, but he has shown again and again that he is willing to do virtually anything if it will benefit him politically.
As far as the Obama administration is concerned, there is no such thing as a coincidence. The timing of this announcement regarding Syria was not an accident. If Obama wanted to use chemical weapons as an excuse to go after Syria he could have done it weeks ago, or he could have waited several more months before taking action. He chose to do it right now for a reason, and hopefully the American people will be able to see right through this.
So exactly what are we going to be doing for the Syrian rebels? Well, we will definitely be arming them and training them. And it is probably reasonable to assume that there will be American “advisers” on the ground inside Syria helping to organize the Syrian resistance. In fact, according to Debka, a large U.S. Marine force has already been deployed to the Jordanian border with Syria.
In addition, according to the Wall Street Journal, U.S. aircraft may be involved in enforcing a no-fly zone inside Syria…
A U.S. military proposal for arming Syrian rebels also calls for a limited no-fly zone inside Syria that would be enforced from Jordanian territory to protect Syrian refugees and rebels who would train there, according to U.S. officials.
Asked by the White House to develop options for Syria, military planners have said that creating an area to train and equip rebel forces would require keeping Syrian aircraft well away from the Jordanian border.
To do that, the military envisages creating a no-fly zone stretching up to 25 miles into Syria which would be enforced using aircraft flown from Jordanian bases and flying inside the kingdom, according to U.S. officials.
No matter how you slice it, the United States is now in a state of war with Syria. The only question is how “involved” we are going to get.
And several prominent Republicans are already rushing forward to applaud Barack Obama on this latest move. The following comes from a CBS News report…
Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., who met with the rebels last month and has been a vocal critic of the president’s Syria policy said in a joint statement with Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C.: “We appreciate the President’s finding that the Assad regime has used chemical weapons on several occasions. We also agree with the President that this fact must affect U.S. policy toward Syria. The President’s red line has been crossed. U.S. credibility is on the line. Now is not the time to merely take the next incremental step. Now is the time for more decisive actions.”
But you know what? Many of these Syrian rebels have actually pledged allegiance to al-Qaeda.
Yes, you read that correctly.
The whole point of the “war on terror” was to supposedly fight al-Qaeda, but now the U.S. military is allied with them.
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