Friday, September 20, 2013

20-Sep-13: In Syria, who was right, who was wrong?

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Syria, the foreign policy catastrophe, has not gone away. It's with us, and from an Israeli perspective it's no less an existential problem than it was before the Russia/US Syria understanding was reached less than a week ago.

Foreign Policy magazine has an analysis of the way intelligence was obtained and used, or not used, in an article ["The Spies Inside Damascus"] by Ronen Bergman. The summary below, entitled "Israel Has Best Intelligence on Syria in Western Hands", comes from today's edition of, prepared by the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs.
Israel Has Best Intelligence on Syria in Western Hands
Ronen Bergman (Foreign Policy)
  • On March 10, 2013, Israeli intelligence sources began reporting that the Syrian regime had made use of chemical weapons, based on sources that eavesdropped on the Syrian army's tactical frequencies and surveillance satellites that monitored movement out of a bunker known to contain chemical weapons. 
  • Israel shared its findings with the U.S., but Washington would not acknowledge those findings' veracity. In the end, the U.S. admitted that the information was correct. 
  • Israel continues to share vast amounts of information about Syria with the U.S. The Wall Street Journal credits Israel with giving the CIA "intelligence from inside an elite special Syrian unit that oversees Mr. Assad's chemical weapons" after the massive Aug. 21 sarin attack outside Damascus. 
  • "We have a very extensive knowledge of what is happening in Syria. Our ability to collect information there is profound. Israel is the eyes and ears, sometimes exclusively, sometimes as complementary aid, to what U.S. intelligence is able or unable to collect itself," Maj. Gen. Uri Sagi, Israel's former chief of military intelligence, told me on Sept. 19. 
  • Today, Israel enjoys the best intelligence on Syria in Western hands, and it is sharing that intelligence with the U.S. The Americans are also getting information from Jordan and Turkey, both of which gather information themselves and allow the U.S. National Security Agency (NSA) to set up listening posts on their territory.
 The fighting on the ground in Syria, meanwhile, has evolved into a three-front war as an analysis in the Wall Street Journal yesterday ["Rebel-on-Rebel Violence Seizes Syria"] argues. Extract:
An al Qaeda spinoff operating near Aleppo, Syria's largest city, last week began a new battle campaign it dubbed "Expunging Filth." The target wasn't their avowed enemy, the Syrian government. Instead, it was their nominal ally, the U.S.-backed Free Syrian Army. A band of fanatical al Qaeda rebels are turning their guns on more secular rebels in an attempt to turn the struggle in Syria into a holy war. Across northern and eastern Syria, units of the jihadist group known as ISIS are seizing territory—on the battlefield and behind the front lines—from Western-backed rebels. Some FSA fighters now consider the extremists to be as big a threat to their survival as the forces of President Bashar al-Assad. [WSJ]

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