28 Aug 2013

Disregard talk of a ‘blitz’ on Syria

Cruise missiles in August – a gift for western news-starved desks in the dog days of the beach season. Cue lurid headlines of “blitz” and other nonsense.

There’ll be no blitz. The imperative for the US (with hastily arranged coalition of Germany, France and UK) is in law and fact “punitive”. It is not, will not be, designed to realign this long, vicious war.

Having decided it was President Assad wot did it, the west wants to bomb the Syrian government into never using these weapons on its people again. Only that. It does not want to shift the dynamics of war. Every bomb dropped on Assad’s assets is also a bomb dropped for the rebels – and some (many) of them are al-Qaeda. Bomb Assad and you’re bombing for AQ.

So expect a bit of light cruising. No blitz. Israel has bombed twice on sites it believes housed missiles threatening its territory. It did nothing to change the war. It wasn’t intended to either, with the same AQ calculus in mind. In fact the government made major gains after these airstrikes in Damascus and then Homs.

Speaking of the Israelis – the US relies on them for its evidence. So too the British with zero diplomatic presence in Syria. Here’s why neither Washington nor London have disclosed the “evidence” both claim to have, for blaming Assad – though we have been told to expect some kind of intelligence info from both on Wednesday.

Israeli intelligence

Germany’s Focus magazine reports that the Israeli Defence Force’s (IDF) 8200 intelligence unit monitored the Syrian leadership during the lethal chemical weapons attack last week in which hundreds were killed, and it was Israel that relayed the incriminating information resulting from that, to the West.

In recent days an Israeli delegation flew urgently to Washington including director of the political-security staff in the defence ministry Maj. General (res.) Amos Gilad, director of planning branch Maj. General Nimrod Shefer and IDF intelligence research department director Brigadier General Itai Brun. They are expected to show their counterparts the most updated intelligence.

Here “punitive” gets mission-critical. If there truly were a blitz and the very existence of the Assad regime was under direct threat (which it is not nor has been in over two years of war), a major response against Israel gets more likely by Damascus.

Selective don’t-ever-do-this-again cruise missiles make that scenario far less likely and vitally – mean Russia and Iran confine themselves to noise, bluster, increased arms shipments – but little more.

US-led coalition

Of course the Brits as ever will do Washington’s bidding a bit-part players out of Cyprus. There, a change of senior base personnel coincidentally means those in charge have more direct experience of bombing.

So too the French, buoyed up by their Malian jaunt, and the Germans.

So it’s not so much what the UN inspectors in Damascus will find, it’s what Israel’s  recently upgraded 8200 unit will share in Washington that matters. That’s the only real game in town right now.

In return Israel will demand – and get – prior warning of what will be hit symbolically, when and how. Not least because the same Israelis will have the best targeting intel to show their US protectors and will have done so.

US and UK intelligence – as in Iraq – is weak and nothing like the granularity and rich target acquisition the Israelis are producing right now.

So that’s why both Joe Biden and John Kerry are saying the hapless UN inspectors are irrelevant. They are. Insofar as the US mind has been made up – not by them but the men from the IDF’s intelligence wing.

Now it is all about paving the way to high-explosive punishment. But blitz? Shock and awe? Forget it.

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