28 Aug 2013

Spooks’ view on Syria: what wikileaks revealed

This merits interest. It was released by Wikileaks at 7pm on 3 June, 2012.

It is a military officer writing up a report on a meeting with US military intelligence officers and gives telling insight into their view of matters inside Syria. It was written at 00:49am, 7 December 2011.

It needs little by way of gloss, save to say the disclosure of foreign special forces on the ground and what they were there for and the limits of their deployment are of pressing interests now, as are the views and caution about airstrikes.

“I spent most of the afternoon at the Pentagon with the USAF strategic studies group – guys who spend their time trying to understand and explain to the USAF chief the big picture in areas where they’re operating in.

“It was just myself and four other guys at the Lieutenant Colonel level, including one French and one British representative who are liaising with the US currently out of DC.”

Forces on the ground

Then comes the admission, without admitting it, of foreign special forces already on the ground in Syria at that time and their tasking:

“There is still a very low level of understanding of what is actually at stake in Syria, what’s the strategic interest there, the Turkish role, the Iranian role, etc. After a couple hours of talking, they said without saying that SOF (special operations force) teams (presumably from US, UK, France, Jordan, Turkey) are already on the ground focused on recce missions and training opposition forces.

“One Air Force intel guy (US) said very carefully that there isn’t much of a Free Syrian Army to train right now anyway, but all the operations being done now are being done out of ‘prudence’.”


At that stage of the war any move toward any kind of air campaign and any use of special forces toward that, is deemed completely out of the question:

“I kept pressing on the question of what these SOF  teams would be working toward, and whether this would lead to an eventual air campaign to give a Syrian rebel group cover. They pretty quickly distanced themselves from that idea, saying that the idea ‘hypothetically’ is to commit guerrilla attacks, assassination campaigns, try to break the back of the Alawite forces, elicit collapse from within.”

‘Syria makes Libya look like a piece of cake’

Should matters come to an air campaign – this is the view:

“They emphasised how the air campaign in Syria makes Libya look like a piece of cake. Syrian air defenses are a lot more robust and are much denser, esp around Damascus and on the borders with Israel, Turkey. They are most worried about mobile air defenses, particularly the SA-17s that they’ve been getting recently. It’s still a doable mission, it’s just not an easy one.

“There still seems to be a lot of confusion over what a military intervention involving an air campaign would be designed to achieve. It isn’t clear cut for them geographically like in Libya, and you can’t just create an NFZ (no fly zone) over Homs, Hama region. This would entail a countrywide SEAD (suppression of enemy air defenses) campaign lasting the duration of the war. They don’t believe air intervention would happen unless there was enough media attention on a massacre, like the Gaddafi move against Benghazi.”

The reflections then end on a timely change of staffing in terms of British commandeers of the potentially vital Cyprus RAF base:

“UK guy mentioned as an aside that the air force base commander at Cyprus got switched out from a maintenance guy to a guy that flew Raptors, ie someone that understands what it means to start dropping bombs. He joked that it was probably a coincidence.”

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