9/9/ World pressure, Russian-Syrian proposal; US tests limits of power

digest commentary:
Syria-Iran-middle east and everywhere across the globe is fundamentally about US salvaging US global supremacy by any and all means necessary
The US state, as the NYT says in diplomatic speak, is 'testing' the limits of its world dominant class dictatorship. Presidents know their job, is doing, in our names, without limits, whatever US capital needs to preserve its global rule, expanding state power as needed, without limits, to fulfill that US national security agenda.
Obama, smooth, brilliant, silver-tongued Black man, was hired to recoup US from massive blowback and resistance against its overtly racist bush 'neocon' grab-it-all-now tactics.
'Well-primed' to lead the new world order', Kissinger and Brzezinski said. The new friendly-face-facist book-cover expanded the US global war of terror and in doing so, starkly proved once more that presidents, electoral figureheads and 'experts' are hired to serve, not change, finnce capital's predatory, barbaric agenda.
Defeated in its state terrorist 'efforts' worldwide, the US, more now mistrusted and hated in its 'homeland' as well as the rest of world, more than ever, strategically severely weakened, thus increasingly vulnerable. Time for world to exert our resistance and strategic political strength.

Obama Tests Limits of Power in Syrian Conflict
9/9/13 http://www.nytimes.com/2013/09/09/world/middleeast/obama-tests-limits-of..., Charlie Savage
WASHINGTON — In asking Congress to authorize an attack on Syria over claims it used chemical weapons, President Obama has chosen to involve lawmakers in deciding whether to undertake a military intervention that in some respects resembles the limited types many presidents — Ronald Reagan in Grenada, Bill Clinton in Kosovo and even Mr. Obama in Libya — launched on their own. On another level, the proposed strike is unlike anything before — an attack inside the territory of a sovereign country, without its consent, without a self-defense rationale and without UN Security Council authorization, or even the participation of NATO, for the purpose of punishing an alleged war crime...ceding more of a political role to Congress while expanding national war powers on the international stage, underscores the complexity of Mr. Obama’s approach to the Syrian crisis... ensures that no matter what happens, the crisis is likely to create an important precedent in the often murky legal question of when presidents or nations may lawfully use military force... presidents and countries create precedents that over time can become accepted as a gloss on what written domestic laws and international treaties permit...many legal scholars say Mr. Obama is proposing to violate international law...others contend the question is ambiguous, some suggest the US could establish a precedent creating new international law if it strikes...

US Government adviser is also political director of US based Syrian 'rebel' lobby
“The opposition has increasingly become more defined by its moderation, more defined by the breadth of its membership and more defined by its adherence to … an all-inclusive, minority-protecting constitution, which will be broad-based and secular.” Kerry Sept. 9/3/2013
Wednesday Kerry encouraged the House of Representatives to read the Aug.30 Wall Street Journal Op-Ed by Elizabeth O’Bagy — an analyst with the Institute for the Study of War — who asserts “Contrary to media accounts, the war in Syria is not being waged entirely, or even predominantly, by dangerous Islamists and al-Qaida die-hards. Moderate opposition groups make up the majority of actual fighting forces.” The WSJ did not disclose that O’Bagy is also political director of the U.S. based Syrian Emergency Task Force (SETF) political director for Syria's rebels...

Obama told Diane Sawyer: US military threat produced Russian proposal
Obama's comments came after the Russian foreign minister suggested today Syria turning over its chemical weapons to international control... a proposal the Syrian government "welcomed." But at the same time, Obama said, a potential diplomatic resolution doesn't mean Congress should withdraw the threat of military action. "I don't think we would have gotten to this point unless we had maintained a credible possibility for a military strike and I don't think now is the time for us to let up on that," Obama told ABC News Diane Sawyer

Syria ‘welcomes’ Russian proposal on securing chemical weapons
9/9/13 10:32 am http://www.washingtonpost.com/world/middle_east/john-kerry-in-london-cam...
By Will Englund, Debbi Wilgoren and Karen DeYoung,
MOSCOW — The government of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad on Monday said it welcomed a Russian proposal to avert U.S. military strikes by having Damascus turn over control of its chemical weapons to international monitors.The statement by Syrian Foreign Minister Walid al-Moualem in Moscow offered the first indication a diplomatic solution may be possible... Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said...“If the establishment of international control over chemical weapons in that country will avoid strikes, we will immediately begin working with Damascus. We call on the Syrian leadership not only to agree on a statement of storage of chemical weapons under international supervision, but also to their subsequent destruction.” Moualem said Syria “welcomes the Russian initiative....We also welcome the wisdom of the Russian leadership trying to prevent American aggression against our people”.
Secretary of State John F. Kerry sketched out a similar transfer-of-control scenario, then dismissed it, after being asked by a reporter whether there was anything Assad could do to avoid an attack. “Sure, he could turn over every bit of his weapons to the international community within the next week, without delay. But he isn’t about to.” State Department spokeswomen Jennifer Psaki said Kerry was making a “rhetorical” point in the face of Assad’s intransigence. “His point was that this brutal dictator with a history of playing fast and loose with the facts cannot be trusted to turn over chemical weapons. Otherwise he would have done so long ago. That’s why the world faces this moment.”
There was no immediate State Department response to the proposal by Russia, or to the response by Syria. Obama has said U.S. intelligence and video documentation clearly show the Syrian government was responsible for last month’s strikes, part of a bloody civil conflict that has killed more than 100,000 people in the past 2 1/2 years. Obama and Kerry are working to win enough support for congressional authorization of a strike. In an interview Sunday with Charlie Rose on CBS News, Assad denied his government had used chemical weapons and warned the US not to get involved in another Middle Eastern war.The Syrian dictator said Kerry’s effort to generate support for a strike reminded him of the “big lie” in early 2003 by president George W. Bush’s Secretary of State, Colin Powell, justifying what became the U.S. war in Iraq based on claims Iraq was harboring WMDs, which proved false....
“We’re not talking about war. We’re not going to war. We will be able to hold Bashar al-Assad accountable without engaging in troops on the ground in any kind of prolonged effort, in a very limited, very targeted, very short-term effort that degrades his capacity to deliver chemical weapons without assuming responsibility for Syria’s civil war. That is exactly what we’re talking about doing. An unbelievably small, limited kind of effort" Kerry said. Kerry and British Foreign Secretary William Hague in London on Monday dismissed the idea there was “still time” to avoid consequences for a “horrific” chemical weapons attack. “There can’t be a negotiated settlement if the Assad regime is allowed to eradicate the moderate opposition,” Hague said.

Assad on Syrian governments' chemical weapon use: "No single shred of evidence"
from Charlie Rose CBS 9/8/ interview with Assad scheduled for broadcast tonight 9/9/13
President Bashar Assad warned that if President Obama decides to launch military strikes on Syria, the U.S. and its allies should "expect every action... not necessarily from the government... is not the only player in this region"...Rose said what struck him most about it was that Assad was "remarkably calm and conversational."
Rose's full interview will air Monday night on PBS . More excerpts were released Monday on CBS This Morning

Pentagon Ordered to Expand Potential Targets in Syria With a Focus on Forces
9/6/ http://www.nytimes.com/2013/09/06/world/middleeast/pentagon-is-ordered-t...
Officials cautioned that the options for an increased US strike would still be limited — “think incremental increase, not exponential,” said one official — but would be intended to inflict significant damage on the Syrian military....to put more emphasis on the “degrade” part of what the administration has said is the goal of a military strike against Syria — to “deter and degrade” Assad’s military ability...That means expanding beyond the 50 or so major sites that were part of the original target list developed with French forces before Mr. Obama delayed action on Saturday to seek Congressional approval of his plan....So as the target list expands, the administration is creeping closer to carrying out military action that could help tip the balance on the ground, even as the administration argues that is not the primary intent...For the first time, the administration is talking about using American and French aircraft to conduct strikes on specific targets, in addition to ship-launched Tomahawk cruise missiles. There is a renewed push to get other NATO forces involved....The bulk of the US attack is still expected to be carried out by cruise missiles from four Arleigh Burke-class destroyers in the eastern Mediterranean. Each ship carries about three dozen Tomahawk cruise missiles, low-flying, highly accurate weapons that can be launched from safe distances of up to about 1,000 miles. But military planner options now to also include Air Force bomber attacks,reported Thursday by The Wall Street Journal...Bombers could carry scores more munitions, potentially permitting the US to carry out more strikes if the first wave does not destroy the targets. Among the other options available are B-52 bombers, which can carry air-launched cruise missiles; B-1s based in Qatar carry long-range, air-to-surface missiles; and B-2 stealth bombers, based in Missouri carry satellite-guided bombs.The Navy in recent days also moved the aircraft carrier Nimitz into the Red Sea, within striking distance of Syria...The Pentagon is also planning contingencies to counter or respond to any retaliatory attacks by Syrian military forces....that General Dempsey said could lob long-range rockets against neighbors; encourage surrogates and proxies, like Hezbollah, to assault US embassies; or carry out a cyberattack against the US or its interests. “We are alert to all of the possibilities and are mitigating strategies in the way we’ve positioned ourselves in the region,” General Dempsey said...White House officials insist that they are slowly gaining ground in lining up support, though the evidence is slim....

Obama leaves G20 summit with limited support on Syria...Obama did not persuade a single ally to specifically endorse military action
9/7/ http://www.denverpost.com/politics/ci_24036774/obama-leaves-g20-summit-l...

world-majority by the numbers
G20 Syria divide: World’s largest nations speak out against US-led strike
9/7/ http://rt.com/news/g20-against-syria-strike-527/

*Putin: Kerry Lying; Hagel: Russia Supplied Syria Chemical Weapons (CNS) CYBERCAST NEWS SERVICE) 09/05/13) Source:
Russia-hosted G20 summit Thursday President Vladimir Putin accused Obama’s secretary of state of “lying” that Russia supplied Syrian chemicak weapons...the Pentagon tried to walk back Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel comments Wednesday linking Russia to Syria’s chemical weapons stockpiles...An alternative to a negotiated settlement Kerry said, could see Syria implode and disintegrate into enclaves...in the Syrian capital Wednesday a mortar shell fired by anti-Assad rebels landed near the Russian Embassy.

CBS Face the Nation host Bob Schieffer with a collection of “one of our best panels of analysts ever,” to discuss Obama’s plan to launch military action against Syria: Weekly Standard‘s Bill Kristol, New York Times‘ David Sanger, American Enterprise Institute (AEI)’s Danielle Pletka Washington Post‘s David Ignatius and Bob Woodward.

"Lying About Syria, and the Lying Liars Who Lie About Lying"
8/29/13 David Swanson,
Washington is driving the world closer to nuclear war than even in the most dangerous periods of the Cold War. If the US finishes with Syria, the next target is Iran. Russia and China no longer can fool themselves there is any system of international law or restraint on criminality...whose aggression forces both to develop strategic nuclear forces and curtail US-financed NGOs posing as “human rights organizations”, fifth columns to destroy the legitimacy of the Russian and Chinese governments.

Intercepts caught Assad rejecting requests to use chemical weapons, German BND reported
9/9/13 http://www.mcclatchydc.com/2013/09/09/201515/intercepts-caught-assad-rej...
The Bild am Sonntag, a widely read, influential German national Sunday newspaper, reported that Gerhard Schindler, head of the German Foreign Intelligence agency BND, last week told a select group of German lawmakers that intercepted communications convinced German intelligence officials Assad did not order or approve what is alleged to be a sarin gas attack Aug. 21... The Obama administration blames the attack on Assad. White House Chief of Staff Denis McDonough described the evidence as "common sense" on CNN’s "State of the Union...McDonough said he is “outraged” by the suggestion U.S. forces would be allied with terrorists....
Assad told US journalist Charlie Rose in an interview to be broadcast in its entirety Monday night on PBS “there has been no evidence I used chemical weapons against my own people.”
Russia announced last week that in July it filed a 100-page “technical and scientific” report to the UN on a March 19 chemical weapons attack near Aleppo it says implicates the rebels....

US/NYT protects israeli proxy lobby always on the job
9/3 *‘NYT’ deletes references to AIPAC role pushing Syria strike-


*U.S.Pro-Israel AIPAC lobby's major push for Syria action (REUTERS) WASHINGTON 09/07/13 11:37am EDT)
* Israel Backs Strike Against Syria (NY) TIMES), 09/06/13)
* Iran vows to support Syria but rules out sending arms, troops to Damascus 09/06/13
*Iran Plot: U.S. Intercepts Iranian order to attack US interests in Iraq if Syria Hit, ">http://www.online.wsj.comarticleSB10001424127887323893004579057271019210230.html> <´US intercepts Iranian order to attack US interests in response to Syria strike´

Obama & Panetta feigned concern about the Syrian government 'losing control' of chemical weapons but knows its 'rebel' proxies have and use them like the terrorists they are.. US stalling is mainly about intensifying 'smart power' (soft+hard power) to expand military preparations if unable to win what Assad - who has prevailed over US for 2.5 brutal years due to public as well as military strength-will not concede- a 'negotiated settlement', e.g. Assad/Syria a disarmed symbolic 'power' under US control
The bipartisan US ruling class sets up electoral trump card to suck you in and salvage US political-economic system: personalizing prez THE 'problem', calling repubs "anti-war"
Obama Faces Risks in Requesting Syria Strikes
9/9/13 http://www.voanews.com/content/obama-faces-risks-in-requesting-syria-str...
Obama contends US and international community's integrity are tied to the decision to strike Syria and could be damaged by a “no” vote, said Blaise Misztal, at Washington’s Bipartisan Policy Center. "... a blow to US. credibility, if, after all the pronouncements of 'red lines' and decisions to act, we were now to back down," said Misztal. Congressional approval of his planned strikes on Syria would be widely seen as giving Obama added legitimacy. So he will take his case to the American public Tuesday, in a rare nationally-televised evening address.
According to Washington Post survey as of Friday, 224 of 433 members of the Republican dominated House were “no” or “leaning no” on military action, 184 undecided, 25 for a strike....
In a CNN/ORC International poll released Monday 8 in 10 Americans oppose a military strike

1968, Syria signed the 1925 Geneva Protocol for Prohibition of the Use in War of Asphyxiating, Poisonous or Other Gases.
* 2003 Iran signed an Additional Protocol 18 December 2003. The Nuclear program of Iran was launched in the 1950s with the help of the US...participation continued until the
1979 Iranian Revolution toppled the Shah...
*As of May 2013, according to the UN, 191 countries and a regional organization, the European Economic Community, ratified the agreement, representing...
Despite the US being a Protocol proponent, the US military opposed it...Clinton administration signed the treaty in a symbolic act, but never had it ratified by the Senate,

US is 'confident' Syrian govt. safeguards chemical weapons against rebels
US Defense Secretary Leon Panetta said at a Friday press conference that the Syrian government may have moved some of its chemical weapons to safeguard them against rebel forces, ....
Panetta said the main storage sites remain secure and under government control...As a result of the move, US officials are worried the weapons could come into the hands of the opposition.
Obama also said he was “absolutely confident” the weapons stockpile was secure. With weapons being moved in Syria without US knowledge, the Pentagon is now emphasizing the security of the chemical main storage sites, as it has lost control over some of the other storage facilities....

Has Assad Already Lost Control of Syria’s Chemical Weapons?
5/6/13 Emanuele Ottolenghi http://www.commentarymagazine.com/2013/05/06/has-assad-already-lost-cont...
...Carla Del Ponte, of the UN Independent Commission of Enquiry on Syria in an interview with Swiss-Italian TV yesterday, said evidence suggests gas attacks were launched by Syrian rebel forces, not by the regime...Iranian Foreign Minister Ali Akbar Salehi made a similar accusation last week, saying the use chemical weapons by rebels was a red line for Iran... The policy implications of rebels using chemical weapons in Syria are that the Syrian government... can no longer be relied on to keep those weapons under lock and key. Israel’s airstrikes deep into Syria over the weekend prove that where there is a will there is a way to take Syria’s arsenal out, without boots on the ground. If Ms. Del Ponte is proven right, ultimately, airstrikes destroying Syria’s non-conventional weapons should be the first order of priority for the U.S. administration.

9/28/12 http://rt.com/usa/syria-chemical-weapons-us-243/
“No chemical or biological weapons will ever be used, and I repeat, will never be used… no matter what the developments inside Syria. All of these types of weapons are in storage and under security and the direct supervision of the Syrian armed forces and will never be used unless Syria is exposed to external aggression.” Jihad Makdisai, Syrian foreign ministry spokesman, declared in July at a press conference 9/28/12 http://rt.com/usa/syria-chemical-weapons-us-243/

*CIA 'Operation Ajax' to overthrow Iran's Prime Minister Mohammad Mossadegh August 1953
The coup installed the monarchy of Mohammad Reza Shah Pahlavi whose SAVAK secret police killed thousands in Iran in the rivalry between US and the Soviet Union

Syrian rebels claim knowledge of chemical weapons sites
9/29/12 http://www.cnn.com/2012/09/28/world/meast/syria-chemical-weapons/
...A U.S. official told CNN Friday the intelligence community believes it has a strong sense of where the weapons are and feels confident they remain under Syrian government control..
The Syrian government has repeatedly denied that its chemical weapons are at risk or would be deployed..

WH Chief of Staff: U.S. Has No Military Allies for Syria Strike
White House Chief of Staff Denis McDonough conceded it after questioning on CNN's "State of the Union"

Assessing Objectives and Missions for Aerial Intervention
8/30/13 RAND: http://www.rand.org/news/press/2013/08/30.html
A new RAND report examines five options for U.S. and allied military intervention in the Syrian civil war using airpower, and warns that destroying or grounding the Syrian air force is operationally feasible but would have only marginal benefits for protecting civilians.
The report also concludes that any airpower option would involve substantial risks of escalation by third parties, or could lead to greater U.S. military involvement in Syria.
The study by RAND comes at a time when the Syrian government has been accused of using chemical weapons against opposition forces, accusations that drew threats of military action from the United States and other western nations....The five missions are [...]“The U.S. and its allies can certainly conduct an operationally successful air campaign in Syria,” Mueller said. “But each of these aerial intervention options has the potential to escalate or expand the conflict, and could lead to unwelcome responses from Assad's allies or to wider or deeper U.S. military involvement. The next steps following an initial intervention should be central to any strategic planning for using airpower in Syria.”

Syria rebels withdraw from ancient Christian town of Maaloula
9/6/13 http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-middle-east-23986076
Many fear if the secular Syrian government is overthrown they will be targeted by jihadist rebels calling for for an Islamic state and Christian communities will be destroyed, as many were in Iraq after the US-led invasion in 2003

Putin Meets with Prime Minister of Japan Shinzo Abe
9/5/13, St Petersburg, http://eng.news.kremlin.ru/news/5939
Vladimir Putin met with Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe. Among other things, the parties discussed prospects for expanding cooperation in trade and investment.

PM Abe has refrained from speaking publicly about Japan's stance on Obama's push for military action against Syria...

Before talks with Japan's Abe on G20 summit sidelines, Obama said using chemical arms was "not only a tragedy but also a violation of international law that must be addressed."...http://www.reuters.com/article/2013/09/05/us-russia

US gives Japanese government Syria chemical weapons evidence
9/8/13 http://rt.com/news/syria-crisis-live-updates-047/
US authorities supplied the Japanese government with evidence aimed at convincing Japan's cabinet that Syrian president Bashar Assad's forces used chemical weapons on August 21. The government source confirmed to Kyodo news agency the materials were received, but did not disclose specific content of the evidence.

Tokyo to Host 2020 Summer Olympics, Beating Out Istanbul and Madrid
9/7/13 VOA http://www.voanews.com/content/two-cities-left-in-final-fight-to-host-20...
Tokyo selected as host of the 2020 Summer Olympics... a nation fighting off two decades of deflation and still recovering from a nuclear disaster... portrayed itself as the safer choice amid turmoil in the Middle East and runaway unemployment in parts of Europe

Japan's missing arrow: Growth strategy
9/8/13 S. Armstrong, East Asia Forum, http://www.eastasiaforum.org/2013/09/08/abenomics/
...Without the missing arrow the market will lose patience and risks to Japanese recovery will rapidly escalate.The clock is ticking and political capital is scarce. The time to release the third arrow is now. Coupled with this, long-needed regulatory reform affecting agriculture, health care, education, foreign workers and energy, to incentivise market participants, lower production costs without lowering product and service quality.

War on Iran Begins in Syria
by Eric Draitser, independent geopolitical analyst based in New York City,< book-reviews-citadel.blogspot.com/ 2013/ 08/ the-war-on-iran-begins-in-syria.html >
...As a principal player in the US-dominated imperial system, Israel serves as bad cop to Washington’s good cop. While warmongers in Tel Aviv call for Iranian blood, the US feigns interest in negotiations to resolve the conflict and lift the sanctions. At the same moment, the US, EU and Israel foment civil war in Syria to weaken Iran, already isolated politically and economically by sanctions...showing they are implementing a multi-phased strategy to destroy Iran... 

Iran Plots Revenge, U.S. Says
Intercepted Message to Militants Orders Reprisals in Iraq if Syria Hit
9/6, updated: Wall Street Journal, http://online.wsj.com/article/SB1000142412788732389300457905727101921023...
The Iranian message, intercepted in recent days, came from Qasem Soleimani, the head of Revolutionary Guards' Qods Force, and went to Iranian-supported militia groups in Iraq, according to U.S. officials...Iranian officials denied their government was plotting attacks in Iraq against the U.S. Alireza Miryousefi, a spokesman for Iran's UN mission, said the allegation was baseless, and meant to "provoke the Congress" into authorizing a strike on Syria. "...remember that relying on anonymous U.S. intelligence reports will repeat the tragedy of Iraq," ...US officials said they are on alert for Iran's fleet of small, fast boats in the Persian Gulf, where US warships are positioned... While the US has moved military resources in the region for a possible strike, it has other area assets that would be ready to respond to any ...

Iran nuclear firm assets freeze annulled by EU top court
9/6/13 http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-europe-23984722
The European Court of Justice (ECJ) ruled the EU must unfreeze assets of seven Iranian banks and other businesses hit by sanctions because there was insufficient evidence they were involved in nuclear proliferation...Iran has insisted its nuclear technology is solely intended for civilian uses...Correspondents say the ECJ ruling is a blow to Western efforts to exert pressure on Iran...

Iran Ruling In Europe Draws US Anger
A setback for US attempts to isolate Iran...US imposes new restrictions as top EU court rules against sanctions imposed against seven Iranian banks and companies...“Our sanctions on Iran’s oil sales are a critically important component of maintaining pressure on the Iranian government,” David S. Cohen, the under secretary for terrorism and financial intelligence at the Treasury said...
9/7 http://www.nytimes.com/2013/09/07/world/europe/european-union-wrongly-im...

Could Syria launch a major cyberattack against the USA?
U.S. cannot ignore the possibility that Syria, and its ally Iran, will strike back at the U.S. with cyber weapons ...
Syria cyber attacks may target banks, media
Source:Bloomberg: Released 2013-09-016
US planning for a possible wave of cyber attacks against companies by hackers connected to Syria or Iran in retaliation for any military strike against the government of Bashar al-Assad, according to a source familiar with the planning.

Syria: Preparing for the Cyber Threat
9/5/13 Franz-Stefan Gady, http://nationalinterest.org/commentary/syria-preparing-the-cyber-threat-...
From open source intelligence gathered at this stage, Syria’s offensive cyber warfare capabilities are limited. While Iran, which boasts ‘the fourth-largest cyber force in the world’ is actively supporting the Assad regime, this effort led by the Iranian Ministry of Intelligence and Security, appears to be largely focused on electronic surveillance identifying members of the opposition. The Assad government’s principal focus in cyberspace is domestic....Clearly, the West needs a strategy of cyber deterrence against Iran and Syria...the media has been used to convey a country’s capabilities with strategic leaks of classified information (e.g. Stuxnet, Flame etc.) to some news outlets—this is part of cyber-deterrence strategy. It is likely we will see such a strategic leak shortly before any air strikes. Whatever this leaked cyber asset may be, the ability to identify, defend and retaliate against any attack from the Middle East will be its key characteristics....
While Syria’s capabilities are limited, Iran and potentially Russia could deploy their arsenal of cyber weapons in support of the Syrian government. This will have to be preceded by a conscious decision of the Iranian government to escalate the level of conflict by launching sophisticated strikes on Western critical information structures such as SCADA (supervisory control and data acquisition) systems that monitor and control power grids. These sorts of attacks demand sophisticated knowledge, require layers of resources and are difficult to coordinate. Because of this, such complex attacks need some form of state sponsorship. Franz-Stefan Gady a senior fellow at the EastWest Institute, program associate and founding member of the Worldwide Cybersecurity Initiative.

A Better Syria Option: Cyber War 9/6/13
Having declared use of chemical weapons a red line, will limited U.S. action convince other parties—notably Iran, China and Russia—that American threats should be taken seriously? The US must... act with a sense of purpose and power. We must define the goal. Merely punishing Assad raises a problem...Bottom line: Use preparations for kinetic force as a feint to distract and confuse Assad, but cyber tools ...offer the opportunity to take strong action without getting caught in the vise of defining precisely what damage has been inflicted... Well-targeted cyber attacks will send Assad and interested parties a strong message we’re serious and put a meat axe into his command-and-control capabilities by sowing confusion, distrust, and chaos into those systems...direct attacks against Syrian cyber assets. That means find, fix, and finish activities against Syrian Electronic Army operatives – many of whom operate outside of Syria in the Gulf and Maghreb countries – who can be identified and taken off the battlefield...Rafal Rohozinski, whose SecDev Group firm monitors Internet activity in Syria, has it right... “Syrian Cyber communications are central to strategy and tactics employed by Assad and the rebels.”...for command and control; to maneuver forces for operations and tactical engagements; for intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance; for psychological warfare to influence and shape attitudes, opinions and behavior among their own audiences and both Syrian and international audiences. “It’s hard to overstate how heavily both sides depend upon cyber tools to articulate their narrative, stories, themes and message. The war has integrated kinetic and information warfare tactics in unprecedented ways.." Both sides make heavy use of Facebook, Skype and YouTube. Assad’s most prominent cyber tool is the Syrian Electronic Army, SEA, which wages social media war at home and against nations like Saudi Arabia and Qatar. The regime employs smaller groups for other cyber attacks to shut down rebel cyber efforts...Cyber attack is ideal for undercutting Assad’s ability to execute strategy, operations, and tactics...unlikely to kill or physically injure... cyber attack damage may be repairable, but impairment of cyber capabilities significantly undercut the ability of government forces to operate effectively. That is merely one line of operation cyber tools offer... many additional cyber options can be used as appropriate....Impairing Assad’s cyber capability impedes his only strategic capability of striking back. It will prevent, not facilitate escalation, either alone or with Iran...
One critical step to strengthen this tactic is to secure the visible, active support from partner Arab nations through public statements and by stationing appropriate military representatives in the right command centers as attacks are launched that can be achieved without breaching vital security protocols and make clear the US is not acting alone.
James P. Farwell, cyberwar expert, author of Persuasion & Power (Georgetown University Press, 2012). Darby Arakelian, former CIA officer and national-security expert. Rafal Rohozinski, SecDev Group contributed to this op-ed.