Thursday, April 18, 2013

Southern Front

If we decide to intervene in Syria, we'll come from the south from jumping off points in Jordan.

Already we've trained and armed Syrian rebels to be a non-jihadi alternative to build a buffer zone in southern Syria. While the Jordanian military is certainly competent enough, it has been many decades since they've fought a war. And Jordan is poor and cautious. So we will be ready to assist the Jordanians if it comes to a fight by sending headquarters elements to Jordan:

The troops, which will come from the headquarters of the 1st Armored Division at Fort Bliss, Texas, "creates an additional capability" beyond what has been there, one official said.

The group will give the United States the ability to "potentially form a joint task force for military operations, if ordered," he said.

Our division headquarters are fighting headquarters that can command up to five combat brigades plus supporting units. When we fought in Iraq, we had three division headquarters to fight the war. So this forward element could, if reinforced, command 50,000 or more troops.

If it was purely advisory, I'd guess we wouldn't use a division headquarters for the mission since we might want more senior people to deal with counter-parts of the same rank commanding the Jordanian military. Surely we have plenty of other officers with communications gear we could send for that purpose. But I'm just guessing, really.

Having friendly rebels in southern Syria would be a great help to keep us from having to fight our way through jihadis just to sweep Assad's force away.

Jordanian troops would have local help to move north of the border to create a buffer zone and avoid an even bigger refugee problem flooding Jordan.

So it seems that Jordan will be our main effort, to push into Syria in the west. This will also allow the Israelis to stay out if Jordanians, Americans, and friendly rebels flood into southern Syria. The way Assad is complaining about Jordan, Assad might even lash out at Jordan and give us an excuse to start moving forces into Jordan well before we intervene.

The Turks are more than capable of handling the northern front at the west end of Syria without us. Patriots, some NATO aircraft, and logistics and recon will be enough alliance help there.

Northeastern Iraq will be safe enough with the Kurds exercising some local control.

If the French and British go in (would the Italians send some marines, too?), they'd probably head into northern Lebanon (Beirut and north) to block Assad's retreat (would Lebanon's government cooperate?). That's my guess, anyway. Perhaps they'd go into the coastal part of Syria north of Tartus to give the Alawites and other allies of Assad reason to think they'll be protected and so it is safe to quit the fight. But I'd guess we'd count on the Turks to secure that region.

We might send a coupe thousand Marines (a MEU) to bolster the French and British. A French carrier (it recently sailed for exercise in the region) and British bases in Cyprus should be enough air power in that direction.

The Israelis might possibly go in to Lebanon to clean up Hezbollah all the way up to Baalbek in the Bekaa Valley. But I doubt that it would officially be part of any intervention plan. Hezbollah might make the choice easy for Israel if Hezbollah starts firing rockets at Israel.

I imagine we'd leave a bolt hole on the coast subject only to naval interdiction in case the Russians want to create a secure perimeter on the coast to withdraw their citizens to in order to evacuate them from the war zone. That would also provide a place for Assad and his senior Baathists to run to. It would probably be easier if these guys fled to Russian exile. The Russians would at least like to have the reputation for saving their guys when things go really bad, even if they can't save their governments.

Eastern Syria will be a no-man's land since I doubt we could deploy through Iraq and the Iraqis sure aren't looking for foreign adventures these days. They'll do good just to provide an anvil that our hammer forces al Qaeda into if the jihadis try to run for Iraq for sanctuary. Would this explain why we reinforced our CIA in Iraq recently to help Iraqi counter-terrorism capabilities (I noted this here in passing)?

Oh, and this is kind of funny:

President Bashar al-Assad accused the West on Wednesday of supporting al Qaeda militants in Syria's civil war and warned they would turn against their backers and strike "in the heart of Europe and the United States".

That's right, keep your sense of humor, Boy Assad. To be fair, Assad might regret hosting al Qaeda during the Iraq War. Funny that the suicide bomber pipeline that Assad set up turned around and bit him, in the end.

I don't know what would prompt our intervention. Well over 70,000 dead hasn't triggered Responsibility to Protect, after all. But if we do go in, this seems like a reasonably scenario. And it couldn't happen to a more odious man (well, Kim Jong-un excepted, of course).

UPDATE: Assad has said that if he had chemical weapons--which he doesn't admit to having--he'd only use them against a foreign invasion. If I was Jordan, I'd worry about this:

Bashar al-Assad's first public warning to Jordan over its role in channeling Islamist Sunni Muslim rebels to southern Syria, close to Damascus, points to a president increasingly rattled by the threat of a push against his stronghold in the capital.

Yes, Assad is warning Jordan about blowback--which Assad is currently experiencing, one could argue--for doing anything that helps jihadi resistance to Assad. To be fair to Jordan, Jordan is trying to focus help on non-jihadi rebels friendly to Jordan.

So I have to wonder if Assad's threat is more ominous. By arguing that Jordan is supporting jihadis--which Assad has portrayed as foreign invaders--is Assad setting the stage to attack Jordan? Given Assad's limited conventional power, might Assad use chemical weapons against targets in Jordan?