JFP 7/23: House to vote on NSA, Syria; intel hold on “covert” arming lifted; UK cools

Just Foreign Policy News, July 23, 2013
House to vote on NSA, Syria; intel hold on “covert” arming lifted; UK cools

I) Actions and Featured Articles

**Action: The House will vote on the NSA and Syria
Last night the Rules Committee allowed amendments to the defense appropriation to curb NSA surveillance and to block military escalation in Syria. Urge your Rep. to support these amendments.
http://www.justforeignpolicy.org/act/defense-approps-2014

FCNL: FY 2014 Military Appropriations Amendments to Watch
FCNL provides a list of good amendments on the defense appropriation. Besides curtailing NSA spying and constraining military action in Syria, there’s Schiff’s move to sunset the 2001 AUMF, allowing transfer of Gitmo detainees, and base Pentagon and Afghanistan war budget cuts.
http://fcnl.org/issues/foreign_policy/FY_2014_Military_Appropriations_Amendments_to_Watch/

Video: Welch Slams Congress for Abdicating Responsibility on U.S. Intervention in Syria
Labels decision to block vote on Gibson-Welch amendment to stop arms to the rebels "the coward's path."
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lKxmINB7TX0

Reps. Dent, Price Lead 131 House Members to Urge Talks with New Iran President
Find out if your Rep. signed. Write to “thank” or write to “spank.”
http://www.justforeignpolicy.org/act/dent-price-follow-up
http://www.huffingtonpost.com/robert-naiman/reps-dent-price-lead-quar_b_3623289.html

IPS et al: No U.S. Military Intervention In Syria!
Joint petition initiated by FCNL, IPS, JFP, Peace Action, Peace & Justice Resource Center, UFPJ, USLAW, and WAND.
http://org.credoaction.com/petitions/no-u-s-military-intervention-in-syria

Summary:
U.S./Top News

1) Tea party conservatives and liberal Democrats backed an amendment to the $598.3 million defense bill that would end the NSA’s authority under the Patriot Act, preventing the government agency from collecting records unless an individual is under investigation, AP reports. The House also will consider an amendment that would bar funds for any military action in Syria if it violated the War Powers Resolution. Republicans and Democrats argued that Congress should have a say in what amounted to taking sides in a sectarian war. The House is likely to vote on those amendments on Wednesday, AP says.

The debate over Syria comes as the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, in a cautionary assessment of more aggressive American military action, said establishing a no-fly zone to protect Syrian rebels would require hundreds of U.S. aircraft at a cost of as much as $1 billion a month with no assurance it would change the momentum in the 2-year-old civil war. Dempsey said the decision to use force in Syria is not one to be taken lightly. “It is no less than an act of war,” he wrote. And once that decision is made, the U.S. has to be prepared for what may come next. “Deeper involvement is hard to avoid,” he said. “We have learned from the past 10 years, however, that it is not enough to simply alter the balance of military power without careful consideration of what is necessary in order to preserve a functioning state.” Dempsey’s reference was to the more than a decade of war in Iraq and Afghanistan, AP notes.

2) President Obama will move forward with a plan for the U.S. to “covertly” arm the Syrian rebels through the CIA after some congressional concerns were eased, Reuters reports. Both Republicans and Democrats on the House and Senate intelligence committees had expressed worries that the arms could end up in the hands of Islamist militants in Syria like the Nusra Front, and would not be enough to tip the balance of the civil war against President Bashar al-Assad anyway.

Representative Adam Schiff, a Democrat on the House Intelligence Committee, opposes sending U.S. arms to the rebels. "It's too late to affect the outcome with a small amount of arms," Schiff said. "I think we would have to provide such a massive amount of arms, and additional military support to change the balance on the battlefield, that we would inevitably be drawn deeply into the civil war," he said."And I think we also have to expect that some of the weapons we provide are going to get into the hands of those who would use them against us," Schiff said.

[The Obama Administration has conceded that arming the Syrian rebels violates international law. That’s why they want to do it “covertly” through the CIA, on the curious theory that the CIA is exempt from international law – JFP.]

3) After leading a determined push with France to remove legal hindrances to arming Syria’s rebels, Britain is apparently signaling a more cautious approach, even as British newspaper reports say Prime Minister Cameron has retreated from the idea altogether, the New York Times reported. As the momentum has swung toward forces loyal to Assad, divisions among the insurgents have deepened, prompting increased concerns that weapons supplied to the opposition could end up in the hands of anti-Assad Islamist fighters aligned with Al Qaeda, the Times notes.

British newspaper reports said British military commanders had advised Cameron there was no purpose to be served by sending small arms, since such modest arms supplies were unlikely to sway the outcome of the conflict, and that more significant military intervention, such as introducing a no-fly zone over Syria, could mire Britain in a conflict for months because of the strength of the Syrian government’s antiaircraft weapons systems.

4) A former CIA operative detained in Panama at the request of Italian authorities over his conviction in the 2003 kidnapping of a Muslim cleric in Milan was released and had boarded a flight to the U.S., the Washington Post reported. Robert Seldon Lady’s release from Panama appeared to avert the possibility he would be extradited to Italy, where he faces a sentence of up to nine years in prison for his role in the CIA capture of a terrorism suspect who was snatched off a street in Milan and transported to Egypt. [The “terrorism suspect” had been granted asylum in Italy from the threat of persecution by Egypt; the CIA delivered him to Egypt, where he claims he was tortured – JFP.]

5) Top generals live in pricey mansions at taxpayer expense, according to a Pentagon report prepared for Congress last month but not publicly released, the Los Angeles Times reports. In the annual appropriations bill for military construction approved by a House committee last month, lawmakers criticized the Pentagon for the "excessive cost" of maintaining "large and aging" homes and for the "apparent unwillingness on the part of the [military] services to seek less expensive alternatives."

Israel/Palestine
6) The European Union has circulated a guideline for all 28 member states forbidding any funding, cooperation, awarding of scholarships, research funds or prizes to anyone residing in the Jewish settlements in the West Bank and East Jerusalem, Haaretz reported. The guideline requires that any agreement or contract signed by an EU country with Israel include a clause stating that the settlements are not part of the State of Israel and therefore are not part of the agreement. The guidelines will go into effect on January 1, 2014. A senior Israeli official described the new ruling as an "earthquake."

Syria
7) A senior American intelligence official warned that the Syrian conflict could last “many, many months to multiple years,” and described a situation that would most likely worsen regardless of whether the Syrian leader fell, the New York Times reports. David R. Shedd, the deputy director of the Defense Intelligence Agency, suggested that the West would have to directly confront more radical Islamist elements. But he did not say how that could be accomplished. Shedd said that if Assad’s government fell or he was killed “there will be ongoing civil war for years to come,” noting that more radical elements like the Nusra Front would fight to control parts of the country. Shedd offered a sobering assessment of America’s ability to draw distinctions among an opposition that he said numbered about 1,200 groups.

Pakistan
8) A secret document reveals for the Pakistan government’s internal assessment of dozens of drone strikes, and shows scores of civilian casualties, The Bureau of Investigative Journalism reports. The US has claimed only a tiny number of non-combatants have been killed in drone attacks in Pakistan – despite research by the Bureau and others suggesting that over 400 civilians may have died in the nine-year campaign.

Of 746 people listed as killed in the drone strikes outlined in the document, at least 147 of the dead are clearly stated to be civilian victims, 94 of those are said to be children. The summary paper was prepared by government officials in Pakistan’s Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA).

Based on confidential reports from a network of government agents in the field, it outlines 75 separate CIA drone strikes between 2006 and late 2009 and provides details of casualties in many of the attacks. The numbers recorded are much higher than those provided by the US administration, which continues to insist that no more than 50 to 60 ‘non-combatants’ have been killed by the CIA across the entire nine years of Pakistan bombings.

Contents:
U.S./Top News

1) US surveillance, arming of Syrian rebels under debate as House takes up defense bill
Associated Press, Tuesday, July 23, 10:31 AM
http://www.washingtonpost.com/politics/congress/us-surveillance-arming-syrian-rebels-points-of-contention-in-house-debate-over-defense-bill/2013/07/23/edc5e5f0-f366-11e2-8464-57e57af86290_story.html

Washington - The authority of the National Security Agency to collect phone records of millions of Americans sharply divided members of Congress on Tuesday as the House pressed ahead on legislation to fund the nation’s military.

Tea party conservatives and liberal Democrats backed an amendment to the $598.3 million defense bill that would end the NSA’s authority under the Patriot Act, preventing the government agency from collecting records unless an individual is under investigation.

That measure, along with another to cut off funds for the NSA, drew criticism from the leaders of the Senate Intelligence committee, who argued that the surveillance programs have helped disrupt numerous attempted terrorist attacks.

The House is likely to vote on those amendments on Wednesday.
[...]
Former NSA systems analyst Edward Snowden leaked documents last month that revealed that the NSA had collected phone records, while a second NSA program forced major Internet companies to turn over contents of communications to the government.

Leaders in Congress, such as House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, and House Intelligence Committee Chairman Mike Rogers, R-Mich., have strongly defended the programs, but libertarian lawmakers and liberals have expressed serious concerns about the government’s surveillance in a fierce debate over privacy and national security.

The overall defense spending bill would provide the Pentagon with $512.5 billion for weapons, personnel, aircraft and ships plus $85.8 billion for the war in Afghanistan for the fiscal year beginning Oct. 1.

The bill is $5.1 billion below current spending and has drawn a veto threat from the White House, which argues that it would force the administration to cut education, health research and other domestic programs to boost spending for the Pentagon.

In a leap of faith, the bill assumes that Congress and the administration will resolve the automatic, across-the-board spending cuts that have forced the Pentagon to furlough workers and cut back on training. The bill projects spending in the next fiscal year at $28.1 billion above the so-called sequester level.

Republican leaders struggled to limit amendments on the overall bill, concerned about hampering the president’s national security and anti-terrorism efforts.

Pleading with Rules Committee members Monday, Rep. Justin Amash, R-Mich., sponsor of an amendment on the NSA, asked his colleagues to “allow the voice of the people to be heard.”

The House also will consider an amendment that would bar funds for any military action in Syria if it violated the War Powers Resolution. Another amendment would prohibit money to fund military or paramilitary operations in Egypt.

Republicans and Democrats argued that Congress should have a say in what amounted to taking sides in a sectarian war.

The debate over Syria comes as the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, in a cautionary assessment of more aggressive American military action, said establishing a no-fly zone to protect Syrian rebels would require hundreds of U.S. aircraft at a cost of as much as $1 billion a month with no assurance it would change the momentum in the 2-year-old civil war.

In a letter to the chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee, Gen. Martin Dempsey outlined the risks, costs and benefits of five potential steps as the Obama administration weighs its next move to help the opposition battling the forces of President Bashar Assad. The sectarian conflict has killed at least 93,000, according to United Nations estimates, and displaced millions, prompting more calls on Capitol Hill for greater American action.

Dempsey said the decision to use force in Syria is not one to be taken lightly. “It is no less than an act of war,” he wrote. And once that decision is made, the U.S. has to be prepared for what may come next. “Deeper involvement is hard to avoid,” he said.
[...]
Dempsey spelled out costs, ranging from millions to billions of dollars, for options that included training and arming vetted rebel groups, conducting limited strikes on Syria’s air defenses, creating a no-fly zone, establishing a buffer zone and controlling Syria’s massive stockpile of chemical weapons.

The military leader said that while these steps would help the opposition and pressure Assad’s government, “We have learned from the past 10 years, however, that it is not enough to simply alter the balance of military power without careful consideration of what is necessary in order to preserve a functioning state.” Dempsey’s reference was to the more than a decade of war in Iraq and Afghanistan.
[...]


2) U.S. congressional hurdles lifted on arming Syrian rebels
Tabassum Zakaria & Susan Cornwell, Reuters, Tue Jul 23, 2013 6:23am EDT
http://www.reuters.com/article/2013/07/23/us-usa-syria-arms-idUSBRE96L0W520130723

Washington - President Barack Obama will move forward with a plan for the United States to arm the struggling Syrian rebels after some congressional concerns were eased, officials said on Monday. "We believe we are in a position that the administration can move forward," House of Representatives Intelligence Committee Chairman Mike Rogers told Reuters.

The White House announced in June that it would offer military aid to vetted groups of Syrian rebels after two years of balking at directly sending arms to the opposition. "We have been working with Congress to overcome some of the concerns that they initially had, and we believe that those concerns have been addressed and that we will now be able to proceed," a source familiar with the administration's thinking told Reuters on condition of anonymity.

But both Republicans and Democrats on the House and Senate intelligence committees had expressed worries that the arms could end up in the hands of Islamist militants in Syria like the Nusra Front, and would not be enough to tip the balance of the civil war against President Bashar al-Assad anyway.

Part of the logjam was broken on July 12 when members of the Senate Intelligence Committee who had questioned the wisdom of arming the insurgents decided behind closed doors to tentatively agree that the administration could go ahead with its plans, but sought updates as the covert effort proceeded.

Now, the House committee has also given at least a cautious go-ahead.

"It is important to note that there are still strong reservations," Rogers said. "We got a consensus that we could move forward with what the administration's plans and intentions are in Syria consistent with committee reservations."

The source familiar with the administration's thinking said, "The committees were persuaded and we will be able to move forward."

The timeline was unclear, but supporters of the rebels hope the deliveries of U.S.-provided arms will start in August. [Other reports have suggested the timeline would be much longer – JFP.]
[...]
Committee sessions on arming the rebels are classified and have been held in secret. Senior government figures like Secretary of State John Kerry have briefed lawmakers behind closed doors to persuade them to back the White House's Syria strategy. Rogers said he still had "very strong concerns" about the plan's chances of success.
[...]
Representative Adam Schiff, a Democrat on the House Intelligence Committee, opposes sending U.S. arms to the rebels.

"It's too late to affect the outcome with a small amount of arms," Schiff said. "I think we would have to provide such a massive amount of arms, and additional military support to change the balance on the battlefield, that we would inevitably be drawn deeply into the civil war," he said.

"And I think we also have to expect that some of the weapons we provide are going to get into the hands of those who would use them against us," Schiff said.
[...]
"Arms do not make peace," said Lakhdar Brahimi, the special peace envoy for Syria of the United Nations and the Arab League. "We would like to see the delivery of arms stopped to all sides," he told reporters in Washington.

He said the United States and Russia both agreed there was no military solution to the Syrian conflict "even if they are delivering weapons in the hope their side is going to win."

Brahimi said it was possible to find a political solution in efforts to bring together the warring parties for a peace conference in Geneva. "It is extremely difficult to bring (together) people who have been killing one another for two years just by waving a magic wand to a conference like this. It will take time but I hope it will happen."

Supported by Iran and Russia, Assad has looked increasingly stronger in recent months while the opposition has been fractured.

Clashes between Islamist rebel forces and Kurdish militias spread to a second Syrian province last weekend. The fighting is further evidence that the 2011 uprising against Assad's rule has splintered into turf wars that have little to do with ousting him.


3) Britain Said to Step Back From Push to Arm Syrian Rebels
Alan Cowell, New York Times, July 16, 2013
http://www.nytimes.com/2013/07/17/world/middleeast/syria.html

London - After leading a determined push with France to remove legal hindrances to arming Syria’s rebels, Britain is apparently signaling a more cautious approach, even as British newspaper reports say Prime Minister David Cameron has retreated from the idea altogether.

The reluctance reflects a similar attitude in Washington toward the idea of sending small weaponry to the splintered Syrian insurgents, raising broader questions about the destiny of the rebels as the flow of battle turns against them.

From the moment in late May when Britain and France persuaded their reluctant partners in the European Union to lift an embargo on arms supplies to Syria, British officials have hedged on when arms shipments might begin.

“While we have no immediate plans to send arms to Syria,” Foreign Secretary William Hague said at the time, “it gives us the flexibility to respond in the future if the situation continues to deteriorate and worsen.”

Arguably, from the rebel and Western standpoint, the situation has significantly worsened: support for President Bashar al-Assad by allies like Russia, Iran and the Lebanese militia Hezbollah has enabled him to slow and gradually reverse the rebel campaign to oust him, which initially drew unequivocal Western and Arab rhetorical support.

As the momentum has swung toward loyalist forces, moreover, divisions among the insurgents have deepened, prompting increased Western concerns that weapons supplied to the opposition could end up in the hands of anti-Assad Islamist fighters aligned with Al Qaeda.

British newspaper reports on Monday said British military commanders had advised Mr. Cameron that there was no purpose to be served by sending small arms, since such modest arms supplies were unlikely to sway the outcome of the conflict, which is now in its third year.

British officials declined to confirm the reports that Mr. Cameron had abandoned the idea of arming the rebels, saying that since no formal decision had been made to send weapons in the first place, it was not clear how he could be cast as retreating from it.

France also insisted that its position had not changed. “There’s been no step back,” a French diplomat said on Tuesday, and the French have been in close consultation with their British counterparts on the question of possible arms deliveries.

France, which has provided nonmilitary aid to Syrian rebel groups for months, has long said that it will not provide weaponry unless it can be sure that its arms will not strengthen Islamist fighters, the diplomat noted, speaking on the condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to discuss the matter in public. “This is an essential condition,” the diplomat said.

On Monday, The Daily Telegraph, a conservative British newspaper, said senior military figures had “warned the prime minister that with the momentum on the side of President Assad’s regime sending small arms and missiles is unlikely to make a difference.”

At the same time, the newspaper said, “more significant military intervention, such as introducing a no-fly zone over Syria, could mire Britain in a conflict for months because of the strength” of the Syrian government’s antiaircraft weapons systems.


4) Panama releases former CIA operative wanted by Italy
Greg Miller and Karen DeYoung, Washington Post, July 19 http://www.washingtonpost.com/world/national-security/panama-releases-former-cia-operative-wanted-by-italy/2013/07/19/c73ebc12-f083-11e2-a1f9-ea873b7e0424_story.html

A former CIA operative detained in Panama this week at the request of Italian authorities over his conviction in the 2003 kidnapping of a Muslim cleric in Milan was released Friday and had boarded a flight to the United States, U.S. officials said.

Robert Seldon Lady’s release from Panama appeared to avert the possibility that he would be extradited to Italy, where he faces a sentence of up to nine years in prison for his role in the CIA capture of a terrorism suspect who was secretly snatched off a street in Milan and transported to Egypt.

[The “terrorism suspect” had been granted asylum in Italy from the threat of persecution by Egypt; the CIA delivered him to Egypt, where he claims he was tortured. See: http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/2013/feb/13/italy-cia-rendition-abu-omar - JFP.]
[...]

5) Report questions costs of villas and mansions for top military brass
A Pentagon report questions the high costs of villas and mansions for top generals and admirals.
David S. Cloud, Los Angeles Times, 5:45 PM PDT, July 20, 2013
http://www.latimes.com/news/nationworld/nation/la-na-military-mansions-20130721,0,5484414.story

Coral Gables, Fla. - Marine Gen. John F. Kelly works in a fortress-like headquarters near the Miami airport. Starting this fall, he will live in Casa Sur, an elegant home with a pool and gardens on one of the area's swankiest streets.

The five-bedroom residence, across the street from the famed Biltmore Golf Course, is provided rent-free to Kelly as head of U.S. Southern Command, which oversees military operations in the Caribbean Latin America.

The cost to taxpayers? $160,000 a year, plus $402,000 for renovations and security improvements now underway.

Casa Sur is one of hundreds of high-end homes, villas and mansions where senior generals and admirals are billeted, according to a Pentagon report prepared for Congress last month but not publicly released.

Gen. Philip M. Breedlove, the Air Force four-star who commands NATO, gets a 15,000-square-foot, 19th century chateau in Belgium. Lt. Gen. Steven A. Hummer, head of Marine Forces Reserve, enjoys a 19th century plantation house in New Orleans listed on the National Register of Historic Places. The Joint Chiefs of Staff and their deputies inhabit historic quarters in and around Washington - all staffed with chefs, drivers, gardeners and security teams.

The perks for top military brass, a Pentagon tradition, are under increasing scrutiny in Congress at a time when budget reductions and the mandatory spending cuts known as the sequester have forced the Pentagon to cut services, close facilities, cancel training and missions, and furlough 680,000 civilian workers.

"There is no good news," Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel told hundreds of defense workers at Joint Base Charleston in South Carolina on Wednesday after one woman, who was forced to take 11 days without pay, said she had to take a second job to support her children. "It breaks my heart."

In the annual appropriations bill for military construction approved by a House committee last month, lawmakers criticized the Pentagon for the "excessive cost" of maintaining "large and aging" homes and for the "apparent unwillingness on the part of the [military] services to seek less expensive alternatives."
[...]


Israel/Palestine
6) EU: Future agreements with Israel won't apply to territories
Jerusalem says guideline will make it impossible to sign accords with Brussels without recognizing in writing that West Bank settlements are not part of Israel.
Barak Ravid, Haaretz, Jul. 16, 2013
http://www.haaretz.com/news/diplomacy-defense/.premium-1.535952

The European Union has circulated a guideline for all 28 member states forbidding any funding, cooperation, awarding of scholarships, research funds or prizes to anyone residing in the Jewish settlements in the West Bank and East Jerusalem. The guideline, which will be published in the EU Journal on Friday, requires that any agreement or contract signed by an EU country with Israel include a clause stating that the settlements are not part of the State of Israel and therefore are not part of the agreement. The guidelines will go into effect on January 1, 2014.

A senior Israeli official, speaking on condition of anonymity, described the new ruling, which was published on June 30, as an "earthquake."

"This is the first time such an official, explicit guideline has been published by the European Union bodies," the senior official said. "Until today there were understandings and quiet agreements that the Union does not work beyond the Green Line [the pre-1967-war border]; now this has become a formal, binding policy."

The official noted that the significance of the regulation is both practical and political: From now on, if the Israeli government wants to sign agreements with the European Union or one of its member states, it will have to recognize in writing that the West Bank settlements are not part of Israel.

In the Prime Minister's Office and Foreign Ministry there is great tension and anxiety over the new regulation and its implications for Israeli-EU relations. The efforts of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Deputy Foreign Minister Ze'ev Elkin to stop the move have all failed. Senior EU officials say they would like to hold talks with Israel concerning the new guideline, but since it will go into effect by the end of this week, the chance of its being amended is extremely slim.

"We will have to decide what to do from this day forward," a senior Israeli official said. "We are not ready to sign on this clause in our agreements with the European Union. We can say this to the Europeans, but the result could be a halt to all cooperation in economics, science, culture, sports and academia. This would cause severe damage to Israel."

The new guideline was circulated by the European Commission, which is the executive branch of the European Union. The ruling determines the parameters for cooperation between the Union, along with its member states, and Israeli private and governmental entities between 2014 and 2020.

The most significant part of the guideline is its "territorial clause," which for the first time will appear as a binding rule on all agreements between the European Union and Israel. The new clause determines the areas in Israel that are entitled to cooperation with the Union, and those that are not. The territorial clause determines that all agreements will be valid only within Israeli borders recognized by the European Union, meaning the borders prior to the 1967 Six-Day War.

The new guideline forbids any cooperation by European Union members with private or governmental bodies located beyond the Green Line. It allows cooperation with Israeli government offices in East Jerusalem, such as the Justice Ministry, but only if the activities themselves are carried out within the 1967 borders.
[...]
Thus, for example, the new guidelines are already in force in negotiations between Israel and the European Union over the EuroMed Youth agreement, which deals with joint youth projects, conventions, classes and exchanges of delegations. EU negotiators told Israeli representatives that the EuroMed Youth agreement must include the 'territorial clause' spelling out that the pact can only be implemented within the Green Line.

EU officials said the new guidelines were drawn up as a result of the decision by European foreign ministers last December, which stated that "all agreements between the State of Israel and the EU must unequivocally and explicitly indicate their inapplicability to the territories occupied by Israel in 1967."

The EU delegation is Israel further noted: "The guidelines are also in conformity with the EU's longstanding position that Israeli settlements are illegal under international law and with the non-recognition by the EU of Israel's sovereignty over the occupied territories, irrespective of their legal status under domestic Israeli law."
[...]


Syria
7) U.S. Intelligence Official Says Syrian War Could Last for Years
Eric Schmitt and Mark Mazzetti, New York Times, July 20, 2013
http://www.nytimes.com/2013/07/21/world/middleeast/us-intelligence-official-says-syrian-war-could-last-for-years.html

Aspen, Colo. - A senior American intelligence official on Saturday warned that the Syrian conflict could last “many, many months to multiple years,” and described a situation that would most likely worsen regardless of whether the Syrian leader, President Bashar al-Assad, fell. The comments by David R. Shedd, the deputy director of the Defense Intelligence Agency, were one of the strongest public warnings about how the civil war in Syria has deteriorated, and he seemed to imply that the response from the United States and its allies had so far been lacking.

Mr. Shedd suggested that in addition to strengthening the more secular groups of the fractious Syrian opposition - which the Obama administration has promised to arm with weapons and ammunition - the West would have to directly confront more radical Islamist elements. But he did not say how that could be accomplished. “The reality is that, left unchecked, they will become bigger,” Mr. Shedd told the Aspen Security Forum, an annual meeting on security issues. “Over the last two years they’ve grown in size, they’ve grown in capability, and ruthlessly have grown in effectiveness.”

At the forum, of which The New York Times is a sponsor, Mr. Shedd described two different scenarios for Syria’s future, both of which he said portended far more violence and killing. “If Bashar Assad were to succeed, he will be a more ruthless leader who will live with a legacy of tens of thousands of his civilians killed under him,” he said. President Obama declared in mid-2011 that Mr. Assad had to leave office.

Mr. Shedd outlined an equally grim portrait of a spreading Sunni-Shiite sectarian conflict if Mr. Assad’s government fell or he was killed. “If he loses and goes to an enclave inside there, I think there will be ongoing civil war for years to come,” he said, noting that more radical elements like the Nusra Front would fight to control parts of the country. “They will fight for that space. They’re there for the long haul.”

Mr. Shedd offered a sobering assessment of America’s ability to draw distinctions among an opposition that he said numbered about 1,200 groups.

After months of internal debate, the Obama administration in June announced a plan to provide direct military support to the Syrian rebels, but so far no arms have arrived.

The effort to support the opposition has also been hampered by the inability of the United States and various Arab countries - including Saudi Arabia, Qatar and the United Arab Emirates - to agree on how quickly to act, which opposition groups to support, and which weapons to give them.

Mr. Shedd, a 31-year intelligence veteran, seemed to suggest that modest interventions were unlikely to make a significant difference at a time when Mr. Assad’s army has been reclaiming territory on the battlefield, with the support of Iran, Russia and Hezbollah, and when the opposition is bitterly divided, while among the rebels the Islamists are resurgent. “My concern is that it could go on for a long time,” Mr. Shedd said, voicing concern that the civilian casualties, refugee flows and internal dislocation would increase. “It is in large measure a stalemate.”

Mr. Shedd said he was particularly concerned that the Syrian revolution, unlike the other Arab uprisings, was far more likely to explode than implode, and that Jordan and Iraq would be caught in the conflict and instability. His publicly expressed concerns about Jordan contrasted with the administration’s usual, almost ritualized declarations of confidence that King Abdullah II of Jordan could emerge with his country, one of America’s strongest allies in the region, intact.

Mr. Shedd also played down reported dispute between the Nusra Front and Al Qaeda’s arm in Iraq over which one controls the more radical elements in Syria. But he expressed concerns that the Qaeda branch would strengthen its position inside Iraq, after having been largely decimated by the American troop surge there in 2007. “Al Qaeda Iraq will emerge stronger as a result of its experience inside of Syria,” he said.

Pakistan
8) Leaked Pakistani report confirms high civilian death toll in CIA drone strikes
Chris Woods, Bureau of Investigative Journalism, July 22nd, 2013
http://www.thebureauinvestigates.com/2013/07/22/exclusive-leaked-pakistani-report-confirms-high-civilian-death-toll-in-cia-drone-strikes/

A secret document obtained by the Bureau reveals for the first time the Pakistan government’s internal assessment of dozens of drone strikes, and shows scores of civilian casualties.

The United States has consistently claimed only a tiny number of non-combatants have been killed in drone attacks in Pakistan – despite research by the Bureau and others suggesting that over 400 civilians may have died in the nine-year campaign.

The internal document shows Pakistani officials too found that CIA drone strikes were killing a significant number of civilians – and have been aware of those deaths for many years.

Of 746 people listed as killed in the drone strikes outlined in the document, at least 147 of the dead are clearly stated to be civilian victims, 94 of those are said to be children.

The confidential 12-page summary paper, titled Details of Attacks by Nato Forces/Predators in FATA was prepared by government officials in Pakistan’s Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA).

Based on confidential reports from a network of government agents in the field, it outlines 75 separate CIA drone strikes between 2006 and late 2009 and provides details of casualties in many of the attacks. Five attacks alleged to be carried out by Nato or other unspecified forces are also listed.

The numbers recorded are much higher than those provided by the US administration, which continues to insist that no more than 50 to 60 ‘non-combatants’ have been killed by the CIA across the entire nine years of Pakistan bombings. New CIA director John Brennan has described claims to the contrary as ‘intentional misrepresentations‘.

The document shows that during the 2006-09 period covered, when Pakistan’s government and military were privately supporting the CIA’s campaign, officials had extensive internal knowledge of high civilian casualties.
[...]
A former Political Agent for North Waziristan who was shown the leaked report by the Bureau says he does not believe the casualty figures to be exaggerated.

‘There was no benefit in officials “cooking the books” here, since this document was clearly never intended to be seen outside the civilian administration,’ said Rauf Khan Khattak, who also recently served in Pakistan’s caretaker government.


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Dempsey’s reference was to the more than a decade of war in Iraq and Afghanistan, AP notes.

worries that the arms could end up in the hands of Islamist militants in Syria like the Nusra Front, and would not be enough to tip the balance of the civil war against President Bashar al-Assad anyway.

Isn't it scary that US and Iranian negotiators could be on their way to an agreement and Congress could just flip a switch and potentially blow the whole deal?

that it is not enough to simply alter the balance of military power without careful consideration of what is necessary in order to preserve a functioning state.” Dempsey’s reference was to the more than a decade of war in Iraq and Afghanistan, AP notes.

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