The time since the loss of our guys in Benghazi has been curious for what hasn't been said about Syria. No accident that. My casual recollection is of nothing more than vague characterizations of Assad's being unusually depraved. "Evidence" of his depravity was limited to dubious reports of the use of nerve gas. Some sort of a "civil war" seemed to be in progress for reasons not stated. We did not help precipitate that civil war. Those opposing Assad were "moderate" "rebels" on whom the U.S. was placing all its bets. Spare no expense and nail down that Chinese line of credit for U.S. military adventurism. Ask them to stay out of the S. China Sea for good measure. Who do they think they are?
As a quick exercise in pretend intelligence analysis glance through the list of groups in the Appendix to this post and see if you can identify those groups who are likely to be more than opportunistic "allies" of the U.S. and who will, if they prevail, create something that will be superior to what obtained under the aforementioned war criminal Assad. Heck, how about just create something as good?
This then is my take on the possible real reasons for U.S. involvement in Syria. It's a bit confused conceptually as some points may merely be subsets of other policies, but this can be rectified as the outlines of U.S. policy become clear, which doesn't look to be any time soon. Mr. Putin has introduced quite a bit of clarity into the situation there but this is not a popular idea in official U.S. circles:
- Buttress Israel's primary foreign policy objective -- "[H]eighten the level of internecine conflict in that country to the point where it will not be able to serve as a bulwark against Israeli regional hegemony for at least another generation."
- Advance Saudi Arabian salafist agenda -- Bedrock U.S. policy since 1945, especially after 9/11. Immutable.
- Checkmate Iran -- Prevent Iran from dominating everything in the Middle East, including Sodomy, Gomorrah, Ninevah and Tyre. To make absolutely sure Iran knows we mean business, help them obtain nuclear weapons and enable them to fund terror operations around the world.
- Goldilocks Strategy -- Support "vetted" opposition or "rebel" groups in Syria -- bad ass but not Freddy Kruger evil -- to bring down Assad. These "just right" moderate terrorists get air drops of weapons and WWII C-rations so long as they agree to read the Federalist Papers, bring down Assad, kick ISIS and al Qaida ass, and keep beheadings of Christians, Yazidis, and Kurds to the absolute minimum.
The rebel group that draws shortest straw afterwards gets to rule Syria and all other rebels agree to that so Syria can write a new chapter in its long history. See Appendix, below, for list of all 238 rebel groups in the field, the allegiances, goals, and murderous proclivities of which have, lest you worry, been fed into the Langley computers to avoid mistakes and confusion.
Keep Incirlik Air Base in Turkey -- This objective is to ensure we get an air base in Turkey in exchange for which we agree to support Turkish operations (a) to kill Kurds in Syria and possibly (b) to grab part of Syria. This is to strengthen NATO which requires a U.S. Air Force base in Turkey so as to support Turkey's attacks on the Kurds, Turkey being a NATO member. Base in Turkey can be used to stage pretend air strikes on ISIS and actual Syrian infrastructure to maximize misery of civiians.
Turkish due process -- notification phase.
- Reduce Syrian and Nigerian refugee flow to Europe -- Refugee flow to Europe will be reduced to almost nothing if we continue supporting "good" rebels in Syria and continue to participate in military operations that have already killed hundreds of thousands of Syrian civilians and destroyed Syrian cities and power generating facilities. Syrians know we mean well.
- Ad Hoc strategy -- Retain elements of the Goldilocks strategy, especially by disguising the strength of al Qaida elements and future struggle between al Qaida and ISIS for control in Syria and Iraq. Continue to pretend to bomb ISIS and complain if Russians bomb al Qaida thereby frustrating policy #1. Refuse offers of Russian help to stabilize Assad and avoid another Libyan meltdown. Put pedal to the metal to create chaos and more refugees. See item #1 again. Take sides in centuries-long Sunni-Shiite intramural dispute by only pretending to bomb U.S. mortal enemy ISIS. See item #2.
- American safety -- Bomb Syria; deliver arms to vicious, Muslim lunatics; destabilize Assad regime to discourage, if not prevent, future Syrian attacks on the U.S.
- Get Qatari gas to Europe -- Something to do with a gas pipeline through Syria. Opposed by some, supported by others. U.S. military action necessary either way.
- Lure Russian into quagmire -- This policy is to stop Putin's relentless drive for world domination. Why should we be the only ones in a quagmire in Afghanistan and the Middle East?
- Advance democracy -- Advance the cause of democracy anywhere and everywhere in the world (except the U.S.).
- Dudley Do-right policy -- Remove President Bashar al-Assad because he is a bad man. Americans are the best when it comes to deciding who is good and who is bad. We're like Santa Claus to the world. We're no. 1 for a reason.
 "US Caught Faking It in Syria." By Thomas S. Harrington, Counterpunch, 10/12/15. "Every kind of inter-Arab confrontation will assist us in the short run and will shorten the way to the more important aim of breaking up Iraq into denominations as in Syria and in Lebanon." -- Oded Yinon, former employee of the Israeli Foreign Ministry.
 "Moscow Nights in Latakia." By Michael Brenner, Sic Semper Tyrannis, 10/16/15. Dr. Brenner's article is close to being in the "must read" category. U.S. confusion is laid bare.
Photo credit: Photo of Turkish President adviser Yusef Yerkel dialoguing with Turkish citizen from "Erdoğan's legacy and the Kurds." By Confused Ponderer, Sic Semper Tyrannis, 10/22/15. Note: Erdogan exempt from "Brutal Dictator" designation.
101st Infantry Division (Idlib). 111st Infantry Division (Idlib, Hama) . 13th Division (Idlib) . 16th Division. 60th Infantry Division (Idlib). Abu Amara Brigades. Ahrar al-Sham (Idlib, Latakia, Hama, Homs, Damascus, Dera’a & Quneitra). Al-Izza Gathering (Hama, Idlib). Al-Nakhba Forces. Caucasus Emirate in al-Sham (Latakia). Fajr al-Khilafa Brigades. Fajr al-Sham Islamic Movement. First Regiment . Fistaqim Kama Umirat. Furqan Brigades (Damascus, Dera’a & Quneitra). Harakat al-Thahur Baryis. Harakat Biyan. Harakat Mujahidi al-Islam. Jabhat al-Nusra (Idlib, Hama, Homs, Damascus, Dera’a & Quneitra). Jabhat Ansar al-Din (Idlib). Jama’at Jaysh al-Sunna (Idlib, Hama). Jaysh al-Islam (Idlib, Latakia, Damascus). Jaysh al-Mujahideen (Latakia). Jaysh al-Qasas. Jaysh al-Thuwar (Idlib, Latakia, Homs, Hama). Jund al-Aqsa (Idlib, Latakia, Hama). Jund Allah. Katibat al-Tawhid wal-Jihad (Idlib). Kita’ib al-Safwat al-Islamiya. Kita’ib Shams al-Shamal. Kitaba al-Suhaba. Levant Front . Liwa al-Fateh. Liwa al-Haqq (Idlib, Hama). Liwa al-Houriya al-Islami (Idlib). Liwa al-Jihad fi Sabeel Allah. Liwa al-Sultan Muhammad al-Fatih. Liwa Amna’ ar-Raqqa. Liwa Ansar al-Khilafa. Liwa Ansar al-Sunna. Liwa Fursan al-Haqq (Idlib). Liwa Shuhada al-Atarib. Liwa al-Sultan Murad. Liwa Thuwar ar-Raqqa. Nour al-Din al-Zenki. Saraya Jarablus. Sham Legion (Idlib, Hama). Siraya al-Ma’ad. Suqour al-Ghab (Idlib, Hama). Suqour al-Jabal (Idlib, Hama). Tahrir Brigade. Thuwar al-Sham Brigades. People’s Protection Units (YPG).
101st Infantry Division (Aleppo). 111th Infantry Division (Aleppo, Hama). 13th Division (Aleppo). Ahrar al-Sham (Aleppo, Latakia, Hama, Homs, Damascus, Dera’a & Queneitra). Ajnad al-Sham (Hama, Damascus, Dera’a & Queneitra). Fursan al-Haqq. Jabhat al-Nusra (Aleppo, Hama, Homs, Damascus, Dera’a & Quneitra). Jabhat Ansar al-Din (Aleppo). Jama’at Ahadun Ahad (Latakia). Jama’at Ansar al-Islam (Latakia). Jaysh al-Islam (Aleppo, Latakia, Damascus). Jaysh al-Sunna (Aleppo). Jaysh al-Thuwar (Aleppo, Latakia, Homs, Hama). Jund al-Aqsa (Aleppo, Latakia, Hama). Junud al-Sham (Latakia). Kata’ib Ansar al-Sham (Latakia). Katiba al-Tawhid wal Jihad (Aleppo). Liwa al-Haqq (Aleppo, Hama). Liwa al-Houriya al-Islami (Aleppo). Sham Legion (Aleppo, Hama). Suqour al-Ghab (Aleppo, Hama). Suqour al-Jabal (Aleppo, Hama). Turkistan Islamic Party (Latakia).
Ahrar al-Sham (Aleppo, Idlib, Hama, Homs, Damascus, Dera’a & Quneitra). Caucasus Emirate in al-Sham (Aleppo). First Coastal Division. Jabhat Ansar al-Din (Idlib). Jama’at Ahadun Ahad (Idlib). Jama’at Ansar al-Islam (Idlib). Jaysh al-Islam (Aleppo, Idlib, Damascus, Dera’a & Quneitra). Jaysh al-Mujahideen (Aleppo). Jaysh al-Thuwar (Aleppo, Idlib, Homs, Hama). Jund al-Aqsa (Aleppo, Idlib, Hama). Junud al-Sham (Idlib). Katai’b Ansar al-Sham. Liwa al-Adiyat (Hama). Turkistan Islamic Party (Idlib).
111th Infantry Division (Idlib). Ahrar al-Sham (Aleppo, Idlib, Latakia, Homs, Damascus, Dera’a & Quneitra). Ajnad al-Sham (Idlib, Damascus, Dera’a & Quneitra). Al-Izza Gathering (Aleppo, Idlib). Jabhat al-Nusra (Aleppo, Idlib, Homs, Damascus, Dera’a & Quneitra). Jabhat al-Sham. Jaysh al-Sunna (Idlib). Jund al-Aqsa (Aleppo, Idlib, Latakia). Liwa al-Adiyat (Latakia). Liwa al-Haqq (Hama, Aleppo). Liwa al-Inqath al-Muqatila. Sham Legion. (Aleppo, Idlib). Suqour al-Ghab (Aleppo, Idlib). Suqour al-Jabal (Aleppo, Idlib).
Ahrar al-Sham (Aleppo, Idlib, Latakia, Hama, Damascus, Dera’a & Queneitra). Ajnad Homs. Jabhat al-Nusra (Aleppo, Idlib, Hama, Damascus, Dera’a & Quneitra). Jaysh Ahl al-Sunna wal-Jama’a. Jaysh al-Tawhid. Jaysh al-Thuwar (Aleppo, Idlib, Latakia, Hama). Tahrir Homs.
11 Division Special Forces. Abu Obaida Battalion . Ahrar al-Qalamoun Battalions . Ahrar al-Sham (Aleppo, Idlib, Latakia, Hama, Homs, Dera’a & Quneitra). Ajnad al-Sham (Idlib, Hama, Dera’a & Quneitra). Al-Sarkha Battalions. Asoud al-Sunna Battalions. Originality and Development Front (Aleppo). Battalion 215. Damascus Martyrs Brigade (Dera’a & Quneitra). Friends of the Prophet Mohammad Battalion. Furqan Brigades (Aleppo, Dera’a & Quneitra). Fursan al-Sunna Battalion (Dera’a & Quneitra). Hamad Brigade. Hawsh Arab Martyrs Gathering. Ilwiya wa Kita’ib al-Sahaba (Dera’a & Quneitra). Jabhat al-Nusra (Aleppo, Idlib, Homs, Homa, Dera’a & Quneitra). Jabhat Ansar al-Islam (Dera’a & Quenitra). Jaysh al-Ababil (Dera’a & Quenitra). Jaysh al-Islam (Aleppo, Idlib, Latakia, Dera’a & Quneitra). Jaysh al-Qalamoun. Jaysh Tahirir al-Sham. Kata’ib al-Ansar. Katiba al-Mutahabeen Billah. Katiba Shaid Mamoud Murad. Katiba Shuhada al-Nabek. Katiba Shuhada al-Sarkha. Katiba Yousef al-Sadiq. Kita’ib Aknaf Beit al-Maqdis (Dera’a & Quneitra). Liwa Ahrar Hafir. Liwa al-Izz. Liwa Muatasim Billah (Dera’a & Quneitra). Liwa Rijal Allah. Liwa Seif al-Haq. Liwa Suqour al-Qalamoun. Liwa Suqour al-Umawayeen. Liwa Tahrir al-Qalamoun. Liwa Tawhid al-Asima (Dera’a & Quneitra). Liwa Thura al-Sha’ab. Martyr Lieutenant Ahmed Abdou Brigades . Marwan Hadid Briagde. Men of Qalamoun Battalion. Rahman Corps. Saif al-Islam Battalion. Sheild of Qalamoun Brigade.
DERA’A & QUNEITRA
24th Infantry Division. 69th Special Forces Division. Abu Obaida Battalion. Ahrar al-Sham (Aleppo, Idlib, Latakia, Hama, Homs, Damascus). Ahrar Nawa Division. Ajnad al-Sham (Idlib, Hama, Damascus). Al-Sarkha Battalions (Damascus). Alwiyat al-Omari. Ansar al-Huda Gathering. Ansar al-Sunnah. Damascus Martyrs Brigade (Damascus). Fajr al-Islam Division. Fajr al-Tawhid Division. Fallujah Houran Division. First Army. First Artillery Regiment. First Brigade. First Corps. Firqat Usoud al-Sunnah. Furqan Brigades (Aleppo, Damascus). Fursan al-Sunna Battalion (Damascus). Hamza Division. Harakat Muthanna al-Islamiya. Harakat Shuhada al-Sham al-Islamiya. Ilwiya wa Kita’ib al-Sahaba (Damascus). Jabhat al-Nusra (Aleppo, Idlib, Hama, Homs, Damascus). Jabhat al-Sham al-Muwahida. Jabhat Ansar al-Islam (Aleppo, Idlib, Latakia Damascus). Jaysh al-Ababil (Dera’a & Quenitra). Jaysh al-Islam (Aleppo, Idlib, Latakia, Damascus). Jaysh al-Yarmouk. Katibat Aswad al-Aqsad. Katibat Fadayeen Houran. Kita’ib Aknaf Beit al-Maqdis (Damascus). Liwa Ahaya al-Jihad. Liwa Ahrar Inkhil. Liwa Ahsa’ar al-Lajat. Liwa al-I’tisam Billah. Liwa al-Mughawir al-Awli. Liwa al-Sayyid al-Messiyah. Liwa al-Shahid al-A’qeed Ahmed al-Omar. Liwa al-Umarayn al-Islami. Liwa Amoud Houran. Liwa Ansar al-Haqq. Liwa Fursan Houran. Liwa Jaydour Houran. Liwa Jebel al-Sheikh. Liwa Khayalat al-Zaydi. Liwa Mua’taz Billah. Liwa Muatasim Billah (Damascus). Liwa Muhajireen wal-Ansar. Liwa Omar bin al-Khatab. Liwa Osama bin Zaid. Liwa Shabab al-Sunnah. Liwa Shuhada al-Islam. Liwa Shuhada Houran. Liwa Tawhid al-Asima (Damascus). Liwa Tawhid al-Janub. Liwa Usoud al-Tawhid. Liwa Tawhid Kita’ib Houran. March 18 Division. Martyr Lieutenant Ahmed Abdou Brigades (Damascus). Mashrou Benaa Umma. Salah al-Din Division. Seif al-Sham Brigades. Shahid Ra’ed al-Masri. Siyad al-Usoud Battalion. Syrian Revolutionaries Front - Southern Sector. Tahalaf Suqour al-Janoub. Tajamu al-Mujahideen Nawa. Usoud al-Harb Operations Room.
List of "rebel" groups from "Syrian Opposition Guide. " By Jennifer Cafarella and Genevieve Casagrande, Institute for the Study of War, 10/7/15. "This reference guide provides a baseline for identifying Syrian opposition groups. The guide aims to permit researchers to track how groups realign as the Russians commence operations. It seeks to inform the development of policies that aim to protect Syrian rebels willing to cooperate with the U. S. in order to defeat ISIS and marginalize al-Qaeda affiliate Jabhat al-Nusra." And not bring down Assad?