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Re: INSIGHT - military intervention in Syria, post withdrawal status of forces

Released on 2012-03-06 07:00 GMT

Email-ID 204627
Date 2011-12-07 02:05:46
That makes sense. No one is planning a war.
Sent via BlackBerry by AT&T


From: Reva Bhalla
Date: Tue, 6 Dec 2011 19:04:13 -0600 (CST)
Subject: Re: INSIGHT - military intervention in Syria, post withdrawal
status of forces
the NATO forces that conducted the Libya campaign are still in
replenishment mode. i asked how long it would take to replenish their
supplies and be ready for another operations, and they said depending on
the orders they get it could be done in a matter of weeks if needed, but
they haven't been put on that kind of an urgent schedule yet


From: "Reva Bhalla"
Sent: Tuesday, December 6, 2011 6:57:59 PM
Subject: Re: INSIGHT - military intervention in Syria, post withdrawal
status of forces

sorry, just remembering more bits.

when we were talking about wehther the US would be able to convey the
message to Iran starting in 2012 that the US isn't going anywhere, they
stressed that Iran has its eyes all over Ali al Salim air base in Kuwait.
Expect to see a pretty signfiicant build=up of aircraft there


From: "Reva Bhalla"
Sent: Tuesday, December 6, 2011 6:55:29 PM
Subject: Re: INSIGHT - military intervention in Syria, post withdrawal
status of forces

one more thing, i was talking on the way out to one of the USAF women in
the office who introduced me to her husband working out of the J8 Force
Structure office. When we were talking about Iran, she was talking about
how incredible some of the imagery was coming out of Isfahan post-blast.
It was pretty clear that she was talking sabotage ops. Those blasts
weren't all accidental


From: "Reva Bhalla"
Sent: Tuesday, December 6, 2011 6:49:18 PM
Subject: INSIGHT - military intervention in Syria, post withdrawal status
of forces

A few points I wanted to highlight from meetings today --

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.

They wanted to grill me on the strategic picture on Syria, so after that I
got to grill them on the military picture. 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 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.' The way it was put to me was, 'look at this
way - the level of information known on Syrian OrBat this month is the
best it's been since 2001.' They have been told to prepare contingencies
and be ready to act within 2-3 months, but they still stress that this is
all being done as contingency planning, not as a move toward escalation.

I kept pressing on the question of what these SOF teams would be working
toward, and whether this would lead to an eventual air camapign 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. There wouldn't be a need for air
cover, and they wouldn't expect these Syrian rebels to be marching in
columns anyway.

They emphasized 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.

The main base they would use is Cyprus, hands down. Brits and FRench would
fly out of there. They kept stressing how much is stored at Cyprus and how
much recce comes out of there. The group was split on whether Turkey would
be involved, but said Turkey would be pretty critical to the mission to
base stuff out of there. EVen if Turkey had a poltiical problem with
Cyprus, they said there is no way the Brits and the FRench wouldn't use
Cyprus as their main air force base. Air Force Intel guy seems pretty
convinced that the Turks won't participate (he seemed pretty pissed at

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 over Homs, Hama region. This would entail a countrywide SEAD
campaign lasting the duration of the war. They dont believe air
intervention would happen unless there was enough media attention on a
massacre, like the Ghadafi move against Benghazi. They think the US would
have a high tolerance for killings as long as it doesn't reach that very
public stage. Theyre also questiioning the skills of the Syrian forces
that are operating the country's air defenses currently and how
signfiicant the Iranian presence is there. Air Force Intel guy is most
obsessed with the challenge of taking out Syria's ballistic missile
capabilities and chem weapons. With Israel rgiht there and the regime
facing an existential crisis, he sees that as a major complication to any
military intervention.

The post 2011 SOFA with Iraq is still being negotiated. These guys were
hoping that during Biden's visit that he would announce a deal with
Maliki, but no such luck. They are gambling ont he idea that the Iraqis
remember the iran-iraq war and that maliki is not going to want to face
the threat of Iranian jets entering Iraqi air space. THey say that most
US fighter jets are already out of Iraq and transferred to Kuwait. They
explained that's the beauty of the air force, the base in Kuwait is just a
hop, skip and jump away from their bases in Europe, ie. very easy to
rapidly build up when they need to. They don't seem concerned about the
US ability to restructure its forces to send a message to Iran. They gave
the example of the USS Enterprise that was supposed to be out of
commission already and got extended another couple years to send to the
gulf. WHen the US withdraws, we'll have at least 2 carriers in the gulf
out of centcom and one carrier in the Med out of EuCom. I asked if the
build-up in Kuwait and the carrier deployments are going to be enough to
send a message to Iran that the US isn't going anywhere. They responded
that Iran will get the message if they read the Centcom Web Site. STarting
Jan. 1 expect them to be publishing all over the place where the US is
building up.

Another concern they have about an operation in Syria is whether Iran
could impede operations out of Balad air force base in Iraq.

The French representative was of hte opinion that Syria won't be a
libya-type situation in that France would be gung-ho about going in. Not
in an election year. The UK rep also emphasized UK reluctance but said
that the renegotiation of the EU treaty undermines the UK role and that UK
would be looking for ways to reassert itself on the continent ( i dont
really think a syria campaign is the way to do that.) 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

Prior to that, I had a meeting with an incoming Kuwaiti diplomat (will be
coded as KU301.) His father was high up in the regime, always by the
CP's/PM's side. The diplo himself still seems to be getting his feet wet
in DC (the new team just arrived less than 2 weeks ago,) but he made
pretty clear that Kuwait was opening the door to allowing US to build up
forces as needed. THey already have a significant presence there, and a
lot of them will be on 90-day rotations. He also said that the SOFA that
the US signs with Baghdad at the last minute will be worded in such a way
that even allowing one trainer in the country can be construed to mean
what the US wants in terms of keeping forces in Iraq. Overall, I didnt get
the impression from him that Kuwait is freaked out about the US leaving.
Everyhting is just getting rearranged. The Kuwaitis used to be much
better at managing their relations with Iran, but ever since that spy ring
story came out a year ago, it's been bad. He doesn't think Iran has
significant covert capabililiteis in the GCC states, though they are
trying. Iranian activity is mostly propaganda focused. He said that while
KSA and Bahrain they can deal with it as needed and black out the media,
Kuwait is a lot more open and thus provides Iran with more oppotunity to
shape perceptions (he used to work in inforamtion unit in Kuwait.) He says
there is a sig number of kuwaitis that listen to Iranian media like Al
Alam especially.

On the Kuwaiti political scene - the government is having a harder time
dealing with a more emboldened opposition, but the opposition is still
extremely divided, esp among the Islamists. The MPs now all have to go
back to their tribes to rally support for the elections to take place in
Feb. Oftentimes an MP in Kuwait city will find out that he has lost
support back home with the tribe, and so a lot of moeny is handed out.The
govt is hoping that witha clean slate they can quiet the opposition down.
A good way of managing the opposition he said is to refer cases to the
courts, where they can linger forever. good way for the govt to buy time.
He doesnt believe the Arab League will take significant action against
Syria - no one is interested in military intervention. they just say it to
threaten it.