Posts Tagged ‘syria’


September 6, 2015

Fox News on September 5, 2015, reported that the roughly 300,000 refugees from Syria, Iraq, Afghanistan and other Middle East countries pouring into Europe this year is sparking new questions about the extent to which U.S. foreign policy under then-Secretary of State Hillary Clinton has contributed to the crisis. Excerpts below:

Critics of Obama administration policy while Clinton was the country’s top diplomat argue in large part that she and President Obama failed to keep U.S. troops in Iraq after December 2011, creating a void for the Islamic State to form and embark on a reign of terror that has killed and displace tens of thousands in the Middle East just over the past few years.

“That premature withdrawal was the fatal error, creating the void that ISIS moved in to fill and that Iran has exploited to the full as well,” former Florida Republican Gov. Jeb Bush, who is competing with the Democrat Clinton to become president in 2016, said in early August.

“Where was the secretary of state in all of this? In all her record-setting travels, she stopped by Iraq exactly once,” he said. “Who can seriously argue that America and our friends are safer today than in 2009, when the president and Secretary Clinton … took office?”

Nowhere is the problem worse than in Syria, where a four-year civil war has displaced an estimated 7.6 million people and forced an additional 4 million into such neighboring countries and Turkey, Hungry, Lebanon, Jordan and now Western Europe.

Critics of U.S. foreign policy say Obama has allowed Assad to stay in power by in part not providing enough U.S. military assistance to rebel forces. And they argue Obama announced in August 2012 that Syria would cross a “red line” by using or moving around chemical weapons. However, they say, the president did nothing after evidenced showed in April 2013 that such weapons were used on the Syrian people.

Clinton was secretary of state from 2009 to 2013. And she has also been criticized about her role leading up to the Sept. 11, 2012, terror attacks in Benghazi, Libya, in which U.S. Ambassador Chris Steven and three other Americans were killed.

Critics argue that Clinton’s testimony before Congress and other evidence shows that she and others in the administration failed to provide adequate security at the U.S. outpost in Benghazi and that they underestimated the terror threat in the region.

Critics also argue that Obama has underestimated ISIS,…

“This spreading anarchy derives, in substantial part, from Barack Obama’s deliberate policy of ‘leading from behind’ by reducing U.S. attention to and involvement in the region,” John Bolton, a former U.S. ambassador to the United Nations and a Fox News contributor, recently said.

Yacoub El Hillo, the United Nations’ top humanitarian official, said in March that the impending crisis was “price of political failure,” according to The New York Times.

The United States has already taken about 1,500 Syrian refuges, and the Obama administration said earlier this week that the country will try to do more next year, by perhaps taking in thousands more.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

Comment: This article is focusing on an important problem with US foreign policy 2009 – 2015. During these years the United States has retreated from its responsibility as hegemon. There has been a lack of understanding of the geostrategic and geopolitical problems of the Middle East. It would have been important for America to have negotiated treaties with Iraq and Afghanistan to leave a good sized military force to help guarantee stability after the US retreat from thos countries. Syria and Libya policy has been a disaster and no doubt both Obama and Hillary Clinton are partly to blame for the European refugee crisis in 2015. The crisis is also destabilizing Jordan and Lebanon. The Iran deal will further destabilize the whole Middle East region.


February 8, 2014

Center for Security Policy, Washington DC, on February 7, 2014, reported on the House and Senate Intelligence Committees annual unclassified hearings on worldwide threats facing the United States. Testifying to the hearings were Director of National Intelligence James Clapper, CIA Director John Brennan, FBI Director James Comey, and DIA Director Lt. Gen. Michael Flynn. Excerpts below:

All five witnesses stressed the increasing threat from a reconstituted and decentralized al-Qaeda organization which is expanding its influence, especially in Syria and North Africa. CIA Director Brennan warned about al-Qaeda activity in Iraq and Syria, telling the House Intelligence Committee: “We are concerned about the use of Syrian territory by the Al Qaeda organization to recruit individuals and develop the capability to be able not just to carry out attacks inside of Syria, but also to use Syria as a launching pad. There are camps inside of both Iraq and Syria that are used by Al Qaeda to develop capabilities that are applicable, both in the theater, as well as beyond.”

The U.S. intelligence community sees growing risks from cyberwarfare because government and personal functions are increasingly tied to the Internet and potential offensive cyber operations by Russia, China, Iran, North Korea, terrorist organizations, and cyber criminal organizations. U.S. intelligence agencies believe Russia continues to target U.S. and allied personnel with access to sensitive computer network information. China is trying to weaken U.S. dominance of Internet governance while continuing an expansive worldwide program of network exploitation and intellectual property theft.

In response to questions by House Intelligence Committee Chairman Mike Rogers (R-MI), DIA Director Flynn discussed a recent damage assessment by his agency on the leaks of classified information by former NSA technician Edward Snowden. According to Flynn, the Snowden leaks will make it harder to detect IEDs threatening U.S. troops in Afghanistan, will put all U.S. servicemen at risk, and provided America’s adversaries important insights into U.S. military vulnerabilities. Director Clapper added that the vast majority of Snowden’s leaks probably had nothing to do with NSA programs.

These findings are important because they put the lie to claims by Snowden and his supporters that he only leaked information about NSA programs and was careful not to release information that would cost lives or endanger U.S. security.

Senator Jay Rockefeller (D-WV), a liberal senator with whom the Center has rarely seen eye-to-eye on national security matters, surprised everyone at the Senate Intelligence Committee hearing by supporting the NSA metadata program in its current form and opposing President Obama’s proposal to move the metadata database to private parties. Rockefeller said the metadata program, an NSA collection effort to gather telephone records, is an important counterterrorism tool and is already subject to numerous laws and regulations to ensure that it does not violate the privacy of Americans. Rockefeller said he opposes the president’s proposal to take the metadata database away from NSA and giving it to private parties because such a move would put this information in the hands of personnel subject to significantly less stringent security clearance rules than NSA personnel, resulting in serious privacy and security risks. The Center for Security Policy commends Senator Rockefeller for stating his strongly held views on the metadata program which are identical to a recent Center study.

With three exceptions, the members at both intelligence hearings were civil, professional and took seriously witness testimony about increased threats from terrorism, cyberwarfare, and leaks of U.S. intelligence. The three exceptions were Senator Ron Wyden (D-OR), Senator Mark Udall (D-UT) and Senator Mark Heinrich (D-NM).

Instead of listening to the testimony about dire foreign threats facing this country, Wyden, Udall, and Heinrich took the nonsensical position that U.S. intelligence agencies are the main threat to American liberty..

The three senators represent a small minority who tried to exploit an open hearing because a bipartisan majority has repeatedly refused to support them in committee votes.


August 31, 2013

The Washington Times on August 28, 2013, reported that Syria and its ally Iran have been building cyberattack capabilities for years and soon might have a chance to use their skills in a hot war for the first time. Excerpts below:

Former U.S. officials and cybersecurity scholars say Syria has a demonstrated cyberattack capability and could retaliate against anticipated Western military strikes against Syria for its suspected chemical weapons attack against civilians in the country’s 2-year-old civil war.

“It’s foreseeable that [Syrian] state-sponsored or state-sympathetic hackers could seek to retaliate” against U.S., Israeli or Western interests, Michael Chertoff, a former secretary of Homeland Security, told The Washington Times.

“We have already seen regional cyberactors, such as the Syrian Electronic Army, conduct attacks on U.S. targets,” added Rep. James R. Langevin, Rhode Island Democrat and a member of the House Armed Services Committee and the Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence.

Syrian attackers penetrated the company that manages New York Times’ Internet domain,, according to reports in the computer security trade press.

Hackers can relatively easily hide their tracks from all but the most extensive and time-consuming forensic efforts, but the Syrian Electronic Army has publicly claimed these attacks. In online postings, the group of hacker activists, or “hacktivists,” claim to be motivated by Syrian patriotism and to act independently of the regime in Damascus.

“It can be difficult to distinguish between hackers who are sympathetic to a regime and those directly [state] sponsored or controlled,” said Mr. Chertoff, co-founder and chairman of the Chertoff Group, a global security advisory firm.

Islamic hackers whom U.S. officials have linked to Iran have launched a series of increasingly powerful cyberattacks against the websites of major U.S. banks for almost a year.

Large U.S. financial institutions probably have the best cybersecurity of any nongovernmental entity, yet their websites have been driven offline by repeated attacks.

A self-described hacktivist group called Izad din al Qassam has claimed responsibility for the attacks, which they announce in advance.

The group says the attacks are designed to punish the United States for an Internet video, “Innocence of Muslims,” made by an Egyptian-American Coptic Christian, which portrays Islam’s Prophet Muhammad as a killer and pedophile.

But the kind of cyberattack that most alarms national security specialists took place a year ago and was aimed at the Saudi Arabian state oil company, Aramco.

A virus called Shamoon infected the company’s computer network and wiped data from more than 30,000 computers, effectively destroying all the information on the system.

A similar attack on a bank could destroy digital records of customer accounts.

Hackers also have demonstrated that they could take over computer control systems that operate chemical, electrical and water and sewage treatment plants. They also can hack into transportation networks.

“An aggressor nation or extremist group could gain control of critical switches and derail passenger trains, or trains loaded with lethal chemicals,” Leon E. Panetta, then CIA director, warned in a speech in New York last year.

“They could contaminate the water supply in major cities or shut down the power grid across large parts of the country.”

Cyberforensic specialists have documented the Syrian Electronic Army’s historic links to a computer society founded years ago by Syrian President Bashar Assad. The British Guardian newspaper has reported that the group is funded by Rami Makhlouf, a cousin of Mr. Assad’s and the owner of SyriaTel, a telecommunications and Internet service provider.

Front groups such as the Syrian Electronic Army still provide states with so-called plausible deniability, Mr. Chertoff said.

“Even if it is evident that Syria is behind an attack, they can deny it. We saw that in Estonia,” he said.

Any U.S. response to a Syrian attack might well not be visible, said Adam M. Segal, a cybersecurity scholar with the Council on Foreign Relations.

U.S. Cyber Command has said it has the ability reach back into attackers’ networks and “prevent these [kinds of] attacks from their source,” said Mr. Segal, “essentially doing defense through offense.”

Cyberattacks are now “an integral part of modern warfare,” said Mr. Langevin, who has led efforts in Congress to pass legislation designed to shore up the nation’s cyberdefenses.

“This is going to be a lingering problem,” Mr. Chertoff said.


April 27, 2013

Washington Times on April 25, 2013, published an AP report on Secretary Chuck Hagel saying that the Syrian regime has likely used chemical weapons on a “small scale.” Excerpts below:

Hagel was speaking to reporters in Abu Dhabi.

He says the White House has informed members of Congress that, within the last day, U.S. intelligence concluded with “some degree of varying confidence” that Syrian President Bashar Assad’s regime has used chemical weapons — specifically sarin gas.

Fox News reported on April 26, 2013, that the White House said that more evidence is necessary to confirm the Syrian government used chemical weapons against its people, but if that proves to be true, it would be a “game changer.”

Much talk has been made of Obama’s suggestion that the use of deadly chemical agents could be the “red line” for the intervene in the two-year-old Syrian war.

“I think that in many ways a line’s been crossed when we see tens of thousands of innocent people killed by a regime, but the use of chemical weapons and the danger that is poses to the international community, to neighbors of Syria, the potential of chemical weapons to get into the hands of terrorists, all of those things add increased urgency to what is already a significant security problem and humanitarian problem in the region,” Obama told reporters.

…White House spokesman Jay Carney told reporters that the U.S. continues to investigate evidence that the Syrian government has used chemical weapons in its fight against rebels, but he resisted setting a timetable for possible action.

Top-ranking lawmakers on both sides of the aisle declared on April 25 that the “red line” in Syria had been crossed, calling for “strong” U.S. and international intervention after administration officials revealed that the intelligence community thinks chemical weapons were used.

Senator John McCain, who has long called for more involvement in Syria, voiced concern that the administration would use “caveats” to avoid acting on the new intelligence. He said America’s enemies are paying “close attention” to whether the U.S. follows through, as the White House signaled it wanted to see more proof before responding to the new information.

“I worry that the president and the administration will use these caveats as an excuse not to act right away or act at all,” McCain told Fox News. “The president clearly stated that it was a red line and that it couldn’t be crossed without the United States taking vigorous action.”

He called for the U.S. to help establish a no-fly zone and “safe zone” in Syria, as well as provide weapons to the “right people.”

Secretary of State John Kerry further confirmed that there were two documented instances of chemical weapons use.

A senior U.S. defense official told Fox News the Defense Department has been preparing a wide range of contingency plans for military involvement in Syria for the past year. President Obama has seen the plans and is fully aware of those options.

The options, according to this official, range from establishing no-fly zones to creating humanitarian zones to launching strikes on chemical weapons sites, select regime leadership and other targets. The official emphasized that no decisions have been made about whether to further involve the U.S. military in Syria and that there are still many questions that need to be answered first.

Sen. Bob Corker, R-Tenn., also said in a statement the assessment is “deeply troubling and, if correct, means that President Obama’s red line has certainly been crossed.”


April 23, 2013

Fox News on April 21, 2013, published an AP report on the United States saying that it will double its non-lethal assistance to Syria’s opposition as the rebels’ top supporters vowed to enhance and expand their backing of the two-year battle to oust President Bashar Assad’s regime. Excerpts below:

The Syrian National Coalition had sought drone strikes on sites from which the regime has fired missiles, the imposition of no-fly zones and protected humanitarian corridors to ensure the safety of civilians.

Instead, the Obama administration’s pledged to provide an additional $123 million in aid, which may include for the first time armored vehicles, body armor, night vision goggles and other defensive military supplies. It was the only tangible, public offer of new international support as the foreign ministers of the 11 main countries supporting the opposition met in a marathon session in Istanbul.

The additional aid, which brings total non-lethal U.S. assistance to the opposition to $250 million since the fighting began, “underscores the United States’ firm support for a political solution to the crisis in Syria and for the opposition’s advancement of an inclusive, tolerant vision for a post-Assad Syria,” Kerry said.

Kerry also announced nearly $25 million in additional food assistance for Syrians who remain inside the country as well as those who have fled to neighboring countries, bringing the total U.S. humanitarian contribution to the crisis to more than $409 million.

Ahead of the meeting, the opposition said it wanted guns and ammunition. And, it said it wanted its friends to conduct drone strikes on Syrian territory to take out Assad’s missile capabilities and renewed appeals for the creation of no-fly zones and safe corridors.

“The technical ability to take specific action to prevent the human tragedy and suffering of innocent civilians, mostly women and children, is available in the form of specific intelligence and equipment,” it said. “Syrians understand that such ability is within the reach of a number of members of the Friends of Syria group, yet nothing serious has been done to put an end to such terror and criminality.”

European nations are considering changes to an arms embargo that would allow weapons transfers to the Syrian opposition. But European Union action is unlikely before the current embargo is set to expire in late May.

Britain and France have been leading the calls to amend the embargo to test the strategy that merely giving its members permission to supply arms may cause Assad to rethink his calculation to hold on to power.

In what appeared to be an attempt to soothe those fears, the opposition affirmed its commitment to an inclusive and pluralistic democracy that condemns extremism.

“Our revolution is for the entire Syrian people,” opposition leader Moaz al-Khatib told reporters, standing alongside Kerry and Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu.

The opposition also pledged in its statement that any military hardware it receives will be used responsibly.

…since February, the U.S. has shipped food and medical supplies directly to the Free Syrian Army and Kerry’s announcement marked the first time that Washington has acted on Obama’s recent authorization to expand that aid.

The U.S. and its European and Arab allies are struggling to find ways to stem the escalating violence that has led to fears that chemical weapons may have been used.