Syria, Is it time to intervene?

It’s looking increasingly likely that the Syrian regime used chemical weapons earlier this week on the out skirts of Damascus. The recent reports suggest some 350 people dead and around 3,500 injured by some form of nerve agent.  It seems an insanely stupid thing for them regime to do given the fact that western support for the rebels had all but ground to a halt. I still have a hard time believing that the government would allow such an attack especially with the newly arrived UN weapons inspectors staying just 15 miles away. However if as I am now guessing the government is that stupid (or at least some elements of it) the question is what if anything should be done. If as the government claims it was the rebels (an even scarier thought) then why not let the UN inspectors in?  I am the last person who wants us to intervene in Syria but with the use of WMD it’s getting to the point that we have to do something.

Would it be enough to use TLAM’s to take out much of the regimes air force and infrastructure then use Patriots on the boarder to enforce no fly zone’s for rebel controlled areas then start arming the moderate parts of the opposition forces as well as imbedding SF. I am sure such a policy could turn the tide quite quickly even without allied air strikes?

The 800 pound gorilla in the room is obviously the regimes supplies of chemical weapons. Could we secure these amid the type of anarchy we saw in Iraq and Libya after the fall of those regimes? The US estimated it would take 50,000 troops to secure these stockpiles. How quickly could we mount such a large operation and would the regime disperse them when it saw us building up for an invasion.

Could securing the boarders and enforcing a no fly zone with patriots help us to stop any way ward chemical weapons from leaving Syria?

It’s obvious that someone has chemical weapons in the field now. Given the regimes poor control over its military weather it’s the rebels or the government forces it can be too long until Al Qaeda gets its hands on them. The big question is, whether or not anything can be done to stop the scenes in Damascus being repeated on the streets of London.

The Russians and Chinese also pose another dimension. However given the proximity of Turkey to a Chemical weapons attack should we now consider ignoring the UN and invoking article 5. NATO and the EU is much closer to events on the ground than either Russia or China. The UK has sovereign territories less than 90 miles away.  Would either Russia or China stand by if something like this was happening on the other side of their boarder?

 

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-23830590

 

207 Comments
Oldest
Newest Most Voted
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments
Obsvr
Obsvr
August 25, 2013 6:10 am

The terrorist nerve agent thing is overdone. Ask a chemical weapons expert, he or she will tell you they are easy to make (I’d suggest some of the explosives terrorists have been forced to make are a greater challenge). Tokyo showed chemical weapons are not serious rocket science.

The issue is that homemade are not good quality, meaning they don’t have a long shelf life (not an issue for terrorists) and not as lethal as top quality. I suggest its back to terrorist psychology 101, ‘bangs are best, bigger bangs even better’. Chemical doesn’t bang.

John Hartley
John Hartley
August 25, 2013 9:23 am

I have no idea who committed this chemical attack & I suspect London & Washington are just as in the dark. Why would Assad do it? It would mean outside intervention & the end of his regime, so where is his motive? It could be one of his junior officers, firing off in panic, as given the chaos there, that is quite likely. Or it could be rebels, breaking into an army bunker & not knowing what something is, they fire it off anyway. The Russia Today version has it that the shells were Saudi Arabian & filled with toxic industrial chemicals (rather than dedicated chemical weapons) & used to discredit the Assad regime. Who knows? Until we do, the West should avoid getting dragged into another messy war.

Think Defence
Admin
August 25, 2013 9:38 am
Reply to  John Hartley

I think I am still on the side of doing nothing.

The problem is simply the West does not have the will, capability, cash or self interest to get stuck in properly so anything we do will be a mere pinprick.

Add in to the mix that actually, it is in the West’s self interest to keep Assad in power and you have a recipe for yet more poor foreign policy decisions.

If billions of dollars, thousands of lives and many years could not bring peace to Iraq then what hope have we in Syria

As per my previous post, this changes nothing, we should concentrate on keeping allies borders secure and assisting with the humanitarian fallout but avoid getting involved in a sectarian civil war where both sides have their hands filthy with numerous atrocities

Mark
Mark
August 25, 2013 9:57 am

I think Assad ordered it and I think he thought he could get away with it. I quite sure we have some evidence were it came from and what the agent used was. Quite simply take it to the UN and get everyone on side the security council the Arab league and then tell Assad we want your chemical weapons either let us destroy them in a controlled way or well do it for you.

The civilised world simply cannot allow WMD to be used with no recourse its sets to dangerous a precedent in an unstable region.

x
x
August 25, 2013 9:59 am

No.

John Hartley
John Hartley
August 25, 2013 10:08 am

TD Exactly, its the cash. Britain has lacked a SAM battery, since Bloodhound fell apart from old age. Unless the Treasury stumps up for a SAMP-T, Arrow, Iron Dome, THAAD or MEADS battery, the UK should not risk getting involved.

slartibartifast
slartibartifast
August 25, 2013 10:43 am

John Hartley raises an interesting point – what do we really have these days in terms of land-based air defence? I know we have starstreak and rapier which the press made a big song and dance about during the Olympics last summer – but these are hardly advanced SAM systems. Aside from parking a Type 45 on the Thames we don’t seem to have the capability to defend London (for example) against all threats from the air.

Does Syria have long range ballistic missile capability?

Frenchie
Frenchie
August 25, 2013 11:00 am

I agree with TD.

All Politicians are the Same
All Politicians are the Same
August 25, 2013 11:01 am

WE track in real time every missile launch in the are and know.
1. Where it was launched from.
2. Where it landed.

So make no mistake we know whether or not there was a launch which correlates with the “attack”. We know who controls the launch area.

The question is what do we do about it if anything? Any op would be far more likely to follow a Libya plan than an Iraq one. I think we can pretty safely rule out Western boots on the ground. It is interesting to see discussions are going on in Jordan. Any response will in part be driven by the attitude of the pro western Arab States who were heavily involved in Libya. The attitude of Turkey will also be vital.

For me personally using nerve gas on small children is a step too far.

x
x
August 25, 2013 11:22 am

Still no.

x
x
August 25, 2013 11:28 am

@ TD

Weren’t you planning an article on the Mediterranean?

@ Martin re smuggling stuff into Europe

The UN’s rules on asylum state that asylum seekers stop in the first safe country they reach. That we have here in the UK asylum seekers who have crossed the whole of Europe and a strip of water that stopped one A Hitler, formerly of Berlin, in his tracks sort of suggests to me that European border is a joke for a whole plethora of reasons. If there was something to smuggle it would be here by now.

TrT
TrT
August 25, 2013 11:33 am

“Would it be enough to use TLAM’s to take out much of the regimes air force and infrastructure ”
The UK has some 50 TLAMs, to deploy them all we would need to deploy two (probably) three submarines.
We dont have three available, we sometimes have one, the rest are in resupply, refit, or protecting Trident.
Even if we leave trident undefended, 50 TLAMs arent enough to degrade Syrian air and C4, let alone take it out.
Even then, where is Syrian C4?
What intelligence assets can the UK deploy to locate and track mobile command posts?
We dont have a fleet of surveillance satellites and we dont have a fleet of survivable penetrating ISTAR platforms, manned or unmanned.

Syria has 20 airbases, and 27 fighter squadrons, according the wiki.

“then use Patriots on the boarder to enforce no fly zone’s for rebel controlled areas”
The UK has no patriots
We have Rapiers, 24 of them. Even if we deployed all of them, again, leaving our own forces insecure, we cold defend a front of 288km.
However its a point defence system, so any of aircraft can simply over fly it.
We can defend an area of 1421 square km

“then start arming the moderate parts of the opposition forces”
Who are?
And even if we can locate and make a deal with moderates, how do we prevent them arming the extremists, or being infiltrated by the extremists.

“then start arming the moderate parts of the opposition forces”
The only way special forces achieve quick results is by calling airstrikes.
The UK has no capacity to attack Syria, Cyprus refused us rights for mounting attacks on Libya for fear of retribution, do you really think they will let us attack a closer nation from their territory?

“How quickly could we mount such a large operation and would the regime disperse them when it saw us building up for an invasion.”
Conscript and train a 50,000 strong invasion force and build the ships to safely deploy them. The war will be over long before then.

“The big question is, whether or not anything can be done to stop the scenes in Damascus being repeated on the streets of London.”
Yeah, support Assad.
His interests in London extend as far as shopping and shagging GFEs.

“Would either Russia or China stand by if something like this was happening on the other side of their boarder?”
Russia has lost 15,000 men intervening next door in Chechnya, to little effect.

Its so far beyond the capabilities of the UK to intervene its not even funny
Its so far beyond the capabilities of the EU to intervene its not even funny
The only NATO member in the region has declared Iran its best friend and Iran is backing Assad to the hilt, so NATO is unlikely to intervene.
That leave the US, which, well, the number one Syria Story in the Washington Post is that HALF of the rebel recruits are under 18. Obamas media cheerleaders arent paving the way for intervention, they are creating a “child soldiers” narrative to let him wash his hands and walk away.

But even if that wasnt true.
Assad is as close to a “moderate” as Syria is going to get right now, he may not be a staunch ally of ours, but he has made no aggressive action towards us, or any external party. Minority rights are fairly secure, far more secure than they would be under “democratic” muslim brotherhood rule.

x
x
August 25, 2013 11:50 am

I had to google GFE. That is now part of my Google search history.

Thank you TrT.

Topman
Topman
August 25, 2013 12:00 pm

‘Cyprus refused us rights for mounting attacks on Libya for fear of retribution, do you really think they will let us attack a closer nation from their territory?’

Just a minor point, bases in Cyprus are ours. We can fly what we like in and out of Aki, we don’t need permission from them. Granted some nod towards them may happen for diplomatic reasons.

x
x
August 25, 2013 12:06 pm

@ Topman

Careful. We don’t want to upset another bankrupt Mediterranean EU country……. :)

Topman
Topman
August 25, 2013 12:09 pm

Could be a diplomatic fallout like cutting off supplies of Keo :)

All Politicians are the Same
All Politicians are the Same
August 25, 2013 12:12 pm

@TrT

TLAM would not come from UK assets only. 6th Fleet could easily put in excess of 250 TLAM in range of Syria without compromising AD capability and without utilising the on call SSGN.

With C4 nodes etc, well NATO has been building the picture since day 1. Various allies have had ELINT assets both surface and air in the area ever since.

We did not use Cyprus during Libya as italy was much closer.

“The big question is, whether or not anything can be done to stop the scenes in Damascus being repeated on the streets of London.”
Yeah, support Assad.
His interests in London extend as far as shopping and shagging GFEs.
Of course nerve gassing his own population is ok with you?

As for Assad being a moderate are you posting from Moscow? Which NATO ally declared iran to be their best friend?

Topman
Topman
August 25, 2013 12:31 pm

‘Would not be that necessary for lobing SS from GR4 anyway. ‘

Do you mean you’d favour another base or not using them at all?

WiseApe
August 25, 2013 12:32 pm

No. Nothing has changed. Various sides in a civil war are killing one another and anyone who happens to be in the way. In what way is gunpowder not a chemical weapon? Or indeed a WMD? What UK interest has been threatened? Will the Arab League chip in to replenish our stocks of TLAM/Paveway/Brimstone after Libya?

@slartibartifast – Are you related to the bloke who did the fjords?

http://www.imdb.com/character/ch0007550/quotes

x
x
August 25, 2013 12:35 pm

@ Topman

Um. I am tea total. I had to google KEO.

Now Google not only thinks I am after females of easy virtue, it also thinks I am a potential alcoholic.

in the space of a few posts Syria has destroyed my online rep…………

……..let’s nuke the place I have had enough. :) ;)

All Politicians are the Same
All Politicians are the Same
August 25, 2013 12:40 pm

Are you a banker or an accountant? After all what was the difference between Germans gassing Jews and bombing cities after all.? Nerve Gas, so much more discriminate than a conventional bomb.

WiseApe
August 25, 2013 12:54 pm

“Are you a banker or an accountant?” – There’s no need to resort to name calling. BTW, the Germans only resorted to gas because bullets proved too expensive and time consuming. Damned German efficiency.

Mike
Mike
August 25, 2013 12:57 pm

Ref, the use of Patriot missiles that people have been suggesting for enforcing a no fly zone. I really don’t think any ground based (or sea) missiles are going to do very well at enforcing a no fly zone. You have to remember that no matter what their maximum range is, there is the horizon to deal with. So they aren’t going to be able to deal with low flying helicopters and aircraft further than about 30 km from the batteries. I also don’t think enforcing a no fly zone would make that much difference. Just as if we had only enforced a no fly zone in Libya wouldn’t have made much difference.

To make any difference, we would need to do a similar thing to what we did in Libya. One thing that does help a bit, with doing such a thing in the case of Syria is that we have at least two or three countries bordering (or very close) to it where we can base forces and weapons (Turkey and Cyprus, plus the US already has some forces on the Jordanian border). So one thing we could do in Syria that we couldn’t in Libya is use of artillery and GMLRS. If ATACMS missiles were used (Turkey has them, if the US didn’t deploy them), then any fixed/static target in Syria could be attacked without the use of air power.

Btw TrT, Turkey has been pressing for the west to intervene for the last couple of years. In response to these chemical attacks, the Turkish foreign minister stressed the need for a urgent response and criticised the UN for lack of action. So I think Turkey would support any action that NATO, the west, or whoever took.

I also don’t think anyone was suggesting that the UK does anything on it’s own.

All Politicians are the Same
All Politicians are the Same
August 25, 2013 12:57 pm

Especially bad names like those, I apologise.

Radwulf
Radwulf
August 25, 2013 1:11 pm

What I think European countries need to get away from is the impulse that when something bad happens around the world we ‘have to do something’. We don’t. Not if it isn’t our problem. Europe and America are no longer so economically and militarily predominant that we can afford such self indulgent moralising escapades.

I wholly support maintaining a forward presence but if we intervene with every massacre we will be bled dry, and astoundingly hypocritical to boot. At some point other countries need to take responsibility for their own failures.

One also has to balance the risks of intervention. If terrorists get their hands on chemical weapons they might attack us, and we have ways of limiting damage, but they are much more likely to use them on more immediate and hated targets; Muslims who disagree with them. If we do intervene we may or may not secure chemical weapons, will lose money and probably lives, and paint a bloody great target on our heads for every nut-job in the region. Not worth it.

Observer
Observer
August 25, 2013 1:12 pm

APATS, manners.

I posted a counterpoint to you on the other thread, you accused me of supporting the CCCP, now TrT disagrees with you and you call him a Russian supporter. That is bad manners. Please refrain from personal attacks.

My reply to a similar topic on the other thread vanished into the internet twice, but the gist of it was that we do not know if there was an attack, if there was, who did it, and if it was even deliberate. I doubt the payload, if there was one, was ATAC/BM delivered, if it was, it is a bloody obvious fingerprint and would have settled the questions by now. More likely than not, it was probably mortar, artillery or even hand delivered.

We need a lot more information before we commit. Remember, it is the rebels who have the most to gain with UN intervention, and Assad, the least. I won’t put it beyond the possibility of one rebel faction screwing another over “for the good of all”.

Until we get that info, let us hold off on dropping bombs or TLAMing other people first. It’s rather embarrassing to go “oops, sorry, our bad” later. And does nuts all to assuage the fury of the family of those ” accidentally” killed in the bombings.

obsvr isn’t me.

KRT
KRT
August 25, 2013 1:16 pm

German Patriots have since several months been stationed on the Turkish border to Syria. That solves one of the problems for an intervention.
There’s nothing the EU can do to eliminate the possibility of terrorists smuggling chemical weapons into the Eurozone. All the illegal drugs and human trafficking highlight this simple fact. Chemical weapon terrorism is a possible repercussion in case of stronger involvement in this conflict. Will the Syrian side risk such a strike? There’s Guantanamo, torturing allies and a use of all kinds of legal and illegal moves – there’s always a tomorrow and chemical weapons make it nasty.
It’s the economy that makes the Syrian situation deteriorate for the Assad clan. Their opponents have external financial sources with deep coffers in the Gulf and a foreign stream of recruits. Assad’s troops need supply from the devastated land. It’s only a question of time until the worsening economic situation makes the military situation unsustainable for Assad.
The chemical strikes serve to deliver indiscriminate terror and cow a population into submission for a better flow of intelligence from the fearful civilians with families (note the many children affected). Better information flow can switch the local power situations. The chemical weapons serve as a local agent of terror with a few hundred deads per strike. That makes it impossible to determine without doubt which of the sides used this terror. I consider it possible that as soon as one side started exploiting the terror of such strikes to make local civilians more cooperative, both sides started using it on a similar scale with a similar pattern. If there’s a will for an intervention one can pick the most obvious case commited just by one side.
Fighting this war will possibly be a mix between Iraq and Libya with a few troops on the ground to secure most of the chemical stockpiles, but no major occupation. Israel will have secured the Golan heights as a result.

Mike
Mike
August 25, 2013 1:16 pm

Hmm, had just made a quite long post and then when I hit post comment, it just disappeared. So trying again, trying to keep it a bit shorter this time.

However I did want to point out that I really don’t think Patriot missiles or any ground/sea based missiles would really be able to enforce a no fly zone. No matter what the range of the missiles, there is always the horizon to deal with. So ground based missiles are going to be unable to deal with low flying helicopters and aircraft further than around 30-35km away. I also don’t think a no fly zone would do much good. Just as if we had of only enforced a no fly zone in Libya, it most likely wouldn’t have helped that much.

So I think we would have to do a similar thing to what we did in Libya. Although one thing that could help in the case of Syria is that we would be able to base forces much closer to it than we could Libya. So would be able to use artillery and GMLRS. A lot of the main rebel areas are certainly within GMLRS range of the Turkish border. Also ATACMS missiles could be used in addiction to the various cruise missiles.

BTW, TrT, I take it you were talking about turkey when you said the closest NATO member is best friends with Iran. Well I’m not sure where you get that from, but either way, Turkey has been pressing for NATO/the west to intervene in Syria for the last couple of years. In response to these latest chemical attacks, the Turkish foreign minister stressed the need for a urgent response and attacked the UN for it’s lack of action.

Personally I’m not really sure what we should do. I think the chemical attack has crossed a line, but the question is will what we do make things any better. However I do think we most likely have to take action even if we don’t want to, because repeatedly the various western governments have said the use of chemical weapons was a line that if crossed would force action. If we don’t follow up on that then any such comments in the future are completely pointless. On the subject if the Syrian government would really use chemical weapons at a time like this, when the UN inspectors are in the country. Well isn’t the best time to do something, when its least expected. Surely that people are saying that maybe it was the rebels because the government would be crazy to do it. Shows that the timing was the best time for them to do it.

All Politicians are the Same
All Politicians are the Same
August 25, 2013 1:37 pm

@ Observer

I apologise for having a go at you but the reason I mentioned China and Russia is that your posts very closely mirror the line they have taken publicly which has far more to do with geo Political influence than it does with what they actually believe happened. It was meant more tongue in cheek than to truly offend, however if it did then I am truly sorry.
The Syrians have admitted that an offensive took place in the area but still deny the use of chemical weapons. There were rockets used in the attack. The attack took place from a government held area, however they are now going to let inspectors in. whether this is a delaying action or they think that nothing will be found now should be interesting. Medecins Sans Frontieres reported over 3000 people treated for gas type symptoms with over 300 deaths. They are not known for being Politically motivated.
Now that they are going to let the inspectors in we of course have to await their report and this is good news but if it comes back that nerve agent was used from a delivery system launched from a government controlled area then we have to seriously examine our options.
Whether Assad did it himself or whether he has lost control of those assets would appear to be neither here nor there.

Simon257
Simon257
August 25, 2013 1:49 pm

I honestly don’t know what we should do!

If we intervene, no matter what the outcome we will be blamed for it! If we don’t, then we will still be held responsible for it too by the Muslim man in the street!

Can we hope to contain the violence to Syria? Or will it spread into Iraq and Lebanon or further!

What happens if someone drops something nasty into an Israeli village, and hundreds die! Can anyone honestly see Washington talking the Israelis out from nuking Damascus!

What if Iran decides to try and close the Persian Gulf even temporary?

Or Pakistan and Russia close their airspace to our flights to Afghanistan?

What happens if Russia cuts off its gas supplies to Europe in response to a EU/NATO intervention!

Their are a hundreds of scenarios that may come to pass whatever we do or don’t. And none of them look good!

Chris.B
Chris.B
August 25, 2013 1:52 pm

” Not if it isn’t our problem”

— Depends what you define as being our problem. Just because the rounds aren’t landing on London doesn’t mean that something isn’t our problem.

Fluffy Thought
Fluffy Thought
August 25, 2013 1:54 pm

Ok,

I know enough folk to know that they follow “y0kel@politicalbetting.com”* [and ARRSE]. Some may even follow “Hopi-Sen” (unlike me: But a tool is still a tool; not least when it can be useful).

This ‘backroom-strategist’ proposed point is this: JSTARS and Sentinel would have stopped the Syrians and Hizbollah from moving milk-cartons (let alone soldiers) into the Civil-War long before they started. The West could have taken the moral “over-watch” mantel and secured Israeli confidence: It did not happen….

Even outwith the Syrian territorial-waters NATO assets could “range” Assad’s assets: Sixteen-months later and we still twiddle our thumbs. What is to fear…?

Russia: “His” knackered flotilla and dodgy Olympic and FIFA events?
Iran: Realising that ‘a country[or two] closer to home’ are a more reachable and sweeter fruit?
China: …?

Cyprus is the key. No need for fleets. Twenty-months later and….

* Not me: Lost my ‘bt’ genes in Peckham.

Phil
August 25, 2013 1:56 pm

I was thinking the other day – if the rebels had truly been the ones to use the weapons the Syrians would have fired the inspectors into the area out of a cannon barrel. Any evidence the rebels had done it – even if it had been a rogue faction or some such – would forever destroy their credibility in the eyes of many in the western world and undermined their cause completely in the UN.

Then it occurred to me that the trouble is, knowing who attacked whom is that then somebody might have to do something about it all.

As long as nobody can say for sure nobody is put into the position of having to take action. If you can’t prove who it was you issue some stern warnings and hope the aggressor gets the idea they are going down the wrong path, just they haven’t gone far enough yet but they best stop right now.

So perhaps the Syrians WERE trying to get inspectors in but nobody was in a rush to get there less people couldn’t handle the truth.

Or the rebels did indeed use CW but the Syrian government wanted to make sure it wasn’t Government forces that used them in a rogue fashion and it took them a few days to satisfy themselves the inspectors were going to find what the government hoped they’d find.

Or the Syrians did it and waited until the evidence was dissipated and removed and then they let in the inspectors and nobody applied much pressure because nobody really wants to know who did it, they just don’t want it to happen again. I think this the most likely scenario with a pinch of independently minded Syrian Generals taking action when they felt they needed quick wins. They well think these weapons legitimate – more legitimate than the Government who tries to limit their use to local occasions but this time things escalated.

Should we intervene – we’re getting close to needing to do something because that red line is starting to look very thick and the institutions we rely on to have legitimate input into the international system are threatened with being undermined if they allow the continued use of CWs.

It shouldn’t be about the humanitarian aspect so much as I think this is short-termism: it should be about injecting some legitimacy back into the UN and other such institutions.

What I think will happen are some limited TLAM strikes and some B52/B2 work along with some sort of naval blockade. But it won’t happen this time as nobody will be able to prove anything. But it will happen if the Syrians can’t control their use of CWs.

Mark
Mark
August 25, 2013 2:25 pm

Why it our problem? We choose to maintain a p5 seat at the un as I’m sure many already know that’s doesn’t come as a free lunch. That means WMD proliferation and its use is very much our problem.

WiseApe
August 25, 2013 2:28 pm

@APATS – No worries, it’s not like you called me a lawyer.

Perhaps it’s because I’m a civvy (and not a gun nut) but I really don’t get this distinction some people try to make between “conventional” and chemical weapons. Dead is dead, maimed is maimed. As for bombs being more discriminate than gas – well now perhaps (assuming your intel is correct and your targetting is accurate) but bombs and shells haven’t always been guided. What will our reaction be I wonder if the rebels make use of cluster bombs. Or how about IEDs?

I do agree with Radwulf:

“I wholly support maintaining a forward presence but if we intervene with every massacre we will be bled dry, and astoundingly hypocritical to boot. At some point other countries need to take responsibility for their own failures.” You might also say “..take responsibility for their own back yard.” Arab League I’m looking at you.

@ChrisB – Sorry but how is this our problem? As I said, what UK interests are under threat – as NaB pointed out on your blog when you raised this issue, getting at the Syrian WMD to get them out of reach of terrorists is a massive problem, well beyond the means of us and the French and I suspect Obama will not answer the door if Cameron and Hollande go knocking. He doesn’t want his legacy to be handing over another uncertain foreign intervention to his successor.

Observer
Observer
August 25, 2013 2:29 pm

@Mike

Interesting idea, the Double Blind strategy. Possible too.

Other countries are already training FSA troops, a possible way of “intervening” without getting stuck in is to increase the scope of the training to include really heavy syllabus like armoured warfare, air combat training and combat engineering in addition to the infantry based training currently done, then send them back in with heavy vehicles. Currently, the civil war is in a state of stalemate, with government forces being unable to win back urban strongholds permanently, but the rebels don’t have the firepower to cut into government controlled areas too. By adding armoured warfare to the rebel repertoire, they can finally bring the fight to the enemy on more or less even terms.

Wonder if Russia is still selling its old surplus T-72/T-56s? I’m sure some countries might also be willing to release their old aircraft early in light of the eventual replacement by the F-35.

shockwavelover
shockwavelover
August 25, 2013 2:37 pm

The article really needed to be called ‘Syria, Is it time for the US to intervene?’

Because Britain, on its own, can’t. And won’t. The resources to do so just aren’t there. It hasn’t got the necessary stockpile of TLAMs, it haven’t got Patriots (or any other long range SAM) to set up this limited no-fly zone and it certainly doesn’t have the transport necessary to get 50,000+ troops and their equipment over to Syria in any coherent fashion or in any reasonable timeframe. Or support them while they’re there.

Basically, the only people who can do all of the above are the Americans. And for once, they’re doing the smart thing and staying out of another Middle Eastern dustup. Without US support, everything you’ve proposed is pretty much impossible.

So what happens if they don’t give that support? What if, for once, they say “We’ve just spent well over a decade fighting pointless wars in that region. We aren’t going to get involved in another one, because we’re going to be hated either way. You want to do something? Do it yourself.”

Everybody complains about America being the world’s policeman, but as soon as there’s a crisis and “something *must* be done!” it’s straight to the US military forces menu to see what capabilities can be borrowed. And if it turns out that the US doesn’t really feel it has anything to gain by getting involved in this filthy little conflict, then what? Everybody who’s so gung-ho about intervening is suddenly looking at their feet and shuffling nervously. Because they don’t have the resources to do anything, and were counting on America to foot the bill, and take the blame if anything went wrong.

Will France follow through on its exhortations to ‘do something’ if the US doesn’t go along? I doubt it.

Waylander
Waylander
August 25, 2013 2:39 pm

@ TrT
Why do you assume the UK has not replaced the TLAMs launched during recent operations? I thought the exact number of UK Tomahawks was not made public, or are you just basing it on wiki?
The RAF did deploy tankers and ISTAR aircraft from Cyprus during op Ellamy.
If there was an intervention, the UK would be one of several nations providing forces, but it is nonsense to say the UK could not make a significant contribution, as could the French.
Forexample:

UK Naval forces

2 TLAM armed SSNs (2 have been deployed for several operations)
2 Type 45s
3 Type 23
MCMVs
RFA vessels (to replenish coalition vessels, not just UK)
And perhaps a helo carrier or LPD with SF aboard, to rescue downed pilots.
Also 2 Bay LSDs as well.

RAF
25-30 Typhoons & Tornados deployed to a NATO base in the Med.
The GR4s could launch Storm Shadow strikes, of which the UK has plenty, the original buy was 900.
ISTAR & AEW aircraft – E-3D Sentry & Sentinal R1
TriStar tankers and possibly the new A330s, not sure if their operation in the refuelling role yet.

And obviously the UK’s very capable Special Forces.

The French could probably match the above level of commitment, although they don’t have TLAMs and their ISTAR capability is very limited, they do of course have a strike carrier inservice.
So the UK and France could make a fairly significant contribution, although I do not think there will be an intervention, unless there is another larger scale use of chemical weapons.
Note the above is based on the UK & France contributing at a similar level to the Libyan intervention, not them going all out.
The Italians, Dutch, Nordics & Turks would probably contribute to any US led intervention as well.

Observer
Observer
August 25, 2013 2:47 pm

Wise, problem with chemical weapons is that not only are they indiscriminate, they are also insidious as in difficult to guard against. A house may provide blast shelter, but against drifting gas, it might be no defence at all.

They also cause a severe amount of suffering before death as opposed to being blown up fast, and any survivors may have extremely serious long term internal injuries. Think Agent Orange or mustard gas’s carcinogenic effects.

Chemical weapons also contaminate an area for ages, where any surface not deconned is a potential killer even months after the event. That doesn’t even cover contamination of water and food.

All in all, guess I’m glad CWs are one of the WMDs that is universally abhorred.

My objection to rapid intervention stems from the fact that I want the right person shot, not some poor patsy that was set up.

Radwulf
Radwulf
August 25, 2013 3:09 pm

People die all the time around the world. No-one can stop that. At some point you have to draw a line based on national interest and available resources, not to mention public support and political will. The UK has been involved in nearly continuous war for about 15 years and are in serious economic straits. We cannot afford to just jump in at every problem. We need time to consolidate. The entire region is screwed, nothing we do militarily can stop that for the time being. It’s all well and good supporting ‘limited’ engagements but they have an unfortunate habit of suffering mission creep.

As for our UNSC obligations regarding WMDs, are they even applicable here if at all? What constructive contribution have the other UNSC or prospective UNSC members done to stop this? What are they likely to do in the future? What did they do when Iraq was using NATO origin chemical weapons against the Iranians and Kurds in the 1980’s? The chemical weapons red line is very hypocritical and smells like an anti-Russian/Iranian geopolitical power play. Were speculative WMD proliferation in Syria a UNSC priority there would be more cooperation, and I doubt it would be military in nature.

WiseApe
August 25, 2013 3:11 pm

@Observer – A while ago there was a gas leak at a pumping station just over the road from the housing estate I live on. We were advised to stay indoors and shut our windows. Wouldn’t be much defence against a 1000lb bomb gone astray! Unexploded bombs/mines are still being found from WW2. A weapon is a weapon is a weapon. It’s why you’re using them that counts in my book.

If Assad starts dropping bricks on Akrotiri I say respond, otherwise mind our own business.

@Mark – Do you think any of the countries in the region have asked us or the French to intervene, and would they appreciate it if we did without such a request?

DavidNiven
DavidNiven
August 25, 2013 3:26 pm

I honestly don’t know what we ( let’s be honest when we say we we really mean America as our contribution would be very minimal ) should or could do.

All I know is the chattering classes and to the politicians are backing us into a corner with rhetoric such as lines cannot be crossed etc.

We did nothing when Saddam Hussein gassed the Kurd’s but basically ended the Bosnia conflict when the market shelling was deemed the final straw.

What I do know is, if we have nothing left in the tank to cover contingencies and escalation then we should do nothing but aid our allies with the humanitarian effort.

Ace Rimmer
August 25, 2013 3:32 pm

Going out shortly, so I’ve got to keep it brief(ish)…

Mike: “Turkey has been pressing for the west to intervene for the last couple of years. ” I’m not surprised they’ve got a big hand in this whole fricking mess. Assad guranteed that when he started supporting the PKK, when the uprising started kicking off Turkey decided it would get in on a bit of wholesale revenge. No wonder they want NATO to step in and clean up all they crap on the border they helped create. Its kicked off more than they ever bargained for.

As for the chemical agent used, has anyone actually identified it yet? Photographs of the dead? Every other minor event and infraction in the Middle East seems to be captured on an iphone. We should be over-run with footage.

I may sound cynical but I remember back in ’91 when George Bush senior regaled us with tales of Iraqi soldiers bayonetting Kuwaiti babies in their incubators. Very Biblical, but true?

Saudi Arabia and Qatar are supplying the rebel forces, is there a good reason why they haven’t supplied their troops? Because the moment a Western soldier puts his foot on Syrian soil just about every Jihadist in the Middle East will make them their number one target. Assad demands a holy war to rid Syria of invading crusaders and Saudi Arabia end sup funding terrorists to fight us. The whole adventure is a bag of snakes and whatever the provocation we should leave well alone.

WiseApe
August 25, 2013 3:36 pm

Rather than expending our limited supply of TLAMs etc why not use some of our £10 billion overseas aid budget to help some of the 2 million Syrian refugees – half of whom are said to be children. Might we be more likely to win hearts and minds that way rather than TLAMming their country?

Edit: Well this is bizarre, I posted this comment fully quarter of an hour after one that hasn’t appeared yet.

Phil
August 25, 2013 3:38 pm

WMDs are just that, weapons of MASS destruction. Especially against unprotected targets. They cause more bang for their buck than other weapon systems which is one reason why the Germans used them and others continue to see them as useful weapons. They are massive force multipliers.

And anyone who thinks Syria isn’t our problem is kidding themselves. The big boys all have a dog in this hunt which means we’re in the middle whether we like it or not so it’s far better we try and influence events to correspond with our interests. One thing is clear is that there is a MASSIVE reluctance to get involved in this one and rightly so. But we are seeing the big stick being waved about and that is eminently sensible.

This is a very destabilising conflict with its tentacles going from Syria to Moscow, Beijing, Washington and Europe.

Lindermyer
Lindermyer
August 25, 2013 4:30 pm

No No and hell no

Whilst I agree in principle with Phil’s post above, and agree intervention may be required I do not think it should be us (the west).
Syria is a muslim country and I strongly suspect an intervention by western (Christian) countries will be portrayed (again, by those who benefit) as part of a war on Islam, this will attract all the loony fringe to Syria to fight the west. On the upside we will know where they are post Afghanistan, but it will subject western troops to another gods knows how many years IEDs and will do little to help the locals, who lets face it wont want us there anyway.

I see no point intervening in a region where the population will be at least resentful and at worst hostile.
In this case we need to aid and support intervention by politically (ethnically or religiously) acceptable countries.
Unfortunately these countries do not want to intervene and are happy to let the west carry out their dirty work, whilst they mouth platitudes to both sides.
Compare to Mali where the vast majority welcomed the French and many years ago for the UK Sierra leone.

So to summarise I do not think we should intervene in a region where for various reasons we will become part of the problem. If intervention by the west is required (WMDs use etc) then it should be in a swift hard kick confiscate the relevant toys and out. At no point should we attempt either nation building or taking an active role on whichever side we support.

Regards

Chris
Chris
August 25, 2013 4:30 pm

I don’t think this is a civil war any more. I’m sure it started with disaffected Syrians rising up against the regime in power, and had the regime behaved peaceably (promised open elections and stood down leaving caretakers in place) then not only would dire bloodshed have been avoided but the affair would have remained Syrian and the outgoing regime would have had a chance to campaign for re-election. Too late for all that now.

Because the country dissolved into bloodshed, with the government’s forces shooting at their electorate, other factions ran to help the Syrian populace, and then idealogical and radical factions ran to fight for a new state order (that might well have nothing to do with the original desires of the Syrian population for a better country). Those called ‘The Rebels’ are now a multi-national multi-faction multi-objective aggressive mass with just one attribute in common – that they fight the Assad regime.

What then would be the outcome if The Rebels eventually overthrow and defeat the regime? Which of the many factions would declare they had the moral right to take control of the country? Would they have as much support for their particular cause as the Assad regime has currently? Doubtful.

Look at Egypt for an example of what happens when many factions (in Egypt’s case most at least were Egyptian) unite in hatred of an unpopular regime but otherwise have no common goals – the general impression of the populace as gathered by news correspondents on the ground was of one looking to install a secular government along the lines of that in Turkey, whereas by the time the elections came around the two options remaining were 1) re-elect the deposed government, or 2) elect a hard-line Islamist government. Rock. Hard place. All the moderate reformist factions had been kicked out of the competition because there were too many variations of them fighting among themselves each getting their own small fraction of the moderate voters’ support. As a result (and no surprise) the Islamists in government being just one of the rebellious factions of the last upheaval are just as unpopular to the general population as the somewhat undesirable bunch before them were.

Multiply that divergent multi-objective factional electorate several times over and the political terrain of Syria might be imagined.

Its a complete and utter mess and no outcome is going to be sweetness & light.

What to do, then? In this along with most others here I struggle. There are arguments for staying out of what is currently a local middle east in-country conflict (as indeed we stay away from the lower-key but much longer duration Israel/Palestinian troubles) but equally there are arguments that ‘something must be done’ to kerb the undoubted violence. Both arguments are rational, both justifiable. This isn’t easy.

But the thought that I keep returning to is that this time round the response should not be hung on the shoulders of the US and (in support) the UK alone. Been there, done that many times. So if the world at large decides action must be taken, I think its time for the UN to show it is more than a tasking organisation for US & UK military, and for it to get serious with all the ‘member states’ that sit around the debating chamber table talking big. The response then (if there is one) should be resolute and credible, but demonstrably from the UN, not the Western powers.

Does airpower or cruise missile action answer the mail? I think not. Bombing and stand-off missile attacks have a nasty habit of causing collateral damage which is a gift for the propaganda organisations of those on the ground. Blockades and sanctions are effective only when there is a regime surviving on the goodwill of a population under pressure – too late in Syria; the population has revolted already.

So I keep coming around to the same if unpleasant deduction – its boots on ground that would be needed.

Therefore, taking all of the above into account, the following would seem to be the optimum action.

1. The command authority is the UN.
2. All neighbouring states are required to act directly under this authority.
3. The actions of the individual neighbouring states must be cooperative and coordinated.
4. Remote states must support the neighbouring states.
5. In each case the remote states’ forces act as military support and fair-play auditors of the leading states’ forces
6. The entire process to move inward from the border and to disarm all factions (government and rebel).
7. UN referees have teeth to deal with any UN force misusing their UN mandate.

In that, you might see Turkey backed by Germany, Jordan by Britain, Lebanon by France, Iraq by Oman, UAE & Saudi. Israel’s involvement would be difficult if only because they tend towards taking national advantage no matter what outside opinion might be. Putting the US behind Israeli forces would not be appropriate, so maybe South Africa or the likes would be suitable. The referees would in this case be the remaining Security Council states – the US, Russia and China – kept out of hands on action but there to see that the country is purged of their weapons efficiently and effectively (those weapons kept under UN protection until a peaceable nation state emerges). The UN pays for the operation. Endgame is when Syria (regime and rebels) surrender to UN authority and engage in nation building negotiations/elections.

None of the above will of course happen. Instead there will be a lot of sabre rattling and “I’m warning you!” statements and not a lot else. Syria (regime and rebels alike) won’t take any notice but will carry on killing each other and posting propaganda as fast as they can produce it. The ordinary peace-hungry Syrian population will be living just over the border in Turkey/Iraq/Jordan/Lebanon.

What a mess.

Chris
Chris
August 25, 2013 4:47 pm

Long post (took 90 minutes to write up) apparently deleted itself when posted. Not going to write it again. Essence of post: if anyone takes action it must be the UN, using the local neighbouring states as primary forces. Not NATO, not the US or UK or EU. End.

All Politicians are the Same
All Politicians are the Same
August 25, 2013 4:55 pm

Cannot see us getting a UN resolution and was about to say that none of the local neighbouring states could penetrated the AD network. Then I though wait a minute, surely not. The IDF? :)

x
x
August 25, 2013 4:58 pm

@ Chris

You realise that means no Turkey and leaves Saudi and Jordan?

Red Trousers
Red Trousers
August 25, 2013 4:59 pm

The first consideration is what sort of Syria (or if balkanised, which bits) we want after the dust settles.

If we can’t work that out, we shouldn’t be thinking of intervention in any way.

It’s difficult. no one could support Assad, but yet no one should think that the rebels (x 30+ vaguely affiliated groups) are motherhood and apple pie. If I’m thinking like a bastard, perhaps the best result is some form of Assadist regime, the price being Basar Assad’s departure to some well-funded exile.

I may be pessimistic, but not since the 1973 Yom Kippur War has the great swathe of the Middle East from Libya via Egypt to Syria seemed so dangerous to the west as a region. Lebanon is on the brink, Turkey itself perhaps not unstable but definitely with more destabilising features than previously.

I definitely feel that the export of chemical weapons, or just basic terrorism to the west, to our streets is a real threat.

Chris
Chris
August 25, 2013 5:10 pm

x – I meant any response should not be led by NATO, not that all NATO players should be excused participation. So Turkey and Jordan and Iraq and Lebanon and Israel would all be in the frame as concerned neighbours. Perhaps the 90 minute lost post would have made that clear (and some of the mitigations against bad things happening).

All Politicians are the Same
All Politicians are the Same
August 25, 2013 5:11 pm

@RT

Don’t bring sensible considerations such as post conflict strategy or reconstruction into this. next you will be talking about exit strategies.

mike
mike
August 25, 2013 5:13 pm

Wait… weren’t chemical weapons already been released a while before this incident?

What now? We write him a really very angry letter?

I am unsure, and I can understand certain American people feeling annoyed at how the op presumes America will once again take up the lions share of the work (how many TLAM’s did we contribute to Libya? 2?). Part of me screams ‘no’ to the thread’s question, another part mumbles ‘let the neighbors sort him out – with limited ‘western’ assistance’… maybe some joint stablisation force. I dunno, send in SF to get ridd of all the nasty Chemical weapons? I think the main source to ask re intel on those would be the IDF.

Once again, the area is a whole heap of brown mess that has been through the fan several times :/

Opinion3
Opinion3
August 25, 2013 5:32 pm

Syria is a bit of an irrelevance to UK and US interests in the region. It is important to Russia, and indeed Iran + it’s cronies. What is important is that Al-Qaeda doesn’t get a stronghold.

This is in our interest and possibly even more in the interest of the various surrounding States and Gulf States. They have plenty of money and technology to change the balance of things. They need to make sure it is being used in the right way though.

This is one war where we should be sharpening our diplomatic pencils, maybe understanding the politics of Turkey, it’s interests and how to influence that country is more important than anything else. They could lead us to war afterall.

Chris
Chris
August 25, 2013 5:33 pm

x – 90 minute post just arrived (see above at Aug 25 4:30pm). Might answer questions, might not…

Lindermyer
Lindermyer
August 25, 2013 5:37 pm

@ martin
@ Lindermeyer
“and agree intervention may be required I do not think it should be us (the west).”

Unfortunately we the west and basically the USA with a bit of the UK and France are the only people in the world capable of doing anything. Like it or not.
I agree those countries capable of expeditionary warfare are few and far between, but peacekeeping a la Bosnia etc is doable.
Unfortunately capable isn’t half as big a problem as willing, Their is a whole slew of countries that could intervene on a regional basis , there are many other countries that with a bit of reorganising and or Western support (logs assistance, training istar etc) could provide politically acceptable boots on the ground. All the above wring their hands and refuse to commit (minor rant) whilst criticising lack of western response swiftly followed by condemnation of a western response solely for home consumption (rant ends).

The worlds Policemen should not be a handful of willing countries it should be the world and where possible assistance should be starting local and expanding to regional and global as required. Ok the last is perhaps a bit Idealistic.

Regards

TrT
TrT
August 25, 2013 6:09 pm

Waylander
“Why do you assume the UK has not replaced the TLAMs launched during recent operations?”
I’m assuming we have!

“The RAF did deploy tankers and ISTAR aircraft from Cyprus during op Ellamy.”
Yes it did, but no armed aircraft, and for reasons that baffle me, that appears a distinction

Where would those ships come from? Does the RN have a fleet available right now?
Even if it could pull those ships from standing tasks, they cant leave the sea.
What are you proposing, we shell loyalist fishing ports?

Damascus is 800km from Rhodes.
I have no idea what the tanker requirements are to get an AWACS, a pair of fighters and a pair of strike aircraft 800km and back, but I’d love to see them.
How much of the Syrian airforce is still operable? How much of it strategic air defences?
El dorado Canyon used 45 fighters, 12 of them in SEAD roles. We could be looking at needing to send fighter squadrons, strike squadrons, can we operate them from as far afield as Italy?
At what cost?

All
What are the UKs interests?
Chemical weapons bad?
If Russia had deployed them in Chechnya, would you be blithely talking about punitive strikes?

Chemical weapons bad if we think we can get the US to pull your pants down and give you a smacked bottom?
Doesnt have quite the same ring I admit.

Assad bad?
No argument from me,
http://www.algemeiner.com/2013/08/20/muslim-brotherhood-memo-encourages-burning-churches-in-egypt/
But is the alternative better?
Is that the legacy we want? An ethnically and religiously pure “Democratic” Theocracy. Bomb the Christians in to the dirt and then look away as they are exterminated?

x
x
August 25, 2013 6:16 pm

@ Chris

Iraq is going to hell in a handbasket. Lebanon is on the brink. Israel? In Syria peacekeeping? No.

Jordan is just about keeping its own borders safe.

And though I said Saudi it won’t happen.

PSC membership or not Syria just isn’t worth it. It sits on no assets. It doesn’t sit next to or across any important trade route. Both sides are toxic. It is only a problem if we let it be a problem. It is a shame they are so many deaths but that is humanity in action. Not pleasent. Remember Barry will be scrambling for a foreign intervention to divert attention from domestic issues.

Waylander
Waylander
August 25, 2013 7:11 pm

@TrT
The RN deployed 3 Type 23s, 1 Type 22 & 1 Type 42 for op Ellamy, there is no reason to assume it could not deploy a similar force now.
Obviously the T45s are very capable AAW platforms and would be an asset to any operation, the T23s would be part of a naval blockade, I know Syria does not have much of a navy, but neither did Libya. NGS may well have a role to play, it was effective during op Ellamy. Not just HE rounds, but also Star Shell illumination rounds. However that would probably be later (as with Libya), after the Syrian Air Force & military had been degraded by air and TLAM strikes.
I don’t think the Cypriots would be able to refuse the UK, especially if it was a coalition operation, with the US and Europe’s main powers. There is also the base on Crete.
The Syrian Air Force has lost an awful lot of aircraft, there were some figures in a recent article in Air Combat magazine, so the wiki numbers are a huge exaggeration of it’s current capability.
If there is another larger scale use of chemical weapons, then the west will intervene, the momentum is building towards that already. I daresay there will be a lot of ranting about it, but there it is.

Peterw
Peterw
August 25, 2013 7:16 pm

Syrian has new supersonic anti ship missiles and the russians are keen to try them out against an aircraft carrier. There is a version that fits in container, so there is a chance of a civillian ship shadowing an american carrier anywhere in the world and sucessfully attacking. Cyprus is in range I beleive.

Russian response maybe to support Assad even further, given Syria’s vital position.

I’d say al-queda are behind the gassing as they use mass murder routinely, and losing badly. Assad has no reason to use chemical because he was winning and has all the conventional weapons he needs.

All Politicians are the Same
All Politicians are the Same
August 25, 2013 7:24 pm

peterW

Syrians got P800 Oniks (Yakhont) missiles but they came as part of a bastion coastal defence system so not the ship mounted variant. there are rumours and it is even on wiki that the explosions in Latakia naval base in July this year was the Israelis neutralising these systems.

Waylander
Waylander
August 25, 2013 7:31 pm

@TrT
The RN’s RFTG is already deployed in the region on the Cougar 13 exercise, so that would obviously be the core of any UK naval contribution, but reinforced with T45/SSN/MCMVs etc.

Peterw
Peterw
August 25, 2013 7:49 pm

The americans are remarkably unkeen to put their carriers anywhere near the Syrian coast. Even a quarter of the missiles they posess are sufficent to wipe out the US carrier fleet.

They don’t have a viable defense against hypersonic missles.

KRT
KRT
August 25, 2013 7:50 pm

Intervening in Syria can be slightly different from Libya.
The country will end up divided between Israel, Turkey and the Gulf States. Israel is the natural ally of the local Christians and Druze as soon as the demise of the Alavites seems certain.
For this reason, I would not rule out direct Israeli involvement in the conflict, plus the usual suspects.
Air strikes by an overwhelming alliance can destroy the Syrian air force and defence while limiting armoured mobility. That levels the fighting ground for the rebel factions that will benefit from even more weapons and training, plus veterans of the other local conflicts using the same pattern.
The US is unlikely to require much occupation forces there, because despite the obvious chaos and fractuous nature, there are powerful neighbours available. Turkey and Israel will have no option, but to supply the occupation personal to avoid a black hole next to their borders. Whipping up the spirits for such a war will however require much more stirring reports about atrocities than a few nerve gas grenades, bayoneting babies and eating enemy body parts.
The intervention in Syria and later on Iran are obviously going to happen. The question is when are the preparations finished? Such an insurgency can fight for 15 years and leave a pretty defenceless wasteland that craves for occupation by whatever brings more tranquility.
Carrier presence is hardly necessary with enough air bases on solid ground available, although the US Navy might want to join the fray for budget relevance reasons.

All Politicians are the Same
All Politicians are the Same
August 25, 2013 7:58 pm

peterW

They do not have a hypersonic missile threat. Nobody has an operational hypersonic missile. You never ever put you carriers closer to danger than required.

Nicky
Nicky
August 25, 2013 8:02 pm

I think it’s way past that red line. Now the question is, is NATO, Turkey or Israel going to intervene or is Nato and Europe going to beg the US to get it done for them.

Paralus
Paralus
August 25, 2013 8:03 pm

The US cannot afford it, the EU/NATO lack the will and capability and more importantly it is none of our business.

With the lessons of Libya and Mali staring Europe in the face about the shortcomings they face in tankers, AWACs, transports, PGMs, what has Europe done? Cut defense spending and reduced force size. Syria’s military, even at a fraction of what it was before the rebellion, dwarfs Libya’s. You could launch a couple dozen TLAMs every day for a month and it wouldn’t make a big enough difference

Is it time to intervene in Syria? the answer is simple….there will never be a time to intervene in Syria.

Mark
Mark
August 25, 2013 8:08 pm

WiseApe

My first post on this topic at 9.57 i stated both UN and Arab league support were a pre requisite for dealing with this. Everyone needs to be in agreement before moving on to the next stage. You have asked what’s the difference in weapons well you’ve argument about uk keeping trident and how its different to normal weapons in the past same applies here. As many keep posting here about top table roles ect these are problem we get to solve for being at the top table that’s just were we are we can’t just take the easy ones. As someone once said the standard you walk past is the standard you accept. Proliferation of these weapons is a stain on all our houses but the pictures we seen early last week of kids gased and gasping for breath to me is enough for a proportional response to ensure it doesn’t happen again. I’m not looking for regime change but his chemical weapons off the table by whatever means possible.

Red Trousers
Red Trousers
August 25, 2013 8:26 pm

@ PeterW, re “hypersonic”.

The thing to remember is that you don’t make some wild-arsed statement on TD as though it is truthful. You make your point, whatever it may be, using real world data.

Hypersonic does not exist in the Syrian AD armoury.

And so everything you write having chosen to use the word “hypersonic” is total Obblocks.

Nicky
Nicky
August 25, 2013 9:01 pm

I think one option Europe may have is to send in the French Foreign Legion. Look at what they have done in Mali and they can do the same thing in Syria. If France takes the lead, US and Europe can back them up.

Mark
Mark
August 25, 2013 9:08 pm

http://www.defensenews.com/article/20130825/DEFREG04/308250003/Netanyahu-Faults-Inaction-Syria-Atrocities

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said Israel and Iran are drawing respective lessons from the international community’s failure to halt ongoing atrocities in Syria.

For Iran, the Israeli premier said Syria has become a testing ground for assessing how, if at all, the world responds to the use of weapons of mass destruction (WMD) against civilians.

“Iran is closely watching whether and how the world responds to the atrocities committed by Iran’s client state Syria and by Iran’s proxy Hezbollah against innocent civilians in Syria,” Netanyahu said Aug. 22

As for Israel, Netanyahu said a key lesson is that Israel cannot wait for others to intervene on its behalf.

Chris.B
Chris.B
August 25, 2013 9:11 pm

@ WiseApe,

“Sorry but how is this our problem?”
— You mentioned the post I did on my own blog about this and in it I mentioned the risk that use of chemical weapons could become ‘normalised’. We’re potentially already seeing the signs of that now. Obama dug himself a hole when he made a threat he wasn’t entirely prepared to back up, re; the red line over chemical weapons use. He talked the talk and said that if chemical weapons were used that would cross a red line for the US. They were used, and there was plenty of hard evidence to point the finger at the Assad regime. He sat on his hands and made himself look like a bit of a dick in the process.

Assad and his officers & officials might potentially have been squeezing out a brick over the first use of chemical weapons. Then they see that the International community did absolutely nothing in response. The threats were hollow. Why not have another go then? They might be thinking a few more shots like this and they could potentially bring the rebellion back to a containable level, especially if they ascribe to the “citizens will turn against the rebels if we keep killing citizens” theory of war (which inevitably leads to attack after attack, because we all know that just one more big attack and they’ll break…).

The more chemical weapons are used and the more we sit on our hands and watch it happen, the more you encourage others to have a pop. Suddenly you have a bunch of not entirely mentally competent leaders of various nations who put 2 and 2 together and decide that while nuclear weapons are a no-no, chemical weapons appear to be a go-go.

You also have the ever present danger that these sort of weapons end up in the hands of certain nasty people that would very much like to use them against targets such as the UK and UK interests. As Phil and Observer (and someone else as well I think) pointed out above, chemical weapons are more of a problem than conventional weapons because of the scale of their potential use. If the Boston bombers had instead walked down the sidewalks dripping a trail of chemicals behind them, both the long term and short term effects could have been far more serious. That could just as easily be the UK.

I’m not that interested in picking sides between the rebel groups etc. It’s unlikely that anyone that’s ruthless enough to win is going to create a government that we consider acceptable. But we could really do with trying to take the chemical weapons issue off the table. I don’t think we particularly want to see any of the actors involved get their grubby mitts on them. Will we get them all? Probably not, but we can get a fair chunk of them.

All Politicians are the Same
All Politicians are the Same
August 25, 2013 9:14 pm

@RT

If there is one blog where somebody will trip you up when you BS it is this one. I would describe the technical knowledge of the TD “hive” as extremely advanced ;)

x
x
August 25, 2013 9:17 pm

Now if this was a bioweapon that would be something to be worried about.

The stuff you can cook up in a high school lab is frightening.

Ace Rimmer
August 25, 2013 9:18 pm

@Mark: “but the pictures we seen early last week of kids gased and gasping for breath to me is enough for a proportional response to ensure it doesn’t happen again.”

Any competent Syrian chemist could put together a batch of Sarin, it could be poured into plastic containers and detonated as part of a vehicle laden IED in a crowded market place. Who would you target for your proportional response? How could you know if it was the regime or just a rogue element, or is it similar to the Iraq invasion case whereby any excuse will do whether its justified or not. Don’t forget that your ‘proportional’ response could kill more people than the gas attack reportedly did, many of them could also be children. Would it then make it better as our intentions would be honest and noble as opposed to their malevalent? People would still die as a consequence.

My view is that we are supplying significant aid to the refugees in Jordan and that should be the limit of our Syrian involvement. The Jordanians are our major ally in the region and we should put our efforts into maintaining their national stability and sovereignty, its a small corner of a large region, but its something of an achieveable goal.

PeterW
PeterW
August 25, 2013 9:24 pm

“They do not have a hypersonic missile threat. ”

Sorry, typo, its almost impossible to edit using my tablet.

The US don’t have a credible defense against supersonic anti-ship missiles, the point still stands. Note the lack of intervention and it still won’t happen.

John Hartley
John Hartley
August 25, 2013 9:33 pm

Something on the Guardian website about the Syrian Gov allowing UN inspectors to view the chemical attack site. Lets hope it goes ahead & we get some answers. I do not want some half arsed intervention, before we know who did what & with what.
Re my earlier rant that Britain lacks an ATBM SAM system. I am looking at the 2012 World Defence Almanac from Military Technology. They thought Syria had Frog7 , Scud B (60 missiles) + 18 SS-21. If we barge in half cocked, then some of that might fall on our bases in Cyprus & we have no means of shooting them down, unless we beg an ally equipped with Patriot.
The same source says 72 P800 Yakhont coastal defence missiles were on order with delivery imminent then. I have no idea if they were all delivered & if any have been lost.

Mark
Mark
August 25, 2013 9:34 pm

For those up the post pontificating on Cyprus base areas this should pretty much cover it

http://www.reuters.com/article/2011/03/20/oukwd-uk-libya-britain-cyprus-idAFTRE72J2NJ20110320

(Reuters) – Cyprus said on Sunday it opposed any use of British bases on the island to enforce a no-fly zone over Libya but conceded it had no power to stop their involvement.

Don’t know about your school x but in mine
The stuff they cooked up in a high school kitchen is frightening And that was just at dinner time!

John we spend nearly 6b quid of some very capabile air warfare destroyer I think they had this type of thing in mind when they did.

All Politicians are the Same
All Politicians are the Same
August 25, 2013 9:43 pm

PeterW

“The US don’t have a credible defense against supersonic anti-ship missiles, the point still stands. Note the lack of intervention and it still won’t happen”

if the US do not have a defence against a supersonic missile then nobody does.

for starters the Syrians would have to avoid having their missiles destroyed by B2 or B52 with JDAM or TLAM, then another couple of hundred TLAM fired by SSGN and FF/DD. Once they have got through all that the F18E/F preceded by F18G growlers arrive. By this point the RAF Tornadoes and Typhoons and French Rafales and Tornadoes will join in.
This is all before a grey hull has even made an appearance within 70Nm of the coast. In the extremely unlikely event of the Syrians having any anti ship missiles left the launch will be detected instantly and any missile will have to run the gauntlet of air launched missiles and then a variety of US and Allied SAM systems starting with the new SM6 which has a range in excess of 120 Nm and does mach 3.5 then SM2 ER then possibly aster 30 then ESSM then CIWS.
Ogh and I have not even mentioned soft kill.

PeterW
PeterW
August 25, 2013 9:56 pm

“if the US do not have a defence against a supersonic missile then nobody does.”

Its not a problem for the Russians and Syrians as the west doesn’t have anything comparable.

You little fantasy is interesting because of the fact that it hasn’t happened yet.. and won’t do.

The Russians have put boots on the ground and it will be interesting to see how far they will go to defend their base, country and ally against what would be a war crime as there is no possible legal justification to attack Syria.

Syria is crucial to Russia, they’ll defend it. The West will not be willing to pay the price Russia is willing to pay, especially when intervening is not in the West’s interest.

All Politicians are the Same
All Politicians are the Same
August 25, 2013 10:01 pm

peterW
You generally design defences to defend against the oppositions weapons not your own :)

I do not think the Syrians have anything similar either because the Israelis blew them up last month, allegedly!

Jennings
Jennings
August 25, 2013 10:01 pm

When we were becoming involved in Iraq, our Palestinian translator told me: If the cowboy Bush invades, the whole region will B-U-R-N-E, burn.

I wonder if We would have been better off not bothering?

Overseas
Overseas
August 25, 2013 10:04 pm

Syria could bring itself to the last 10 head of population and I would still say leave them to it. West gets involved and it becomes our problem, the ills would suddenly be our fault. It’s their bed, let them lay.

PeterW
PeterW
August 25, 2013 10:05 pm

“I have no idea if they were all delivered & if any have been lost.”

They were delivered. The countries radar system was also upgraded and the Russians shipped in 600 marines for whatever reason.

” because the Israelis blew them up last month, allegedly!”

Or not, who knows. I’m sure the Russian base has its won missiles regardless and in any case they can resupply Syria at any time.

You won’t see a US carrier cruising within 200km to find out.

John Hartley
John Hartley
August 25, 2013 10:10 pm

Mark we may have blown £6 billion on T45, but last I heard we had not stumped up for the ATBM software upgrade, so I would not count on T45 to defend Cyprus against Scud or SS-21 TBMs.

x
x
August 25, 2013 10:10 pm

@ Mark

I did a bit work on SALW proliferation. To prove the latter is a danger you spend a lot of time arguing why WMD are less of a danger. In ascending order the things you have to worry about are nuclear (needs extreme large scale industrial and scientific efforts ), then a big jump to chemical (a lot simpler than nuclear but difficult to deploy, but for a true WMD you need a lot, and best used against the ill prepared), and lastly another big leap up biological (surprisingly simple to manufacture, quite devastating, and after initial release near self-deploying). As a gun rights advocate I have trouble saying SALW are bad, but it was an academic exercise. The important thing to think about in Syria is that innocents have died, and not to concentrate on the method used. Chemical weapons are unpleasant and pernicious but we have to keep a sense of scale. Syria isn’t the Soviet Union in the 1970s. If the US intervenes probably more innocents will die as collateral damage during the first few days of a US bombing campaign than did die in that Damascus suburb. Consider that is the cost that will be paid by the US for an intervention, blood of innocents, the “responsibility to protect” means some on the right side, which that is ever, or who doesn’t care about the conflict will die.

@ John H

T45 could cope with SCUD……….

All Politicians are the Same
All Politicians are the Same
August 25, 2013 10:20 pm

@JH

SS21 would struggle to reach and given the huge Russian presence on Cyprus you really think that they will be allowed to fire scuds that have no guarantee of even hitting a SBA?

Mike
Mike
August 25, 2013 10:23 pm

I always wonder why you repeatedly see the comment about no credible defence against supersonic missiles, and it always seems based on that no supersonic anti ship missile has been shot down in anger. However as far as I know, no supersonic anti-ship missile has ever hit a ship in anger either. So does that mean there are no credible supersonic missiles? I really wonder why all these countries keep spending so much money on these anti missile systems, when it is known that it is impossible for a supersonic missile to hit another supersonic missile. They also should be ashamed of themselves when they test those missile systems against supersonic targets and the missiles hit the targets. Really such as waste of money when all they have to do is read the internet.

Also as far as I know, no anti ship missile has ever hit a ship that was equipped with and used modern soft kill systems. So no anti-ship missile has proved that it is credible against a active decoy system like Siren. My experience in this area is very limited, or none, which ever is the less, but the more I learn about decoys and ECM, the more I think that even for a anti ship missile to be fired at a modern ship that was actively defending itself would be quite hard. It seems that it would be just as likely that the missile would be fired at a false target/decoy. Anyway from what little I do know, I know that firing a missile at a ship isn’t just a case of spotting a ship on the radar and pulling the trigger.

Even if Syria has all these wonder weapons that is has meant to have got from Russia, will they really be properly operational in the middle of a civil war that has lasted two years already. It seems that the Syrian government was seriously short of men and need Hezbollah to get involved to stop the advance of the rebels. So can they really maintain all the training and exercises that are required to keep high tech weapons useful? Unless Russia is manning these weapons then I think they would more likely be non operational than anything.

x
x
August 25, 2013 10:28 pm

@ Mike

Sea Wolf Mod 0 could and did knock 4.5in shells out of the air. The current VLS version with solid state gyros is even more potent. And Sea Viper is just scarily good I am lead to believe. A telegraph pole sized object travelling above the speed of sound shouldn’t be too much of a problem. Que APATS to talk about soft kill in 1,2,3………….

Waylander
Waylander
August 25, 2013 10:34 pm

US & UK military intervention in Syria within the week?
We will see if the TG has it fact’s right on a defence story for once…

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/worldnews/middleeast/syria/10265765/Navy-ready-to-launch-first-strike-on-Syria.html

Mike
Mike
August 25, 2013 10:36 pm

@PeterW

“You won’t see a US carrier cruising within 200km to find out.”

Why would a US carrier cruise within 200km anyway? Carriers generally stand off the target, not get in close. There are also enough airbases around the area, that a carrier might not even be deployed. No Carrier was deployed for Libya. Or the carrier sits at 250km (or 350km, if the range of the P800 missiles is 300km like wikipedia says).

Basically we have just found that credible defence against these missiles that are impossible to defend against. To a USN carrier, being required to stay at 250km, compared to 200km, is going to make no difference at all. Having one super weapon is pointless if it is so easy for the enemy to make it irrelevant. The best the Syrians could claim for the success of the P800 missiles, is that they managed to defend a area of the sea out to 200km. They can just ignore that it would make no difference at all to the outcome.

Ref, Russia manning these weapons, I also really find it hard to believe that Russia would be willing to try to sink a US carrier over Syria.

PeterW
PeterW
August 25, 2013 10:43 pm

“Also as far as I know, no anti ship missile has ever hit a ship that was equipped with and used modern soft kill systems. ”

Two ships equipped with Phalanx have been hit by sub sonic missiles.

Phallanx has failed 3 times to knock out anti-ship missiles in a war situation.

Its got a 100% failure rate.

Mike
Mike
August 25, 2013 10:44 pm

@X

“Sea Wolf Mod 0 could and did knock 4.5in shells out of the air. The current VLS version with solid state gyros is even more potent. And Sea Viper is just scarily good I am lead to believe. A telegraph pole sized object travelling above the speed of sound shouldn’t be too much of a problem. Que APATS to talk about soft kill in 1,2,3………….”

Sorry X, I was being a bit sarcastic about seeing so many people on the internet say that there is no defence against these Russian supersonic missiles. so I was just saying you would think at least someone in a position to save all this money, would have read the internet and know that it was impossible for Sea Wolf and Sea viper and Sea Ceptor to ever hit one of them.

In terms of operational use of anti ship missiles we really only have them being used against ships that either had no defence or for whatever reason didn’t defend themselves. So its hard to know what the outcome of any modern engagements would be, but I would think the odds are on the ships being able to defend themselves.

While APATS has vastly more experience and knowledge than myself, I can’t help but totally agree with him that soft kills are so often ignored or undervalued.

Mike
Mike
August 25, 2013 10:49 pm

@PeterW

“Two ships equipped with Phalanx have been hit by sub sonic missiles.

Phallanx has failed 3 times to knock out anti-ship missiles in a war situation.

Its got a 100% failure rate.”
—–

Phalanx was never active in those cases though. Not exactly a failure if the system wasn’t used.

Also ships have better defences against super sonic missiles than Phalanx. I think it is generally acknowledged that Phalanx would struggle against a super sonic missile. It just happens to be lucky that most ships don’t rely only on phalanx

All Politicians are the Same
All Politicians are the Same
August 25, 2013 10:53 pm

@X

I was doing something else!

However since I am free now.

The interesting thing about the integration of soft kill is that it is dependent upon a couple of things at least. The type of seeker head on the missile and the range that the seeker head becomes active. The other is the range of your missile and the means of targeting.

t23 was limited because the movement of the 911 trackers massively increase the RCS and therefore against most missiles which had a seeker switch on range greater than the range of sea wild you would firstly go for soft kill. the range would be dependent upon missile type as would decoy programming, once you had decided that the soft kill was ineffective you would call “trackers free” which would allow a hard kill engagement. This is known as hard kill/soft kill integration and worked well with sea wolf as the system only allowed for a single engagment of a mach 1 missile in any case.
Now the system has had a Mid Life Upgrade the engagement range has increased to potentially allow a rengagement of a mach 1 missile so the choice may have to be made against certain missiles of integration or 2 hard kill shots.
Obviously if it is not a radar seeker then no integration is required as tracker movement will not interfere with decoys.

Sea Viper is a very different system as you can go to hard kill much earlier. Normally restricted by detection range rather than range, also as it is guided by a radar rotating on the top of the mast and steering beams there is never a need to integrate and soft kill can be actively deployed at optimum range without affecting hard kill options. :)

Happy?

Opinion3
Opinion3
August 25, 2013 11:03 pm

Is this a discussion about whether we could or should? Cos the way I see it it is fraught with difficulties if you wish to say yes to either question.

Talk about whether our systems would beat the Russian air defences is speculation surely. If our systems could beat their defences do we wish to highlight this so they improve them? Over Syria?

The guy lived in Britain for a while, married a British wife and seems pretty desperate. I am not sure he has or intends to threaten our strategic interests though. My question is should we have ‘drawn a line’ over chemical weapons. Undoubtedly they are evil and ‘illegal’ (if killing your citizens isn’t already). This line has created a forked question.

Forked if you doing something and forked if you don’t.

All Politicians are the Same
All Politicians are the Same
August 25, 2013 11:03 pm

peterW

Phalanx is a hard kill sytem. INS Hanit had hers turned off, pure genius. Stark had hers in standby. So yes a 100% failure rate when not turned on. shocking that.

All Politicians are the Same
All Politicians are the Same
August 25, 2013 11:10 pm

Opinion3

I think the Israelis have already demonstrated that defeating their ADS is not going to be an issue and they did it without TLAM, B2 etc.
The second question is a good one but if we have talked about a red line and we find out he has nerve gassed children we are in a hole.

CBRNGuru
CBRNGuru
August 25, 2013 11:14 pm

OK, since we are in an area that I have some understanding, let’s put a few home truths into this debate. One, it is not easy to make war grade sarin, no matter want bullshit you might pick up on the web. Pre-cursors are easy to get hold of, mixing and delivering a pure agent is very hard. Even if you get said agent from a nation that had the ability to create such a pure form, the shelf live is not that long.
Two, in my opinion we are not dealing with sarin anyway, none of the victims show any of the classical signs of nerve agent poisoning, they seem closer to phosgene/Diphosgene family and are a lot easier to disseminate than the nerve agent group.
Three, if you wait long enough then the residual signs of a chemical use are harder to identify. Trying to take samples from any munitions pieces that are left becomes harder to extract because the more any chemical agent can weather in the open the less evidence can be produced with certainty that it was ever used. I’m not saying it’s impossible with the right equipment, but my understanding is that the weapon inspectors do not have that type of equipment available. So fragments of the delivery means would have to be sent out of the country to confirm in specialist laboratories. Once that type of sample leaves the country then the aggressor can always say it was a stitch up if anything is found.
Four, what is happening in Libya could be on a greater scale if the whole chemical weapons element implodes in Syria. West Libya is fairly stable and one can travel quite freely with an armed escort of course!! East Libya is tribal hell holes were trying to identify MANPADS and chemical weapons has all but be given up. There is a trickle of said weapons heading into certain African countries for whatever use.
Five, if any said chemical weapons fell into terrorist hands and were to be used against us in the UK, so what, first they have to extract the chemical, then try to establish its purity to see if it would be of any effect, then find the correct delivery means to ensure maximum coverage to make any decent terrorist statement. Why go to so much trouble and effort when you can buy pre-cursors in the industrial market and just release them tomorrow on the unsuspecting public. OK, I admit the psychological value is better and as certain posts have indicated that is the big winner when using this type weapon.
So the sixth and final point, would we go in, not by ourselves as indicated. If we did for whatever reason, could our troops be well enough protected to carry out missions in such an environment? Knowing the current state of affairs within the CBRN Domain at the moment, then I will leave that question open.

Chris
Chris
August 25, 2013 11:17 pm

Ref “http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/worldnews/middleeast/syria/10265765/Navy-ready-to-launch-first-strike-on-Syria.html” – So that’s the US with UK in the supporting role yet again unilaterally setting out to kick seven bells out of an Arab state without proper UN backing? Don’t either of us ever learn?

The UN has specific responsibilities to act in situations like that in Syria – see http://www.un.org/en/documents/charter/chapter7.shtml for its own description of its duties, paying special attention to Article 42:
“it may take such action by air, sea, or land forces as may be necessary to maintain or restore international peace and security. Such action may include demonstrations, blockade, and other operations by air, sea, or land forces of Members of the United Nations.”
And to Article 43:
“All Members of the United Nations, in order to contribute to the maintenance of international peace and security, undertake to make available to the Security Council, on its call and in accordance with a special agreement or agreements, armed forces, assistance, and facilities, including rights of passage, necessary for the purpose of maintaining international peace and security.”

It is truly pathetic for the UN to sit on its hands mumbling vague disapproval of the situation. It exists solely to keep peace of this small blue-green planet, and its evidently not doing its job. Moreover, all member states sign up to doing what is necessary to keep that peace – no opt-outs in this document. It even has what would appear to be standing resolutions 1325, 1612 and 1674 that apply wherever conflict erupts, covering the protection of women and of children and of civilians caught up in conflict; so it doesn’t even need to go through the nause of creating yet another resolution to get things moving.

So why on earth are the US and UK governments acting independent of UN authority? Good grief!

All Politicians are the Same
All Politicians are the Same
August 25, 2013 11:23 pm

China or Russia would simply veto any worthwhile UN resolution put in front of the security council.
Also we have had meetings in Jordan this week, watch Jordan, Qatar, Saudi, Bahrain and Turkey at least come out in support of any action followed by physical support.

x
x
August 25, 2013 11:33 pm

@ APATS

Flag to Canteen Boat: Happy. :)

Jeremy M H
August 25, 2013 11:44 pm

@APATS has it pretty much pegged. The UN is not worth a bucket of warm spit. It can do nothing of substance and is a morally bankrupt institution to begin with. I think Chris is right overall that intervention is likely a no win scenario long term for the UK/US. But I could care less if the UN is involved or not. The structure of the UN is so fundamentally flawed as to make it irrelevant.

Opinion3
Opinion3
August 25, 2013 11:51 pm

@APATS

Aren’t the Russians sending over their new superduper air defence system to counteract the Israeli’s (and our) proven capabilities.

Our threats are creating a mini arms race, it is afterall a civil war, a ‘spring uprising’.

Needs clever diplomacy, and probably not a lot more. – Maybe even left to the own devices, or stoked like the Iran-Iraq war, but intervention is the very last option I commend. Most appear to agree too.

I don’t rate Obama (one jot) ……. anyone who accepts a Noble Peace Prize (in anticipation of being great? For being USoA President? As a prank?) when it is so utterly undeserved is a clueless idiot.

All Politicians are the Same
All Politicians are the Same
August 25, 2013 11:59 pm

Opin 3

they have been threatening to deliver S300 for a decade. The initial deal was meant to happen in 2005. Super duper, not really. The problem is that if we do not do something then we green light use of nerve gas on civilian populations the world over. We said it was a red line and if it is proven to have happened we need to do something.

Opinion3
Opinion3
August 26, 2013 12:52 am

Surely our politicians have got it wrong, we have no interests in Syria.

There are a number of moral, and geo-political considerations ….. but aren’t there always. Assad is of no use to Iran. Iran way think it is a thorn in the US’s side but I doubt Syria is causing much worry.

Kerry and Obama need to resolve the Palastinian and Israeli conflict and ensure that Turkey is not drawn into the Syrian mess. Furthermore they need to prevent a strengthening of Terrorist groups, losely called Al Qaeda.

The defence cuts are crippling, time to sit back and leave be. Unlike Iraq, Stan and Libya which I supported.

Observer
Observer
August 26, 2013 7:39 am

Or it could even be something stupid like a rebel group getting too enthusiastic about destroying government arms stockpiles and not knowing what they were really setting fire to….

UN inspectors is one thing, think we might need to grease a few palms to see if any ops orders came from Assad or the military. With the area in a mess, I’m sure someone would be willing to Xerox a few copies of any CBRN weapons deployment orders and plans for, say, US$5,000-$15,000?

This also raises up an interesting question. Think Assad has lost control of his military? A fair chunk of them are mercs, raised sometimes by foreign countries and not answerable to the regime too. Might explain the chaos. Joke is that if Assad had not tried to be such a hard ass, the rebels would have went home long long ago. Syria’s starting point was actually pretty good in terms of stability, while not all tea and sunshine, a majority of the people were content until Assad imported the jackboot to their doorstep. Serious misstep that.

@peterW

Might want to take care with the hyperbole and selective examples. I have been telling people for years now that the Phalanx is extremely outdated, fairly useless, and is a classic case of good marketing over performance and should never be used as a yardstick to compare with our current anti-missile defence. APATs is also right in saying that the majority of defences would also involve soft-kill ECM, not to mention the lowest point defence tier now is probably the RIM-116 or similar. Majority of the hard-kill options even in the past involves missile on missile engagements, not gun on missile. Using the last ditch gun system as a general comparison is nonsensical.

That being said, high-mach missiles are a fair bit of unknown territory in actual conflict. Since no one has fired them outside of test conditions, no one has defended them outside of test conditions either, closest case I can think of is the US SM-4 test shootdown of an obsolete satellite. On the other hand, the threat parameters are very well known, so I’m sure designers have taken into account enemy capabilities before designing their defence systems. Speed isn’t everything. If it was, then the best attack weapon would be an interceptor coming in at Mach 2 dropping cluster bombs. The speed is about similar. But you don’t see many people advocating a fighter closing to bombing range now do you? Even when the fighter could hit Mach 2-3?

John Hartley
John Hartley
August 26, 2013 7:56 am

APATS Re Scuds being fired at Cyprus. Logically you are right, Russian interests in Cyprus would prevent that, but Syria is in such chaos, who knows what might happen.

Opinion3
Opinion3
August 26, 2013 8:26 am

One simple question ……. exactly who are we supporting?

There is various talk about missiles, destroyers, what we could do, who would need to get involved, what Russia might allow. But the fundamental questions such as who are we supporting, what are the objectives and can we achieve them haven’t even been asked let alone answered.

Personally I don’t think we have the money, the kit or the willpower to finish a job like Syria. A hiding for nothing springs to mind.

Observer
Observer
August 26, 2013 8:40 am

Don’t forget, no long term or medium term plan either. You can always try to play it by the ear, but I don’t recommend it. So… Assad out, then what?

x
x
August 26, 2013 8:47 am

martin says “Thats interesting and runs counter to everything I have seen on the news. Personally I did not believe in the previous Chemical attacks and the number of casualties seemed way too low. ”

CBRN Guru is on the right track. As he said sarin is hard to make in quantity, phosgene is A-level chemistry. How do you know casualties are low? By that I mean how do you know the scale of the attack? Chemical weapons are hard to deploy and use; look what happened in WW1. Syria isn’t the former Soviet Union. There won’t be batteries in their tens delivering dozens of shells. War for most of us unimaginable. 50 bodies wrapped in sheets fill a TV screen and it looks like Armageddon to our ignorant eyes. Get a sense of proportion. I bet there would have been just as many if not more killed had the ordnance been carrying HE. The trouble with us Westerners is we have been safe for far too long. The smallest thing panics us and that is being used as a leverage against us. Assad isn’t Hitler; at least in scale. The rebels aren’t downtrodden unblemished angels.

I am sorry Syria isn’t worth another 10 years of this……

http://i.telegraph.co.uk/multimedia/archive/01441/wootton_1441480c.jpg

There are thousands dying unnecessarily across the Third World each day, where is the outrage for them?

shockwavelover
shockwavelover
August 26, 2013 8:56 am

Apparently, the HMAS Triumph fired 12 Tomahawks off Libya, which pretty much exhausted its supply. For Britain to do what you are proposing, it would require retasking a full four of the seven SSNs the Royal Navy has (because they’re the only platforms with TLAM capability), taking them away from their duty stations and then emptying their missile magazines. As the Trenchant and the Talent have just finished deployments, they’re in refit, and the Ambush hasn’t finished her trials, that means that the RN will have literally no fleet submarine capability anywhere else in the world while this is going on.

And for what? Assad undoubtedly has more targets than the RN has available TLAMs (or even total TLAMs), and I’d imagine he can afford to just wait for you to blow your proverbial load. Once the magazines are dry, what happens? He keeps going pretty much as before, with a few assets lost, and you look impotent. That’s a hefty chunk of the missile stockpile to throw away in the name of ‘doing something’.

Phil
August 26, 2013 9:38 am

The medics in the hospitals were giving signs and symptoms of nerve agent poisoning, especially dilated pupils. If those reports are reliable then nerve agents were involved. And I know the British Army at least is doing some remedial work in the CBRN arena right now.

As others and I have pointed out – nobody is going to start anything for humanitarian reasons. As harsh as it sounds it is simply not going to be worth it and we’re unlikely to make the situation better in those terms as we’re not dealing with a simple situation.

The issue goes far wider and they go into (a) as Chris B says, the prevention of the normalisation of chemical agent use, or in other words the normalisation of WMDs: a WMD that is relatively cheap and easy to use and especially useful against civilian populations and degrading enough against military units.

And (b) legitimising the intra-state structures like the UN and imposing the will of western liberal states through that mechanism. There are some obvious problems with that plan. So we’re really in the brown smelly stuff and getting sucked under in this one – what is at stake is the willingness and ability of the western world to stand up for the international order it wants. It wants an international order where WMDs are not legitimate weapons of use (especially against civilians) and it wants an international order with structures that mediate and manage conflict amongst other important matters.

The situation in Syria is fucking all this off at the high port.

It is stamping into the mud two very fundamental western liberal ideas about the international order.

If I knew how that should be dealt with I’d be paid far more. But you can bet if the bombs are dropped the rhetoric might be humanitarianism (again) but the reasons will be pragmatic. We’ve built the laws and the institutions – we’re not going to simply watch them being undermined and de-legitimised.

We’re back to 1914 then. And that’s far more dangerous than civilian massacres in a desert.

ChrisM
ChrisM
August 26, 2013 9:52 am

Problem is we pretty much have to do something if it is provable that it was Assad forces. We have talked our way into having to respond.
A bit of shock and awe TLAMing makes good TV, and makes a point.
The limit will not be how many missiles we have, it will be how many the Russians will let us use without escalating.
I assume we will not target the chemical weapons unless we are sure we can destroy almost all of them (which would probably take boots on ground?) We don’t want to force a risky dispersement of chemical weapons.

Simon257
Simon257
August 26, 2013 9:59 am

@ Phil

Are we now seeing the end of the West’s Influence, whether that be Political, Military or Economic?
If we do, do something. All Russia has to do in retaliation is turn the Gas off to Europe!

Personally the UN is finished, the sooner we realise that the better.

PeterW
PeterW
August 26, 2013 10:19 am

“That being said, high-mach missiles are a fair bit of unknown territory in actual conflict. Since no one has fired them outside of test conditions, no one has defended them outside of test conditions either, closest case I can think of is the US SM-4 test shootdown of an obsolete satellite. On the other hand, the threat parameters are very well known, so I’m sure designers have taken into account enemy capabilities before designing their defence systems. Speed isn’t everything.”

The vulnerability of US ships to these missiles is well known, the US is making efforts to develop a defense. Last year a drone traveling at Mach 1.5 was successfully shot down (at a height of 30meters). So there is a good probability of hitting a slow moving, lowish flying *single* missile.

The Russian missiles fly in swarms, maneuver to attack from different directions, pick their targets and fly at a lower height and higher speed in the attack phase. These missiles could be hidden in civilian ships and fired from anywhere.
Would you like to take your chances against that?

Lose a carrier, American/Western Hegemony over Syria? No thanks.

“Phalanx is a hard kill sytem. INS Hanit had hers turned off, pure genius. Stark had hers in standby. So yes a 100% failure rate when not turned on. shocking that.”

No accident that they were turned off. The third incident missed the target and sprayed an adjacent ship with canon fire. 100% failure – when needed.

Sgt Pep
Sgt Pep
August 26, 2013 10:40 am

Why would Russia turn the gas off to Europe? It has only hurt them in the past, they did it to punish Ukraine and Belarus but had to back down out of fear of offending their best clients in Western Europe.

You can’t eat gas and Russia’s economic growth is slowing down – economic growth has fallen for six consecutive quarters, same as in other commodity exporters. Russia is actually building new pipelines bypassing troublesome countries such as Ukraine and Belarus in order to export gas directly to Western Europe.

Phil
August 26, 2013 10:51 am

Personally the UN is finished, the sooner we realise that the better.

It pretty much does what it is supposed to do. It’s a means for the major powers to adjust the attitudes of other major powers. And this is what is happening with Syria. Russia and China don’t want to see intervention (especially Russia). The UN provides the mechanism for them to have a legitimate channel for that stance other than stationing their troops there and starting a war.

We’re doing a far better job of undermining our own institutions! We’re in a bit of a catch 22 – if we ignore Russia we undermine the major reason for the UN, if we don’t ignore Russia we undermine our international system by allowing the normalisation of WMDs.

The trick is to agree with the Russians what we can and can’t do. The Russians know we are in this bind, they know that by being completely intransigent they would just as well shoot themselves in the foot so I imagine behind closed doors Russia will say something like a broad response would be intolerable to it. We’ll have a negotiated limited strike if anything does happen. And I hope it is with Russia’s implicit consent otherwise it really is time to think hard about the UN.

shockwavelover
shockwavelover
August 26, 2013 12:01 pm

And what if he doesn’t? What if he and his advisors can take the 10 minutes to google about and discover that, if the British attack on their own, there’ll be one decent salvo (or a number of smaller ones) and that’ll be it? Some immediate pain, but with a bit of forward planning and shifting/camouflaging of assets that can reduced. What do you do then, when your opponent just takes the hits you dish out in their stride and continues on? Bit late to say “We were hoping he’d go quietly…. :(”

At that point, you have to choose between going home with your tail between your legs and looking like a right idiot, or doubling down and a) commencing air strikes, contending with an AA network much better than Libya and eventually running into the same issues noted in my earlier post (namely, platform numbers and magazine size), then b) sending in the troops (which *nobody* wants to do after years in Iraq and Afghanistan). And if the Americans aren’t involved, then you’ll be doing it without all the specialised capabilities they have that the UK relies on in situations like this.

Neither of those options are good, let alone cheap or easy. If you get involved with Tomahawks, you are officially Part Of The Problem, and will be expected to ante up, or go home in shame.

As my dad always said, don’t start what you can’t finish.

Phil
August 26, 2013 12:09 pm

Britain is NEVER going to attack on its own. Let us all disabuse ourselves of such masturbatory fantasies.

If we strike it will be as a coalition and for starters we’ll have a few hundred keen Turkish fast jets on our side.

We long, long ago stopped seriously considering unilateral action as an option in anything but the most limited scenario’s in places where the big boys aren’t interested in.

Radwulf
Radwulf
August 26, 2013 12:26 pm

1) Ends, ways and means. We don’t know what we want, how we are going to accomplish it and how we are going to resource and pay for it.

2) After 15 years of pointless war and declining defence budgets our armed forces are being pared to the bone, losing capabilities and suffering holidays. The defence budget is *not* going to increase. The economy is *not* going to improve as the government has just implemented New Labour economics 101 redux. The more we fight now the less ability we will have later during a time when the rest of the world is getting stronger rapidly. This is *idiocy*.

3) If we keep going into wars on flimsy pretences against public sentiment eventually they will just say ‘if we can’t control how our politicians use the military, lose it’. In addition our future defence is heavily involved with Europe whether we like it or not and they will not support establishing strong armed forces if they are just going to be used frivolously and undemocratically.

4) Russia has an ally in Syria, we don’t. If we support Assad he will prioritise Russia. If we support the opposition they will turn on us once they win just as after the Soviet Afghanistan war.

5) This is not a humanitarian problem it is a strategic one. How many large scale humanitarian crises have happened in Africa alone in the last few decades without Western action? Syria is an opportunity to poke Russia in the eye, that is all.

6) This is not a chemical weapons WMD crisis that demands attention. Again I refer to Iraq’s use of chemical weapons against Iran and the Kurds in the 1980’s. We did nothing because Iran was our enemy. This is not different.

7) Talk of red lines also holds no traction. The only reason it was even brought up was likely due to some conniving little shits trying to bypass public opinion and force intervention by backing us into a corner. We need to get our politicians and foreign policy staff under control.

8) If we intervene it dramatically increases the chance of retaliation. The terrorists fight for Islam. They might kill each other over sectarian differences but the moment they get a justification to join forces against non-believers they will take it with both hands.

9) The West is declining. That is a fact. We can’t just continue on and pretend things are fine. We need to consolidate our economies and forces, delegate responsibilities, develop a laser sharp focus on our national interests, and stop pissing around.

Sgt Pep
Sgt Pep
August 26, 2013 12:55 pm

Thanks Radwulf, finally someone who makes sense. Completely in agreement and I say let the Israelis, Turks, Saudis and Iranians sort it out between themselves.

Mike W
August 26, 2013 1:06 pm

Phil

“We long, long ago stopped seriously considering unilateral action as an option in anything but the most limited scenario’s in places where the big boys aren’t interested in.”

Probably true, Phil but how long do you reckon it will be, at the present rate of defence cuts, before we’re unable to intervene, even as part of a coalition?

Wouldn’t putting in even a Brigade at present (say perhaps, 16 Air Assault or one of the Armoured formations) cause real strain on the Army and its logistics system? Good grief, we’re not even out of Afghanistan yet!

We need an Army of at least 115, 0000 in order to cope with the rate at which contingencies are arising. And I mean Regulars, not Reserves, as excellent as they may be. By the way, how’s recruiting going for the Reserves?

Opinion3
Opinion3
August 26, 2013 2:19 pm

Are we assuming that if an external country attacks Syria that it will try to defend itself and maybe stoke up some trouble? Iraq, Afgan, Libya style? Supposing it attacks our base in Cyprus? then what?

If I was Syria, I would not spend too much effort on defence but go for the jugular so to speak

Jeremy M H
August 26, 2013 3:11 pm

@ Peter W

RE: USN defense against Russian Missiles

I think you are pretty far to one side of what is the likely truth in the missiles vs defenses debate. USN defenses are pretty multi-layered and are pretty robust while being constantly developed in many areas. Given the number of inbounds that the Syrians could likely generate (a dozen on a good day) a USN battle group could put multiple missiles up against each inbound without a lot of problems. SM-2 is a perfectly fine missile for such work. ESSM is a very good quick reaction missile with very good kinematic performance. RIM-116 is by all reports an exception point defense weapon.

CEC rolling out to the fleet and E-2D’s and SM-6’s entering service will see targeting done from 20,000 feet and will push the engagement envelope against sea-skimming weapons out to a point where it won’t make much difference if it is coming in low or high really. And none of that even deals with the fighters, MPA’s and subs that make casually approaching a CVBG in combat situations very difficult.

There is no fool proof system but I would say that a USN CVBG in a combat situation is probably the most difficult target on earth to attack from the air. It has a density of defenses not seen in almost any land target on earth and it can move around so you likely have to emit to target it reliably. You can’t just fling missiles off into the blue hoping it will still be there later.

John Hartley
John Hartley
August 26, 2013 6:17 pm

If there is intervention, why does it have to be the West? Why not “Operation land Moscow & Beijing in it”? Let them sort it out. They have the ruthlessness we lack to sort out the jihadists.

Observer
Observer
August 26, 2013 6:27 pm

Because Russia and China are still firmly wed to the idea of sovereign authoritarian governments. They see it as an internal Syrian problem and nothing to do with them. Other than as a market that is. Maybe they have the right idea, declining to stick their heads into situations where they can get bogged into.

Waylander
Waylander
August 26, 2013 6:34 pm

@Shockwavelover
Given the amount of blood and treasure that the UK and other countries have expended in support of US wars in Iraq and Afghanistan over the past twelve years, I don’t think it’s unreasonable for Europe to expect the US to at least contribute key enabler capabilities in a situation like Libya. It would make the alliance a sham, if when the shoe is on the other foot and Europe needs a hand, the US decides it’s had enough, picks up it’s toys and goes home. Also if the US “has been fighting pointless wars in the region for ten years”, well it’s not like anyone dragged the US into it, quite the opposite they were mad keen to invade Iraq. At least the intervention in Libya was to prevent a massacre, and if there is military action in Syria it will be because chemicals weapons have been used to kill hundreds of civilians, not hair brained ideas about bringing democracy to the Middle east.

Brian Black
Brian Black
August 26, 2013 8:00 pm

Is it time to intervene? No.
This is a civil war, we should keep out. The likes of al Qaeda and Hezbollah, Iran and Saudi sticking their oars in is a matter for them; we won’t make things better by joining that bunch.

If there were chemical weapons being used right on the border of Turkey, then we’d have an interest as part of NATO. If they were chucking chemical weapons at their neighbours, then we’d have an interest as part of the UN. Until then, nothing to do with us.

Israel has managed to take action where its security was concerned, without inflaming the situation and without taking sides. Unlike Israel, we’ve already thrown our hat into the ring on one side; any US, British, French missile strikes now are unlikely to be against the capability to wage chemical war, they will be blatant attacks on the regime and will be intended to influence the outcome of this civil war.

Phil
August 26, 2013 8:20 pm

The issues MUST be separated.

The Civil War

Other than the usual humanitarian reflexes and the occasional bit of sympathy nobody in the west is interested in getting involved in the Civil War. Indeed, nobody in the west really wants Assad to fall because what is going to replace him is going to be far worse. That said we could never be seen to publicly support him so we did the next best thing and let him get on with it whilst making all the right noises. There’s ZERO interest in the rebels, often affiliated to AQ, winning. There’s ZERO appetite for boots on the ground.

The use of WMDs

An entirely and completely different issue. As I have said ad-naseum today, the west does not consider WMDs legitimate weapons of war. If we do nothing we de-facto reverse that policy and effectively declare they are now legitimate. We send the message to Iran, North Korea and any other state that WMDs are legitimate if it is too much trouble for the west to do anything about it.

That simply is not going to be allowed to happen.

Something must be done, and something will be done. Because doing nothing now is no longer an option as the evidence hardens around this being an official Syrian use of WMD.

The rhetoric has changed dramatically and high level officials are all starting to say the same thing. Is a strike imminent – I don’t know. What I imagine we’ll see is a limited strike against forces not in contact with the rebels as a shot across the bows. Hopefully that will be enough for Assad to reign those weapons right in.

Two separate issues here.

Mark
Mark
August 26, 2013 8:36 pm

Phils post sums it up perfectly action must be taken to remove chemical weapons from the equation it is the only thing that should be on the table. Weapons inspectors to dismantle his program could have been an option had the security situation not been so bad. Sadly I doubt that’s an option.

We will be here against at some point in the future with Iran and nuclear weapons I’m sure.

All Politicians are the Same
All Politicians are the Same
August 26, 2013 8:42 pm

I agree with Phil and it looks like we are going there. Kerry laying the ground work.
http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-us-canada-23844643

Think Defence
Admin
August 26, 2013 9:13 pm

Phil makes a good point, in one of the first posts on the subject I suggested that a perfectly valid intervention would be strikes to put Assad’s chemical weapons beyond the reach of both sides as a preventative strategy but that boat has well and truly sailed.

Now, we look weak, reluctant to act and with a confused and poorly articulated strategy that fails to draw the distinction between chemical weapons and the wider conflict.

It also has parallels with el Presidente Clinton attacking fertiliser factories with cruise missiles and the infective attacks on Afghan training camps i.e. half arsed, easy, low risk but ultimately useless.

On the morality of chemical weapons and the West’s responsibility to police the worlds use of them, there are inconsistencies, Iraq/Iran for example.

So when we have attacked Assads facilities, chemical or otherwise, is he going to pack up his bags or just revert to the methods that have killed many more people than chemical weapons?

Ends, ways and means.

Does anyone have a clue what the first one is or will be because in all the mood music so far, it has been absent.

All Politicians are the Same
All Politicians are the Same
August 26, 2013 9:22 pm

@TD The inconsistency is Iraqs use of chemical weapons at Halabja. Personally the use of chemical weapons during the Iran/Iraq war is for me a separate issue.
I think that you are being a bit scathing in your comment about poorly articulated and weak.

If we get the message from The UN inspectors that chemical weapons have been used on the civilian population and it is decided that this was done by Assad forces then I would argue that for the first time we have sufficient evidence to act.

It is how we act or do not now that will determine whether we appear weak. Up until now we have monitored and provided humanitarian aid in a civil war.

DavidNiven
DavidNiven
August 26, 2013 9:26 pm

The trouble with a shot across the bow is that if you haven’t got the ability or the balls to sink the ship if they don’t comply you send no message to any one wishing to use chemical weapons, other than all you have to do is weather a TLAM strike.

And it is therefore a hollow gesture and probably best not done.

What if uses them again after a night of cruise missiles do relatively nothing to weaken the regime? what will our response be?

Phil
August 26, 2013 9:26 pm

We look weak because well, we don’t have many options in the bag.

We have a regime which we cannot support but which we don’t want to fall. And now that regime, with top cover from Moscow and knowing we’ve had our fingers burned in the Middle East and knowing we don’t want him to fail has started to ratchet up CW use.

When he first started we fired a warning at him to stop by arming to a limited extent the rebels. But again he knew we weren’t going to arm them too well.

But he hasn’t listened to the way the wind is blowing – we’re clearly determined that CWs are the bigger issue here – bigger than Assad and Syria. What the objective now is is to get him to realise that although we don’t want him to fall, his use of WMDs is a bigger problem and we’ll walk over him to get our way on the matter and to hell with the rebels winning.

Once he has that in his skull, and realises we’re bypassing his Moscow top cover I sincerely hope he goes back to killing people the old fashioned way.

We look weak because we’ve tried to play this gently because we don’t want him to fall. But he’s pushing his luck too far and one hopes he’s realising he’s got as far as he can go with their use.

Now it looks very much like there’s going to be a limited missile strike probably against CW facilities since it can be justified more easily in international law since the things are essentially illegal to use.

Phil
August 26, 2013 9:29 pm

what will our response be?

Escalate. Let the rebels win, accept the lesser of two evils.

Some shit hole third world country being run by islamists or CWs use being legitimised across the globe? Which do you think we’ll go for in the end?

The Libyan model is pertinent here. We know we can probably enable the conditions for the rebels to win.

He’s not stupid – once he realises we’re deadly serious I imagine he’ll stop using them since unless they’re used in a coherent fashion across a wide frontage their not going to win the war. Make them more trouble then they are worth and you keep them as illegitimate weapons of war and Assad doesn’t fall. If he pushes his luck – then bye bye Assad.

David Niven
David Niven
August 26, 2013 9:34 pm

I have no trouble with the morality of intervening due to CW, I just question our ability to provide something credible.

Russia will keep Assad in power along with Hamas and Iran, we on the other hand no real way of escalating, even the Serbs weathered the storm for a good while before coming to the table and they had the threat of a NATO invasion force sat on their border.

Think Defence
Admin
August 26, 2013 9:37 pm
Reply to  Phil

Phil, I think the Libyan model has only limited utility because his forces are not concentrated in a thin coastal strip, in rag order and without friends.

Assad and Syria are very different from Gadaffi and Libya

DavidNiven
DavidNiven
August 26, 2013 9:42 pm

Sorry meant Hezbollah, I know this sit likes it’s accuracy : )