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ISIS Blowback from Ukraine, Caucasian Covert Ops?

Swo­bo­da leader Oleh Tiah­ny­bok salutes.

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ISIS fol­low­ers vow­ing alle­giance to the group. Com­pare to Tiah­ny­bok’s ges­tur­ing. Hint: They are NOT audi­tion­ing for an anti-per­spi­rant com­mer­cial.

COMMENT: We high­light an arti­cle not­ing the mil­i­tary prowess and sophis­ti­ca­tion of ISIS. Crit­i­cal to this analy­sis is the appar­ent role of the Chechens in the tac­ti­cal devel­op­ment of the group. In FTR #381. we not­ed the role of the Al-Taqwa milieu in the fund­ing of the Chechen seper­atists, which appears to have con­tin­ued, as we saw in our analy­sis of the Boston Marathon Bomb­ing.

In the con­text of U.S. and West­ern sup­port for the OUN/B milieu in Ukraine, includ­ing the UNA-UNSO fight­ers who fought with the Chechens and else­where in the Cau­ca­sus, we may well be see­ing “blow­back” from our poli­cies vis a vis Ukraine in the devel­op­ment of ISIS’ sophis­ti­ca­tion. As dis­cussed in FTR #808, the UNA-UNSO fight­ers were ini­tial­ly com­posed large­ly of Ukrain­ian vet­er­ans of the Afghan war. The orga­ni­za­tion gave rise direct­ly to Pravy Sek­tor.

“The Dura­bil­i­ty of Ukrain­ian Fas­cism” by Peter Lee; Strate­gic Cul­ture; 6/9/2014.

. . . . One of Bandera’s lieu­tenants was Roman Shukhevych.  In Feb­ru­ary 1945, Shukhevych issued an order stat­ing, “In view of the suc­cess of the Sovi­et forces it is nec­es­sary to speed up the liq­ui­da­tion of the Poles, they must be total­ly wiped out, their vil­lages burned … only the Pol­ish pop­u­la­tion must be destroyed.”

As a mat­ter of addi­tion­al embar­rass­ment, Shukhevych was also a com­man­der in the Nachti­gall (Nightin­gale) bat­tal­ion orga­nized by the Wehrma­cht.

Today, a major pre­oc­cu­pa­tion of Ukrain­ian nation­al­ist his­tor­i­cal schol­ar­ship is beat­ing back rather con­vinc­ing alle­ga­tions by Russ­ian, Pol­ish, and Jew­ish his­to­ri­ans that Nachti­gall was an impor­tant and active par­tic­i­pant in the mas­sacre of Lviv Jews orches­trat­ed by the Ger­man army upon its arrival in June 1941. . . .

. . . . Yuriy Shukhevych’s role in mod­ern Ukrain­ian fas­cism is not sim­ply that of an inspi­ra­tional fig­ure­head and reminder of his father’s anti-Sovi­et hero­ics for proud Ukrain­ian nation­al­ists.  He is a core fig­ure in the emer­gence of the key Ukrain­ian fas­cist for­ma­tion, Pravy Sek­tor and its para­mil­i­tary.

And Pravy Sektor’s para­mil­i­tary, the UNA-UNSO, is not an “unruly” col­lec­tion of week­end-war­rior-wannabes, as Mr. Hig­gins might believe.

UNA-UNSO was formed dur­ing the tur­moil of the ear­ly 1990s, large­ly by eth­nic Ukrain­ian vet­er­ans of the Sovi­et Union’s bit­ter war in Afghanistan.  From the first, the UNA-UNSO has shown a taste for for­eign adven­tures, send­ing detach­ments to Moscow in 1990 to oppose the Com­mu­nist coup against Yeltsin, and to Lithua­nia in 1991.  With appar­ent­ly very good rea­son, the Rus­sians have also accused UNA-UNSO fight­ers of par­tic­i­pat­ing on the anti-Russ­ian side in Geor­gia and Chech­nya.

After for­mal Ukrain­ian inde­pen­dence, the mili­tia elect­ed Yuriy Shukhevych—the son of OUN‑B com­man­der Roman Shukhevych– as its leader and set up a polit­i­cal arm, which lat­er became Pravy Sek­tor. . . .

“ISIS an ‘Incred­i­ble’ Fight­ing Force, Spe­cial Ops Sources Say” by James Gor­don Meek; ABC News; 8/25/2014.

With the Oba­ma White House left reel­ing from the “sav­age” slaugh­ter of an Amer­i­can jour­nal­ist held hostage by ISIS ter­ror­ists, mil­i­tary options are being con­sid­ered against an adver­sary who offi­cials say is grow­ing in strength and is much more capa­ble than the one faced when the group was called “al Qae­da-Iraq” dur­ing the U.S. war from 2003–2011.

ISIS, the Islam­ic State of Iraq and Syr­ia, has been mak­ing a “tac­ti­cal with­draw­al” in recent days in the face of with­er­ing U.S. airstrikes from areas around Erbil in north­ern Iraq and from the major dam just north of Mosul it con­trolled for two nail-bit­ing weeks, accord­ing to mil­i­tary offi­cials mon­i­tor­ing their move­ments.

“These guys aren’t just bug­ging out, they’re tac­ti­cal­ly with­draw­ing. Very pro­fes­sion­al, well trained, moti­vat­ed and equipped. They oper­ate like a state with a mil­i­tary,” said one offi­cial who tracks ISIS close­ly. “These aren’t the same guys we fought in OIF (Oper­a­tion Iraqi Free­dom) who would just scat­ter when you dropped a bomb near them.”

ISIS appeared to have a sophis­ti­cat­ed and well thought-out plan for estab­lish­ing its “Islam­ic Caliphate” from north­ern Syr­ia across the west­ern and north­ern deserts of Iraq, many experts and offi­cials have said, and sup­port from hostage-tak­ing, rob­bery and sym­pa­thet­ic dona­tions to fund it. They use drones to gath­er over­head intel on tar­gets and effec­tive­ly com­man­deer cap­tured mil­i­tary vehi­cles – includ­ing Amer­i­can Humvees — and muni­tions.

“They tried to push out as far as they thought they could and were ful­ly pre­pared to pull back a lit­tle bit when we beat them back with airstrikes around Erbil. And they were fine with that, and ready to hold all of the ground they have now,” a sec­ond offi­cial told ABC News.

ISIS did­n’t nec­es­sar­i­ly count on hold­ing Mosul Dam, offi­cials said, but scored a major pro­pa­gan­da vic­to­ry on social media when they hoist­ed the black flag of the group over the facil­i­ty that pro­vides elec­tric­i­ty and water to a large swath of Iraq, or could drown mil­lions if breached.

U.S. spe­cial oper­a­tions forces under the Joint Spe­cial Oper­a­tions Com­mand and U.S. Spe­cial Oper­a­tions Com­mand keep close tabs on the mil­i­tary evo­lu­tion of ISIS and both its com­bat and ter­ror­ism — called “asym­met­ric” — capa­bil­i­ties, offi­cials told ABC News. A pri­ma­ry rea­son is in antic­i­pa­tion of pos­si­bly fight­ing them, which a full squadron of spe­cial mis­sion unit oper­a­tors did in the Inde­pen­dence Day raid on an ISIS camp in Raqqah, Syr­ia.

“They’re incred­i­ble fight­ers. ISIS teams in many places use spe­cial oper­a­tions TTPs,” said the sec­ond offi­cial, who has con­sid­er­able com­bat expe­ri­ence, using the mil­i­tary term for “tac­tics, tech­niques and pro­ce­dures.”

In sober­ing press con­fer­ence Fri­day, Sec­re­tary of Defense Chuck Hagel said ISIS has shown that it is “as sophis­ti­cat­ed and well-fund­ed as any group that we have seen.”

“They’re beyond just a ter­ror­ist group. They mar­ry ide­ol­o­gy, a sophis­ti­ca­tion of strate­gic and tac­ti­cal mil­i­tary prowess. They are tremen­dous­ly well-fund­ed,” he said. “This is beyond any­thing that we’ve seen.”

Pri­or ISIS’s recent pub­lic suc­cess­es, the for­mer chair­man of the 9/11 Com­mis­sion, which just released a tenth anniver­sary report on the threat of ter­ror­ism cur­rent­ly fac­ing the home­land, said he was shocked at how lit­tle seems to be known inside the U.S. intel­li­gence com­mu­ni­ty about the Islamist army bru­tal­iz­ing Iraq as it has Syr­ia.

“I was appalled at the igno­rance,” for­mer New Jer­sey Gov­er­nor Tom Kean, who led the 9/11 Com­mis­sion, told ABC News last week.

Kean, a Repub­li­can, who with vice chair­man Lee Hamil­ton, a Demo­c­rat, recent­ly met with about 20 top intel­li­gence offi­cials in prepa­ra­tion of the commission’s lat­est threat report, said many offi­cials seemed both blind-sided and alarmed by the group’s rise, growth and com­pe­ten­cy.

“One offi­cial told me ‘I am more scared than at any time since 9/11,’” Kean recount­ed in a recent inter­view.

A spokesper­son for the Office of the Direc­tor of Nation­al Intel­li­gence defend­ed the intel­li­gence community’s track­ing of ISIS, say­ing offi­cials had “expressed con­cern” about the threat as far back as last year.

“The will to fight is inher­ent­ly dif­fi­cult to assess. Ana­lysts must make assess­ments based on per­cep­tions of com­mand and con­trol, lead­er­ship abil­i­ties, qual­i­ty of expe­ri­ence, and dis­ci­pline under fire — none of which can be under­stood with cer­tain­ty until the first shots are fired,” ODNI spokesper­son Bri­an Hale said.

Where did ISIS learn such sophis­ti­cat­ed mil­i­tary meth­ods, shown clear­ly after the first shots were fired?

“Prob­a­bly the Chechens,” the one of the U.S. offi­cials said.

A Chechen com­man­der named Abu Omar al-Shis­hani — who offi­cials say may have been killed in fight­ing near Mosul — is well known for com­mand­ing an inter­na­tion­al brigade with­in ISIS. Oth­er Chechens have appeared with­in pro­pa­gan­da videos includ­ing one com­man­der who was killed on video by an artillery burst near his SUV in Syr­ia.

Ear­li­er this year, ABC News report­ed on the secret his­to­ry of U.S. spe­cial oper­a­tions forces’ expe­ri­ences bat­tling high­ly capa­ble Chechen fight­ers along the Afghanistan-Pak­istan bor­der since 2001. In addi­tion, for decades Chechen sep­a­ratists have waged asym­met­ric war­fare against Russ­ian forces for con­trol of the North­ern Cau­ca­sus.

The Secret Bat­tles Between US Forces and Chechen Ter­ror­ists

In the bat­tle against ISIS, many with­in Amer­i­can “SOF,” a term that com­pris­es oper­a­tors from all branch­es of the mil­i­tary and intel­li­gence, are frus­trat­ed at being rel­e­gat­ed by the Pres­i­dent only to enabling U.S. airstrikes in Iraq. They are eager to fight ISIS more direct­ly in com­bat oper­a­tions — even if unteth­ered, mean­ing unof­fi­cial­ly and with lit­tle if any U.S. gov­ern­ment sup­port, accord­ing to some with close ties to the com­mu­ni­ty.

“ISIS and their kind must be destroyed,” said a senior coun­tert­er­ror­ism offi­cial after jour­nal­ist James Foley was behead­ed on high-def­i­n­i­tion ISIS video, echo­ing strong-word­ed state­ments of high-lev­el U.S. offi­cials includ­ing Sec­re­tary of State John Ker­ry.

Discussion

One comment for “ISIS Blowback from Ukraine, Caucasian Covert Ops?”

  1. No, Oba­ma, you had this right, even if Hagel and Panet­ta dis­agree! Go after ISIS first, let some­one else deal with Assad. Arti­cles like this are so twist­ed and Orwellian, it hurts the head. How do peo­ple write this stuff?

    It’s like say­ing “We should remove the Stal­in­ists from pow­er in Rus­sia first, that will make deal­ing with the Nazis on the East­ern Front much eas­i­er.”

    http://www.cnn.com/2014/11/12/politics/obama-syria-strategy-review/index.html

    Wash­ing­ton (CNN) — Pres­i­dent Barack Oba­ma has asked his nation­al secu­ri­ty team for anoth­er review of the U.S. pol­i­cy toward Syr­ia after real­iz­ing that ISIS may not be defeat­ed with­out a polit­i­cal tran­si­tion in Syr­ia and the removal of Pres­i­dent Bashar al-Assad, senior U.S. offi­cials and diplo­mats tell CNN.

    The review is a tac­it admis­sion that the ini­tial strat­e­gy of try­ing to con­front ISIS first in Iraq and then take the group’s fight­ers on in Syr­ia, with­out also focus­ing on the removal of al-Assad, was a mis­cal­cu­la­tion.

    Rep. Ed Royce, chair­man of the House For­eign Affairs Com­mit­tee, said Thurs­day on CNN’s “New Day” that he had also heard that the White House was shift­ing its strat­e­gy, in part because Turkey and oth­er Gulf states — which are host­ing refugees from Syr­ia — were push­ing for the removal of Assad.

    In just the past week, the White House has con­vened four meet­ings of the Pres­i­den­t’s nation­al secu­ri­ty team, one of which was chaired by Oba­ma and oth­ers that were attend­ed by prin­ci­pals like the sec­re­tary of state. These meet­ings, in the words of one senior offi­cial, were “dri­ven to a large degree how our Syr­ia strat­e­gy fits into our ISIS strat­e­gy.”

    Relat­ed: Oba­ma’s “no strat­e­gy” com­ment sparks uproar

    “The Pres­i­dent has asked us to look again at how this fits togeth­er,” one senior offi­cial said. “The long-run­ning Syr­ia prob­lem is now com­pound­ed by the real­i­ty that to gen­uine­ly defeat ISIL, we need not only a defeat in Iraq but a defeat in Syr­ia.” The U.S. gov­ern­ment refers to ISIS as ISIL.

    Mul­ti­ple senior admin­is­tra­tion offi­cials and diplo­mats spoke with CNN on con­di­tion of anonymi­ty to dis­cuss inter­nal dis­cus­sions. The White House referred ques­tions about the review to the State Depart­ment.

    Mean­while, oth­er sources denied to CNN that Oba­ma has ordered a review, but admit there is con­cern about some core aspects of the strat­e­gy. A senior admin­is­tra­tion offi­cial, respond­ing to a CNN report, says there is an ongo­ing dis­cus­sion and “con­stant process of recal­i­bra­tion.”

    “There’s no for­mal strat­e­gy review of our Syr­ia pol­i­cy. What there is is a strat­e­gy for degrad­ing and ulti­mate­ly destroy­ing ISIL that requires us to take a hard look at what we’re doing on a reg­u­lar basis,” said Ben Rhodes, the deputy nation­al secu­ri­ty advis­er.

    ” And, as you know we’ve had reg­u­lar meet­ings that the Pres­i­dent has joined with his nation­al secu­ri­ty team on this issue and Syr­ia has been an impor­tant sub­ject at those meet­ings. And I think the Pres­i­dent wants to make sure that we’re ask­ing hard ques­tions about what we’re tar­get­ing in Syr­ia, how we’re able to degrade ISIL but also how we’re sup­port­ing oppo­si­tion and build­ing them up as a coun­ter­weight to ISIL but also ulti­mate­ly of course to the Assad regime.”

    And Alis­tair Baskey, spokesman for the Nation­al Secu­ri­ty Coun­cil, said in a state­ment Wednes­day evening, “The strat­e­gy with respect to Syr­ia has not changed: While the imme­di­ate focus remains to dri­ve ISIL out of Iraq, we and coali­tion part­ners will con­tin­ue to strike at ISIL in Syr­ia to deny them safe haven and to dis­rupt their abil­i­ty to project pow­er.”

    He added, “Assad has been the biggest mag­net for extrem­ism in Syr­ia, and the Pres­i­dent has made clear that Assad has lost all legit­i­ma­cy to gov­ern. Along­side our efforts to iso­late and sanc­tion the Assad regime, we are work­ing with our allies to strength­en the mod­er­ate oppo­si­tion ...”

    Gin­grich: Oba­ma, you won’t win a war with Con­gress

    ‘Iraq first’ strat­e­gy now appears ‘unten­able’

    In Octo­ber the Unit­ed States stressed an “Iraq first” strat­e­gy with efforts to degrade ISIS in Iraq as the pri­or­i­ty and oper­a­tions in Syr­ia done to shape con­di­tions in Iraq. Wash­ing­ton hoped that would give time for the U.S. to vet, train and arm a mod­er­ate Syr­i­an rebels fight­ing force to com­bat ISIS, and ulti­mate­ly the regime of al-Assad.

    But with the Free Syr­i­an Army strug­gling in a two-front bat­tle against al-Assad’s forces and extrem­ists from both ISIS and oth­er extrem­ist groups such as al-Nus­ra, U.S. offi­cials rec­og­nize the “Iraq first” strat­e­gy is unten­able.

    “Devel­op­ments on the ground have caused the nation­al secu­ri­ty team to col­lec­tive­ly con­clude we may not have time for Iraq first. In an ide­al world you would dri­ve ISIL out of Iraq and piv­ot to Syr­ia. But if by then the mod­er­ate oppo­si­tion has been smacked and ISIL is still there, that does­n’t help,” a senior admin­is­tra­tion offi­cial said.

    Among the options being dis­cussed are a no-fly zone on the bor­der with Turkey and accel­er­at­ing and expand­ing the Pen­ta­gon pro­gram to vet, train and arm the mod­er­ate oppo­si­tion.

    Turkey has called for a no-fly zone, both to pro­tect its bor­der and to pro­vide relief to Syr­i­an rebels fac­ing airstrikes from the regime, but offi­cials said Turkey so far has been vague about what troops and oth­er assets it is will­ing to con­tribute to the effort.

    The admin­is­tra­tion has asked Con­gress for $500 mil­lion to train and equip 5,000 vet­ted rebels with­in one year.

    But efforts to expand the pro­gram to build Syr­i­an rebel forces may also be stymied by the slow and com­pli­cat­ed of vet­ting the fight­ers. More than four months after announc­ing an effort to train and equip the mod­er­ate Syr­i­an oppo­si­tion, Pen­ta­gon spokesman Rear Adm. John Kir­by told CNN the vet­ting process had not even begun and logis­tics are still being worked out with the Turks and Saud­is, who are host­ing the train­ing.

    “The vet­ting has­n’t start­ed. Once it does start, that will be about a three- to five-month process and then it’s about eight to nine months of train­ing after that,” Kir­by said in an inter­view with CNN last week. “So we still (have) a ways to go.”

    A review would come as the mil­i­tary starts meet­ing with more than 30 coun­tries to “fur­ther devel­op and refine mil­i­tary cam­paign plans to degrade and defeat” ISIS, accord­ing to a state­ment from U.S. Cen­tral Com­mand, which is over­see­ing U.S. mil­i­tary efforts in Syr­ia and Iraq.

    Many of the Pres­i­den­t’s top nation­al secu­ri­ty advis­ers, includ­ing Sec­re­tary of State John Ker­ry, have long argued that Wash­ing­ton’s polit­i­cal strat­e­gy was unre­al­is­tic.

    Defense Sec­re­tary Chuck Hagel sent a blunt memo to Nation­al Secu­ri­ty Advis­er Susan Rice in Octo­ber that a senior U.S. offi­cial told CNN’s Bar­bara Starr was “express­ing con­cern about over­all Syr­ia strat­e­gy” and express­ing a fear that the U.S. is risk­ing its gains in the war against ISIS if adjust­ments are not made. The offi­cial said the focus of the memo was the “need to have a sharp­er view of what do about the Assad regime.”

    Relat­ed: Hagel wrote memo to White House express­ing con­cern about Syr­ia
    U.S., Arab allies strike ISIS in Syr­ia
    Offi­cial: Bomb-mak­er killed in airstrike
    U.S. takes aim at ISIS’ pock­et­book
    Why West­ern teenagers become jihadists

    “It has been pret­ty clear for some time that sup­port­ing the mod­er­ate oppo­si­tion in the hopes of top­pling Assad, isn’t going to work,” anoth­er senior offi­cial said.

    In response to the rev­e­la­tions about the Hagel memo, the White House spokesman said his advis­ers would be “con­stant­ly assess­ing” the strat­e­gy.

    “That means they want to con­sid­er a wide range of oppor­tu­ni­ties to make sure we’re doing every­thing we pos­si­bly can to pro­tect and defend Amer­i­can inter­ests around the world,” spokesman Josh Earnest said in an inter­view with CNN on Octo­ber 31.

    Ker­ry seeks to pre­serve fray­ing coali­tion

    The U.S. is also try­ing to pre­serve a fray­ing anti-ISIS coali­tion.

    Many Arab states have expressed frus­tra­tion with what they per­ceive as an ambiva­lence by the Unit­ed States toward get­ting rid of al-Assad. Sec­re­tary of State John Ker­ry and Gen. John Allen, the U.S. envoy to the anti-ISIS coali­tion, have report­ed back to the White House that key allies such as Sau­di Ara­bia, Unit­ed Arab Emi­rates and Turkey are call­ing for a frame­work for a polit­i­cal tran­si­tion in Syr­ia.

    “What real­ly tipped this into a more vig­or­ous reassess­ment was hear­ing from our coali­tion part­ners that they are not con­vinced by the Syr­ia part and this strat­e­gy only works if there is a more coher­ent Syr­ia piece,” said a senior offi­cial.

    Efforts by the U.S. and Rus­sia to strike a deal between al-Assad’s regime and the Syr­i­an oppo­si­tion forces broke down in Jan­u­ary after a long-await­ed and ulti­mate­ly unsuc­cess­ful peace con­fer­ence in Switzer­land.

    Now offi­cials and diplo­mats said Ker­ry has in recent months inten­si­fied dis­cus­sions with Sau­di Ara­bia, the Unit­ed Arab Emi­rates, Turkey and Rus­sia about the pos­si­bil­i­ty of a diplo­mat­ic tract to tran­si­tion al-Assad and his inner cir­cle out of pow­er, while main­tain­ing large parts of the regime and insti­tu­tions of the state.

    Bro­kered al-Assad tran­si­tion could take months

    But any such tran­si­tion could take time.

    “It’s not going to be tomor­row and I don’t think any­one even believes that is phys­i­cal­ly pos­si­ble. But even if it is a six- or 12-month plan, as long as it has an exit for Assad,” one senior Arab diplo­mat said. “But we are glad that we final­ly see a meet­ing of the minds with the U.S. that there needs to be a rethink­ing of the strat­e­gy.”

    Amer­i­can offi­cials and Arab diplo­mats said that while Rus­sia has tac­it­ly endorsed the idea of a Syr­ia free of al-Assad, Moscow has done lit­tle to effect change on the ground.

    “The Rus­sians are not our friend here,” one of the senior admin­is­tra­tion offi­cials said. “They have giv­en vague expres­sions of empa­thy but that is not exact­ly the same as say­ing we are with you and are going to rid of him. They are still arm­ing Assad and pro­vid­ing him direct sup­port.”

    Ker­ry has also raised the top­ic with Iran­ian For­eign Min­is­ter Javad Zarif, offi­cials said. Ker­ry has met sev­er­al times in recent months to ham­mer out a nuclear deal ahead of a Novem­ber 24 dead­line, which offi­cials stressed was the main top­ic of dis­cus­sion and was not linked to any poten­tial coop­er­a­tion in Syr­ia.

    Last month Pres­i­dent Oba­ma sent a let­ter to Iran’s supreme leader, Aya­tol­lah Ali Khamenei describ­ing a shared inter­est in com­bat­ing ISIS in Iraq and Syr­ia, but it was unclear whether the let­ter made men­tion of the three-year civ­il war in which Iran has backed al-Assad.

    Offi­cials point­ed to a debate with­in the Iran­ian regime about al-Assad’s fate, but there is lit­tle sign that the supreme leader or the pow­er­ful Iran­ian Rev­o­lu­tion­ary Guards Corps are inter­est­ed in get­ting rid of him.

    Relat­ed: U.S. opens chan­nels with Iran over ISIS

    “The mod­er­ates are not call­ing the shots in Syr­ia,” an offi­cial said. “The Ira­ni­ans have come up with plans like con­sti­tu­tion­al reforms and ulti­mate­ly an elec­tion, and it is bet­ter than noth­ing, but it still does­n’t include Assad going and it is not the basis for an agree­ment.”

    Rus­sia, Sau­di Ara­bia split on al-Assad

    Arab diplo­mats have held out hope that if Sau­di Ara­bia and Rus­sia can agree on a polit­i­cal frame­work, Iran may rethink its insis­tence that al-Assad must remain in pow­er and strike a deal on al-Assad’s fate. Sau­di Ara­bia is the dom­i­nant coun­try in the region push­ing for the Syr­i­an Pres­i­den­t’s ouster

    “It is pos­si­ble if Rus­sia agrees, the Ira­ni­ans will feel they are the only ones that who have not played a pro­duc­tive role,” one Arab diplo­mat said. “We know if we agree it will be the least com­mon denom­i­na­tor, where you main­tain who­ev­er you can from the regime that does­n’t have blood on their hands. That is some­thing we believe the Syr­i­an peo­ple can accept.”

    Cease­fires could pro­vide room for polit­i­cal effort

    Offi­cials and diplo­mats said efforts by U.N. Spe­cial Envoy for Syr­ia Staffan de Mis­tu­ra to secure a series of local cease­fires between the regime and Syr­i­an oppo­si­tion could help strength­en the admin­is­tra­tion’s efforts to speed up train­ing of the Syr­i­an rebels and Ker­ry’s diplo­mat­ic efforts to diplo­ma­cy to reach a polit­i­cal tran­si­tion.

    The Unit­ed Nations says that de Mis­tu­ra has pro­posed incre­men­tal freezes in fight­ing, start­ing with the city of Alep­po, so that nei­ther side takes advan­tage of a lull in fight­ing. A senior U.N. offi­cial described the effort as “very pre­lim­i­nary,” but said de Mis­tu­ra hopes to increase “frozen” areas and “knit them togeth­er,” which can cre­ate the atmos­phere for a broad­er polit­i­cal agree­ment.

    “This is cre­at­ing the atmos­phere from the bot­tom up,” one senior U.N. offi­cial said. “You don’t have to deal with the huge issues of the future of Assad. You can start deal­ing with a polit­i­cal arrange­ment in a place like Alep­po so you don’t have to use vio­lence. This would be a way to reduce the suf­fer­ing and the killing and destruc­tion in the short term, which only helps ISIS.”

    For­mer Ambas­sador to Syr­ia Robert Ford, who left his post in Feb­ru­ary out of frus­tra­tion with the admin­is­tra­tion’s pol­i­cy, said any reassess­ment of the strat­e­gy in Syr­ia must also recon­sid­er the coali­tion air cam­paign in Syr­ia, which is squeez­ing the belea­guered oppo­si­tion even fur­ther.

    “The admin­is­tra­tion needs to have an hon­est assess­ment of whether or not its mate­r­i­al assis­tance to the mod­er­ate oppo­si­tion in north­ern Syr­ia and the man­ner in which it has con­struct­ed airstrikes in east­ern Syr­ia has empow­ered or dis­em­pow­ered the same mod­er­ate oppo­si­tion upon which it will it will depend to con­tain the Islam­ic state in Syr­ia as well as play a vital role in achiev­ing an even­tu­al­ly polit­i­cal solu­tion in Syr­ia,” Ford said.

    “The air cam­paign so far has infu­ri­at­ed the Syr­i­ans fight­ing the regime. For the first time since the Syr­i­an upris­ing start­ed in 2011 they are burn­ing Amer­i­can flags because they think we are help­ing the regime instead of help­ing them.”

    CNN’s Jim Acos­ta and Leslie Bentz con­tributed to this report.

    Posted by Tiffany Sunderson | November 13, 2014, 4:38 pm

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