The war scenario drawn up for the US-Israeli-Jordanian-Turkish invasion of Syria addresses a single objective: liquidating Syria’s chemical arsenals. There is no reference to the overthrow of President Bashar Assad and his regime. (See the second article in this issue)
The war plan proposed by US Navy Adm. James G. Stavridis, Commander of the US European Command and NATO's Supreme Allied Commander in Europe, would rectify this omission.
In this respect, it departs significantly from the White House-Pentagon blueprint which President Barack Obama cleared with America’s Israeli, Jordanian and Turkish allies in the region during his Middle East visit last week.
The second major difference from the American perspective is that, whereas the plan for neutralizing the Syrian chemical and biological threat calls for direct US military intervention in Syria, the Stavridis Plan would focus on ousting Assad from power – without putting American boots on Syrian soil.
This plan has acquired a strong lobbyist in Sen. John McCain-R. Ariz. who has been urging more aggressive US action in Syria, including US air attacks, ”to stop the killing in Syria and force Bashar Assad out of power.”
Last week, on Tuesday, March 19, the admiral, due to retire soon as NATO commander, testified before the Senate Armed Services Committee that a number of NATO nations were looking at various military operations for breaking the two-year Syrian deadlock and assisting opposition forces, including imposing a no-fly zone, providing military assistance to the rebels and arms embargoes.
A more aggressive US posture urged
A more proactive posture by the US and its allies could help break the stalemate in Syria and bring the regime down, in the view of Adm. Stavridis.
“We are prepared if called upon to be engaged as we were in Libya," he said.
During an exchange with Sen. McCain, Stavridis explained that the NATO Patriot missiles now deployed in Turkey ostensibly for the sake of defending Turkish airspace have the capability also to attack the Syrian air force in that country's air space and that any such NATO operation would be a ''powerful disincentive'' for its pilots.
Within individual member countries, he continued, "There's a great deal of discussion" about lethal support to Syria, no-fly zones, arms embargoes and more, which “have not yet come into NATO as an overall NATO-type approach."
DEBKA-Net-Weekly's military and Washington sources say that in the parts of his testimony that were not made public – and especially in private conversations with high-ranking administration officials such as US Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel – Stavridis provided the following high points for his Plan B:
1. Most of the NATO forces for invading Syria would come from the Turkish military. They would be assisted by small special ground contingents from Britain, France, Holland, Poland and the Czech Republic. American troops would not be there.
2. US back-up would come in the form of missile strikes launched from the sea and from bases in Europe. US air force units based in Turkey would provide air cover for the Turkish and European units invading Syria from Turkey.
Push Assad’s forces into Damascus – and smash them
3. Israeli, Jordanian and Syrian rebel special forces, trained by US instructors in tactics for seizing Syrian chemical and biological arsenals, would meanwhile go into action. They would also engage the Syrian army units loyal to Assad which block the rebel advance on Damascus.
4. The NATO-led war effort would focus on a major push to force pro-Assad forces into retreating from northern Syria and unroll them like a carpet toward the south and central Syria, fetching up in Damascus.
5. This maneuver would trap Assad, the heads of his regime and his military commanders in one place, the capital, and place them under siege.
6. At that point, the invading arms would launch an all-out offensive to capture the city and finally remove Bashar Assad from power.
This Stavridis plan has gathered substantial support in Washington and NATO. Sections of it may even be grafted onto the basic Obama administration’s assault plan for Syria.
(See the next item on postulated repercussions)