The UK , France and Israel showed signs this week of lining up for military action with regard to Syria and Iran as soon as America’s presidential election was out of the way Tuesday, Nov. 6, debkafile’s military sources report. Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu spent two days (Oct. 31-Nov. 1) talking to President Francois Holland. As the Defense Minister Ehud Barak landed in London the next day, Prime Minister David Cameron was reported on standby for the dispatch of RAF fighter-bombers to the Persian Gulf.
Barak flew to London after US Gen. Martin Dempsey, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, had spent several days in Israel, no doubt tying up the last ends of US-Israeli cooperation for potential action.
Although America’s top military chief can’t tell who will be his next commander-in-chief – Barack Obama for another four years or the Republican Mitt Romney – he is duty-bound to have US forces in the Middle East ready for any contingency.
Although none has admitted as much, all the parties to these consultations did their best this week to chart alternative scenarios applicable to either winner. The consensus was that whether it is Obama or Romney, the two flaming Middle East crises can no longer remain subject to the policy immobility dictated by the presidential campaign – certainly not the Syrian bloodbath.
But the presence of thousands of Iranian and Hizballah combatants fighting for Bashar Assad on the battlefields of Syria oblige Western policy architects to reckon with reactions from Tehran and its Lebanese surrogate, HIzballah, as well as their Palestinian allies in the Gaza Strip.
debkafile’s military and intelligence sources report that all the US, British and French forces that might be needed for military action are already in place in the Middle East and the Persian Gulf, while Israel’s Defense Forces are on standby. They are awaiting orders to go forward after first being told which way to jump – Syria or Iran.
US strength – air, naval and strike ground units – are concentrated on the Red Sea Socotra Island and Oman's Masirah Island in the Persian Gulf. Since mid-October, Washington has maintained supplementary special operations and anti-air units in Turkey, Jordan and Israel.
Britain and France have massed naval, air and special operations forces in the big naval base of Port Zayed and the Al Dhafra air facility – both in the United Arab Emirates. A French fighter-bomber squadron is also parked at the Tabuk air base in Saudi Arabia.
Military strategists regard the initial phases of the Iran-Israeli confrontation as already being in motion, manifested by an Iranian stealth drone which overflew Israel on Oct. 6 and Israel’s raid on Oct. 24 of the Sudanese factory manufacturing and storing Iranian missiles. They are predicting that such shadow-sparring exercises between Tehran and Jerusalem may evolve next month into more direct clashes between Israel, Iran and Hizballah – more probably isolated incidents related to Iran’s Middle East deployments, especially in Syria and Lebanon, rather than a full-blown eruption of hostilities all at once.
Meanwhile, after both Obama and Romney voiced disapproval of direct US military involvement in Syria, Washington embarked on quiet moves for a diplomatic accomodation.
During a recent round table in Ankara, Admiral James Winnfeld, Vice-Chairman of the U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff, announced that Washington would reveal its intentions toward Syria once the 6 November presidential elections were over. But he then announced to his Turkish counterparts that a peace plan had already been negotiated with Moscow for keeping Assad in power and that the UN Security Council would not authorize the creation of buffer zones on which Ankara had pinned its plans for Syria. Instead, Herve Ladsous, the UN Assistant Secretary General for Peacekeeping Operations, announced that he was studying the possible deployment of peacekeepers ("blue helmets") in Syria.
This new situation comes at the expense of Saudi Arabia, France, Qatar and Turkey – all of whom back the Syrian revolt and demand regime change in Damascus. This anti-Assad coalition is now split between those demanding a compromise solution and those trying to sabotage the process underway between Washington and Moscow.
But no one has meanwhile heard from Assad or Tehran.
It is important to remember that Assad does not sit in Vladimir Putin’s pocket and may veto the project; so too might Tehran.