President Barack Obama has decided on an American military operation in Syria, but is held back by a fierce falling-out over goals with Saudi Arabia, the UAE and Kuwait, according to DEBKA Weekly's exclusive military and intelligence sources.
Those sources reveal eight features of the planned intervention:
1. US, British, French, Saudi and the United Arab Emirates will establish a no-fly zone over central and southern Syria, stretching from the Jordanian-Israeli borders up to and including Damascus.
2. A 40-kilometer deep military buffer zone will be drawn from the Jordanian-Israeli borders up to the southern and western outskirts of Damascus. The military units controlling this zone will hold the entire area of the capital within range of their artillery.
3. Those units would consist of Syrian rebel special forces and not include US troops. President Obama has determined not to allow American boots to step on Syrian soil.
4. Those rebel forces will be armed and trained in Jordan by US military instructors. US officers will oversee their entry into Syria and run their operations from Jordan.
5. For this purpose, the US Army has just finished building in the Hashemite Kingdom a huge training camp and logistical system, DEBKA Weekly's military sources report. All the weapons and equipment required to train and arm the rebel force are already stacked there.
Saudis suspect US plans to break Syria down into mini-states
6. The US air force units for imposing the no-fly zone over Syria are already in position at Middle East locations and ready to go at 36 hours’ notice.
7. A Druze unit trained by US military instructors will be a key component of the special rebel force. It was put up by the million-strong community populating 120 villages and towns in the Jabal al-Druze area of southern Syria, overlooking the Syrian-Jordanian-Iraqi border triangle.
8. US forces deployed in the Middle East, especially in Jordan and Israel, are on the ready for possible reprisals should they be ordered by Syrian President Bashar Assad in retaliation for the no-fly and buffer zones.
This plan was scheduled to go into effect in the coming days. It was been held back by fierce objections from Riyadh, Abu Dhabi and Kuwait.
According to DEBKA Weekly's sources in the Gulf, their rulers suspect Washington of rejecting plans for preserving Syria as a united nation under Sunni rule in favor of breaking the country up into mini-states – Kurds in the north, Alawites in the West, a Sunni-ruled entity in the central-south with control over Damascus, and a Druze state in the southeast.
For Riyadh, this means a repeat of the nightmarish master plan to which President George Bush condemned Iraq – even though the Obama administration does not admit this intention.
Saudi signals more than one iron in the fire
The Emirates find alarming confirmation of this suspicion in Turkey’s consent for the first time to cooperate with Kurdish leaders and provide Syrian Kurds with a military and air shield for setting up their own autonomous state in northern Syria. (See the next item in this issue.)
They believe Ankara will be acting with the full knowledge of the Obama administration, in line with its plan to partition Syria into several fragments.
The Saudi rulers accordingly informed Washington that they would not stand for the Iraqi disaster being revisited in Syria. They are demanding a no fly zone to be imposed in northern Syria as well as the south to cover the Turkish border. Indeed Riyadh is stipulating the closure of most of Syrian air space as a condition for its cooperation.
Refusing to bow to Saudi, UAE and Kuwaiti demands, President Obama has suspended all US military plans for intervention in Syria until their dispute is resolved.
The sudden trip to Moscow made by the head of the Saudi intelligence service, Prince Bandar bin Sultan on Wednesday July 3, and his meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin, took Washington by surprise.
In the absence of details about their conversation, US officials can only speculate that Riyadh was signaling that it has more than one iron in the fire and could operate in harness with Russia just as well as with America.