US envoy Ford’s secret crossing into Syria. Turkey’s “chemical dossier” for Obama

The Obama administration’s slowcoach policy on Syria has given Iran and Hizballah unfettered access for military intervention in the Syrian civil war, magnifying its lethality and heightening the prospects of its spilling over into Israel, Turkey and Jordan, say debkafile’s Middle East analysts. 

Ahead now is the influx of highly advanced weapons into the already excessively violent conflict. Thursday, May 9, US Secretary of State John Kerry warned that the transfer of advanced missile defense systems from Russia to Syria would be a “destabilizing factor for Israel’s security.”

Speaking to reporters in Rome, he was referring to Moscow’s imminent sale of S-300 air defense missiles to the Assad regime, which debkafile revealed Tuesday, May 7, President Vladimir Putin had disclosed in his tough conversation with Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu about Israel’s air strikes on Damascus.
In his comments, Kerry said nothing about how the US intended to stop the sale or respond to the deployment in Syria of weapons that would not only affect Israel’s security but lock the sky against US air action against Syria and the imposition of a no-fly zone.
debkafile’s sources estimate that the Syrian conflict and its repercussions, already horrendous, will go from bad to worse when it transpires – inevitably – that the Obama administration has no partner for its loudly hailed accord with Moscow, obtained by Kerry on May 7, for an international peace conference on the conflict.
Moscow has not joined the celebration. In fact, the prospects of this event started fading the moment Secretary Kerry declared in Rome, two days after his talks in Moscow, that “Bashar al-Assad cannot be part of a transitional government that would try to lead the country out of its civil war.”

This brought the rift to the fore, because Moscow will on no account countenance the exclusion of Assad’s representatives from any international forum or transitional government, whereas Washington keeps on insisting that Assad must go as the precondition for any deal to settle the conflict.

Washington, the West and Israel have been progressively losing bargaining chips in the weeks since a coalition of Syrian, Hizballah and Iranian Bassij troops began turning the tide of war against the rebels, pushing them out of one area after another which they had captured, including parts of the main cities of Damascus and Aleppo.   
This pro-Assad military alliance and its gains have been largely ignored by Western media.
Another complication is the emergence of the pro-Al Qaeda Jabhat al-Nusra as the most dedicated and best trained and armed of all the Syrian rebel militias fighting Assad. Although the US and Russia share an interest in liquidating this Islamist front and rooting al Qaeda’s followers out of Syria, no assent on this appears to be in the offing.
US Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel was mobilized meanwhile to fend off the pressure for US military intervention in Syria coming from Israel, Turkey and the Gulf emirates. Addressing the Washington Institute for Near East Policy Thursday, Hagel stressed the “unprecedented levels in recent years” of US defense cooperation with Israel and US reliance on “strong partnerships with other regional countries from Jordan and Egypt to Saudi Arabia and the UAE.”

He did not however disclose if and when the US might take action to stop the bloodshed in Syria or curb Iran’s drive for a nuclear bomb.
The defense secretary likewise avoided spelling out how the US would be able to act militarily in a Middle East emergency while at the same time cutting deeply into its military resources. He assured his listeners that “US strategy sees the Middle East as critical to its security interests, and a robust presence would remain,” adding, “We have made a determined effort to position high-end air, missile defense, and naval assets to deter Iranian aggression and respond to other contingencies.”

His audience was well-informed enough to question this assertion at a time that US Air Force squadrons in Europe were being dismantled and returning home to be grounded.

While Hagel was speaking, US Ambassador to Syria Robert Ford quietly crossed into northern Syria from Turkey for secret meetings with leaders of rebel groups fighting in Aleppo and Idlib – a mission assigned him by Secretary Kerry. He was only there for a few hours before crossing back to Turkey.
Ambassador Ford left Damascus in February 2012 when the embassy suspended operations in a capital beset by full-blown civil war.

debkafiles sources report his mission in meeting Syrian rebel leaders was threefold:

1. A demonstration that the Obama administration had no qualms about sending emissaries into embattled Syria and conveying direct US assistance to rebel forces.
2. A message to Moscow that if it persisted in sending Syria S-300 interceptor missile systems, that would jeopardize Israeli air force flights over Syria, Lebanon and even northern Israel, the United States would send the rebels weapons for knocking out Syrian air force operations and so eliminate the Assad’s military edge against the rebels.
3. Turkey was used for the crossing to hold off Ankara’s push for American military intervention in Syria – even on a limited scale.
Turkish Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan, who is scheduled to meet the US President at the White House on May 16, told an NBC TV interviewer Thursday: President Barack Obama’s red line had been crossed a long time ago as it was clear that the Syrian government used chemical weapons.”
The dossier Erdogan is preparing for Obama is based on the evidence of Turkish physicians who treated rebel casualties and diagnosed them as suffering from the effects of poison chemicals. Nonetheless, he has as little chance of being heeded by the US president as was Israel when it presented its findings on the use of chemical weapons in Syria last month.
In view of the US administration’s head in the sand and the spreading of a strong Russian umbrella for Bashar Assad over to his Lebanese Hizballah ally as well, Hassan Nasrallah was not surprisingly cockier than ever when he declared in a speech Thursday night that Syrian territory rather than Lebanon would henceforth be the stage for the combined Syrian-Iranian-Hizballah “resistance” front against Israel.
Secretary Kerry had a point when he noted that the Syrian war was on the point of spilling over into Israel, Lebanon, Jordan and Turkey.

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