Al Qaeda Rebels Kill Free Syrian Army Commander

Assassination triggers third front in Syrian civil war

A key commander of the U.S.-backed Free Syrian Army was killed recently by Syria’s al Qaeda rebels, a sign the opposition to the Bashar al-Assad regime is fracturing and Islamist rebels are on the rise.

Kamal Hamami, the FSA commander, was killed as he went to a meeting of al Qaeda-backed rebels to discuss joint operations against the Syrian army, a U.S. official said, confirming Middle East press reports. Continue reading

Saudis explore Iranian options for Syria & Lebanon in talks with Iran’s Salehi

Saudi Arabia has decided to explore dialogue with its great regional rival Iran for ending the Syrian conflict and assuring Lebanon’s political future, debkafile’s Gulf sources report. They have given up on US policy for Syria in view of Russian and Iranian unbending support for Bashar Assad; his battlefield gains aided by Hizballah and Iranian Bassij forces; and Turkey’s inaction after Saturday’s terrorist bombings in the town of Reyhanli near the Syrian border which caused 46 deaths. Continue reading

US, UK, French elite units on standby for seizing Syrian chemical weapons

US C130 transports stand ready at Middle East air bases to fly into Syria US elite units especially trained in combat against chemical and biological weapons and tactics for securing their arsenals. Western intelligence sources reported Thursday, Aug. 23 that those units are on standby at bases in Israel and Jordan. Their assignments are to engage Syrian troops attempting to move those unconventional weapons systems to battle fronts or Hizballah and to prevent them falling into the hands of radical Islamic rebel fighters, especially Al Qaeda.

Those elite units have been issued with special equipment for chemical and biological warfare including anti-contamination suits. The transports are also fitted with purification equipment for operating in polluted terrain.

Also on standby for stealthy raids into Syria are British special operations forces in Cyprus and French units trained in unconventional warfare in Jordan. Thursday morning, President Obama talked by phone to British Prime Minister David Cameron and French President Francois Hollande to wrap up the details of their combined operation in Syria, effectively the onset of direct Western intervention in the Syrian conflict.

Some – though not all – of the targeted stockpiles of shells and missile warheads are located around centers of the fiercest fighting in Syria’s civil war such as Aleppo in the north.  They may be inadequately guarded since the Syrian ruler may have been forced to throw the units securing them into battle against rebel forces.

Important stress was laid by Obama in his comments Monday on the fact that he had not ordered US military engagement in Syria “at this point.”  In other words, beyond that point, he was free to change that order. debkafile’s military sources report that direct American military involvement in the Syrian conflict has to all intents and purposes begun and looks like expanding in the coming days.

This is a sharp reversal of the military situation in the Middle East. It could lead to all-out warfare exploding in Syria possibly involving Hizballah ahead of a strike against Iran’s nuclear weapons, although this strike could unfold from the Syrian campaign – during its course or at its conclusion.

Washington is hoping that its direct action in Syria, aside from grappling with the unconventional warfare menace looming over the region, may persuade Tehran to cave into American demands for halting uranium enrichment and turn it aside from its race for a nuclear weapon in order to save itself from attack.

Full article: US, UK, French elite units on standby for seizing Syrian chemical weapons (DEBKAfile)

Merkel Backs Two-Speed Europe With Core Euro in Poke at Cameron

As has been discussed in previous posts, Europe is looking like it’s heading to a two tier system economically and politically. Top tier nations will be seperated into a collective of 10 or so while the remaining will reside within a periphery system, most likely for providing cheap labor. What’s also seems will happen is the creation of a two tier currency system to go along with the two tier economy. For example we could see a Euro A class and a Euro B class form of currency. Another future possibility is the return of the Deutschmark with the core nations formally adopting it while the periphery nations holding on to the Euro. It would likely be the best option with the least damage should Europe continue pushing for further integration. Meanwhile, resistance from Great Britain indicates not all are willing to subjugate themselves to Brussels/Germany. In fact, British Prime Minister Cameron suggests this is an opportunity for the unwilling to go back to the way they were before the EU formed: Sovereign nations.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel said that she supports a two-speed European Union, with a core group in the euro pressing ahead with deeper integration and the U.K. among the others relegated to Europe’s margins. Merkel’s comments, made as she prepares to host British Prime Minister David Cameron in Berlin today, underscore her differences with the U.K. leader, who is pressing for more aggressive action by euro countries to counter the financial crisis roiling the 17-nation currency zone. “Those in a monetary union will have to move closer together,” Merkel said in an interview with ARD television broadcast today. “We have to be open. We always have to make it possible for everyone” to join. “But we must not stop because one or the other don’t want to come along just yet.” … “We need more Europe, we need not only a monetary union, but we also need a so-called fiscal union, in other words more joint budget policy,” Merkel said. “And we need most of all a political union, that means we need to gradually give competencies to Europe and give Europe control.” Ceding more control to Brussels is anathema to many lawmakers in Cameron’s Conservative Party, more than a quarter of whom defied the government in October and voted in favor of a referendum on continuing British membership of the EU. Cameron said the following month that the euro crisis offered an opportunity for powers to “ebb back” from Europe to nation states. “We should look skeptically at grand plans and utopian visions,” Cameron said then. “We’ve a right to ask what the European Union should and shouldn’t do.” Merkel, in her television interview, said that EU leaders at a summit later this month will discuss a plan to transform the EU into a political union. Still, a breakthrough can’t be achieved at just one summit, she said. “The economic and political division between the Anglo- Saxon world and the ‘Germano-sphere’ is increasing,” Fredrik Erixon, head of the European Centre for International Political Economy in Brussels, said in a telephone interview.

Full article: Merkel Backs Two-Speed Europe With Core Euro in Poke at Cameron (Bloomberg)