US diplomatic bid to defuse Syrian trigger for regional war
DEBKAfile Exclusive Report December 7, 2011, 12:17 PM (GMT+02:00)
Tuesday, Dec. 6, the US, France and Britain went into concerted diplomatic action to contain the Syrian crisis before it detonated a regional conflict and deteriorated into civil strife more horrendous and dangerous than the Iraq war. At the same time, Syria and its neighbors have sharply intensified their war preparations, fully expecting diplomacy to fail. debkafile’s military and Washington sources report their pessimism emanates from the conviction in the region that even if Bashar Assad and his family pretend to cooperate, they will fight to the last Syrian before they actually relax their grip on government.
The US and allies launched their bid for a negotiated end to the Syrian impasse launched last week. A number of Western agents infiltrated Syria from Lebanon and Jordan and entered the embattled cities of Homs, Hama and Idlib in the north, Deir al-Zour and Abu Kemal in the east and Daraa in the south. Their mission was to unite the deeply divided opposition factions and local rebels into a coherent front. The Assad regime chose to turn a blind eye.
Building on that groundwork, US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton called together Tuesday, Dec. 6, in Geneva the leaders of Syrian opposition groups operating in different European capitals, as well as Turkey, Lebanon and Jordan, and urged them to overcome their differences and back the US-Western peace initiative.
She explained, our sources disclosed, that the administration had resolved to up the diplomatic, economic and military pressure on Bashar Assad. President Barack Obama, Clinton announced, had personally instructed all parts of the American administration to starting referring to his regime as the “Assad gang.”
On Wednesday, Dec. 7, Assistant Secretary of State for Near Eastern Affairs Jeffrey Feltman was due in Beirut to set up a base of operations there after coordinating the American step with Israel's government and military leaders in Jerusalem and Tel Aviv.
As part of the drive for negotiations, Washington and Paris returned their ambassadors to Damascus after an absence of six weeks. Their task is to open direct channels to President Assad and sound him out on their proposal for him to accept an orderly transition of power in order to avert a regional war and save his country from plunging further in to civil strife.
The US and French Presidents Obama and Sarkozy and British Prime Minister David Cameron are of one mind about pursuing diplomacy for ending Assad's rule even though not the slightest sign of willingness to cooperate has come from the presidential palace in Damascus. Even the Arab League's proposal to send monitors into Syria met with conditions that were deemed tantamount to a rejection. ,
This initiative has had no effect on the hectic military preparations going forward in the region in anticipation of an imminent outbreak of armed hostilities.
The Syrian armed forces staged a large-scale war game Saturday and Sunday, Dec. 3-4, in the eastern part of the country.
Israel Defense Forces reciprocated by organizing an extensive exercise of the 51st Battalion of the Golan Brigade on the Golan border with Syria Tuesday, Dec. 6.
Both practiced tactics for repelling invading foreign forces and moving the battle into enemy territory.
The Syrian security and military leadership turned out in full to observe the Syrian armed forces' performance, while on the Israeli side, Defense Minister Ehud Barak and IDF Chief of Staff Lt. Gen. Benny Gantz
were in conspicuous attendance – as were TV cameras on both sides of the border.
The Israeli army spokesman uncharacteristically made a point of highlighting a visit Minister for Home Front Defense Matan Vilnai paid Tuesday to the Haifa oil refineries to inspect Israel's emergency fuel reserve. He announced that a battery of the home-made anti-missile Iron Dome may be posted at the refineries.
Tuesday also saw unusual activity in the Lebanese capital: Hizballah's Secretary-General Hassan Nasrallah emerged from his bunker after three and-a-half years to declare before a Shiite audience assembled for the Ashura ceremonies that Hizballah’s support for Bashar Assad is absolute.
In his capacity has leader of Iran's Lebanese Shiite surrogate, he pledged that Hizballah would provide the regime in Damascus with all the help it required.