If Assad falls, will Iran try to govern Syria directly?

May 6, 2013

That’s the speculation of a retired Israeli general, on what would amount to annexation:

  • In mid-April, Hizbullah leader Hassan Nasrallah paid a secret visit to Tehran where he met with the top Iranian officials headed by Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei and Gen. Qasem Suleimani, the commander of the Quds Force of the Revolutionary Guard Corps. Suleimani prepared an operational plan named after him based upon the establishment of a 150,000-man force for Syria, the majority of whom will come from Iran, Iraq, and a smaller number from Hizbullah and the Gulf states.
  • Suleimani’s involvement was significant. He has been the spearhead of Iranian military activism in the Middle East. In January 2012, he declared that the Islamic Republic controlled “one way or another” Iraq and South Lebanon. Even before recent events in Syria, observers in the Arab world have been warning for years about growing evidence of “Iranian expansionism.”
  • An important expression of Syria’s centrality in Iranian strategy was voiced by Mehdi Taaib, who heads Khamenei’s think tank. He recently stated that “Syria is the 35th district of Iran and it has greater strategic importance for Iran than Khuzestan [an Arab-populated district inside Iran].” Significantly, Taaib was drawing a comparison between Syria and a district that is under full Iranian sovereignty.
  • Tehran has had political ambitions with respect to Syria for years and has indeed invested huge resources in making Syria a Shiite state. The Syrian regime let Iranian missionaries work freely to strengthen the Shiite faith in Damascus and the cities of the Alawite coast, as well as the smaller towns and villages. In both urban and rural parts of Syria, Sunnis and others who adopted the Shiite faith received privileges and preferential treatment in the disbursement of Iranian aid money.
  • Iran is also recruiting Shiite forces in Iraq for the warfare in Syria. These are organized in a sister framework of Lebanese Hizbullah. Known as the League of the Righteous People and Kateeb Hizbullah, its mission is to defend the Shiite centers in Damascus. It is likely that Tehran will make every effort to recruit additional Shiite elements from Iraq, the Persian Gulf, and even from Pakistan.

Click through for much more.

I’ve said before that Syria is Iran’s lynchpin on the Western side of the Fertile Crescent, without which the position of its proxy army in Lebanon, Hizbullah, becomes almost untenable, and one of the arguments for Western intervention in Syria has been that it would gravely weaken Iran’s influence in the region. So, it’s at least plausible.

But, would they? It would truly be a desperate act, greatly increasing the danger in the area. It’s hard to imagine Israel tolerating what in essence would be a Persian satrapy on its border, when said “Persian Empire” has promised to rain nuclear fire on Israel.

And could they? The effort to control Syria, even with remnants of the Syrian Army and Hizbullah to help, would be a tremendous drain on Iranian resources of manpower and wealth, and it would certainly mean ratcheting up the pressure on Iraq, passage through whose territory Iran would need to resupply its forces. I have trouble believing they could maintain such a long-distance operation.

I’ve no idea how reliable General Shapira’s analysis is, but dictatorships have done crazier things in the past.

via Jews for Sarah and Michael Ledeen, who has a good article on the larger war.

Confirmed: #Benghazi consulate denied military help, administration cover up collapsing

May 6, 2013
US Consulate, Benghazi

“No authority”

Via Sharyl Attkisson/CBS News, this is just disgusting:

The deputy of slain U.S. Ambassador Christopher Stevens has told congressional investigators that a team of Special Forces prepared to fly from Tripoli to Benghazi during the Sept. 11, 2012 attacks was forbidden from doing so by U.S. Special Operations Command South Africa.

The account from Gregory Hicks is in stark contrast to assertions from the Obama administration, which insisted that nobody was ever told to stand down and that all available resources were utilized. Hicks gave private testimony to congressional investigators last month in advance of his upcoming appearance at a congressional hearing Wednesday.

According to excerpts released Monday, Hicks told investigators that SOCAFRICA commander Lt. Col. Gibson and his team were on their way to board a C-130 from Tripoli for Benghazi prior to an attack on a second U.S. compound “when [Col. Gibson] got a phone call from SOCAFRICA which said, ‘you can’t go now, you don’t have the authority to go now.’ And so they missed the flight … They were told not to board the flight, so they missed it.”

No assistance arrived from the U.S. military outside of Libya during the hours that Americans were under attack or trapped inside compounds by hostile forces armed with rocket-propelled grenades, mortars and AK-47 rifles.

The fact that a relief team was available in Libya and was ready to go is important, if one bears in mind the question of cross-border authority. That means presidential authorization wasn’t necessary: the Special Ops guys were ready to board the plane and, as Hicks states later in the article in a transcript of his testimony to congressional investigators, the Libyan government wanted us to intervene:

Q: So what would have been the risk of — do you think it would have been risky for us to send someone, do you think it would have been counterproductive for us to send a fighter pilot plane over Benghazi without that permission?

A: We would have certainly wanted to obtain that permission. I believe we would have gotten it if we had asked. I believe that the Libyans were hoping that we were going to come bail them out of this mess. And, you know, they were as surprised as we were that American — the military forces that did arrive only arrived on the evening of September 12. Yeah.

Remember, Hicks was the Deputy Chief of Mission, our “Number Two” at the embassy after the Ambassador. With Ambassador Stevens dead, he was in charge. He was in a position to know the Libyan government very well and, by his words, it looks like the Libyans would have been happy to green-light almost anything we wanted to do.

But someone in no uncertain terms told that relief team to stand down. Just who gave that order and why the administration lied about it are questions the House Oversight Committee should focus on this upcoming Wednesday.

There are other questions regarding available military aid that night: Hick asserts that, had we flown a couple of fighter jets over Benghazi, we would have scared the jihadis off:

“I believe if we had been able to scramble a fighter or aircraft or two over Benghazi as quickly as possible after the attack commenced, I believe there would not have been a mortar attack on the annex in the morning because I believe the Libyans would have split. They would have been scared to death that we would have gotten a laser on them and killed them,” Hicks testified. Two Americans died in the morning mortar attack.

Attkisson points out that the Souda Bay Naval Air Station in Crete is only an hour away, while an earlier CBS article reported on available aid at Sigonella, Sicily, also an hour or so away. Yet, in an article at The Daily Beast, Eli Lake reports that Hicks says he was told the nearest fighter cover was at Aviano, Italy, too far away to help. That latter backs up then-Defense Secretary Panetta’s assertion to a Senate committee that no air assets would have been available quickly enough. But… no fighter assets at two nearby airbases, when we have a consulate that’s sitting in the middle of a jihadi recruiting ground? Forgive me if I’m skeptical, but, when I read in the same article…

[Joint Chiefs Chairman General Martin] Dempsey said he could not have gotten troops on the ground within 13 to 15 hours.

Panetta was firm throughout his testimony that there were no “undue delays” in decision making and there was no denial of support from Washington or from the military combatant commanders when the attack happened.

…and compare it to the testimony of the Deputy Chief of Mission who was there on the ground screaming for help with a team of Special Forces ready and anxious to go, well, forgive me if I think we’re being shoveled a load of horse manure.

In fact it’s plain to everyone, even Bob Schieffer (h/t The Jawa Report), that this administration has been lying through its teeth since the day this attack took place. They deliberately altered talking points (1) based on orders from “on high,” blaming a video no one had ever seen and vilifying the poor schmuck videographer, denying the attack had anything to do with al Qaeda, and then, when it couldn’t be denied any longer, hiding behind a whitewash of an “accountability report” that is itself now being investigated.

All this coverup and all these lies, and, near as anyone can figure out, it was all meant to protect Obama’s reelection and Hillary Clinton’s chances to succeed him.

Somewhere Richard Nixon nods in understanding.

Wednesday should be fascinating.

RELATED: The Weekly Standard with more on the stand-down order. Background on Gregory Hicks. The complete Benghazi timeline in spreadsheet format. Another whistle-blower reveals Secretary Clinton’s efforts to go around her department’s own counterterrorism bureau the night of Benghazi. Who the heck is Ben Rhodes, and why is a failed fiction writer making US national security decisions? (h/t Rick Moran)

(1) If you read nothing else, read that article. It’s devastating.

(Crossposted at Sister Toldjah)