The United States has started building the case for a military intervention in Syria, and Stratfor believes that the decision to intervene will be made soon. On Aug. 26 U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry started Washington’s public relations campaign for the intervention by describing videos of children suffering from the al Assad regime’s chemical weapons attack. The U.S. administration is aware that many Americans are opposed to another military engagement in the Middle East. By using terms like “undeniable” and “grounded in facts” and the citation of independent organizations such as Doctors Without Borders, the White House is looking to avoid using the same rationale that led to the Iraq invasion. At the same time, the United States is trying to build a large, capable and willing coalition to share the burden of the operation.
British Foreign Secretary William Hague said on Aug. 26 that Britain and its allies could intervene without the authority of the United Nations, adding that the United Kingdom shares the common position with the United States and France: “We have tried those other methods, the diplomatic methods, and we will continue to try those. But they have failed so far.”
Hague’s declaration is important since the countries most relevant to a military response include the United Kingdom, France, Turkey and Jordan. Turkey, Jordan and the United Kingdom (from Cyprus) have the most bases to contribute to a Syria operation. NATO members Turkey, the United Kingdom and France could play a potentially significant role in air and naval strikes. Considering the fact that Turkey and Jordan are vulnerable to retaliation from Iran and Syria, the upcoming days will be critical for the development of the diplomacy surrounding their participation.
The options – What is there to monitor these days?
Stratfor will monitor the way the United States defines the mission of the impending operation. The White House can opt for a largely symbolic, limited strike that relies on standoff weapons or it can opt for a more systematic military campaign, which would involve air and naval strikes. Therefore it is important to look at the military movements and the diplomatic commitments between the above-mentioned countries. Stratfor will also closely monitor Iran’s and Russia’s response.
Crippling al Assad’s ability to deploy chemical weapons would involve, within the systematic military campaign framework, considerably more resources and risk since the United States would need to strike a number of hardened facilities (possibly repeatedly). The United States would need to deploy:
- aerial refueling tankers
- intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance assets
- cruise missile-equipped ships to suppress a Syrian air defense campaign
- aircraft carriers to bolster aviation assets
- search and rescue helicopters
- special operations forces
The United States already has enough forces positioned to carry out a punitive series of air and missile strikes, but it will buy time in order to build international support and its allies’ defenses against the Syrian regime’s potential retaliation.
Military assets ready for deployment:
- four Burke class destroyers
- nuclear cruise missile submarine
- strategic bombers based in continental United States
- B-1 bombers from Al Udeid Air Base in Qatar
For a more detailed analytical assessment on the U.S. military options, you may read this report for free if you register your email address.