Sunday, December 29, 2013

War Watch December 29 , 2013 - Syria , Iran , Afghanistan and Iraq in focus !

Syria......



Syrian rebels get arms and advice through secret command centre in Amman

Istanbul // A secret operations command centre in Jordan, staffed by western and Arab military officials, has given vital support to rebels fighting on Syria’s southern front, providing them with weapons and tactical advice on attacking regime targets.
Rebel fighters and opposition members say the command centre, based in an intelligence headquarters building in Amman, channels vehicles, sniper rifles, mortars, heavy machine guns, small arms and ammunition to Free Syrian Army units – although it has stopped short of giving them much coveted anti-aircraft and anti-tank missiles.
Officials in Amman denied the command centre exists. “We dismiss these allegations. Jordan is not a host or part of any cooperations against Syria. Jordan’s interest is to see a stable and secure Syria, one that is able to keep its problems inside its borders,” said Mohammad Al Momani, minister of media affairs.
“We will not do anything that will feed violence in Syria,” he said.
But Syrian opposition figures familiar with rebel operations in Deraa, about 75 kilometres north of Amman, said Jordan hosted the command centre and had tasked senior Jordanian intelligence officials to work with western and Arab states in helping rebels to plan missions and get munitions and fighters across the border.
The existence of a weapons bridge from Jordan to rebels inside Syria has been a poorly guarded secret since a New York Times expose in March, but few details of its workings have been revealed.
However, according to opposition figures, the command centre – known as “the operations room” – is a well-run operation staffed by high-ranking military officials from 14 countries, including the US, European nations and Arabian Gulf states, the latter providing the bulk of materiel and financial support to rebel factions.
The command centre gets advance notice from the FSA of upcoming military assaults against forces loyal to Bashar Al Assad, Syria’s president, and only hands over weapons if officials at the centre approve of the attacks.
“When we want to make an operation, we arrange for one of our men to have an informal meeting with a military liaison officer from the operations room and they meet up, in a hotel or somewhere in Amman, and talk through the plan,” said an FSA officer involved in the system.
“If the liaison officer likes our idea, he refers it to a full meeting of the operations room and a few days later we go there and make a formal presentation of the plan,” the FSA official said.
Then, western and Arab military advisers at the command centre make adjustments to tactics and help determine when and how the operation should go ahead.
They also allocate weapons needed for the attack and, with the plan approved, set up supplies to ensure the FSA has them.
“We run through all the numbers, what we need in terms of men and weapons, and when we’ll get it. It’s all detailed, it’s done in a very exact way,” the FSA official said.
Islamist factions outside of the FSA, including groups aligned to Al Qaeda, are not involved with the operations room and do not directly receive weapons or military advice.
Not all FSA operations in Deraa are approved by the command centre. Sometimes FSA units do not even approach it for support, preferring to carry out operations alone using whatever resources they have.
If they do not have the weapons they need, or if an attack is more complicated to plan, FSA officers will seek support from the command centre.
“We cooperate with one another, they do not control us and we don’t always do as they tell us. It’s more like they give us advice and sometimes we take it and sometimes we don’t,” said another FSA commander involved in the system.
Yet another FSA officer with knowledge of rebel operations in Deraa said units had been supplied with modern Austrian-made rifles – fitted with transparent ammunition magazines – tens of thousands of rounds of ammunition for heavy calibre machine guns, rocket-propelled grenades and mortar-firing tubes and bombs.

In the past two months, FSA units have also been receiving vehicles, equipped with heavy machine guns mounted on the rear bed, and rebel solders have been sent to Saudi Arabia for training, FSA officers said.

“There were 80 fighters sent to Saudi last month for training in military
communications. In total there have been a few hundred getting training. They come back fully equipped – each with a personal weapon, a pickup lorry for every squad of five men, a heavy machine gun for each squad, plus clothing, boots and that kind of thing,” said an FSA commander.

“There was training before but it is getting better now,” he said
A western diplomat based in the Middle East said the US and European countries were not supplying munitions to rebels but did have liaison officers in regular contact with the FSA.

“Saudi and Qatari-supplied weapons are going across the border from Jordan but not going in the sort of volume that will change the balance of power on the ground.

“Short of an all-out effort involving the US supplying weapons, it will not be enough to topple Assad and it doesn’t come close to offsetting the military support Assad is getting from the Russians,” the diplomat said.
FSA units in Deraa said the international backing came with too many restrictions and was not sufficient to let them make major advances.

“In the summer there was a meeting with the operations room and all of the FSA units in Deraa and we were told very clearly what the rules are. They [the command centre] said we are not to attack major regime military installations without approval, that we are only to engage in hit-and-run operations and should not try to hold territory because the regime’s air power means it can hit us if we do,” said an FSA fighter briefed on the talks.

FSA units also had to pledge they would not transfer weapons to militant Islamist groups, including Jabhat Al Nusra, which has a small but powerful presence on Syria’s southern front.

“The command centre has been good for us, it has helped a lot, but we’d like more commitment from them. They don’t really share intelligence information with us, they don’t give us enough weapons to do the job,” said an FSA commander.

“We all think they want to keep Assad stronger than us, they want to keep a balance – we get enough to keep going but not to win,” he said.

The Assad regime has accused Jordan of hosting rebels and helping to prepare an army for an assault on Damascus.

FSA factions in Deraa said that the majority of their supplies – sometimes as much as 80 per cent – was channelled to them via the command centre. But they also described an often complex supply chain, frequently opaque even to those involved, with intelligence agents, private donors and shadowy proxy organisations all moving munitions around.

“It gets very complicated, everyone lies to each other, everyone is trying to control everyone else,” said an FSA commander.





Afghanistan.......


http://www.washingtonpost.com/world/national-security/afghanistan-gains-will-be-lost-quickly-after-drawdown-us-intelligence-estimate-warns/2013/12/28/ac609f90-6f32-11e3-aecc-85cb037b7236_story.html





A new American intelligence assessment on the Afghan war predicts that the gains the United States and its allies have made during the past three years are likely to have been significantly eroded by 2017, even if Washington leaves behind a few thousand troops and continues bankrolling the impoverished nation, according to officials familiar with the report.
The National Intelligence Estimate, which includes input from the country’s 16 intelligence agencies, predicts that the Taliban and other power brokers will become increasingly influential as the United States winds down its longest war in history, according to officials who have read the classified report or received briefings on its conclusions. The grim outlook is fueling a policy debate inside the Obama administration about the steps it should take over the next year as the U.S. military draws down its remaining troops.

The report predicts that Afghanistan would likely descend into chaos quickly if Washington and Kabul don’t sign a security pact that would keep an international military contingent there beyond 2014 — a precondition for the delivery of billions of dollars in aid that the United States and its allies have pledged to spend in Afghanistan over the coming years.
“In the absence of a continuing presence and continuing financial support,” the intelligence assessment “suggests the situation would deteriorate very rapidly,” said one U.S. official familiar with the report.
That conclusion is widely shared among U.S. officials working on Afghanistan, said the official, who was among five people familiar with the report who agreed to speak on the condition of anonymity to discuss the assessment.
Some officials have taken umbrage at the underlying pessimism in the report, arguing that it does not adequately reflect how strong Afghanistan’s security forces have become. One American official, who described the NIE as “more dark” than past intelligence assessments on the war, said there are too many uncertainties to make an educated prediction on how the conflict will unfold between now and 2017, chief among them the outcome of next year’s presidential election.
“I think what we’re going to see is a recalibration of political power, territory and that kind of thing,” said one U.S. official who felt the assessment was unfairly negative. “It’s not going to be an inevitable rise of the Taliban.”
A senior administration official said that the intelligence community has long underestimated Afghanistan’s security forces.
“An assessment that says things are going to be gloomy no matter what you do, that you’re just delaying the inevitable, that’s just a view,” said the official. “I would not think it would be the determining view.”
U.S. intelligence analysts did not provide a detailed mapping of areas they believe are likely to become controlled by specific groups or warlords in coming years, said one of the officials. But the analysts anticipate that the central government in Kabul is all but certain to become increasingly irrelevant as it loses “purchase” over parts of the country, the official said.
Some have interpreted the intelligence assessment as an implicit indictment of the 2009 troop surge, which President Obama authorized under heavy pressure from the U.S. military in a bid to strengthen Afghan institutions and weaken the insurgency. The senior administration official said the surge enabled the development of a credible and increasingly proficient Afghan army and made it unlikely that al-Qaeda could reestablish a foothold in the country where the Sept. 11 attacks were plotted.
“By no means has the surge defeated the Taliban,” the official said, but its stated goal was to “reverse the Taliban’s momentum and give the government more of an edge. I think we achieved that.”
A spokesman for the Office of the Director of National Intelligence, which issues intelligence estimates, declined to comment. Officials at the White House declined to speak about the NIE’s findings. In an e-mailed statement, a senior administration official said intelligence assessments are “only one tool in our policy analysis toolbox.”
“One of the intelligence community’s principal duties is to warn about potential upsides and downsides to U.S. policy, and we frequently use their assessments to identify vulnerabilities and take steps to correct them,” the statement said. “We will be weighing inputs from the [intelligence community] alongside those of the military, our diplomats and development experts as we look at the consequential decisions ahead of us, including making a decision on whether to leave troops in Afghanistan after the end of 2014.”
The Obama administration has sought to get permission from Kabul to keep troops that would carry out counterterrorism and training missions beyond 2014. Afghan President Hamid Karzai has so far refused to sign a bilateral security agreement with the United States and has made demands that Washington calls unrealistic.
Karzai’s intransigence has emboldened those in the administration and Congress who favor a quick drawdown. The latest intelligence assessment, some U.S. officials noted, has provided those inclined to abandon Afghanistan with strong fodder.
NIEs are issued periodically, normally ahead of a major policy decisions. One issued in 2008 was seen by international diplomats as having presented an “unrelentingly gloomy” picture of the state of affairs in Afghanistan, according to a U.S. diplomatic cable that was released by WikiLeaks.

Another one issued in 2010, when the U.S. troop surge was at its peak, also offered a decidedly grim assessment. U.S. war commanders have submitted rebuttal letters to make note of their disagreements or highlight success stories they felt were not being taken into account.
The issue came to a head when Gen. David E. Petraeus left command of the international coalition in Kabul to take the helm of the CIA in 2011. He instructed analysts at the agency, which plays the dominant role in shaping NIEs, to consult more closely with commanders on the ground as they put together future war zone intelligence estimates. The directive was seen by some as an affront to the agency’s mandate to provide policymakers with independent, fact-based analysis.
Gen. Joseph F. Dunford, the commander of international troops in Afghanistan, chose not to submit a rebuttal to the latest NIE, according to two U.S. officials. A spokesman for the general said he would not comment on the report.
Stephen Biddle, a defense policy expert at the Council on Foreign Relations, said Afghanistan experts in and out of government have a range of outlooks. The optimists see Afghan security forces expanding their territorial control until the Taliban is forced into a peace deal. Pessimists fear the government could eventually lose control of the capital and other big cities. Biddle said he predicts a stalemate for years to come.
“Whether it’s a worse or better stalemate depends on the rate at which Congress defunds the war,” he said.

Iran......

http://www.debka.com/article/23558/US-and-Iran-First-Joint-Military-Venture-Fighting-al-Qaeda-in-Iraq


With the Geneva Nuclear Accord still far from implementation a month after it was signed in Geneva, the United States and Iran are moving into stage two of their rapprochement: They are now fighting together to crush Al Qaeda terror in Iraq,DEBKAfile’s exclusive military sources report.

Iraq is two weeks into a major offensive for cutting al Qaeda down - the first major military challenge the jihadists have faced in the past six years. Three armies are fighting alongside Iraq: the United States, Iran’s Al Qods Brigades officers and Syria.



Their mission is to foil Al Qaeda’s drive to spread its first independent state in the Middle East across the Iraqi-Syrian frontier. Its Iraqi and Syrian branches - ISIS and the Nusra Front - have declared a holy war to this end under their commanders Abu Bakr Al-Baghdadi and Abu Mohammed al-Golani.

The Anbar province of Western Iraq is the scene of he fiercest combat close to Iraq’s borders with Syria and Jordan.

To counter Al Qaeda’s superiority in speed and surprise, the US has sent the Iraqi army Hellfire surface-to-air missiles. They are already in use against al Qaeda camps on the Syrian border. Next, Washington is sending out small, long-endurance unmanned aerial ScanEagles. These drones are best suited to combat in Anbar’s deep wadis and the halophyte thickets lining the Euphrates River.
In this topsy-turvy scenario, Washington and Tehran share another surprising motive: to save the Assad regime in Damascus from Al Qaeda’s long arms.

Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov noted approvingly on Dec. 26: “Attitudes are changing in Western countries; they are becoming more realistic in their approach towards the Syrian crisis. The threat of terrorism in Syria, of jihadists coming to power, of creating a caliphate with extremist laws, these are the main problems.”

Since the Syrian chemical issue was addressed in September, Russian-Iranian-American collaboration is going strong. The joint US-Iranian war on al Qaeda is strengthening Tehran’s grip on Iraq as well Syria. It gives Russian President Vladimir Putin hope for keeping al Qaeda away from the Winter Olympics at Sochi – an ever-present menace as a female suicide bomber, a Dagestan national, demonstrated Sunday, Dec. 29, by blowing up the railway station at the southern Russian city of Volgograd, killing up to a score of people.

The other incentive for US President Barack Obama is the hope of transposing his collaboration with Tehran and Moscow to improve US chances of a reasonable accommodation in the Afghanistan arena.




















And........




http://news.yahoo.com/arak-reactor-cannot-plutonium-bomb-iran-203844399.html

Tehran (AFP) - Iran's Arak heavy water reactor is incapable of producing plutonium for use in a nuclear weapon, a major fear of the West, Tehran's atomic chief said Friday.
"The Arak research reactor cannot produce plutonium that could be used to make an atomic bomb since the plutonium will remain in the reactor's core for a year," Ali Akbar Salehi told the ISNA news agency.
"Plutonium destined to make a weapon cannot stay there for more than three or four weeks or it will contain other elements preventing its use" for military means, he said.
"Anyway, Iran does not have a reprocessing plant" to purify plutonium for such use, Salehi insisted.
Under a landmark deal struck on November 24, Iran agreed to roll back or freeze parts of its controversial nuclear drive for six months in exchange for modest sanctions relief and a promise by Western powers not to impose new sanctions.
The Arak site is of concern to the West because Tehran could theoretically extract weapons-grade plutonium from its spent fuel if it also builds a reprocessing facility.
Iran agreed not to build such a facility as part of last month's nuclear deal. It also committed not to make further advances at its Arak, Fordo and Natanz facilities.
"When International Atomic Energy Agency cameras are installed and constantly monitoring the reactor and inspectors can visit, there will no longer be cause for concern," Salehi said.
Salehi has said dismantling the Arak reactor or giving up uranium enrichment is "a red line which we will never cross."
Western powers and Israel suspect Iran's nuclear activities mask military objectives, despite Tehran's repeated insistence that they are entirely peaceful.
Iraq.......



Sunni MP Under Arrest As Attacks Leave 33 Dead, 52 Wounded
by , December 28, 2013
At least 33 people were killed and 52 more were wounded in fresh violence. In the most chilling event, Iraqi forces arrived at the home of a member of parliament to arrest him.
Security forces arrived at the Ramadi home of M.P. Ahmed al-Awlani to arrest him and his brother on terrorism charges that likely stem from the lawmaker’s criticism of the Shi’ite-led government. Awlani was detained, but not before a clash between his guards and security forces erupted at the compound. Awlani’s brother, a soldier and five guards were killed, and another 17 people were wounded. A sister was reported to have been among the dead, and Awlani was treated for injuries. The arrest could signal renewed suppression of Sunni politicians by Shi’ite P.M. Nouri al-Maliki.
Also in Ramadi, a dumped body bearing gunshot wounds was found in an area used for protests.
In Mosultwo soldiers were killed and three more were wounded in a suicide blast. Later, three suicide bombers stormed a station, where they killed three people and wounded 12 others, both police and civilians. An I.E.D. injured two civilians. Another bomb wounded a colonel.
policeman was killed and five others were wounded when a bomb exploded inHaditha.
Gunmen wounded a woman and her son in Mandali.