I'm really busy today but I wanted to write just a little about three things that caught my eye yesterday.
Note: I'll try to have a diary about Syrian rebel groups tomorrow, but I might not be able to finish it until the weekend.
And we finally get a number.
Question: How many moderate / al-Qaida rebels are there?
Answer from Secretary of Defense Hagel: dunno, but someone might.
Answer from Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff General Dempsey: dunno, but someone might.
But we do finally get an answer from SoS Kerry: 80-100,000 total, but only tens of thousands active, and for the good news - al-Nusrah/al-Qaeda is big, just not as big as we expected. No problem. Piece of cake. Our completely impartial friends told me so.
SEN. JOHNSON: ... Secretary Hagel, do you have a feel for the number of members of the opposition? I mean, how large is their force?SoS Kerry silently to himself: "Thank God he said 'opposition' not 'armed opposition'"
SEN. HAGEL: I don't know the numbers. Our intelligence communities have estimates of those numbers.
But I think, as Secretary Kerry said, the momentum has shifted, in the opinion of our intelligence community and others who are close to the situation, where --
SEN. JOHNSON: I'm kind of a numbers guy.
General Dempsey, do you know the force strength of the rebel forces?
GEN. DEMPSEY: I don't have them committed to memory, Senator.
SEN. JOHNSON: But we have them. I can --
GEN. DEMPSEY: Yeah, the intelligence community has that available, and we'll make it available --
SEN. JOHNSON: And do you also have a pretty good feel for how many really would be considered moderate versus elements of al-Qaida?
GEN. DEMPSEY: I have seen documents that lay that out.
SEN. JOHNSON: How do we know that Hezbollah, because they've been so cooperative with the Assad regime -- how do we know that they already don't have access to chemical weapons? Do we have any feel for that at all?
SEC. KERRY: I think we need to talk about that in our classified session. But let me just say to you that in terms of the opposition numbers, you see ranges up to 80(,000), 90,000, 100,000 in total opposition. You see ranges from -- well, I don't want to go into all the numbers, but in the tens of thousands in terms of operative, active combatants. The -- I've seen some recent data on the numbers of the extremists in al-Nusra. They're actually lower than former expectations.
I would also say to you, Syria historically has been secular, and the vast majority of Syrians, I believe, want to remain secular. It's -- it's our judgment that -- and the judgment of our good friends who actually know a lot of this in many ways better than we do because it's their region, their neighborhood -- I'm talking about the Saudis, the Emirates, the Qataris, the Turks, the Jordanians -- they all believe that if you could have a fairly rapid transition, the secular component of Syria will re-emerge and you will isolate --
SEN. JOHNSON: OK. Very good.
That tends to argue for a more robust response. ....
SEN. JOHNSON: What do we know about the opposition? I mean, what is -- have we been tracking them for the last two years? I mean, it seems like -- and this is more of an impression I have as opposed to any exact knowledge, but it seems like initially, the opposition was maybe more Western-leaning, more moderate, more democratic, and as time has gone by, it's degraded, become more infiltrated by al-Qaida. That -- is that basically true? Or to -- (inaudible) -- has that happened?That's kinda, sorta, slightly true of the opposition - the Western-recognized political opposition - but not of the armed opposition.
SEC. KERRY: No, that is -- no, that is actually basically not true. It's basically incorrect. The opposition has increasingly become more defined by its moderation, more defined by the breadth of its membership and more defined by its adherence to some, you know, democratic process and to an all-inclusive, minority-protecting constitution, which will be broad-based and secular with respect to the future of Syria. And that's very critical.
I wish I had the time today,
when/if I do I want to dissect this clever bit of deflection by Elizabeth O'Bagy.
There is actually some good information in the article but one important thing you need to notice is that she does not mention the SMC once, not once.
She never mentions that the FSA is a sub-group of the SMC or the makeup of the SMC.
But she does try hard to polish the image of the FSA. Maybe it's because that's what she gets paid to do.
O’Bagy is also the political director of the Syrian Emergency Task Force, a non-profit lobbying group in Washington D.C. closely linked with the FSA.http://www.voanews.com/...
And Senator McCain's trip to Syria was organized by the Syrian Emergency Task Force.