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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?

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. ....

SoS Kerry silently to himself: "Thank God he said 'opposition' not 'armed opposition'"
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?

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.

That's kinda, sorta, slightly true of the opposition - the Western-recognized political opposition - but not of the armed opposition.

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.

And Senator McCain's trip to Syria was organized by the Syrian Emergency Task Force.


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Comment Preferences

  •  Tip Jar (20+ / 0-)

    Lamb chop, we can quibble what to call it, but I think we can both agree it's creepy.

    by InAntalya on Thu Sep 05, 2013 at 09:34:51 AM PDT

  •  On Kerry's secular comment... (5+ / 0-)

    I love that Syria has always been secular and that he wants to use that as a reason that Syria will always remain secular but I wonder how many of the refugees are the secular population that he's talking about? The longer this civil war continues, the more the moderates leave the country, the more likely that all that's left to fight are extremists.

    •  and he is wrong (6+ / 0-)

      Syria is a very conservative country especially in the rural areas and suburbs of the big cities such as Damascus, Aleppo and else. They are not only conservatives but even fundamentalists

      Your cream of the crop in pet-sitting in Washington State is: MyNeighborhoodBuddy

      by dibsa on Thu Sep 05, 2013 at 09:55:27 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  secular ≠ liberal (4+ / 0-)

        those two things are on totally separate political spectrums. hell, secular and religious aren't even necessarily opposites, nearly all arab secularists - liberal, conservative, and leftist - are personally muslim, they just don't want the state to be sectarian per se.

        not arguing about the existence or distribution of syria's rural conservatives - that's a pretty common pattern pretty much everywhere - just trying to tease out the secular-theocracy spectrum from the liberal-conservative one. in turkey and egypt, for example, a lot of the die hard secularists are also very conservative.

    •  From experience (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:

      we all know that if Assad does collapse, it will be messy.

      I presume that the refugees would return only after the fighting is over.

      Getting a handle on the whole insane situation has to be almost impossible.

      After we helped the Bin Laden forces fight off the Russians in Afghanistan, we bailed on the aftermath.

      We ended up paying a huge price for letting Afghanistan go to the Taliban.
      The Iraq-Afghan Wars alone are estimated to cost 4-6 trillion and over 6600 soldiers dead, with 40k injured.

      Add in the cost to our economy of 9/11 and you have to have another 10 trillion easy.....basically all of our national debt when you add it all up.

      Pay now, or pay later.

  •  Well, I gotta say (7+ / 0-)
    Saudis, the Emirates, the Qataris
    These are exactly the people I'd go to if I was interested in trying to create a secular Republic.

    It seems the real problem with the Taliban was how poorly they dressed.

    "But the traitors will pretend / that it's gettin' near the end / when it's beginning" P. Ochs

    by JesseCW on Thu Sep 05, 2013 at 09:49:45 AM PDT

  •  One reason war supporters give for the war is (6+ / 0-)

    that letting Assad get away with this (even though there is no proof yet) will encourage other "evil dictators" to do the same to their people.
    One reason people against war give is that allowing Obama to attack a country based on an unproven chemical weapons attack will encourage future administrations to do the same. to other countries.  And chemical weapons accusations, without direct and full evidence, are like terrorism.  Easy to keep going indefinitely.

  •  The clarity reminds me of Rumsfeld's revelation (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    "We know where they are [Iraq's weapons of mass destruction]. They're in the area around Tikrit and Baghdad and east, west, south and north somewhat."
    I guess this must be inside warspeak that the average citizen has trouble following.
  •  Absurd!!! (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    InAntalya, aliasalias

    Kerry said "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 "
    So the Saudis, those wonderfully secular Saudis, assure Kerry that if he uses the US military to help the rebels the Saudis are supporting, the rebels will be secular in the future.
    This is on par with another recent Kerry statement "The Egyptian Army is restoring democracy in Egypt by overthrowing the elected government".

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