No more wait and see. The mood in the White House vis-a-vis the situation in Syria seems to be "just do it."
The Obama administration, according to a report this morning in the New York Times "is increasing aid to the rebels and redoubling efforts to rally a coalition of like-minded countries to forcibly bring down the government of President Bashar al-Assad, American officials say." In a partnership with Turkey and Israel, the plan includes securing the arsenal of chemical weapons.
The administration has had regular talks with the Israelis about how Israel might move to destroy Syrian weapons facilities, administration officials said. The administration is not advocating such an attack, the officials said, because of the risk that it would give Mr. Assad an opportunity to rally support against Israeli interference.
Administration officials insist they will not provide arms to the rebel forces. Turkey, Saudi Arabia and Qatar are already financing those efforts. But American officials said that the United States would provide more communications training and equipment to help improve the combat effectiveness of disparate opposition forces in their widening, sustained fight against Syrian Army troops. It’s also possible the rebels would receive some intelligence support, the officials said. ...NYT
One expert calls the plans for dealing with the Assad government "controlled demolition."
America is not, fortunately, calling all the shots in what some call "the Syria thing."
Josh Rogin writes at Foreign Policy:
For the last six months, 40 senior representatives of various Syrian opposition groups have been meeting quietly in Germany under the tutelage of the U.S. Institute for Peace (USIP) to plan for how to set up a post-Assad Syrian government.
The project, which has not directly involved U.S. government officials but was partially funded by the State Department, is gaining increased relevance this month as the violence in Syria spirals out of control and hopes for a peaceful transition of power fade away. The leader of the project, USIP's Steven Heydemann, an academic expert on Syria, has briefed administration officials on the plan, as well as foreign officials, including on the sidelines of the Friends of Syria meeting in Istanbul last month.
The project is called "The day after: Supporting a democratic transition in Syria." Heydemann spoke about the project in depth for the first time in an interview with The Cable. He described USIP's efforts as "working in a support role with a large group of opposition groups to define a transition process for a post-Assad Syria."
The opposition leaders involved in the USIP project have been meeting since January and providing updates on their work to the Arab League, the Friends of Syria group, the team of U.N. Special Envoy Kofi Annan, and the opposition Syrian National Council.
The focus of the group's effort is to develop concrete plans for the immediate aftermath of a regime collapse, to mitigate the risks of bureaucratic, security, and economic chaos. ...Foreign Policy
The State Department underwrites and funds these efforts along with a number of European countries.
As Ramadan begins, even the actual start of the holy month is disputed.
"The Syrian National Council announces ... Friday is the first day of Ramadan, unlike what was declared by the regime," read a statement released by the umbrella opposition group. President Bashar al-Assad's government, meanwhile, declared the holy month would begin on Saturday.
There's a regional political dimension at play here: Most of the Arab world's Sunni states -- such as Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Egypt, and Jordan -- have announced that Ramadan begins on Friday. These countries have been largely supportive of Syria's rebels. Meanwhile, Iran, Iraq, and Lebanon's Shiite community -- whose political leaders have supported to the Assad regime -- are starting Ramadan on Saturday.
Just another example of how what seems to be a purely theological dispute quickly becomes politicized amidst Syria's bloody sectarian conflict. ...David Kenner, FP
And the potential for all-out civil war grows.
...The regular army is still strong, as well as the militias (known as shabiha) committed to President Bashar al-Assad's power system. Questions now arise, though, about the final fate of this struggle, even if evidence on the ground shows that both sides want to fight to the end. Will the army continue to follow Assad, his brother Maher and cousins Hafez and Rami Makhlouf – the real people heading the fight, not those killed in the bomb attack on the security headquarters? Or could a ceasefire be brokered, with or without the help of the international observers, between the regular and the "free" armies?
What makes such a ceasefire difficult is the shabiha, recruited at tribal and community levels, as well as other opposition groups driven by Sunni revenge, or al-Qaida-formed ideology, and supported by regional powers. The first are starting to send their families out of major towns towards their villages and local strongholds. The second are taking advantage of the general chaos to kill on a sectarian basis, like the recent killing of Shia citizens in Saida Zeinab. Both these groups could lead Syria into a spiral of violence with death tolls far exceeding those of the last 16 months, and towards a division of the country based on local dominance. ...Samir Aita, The Guardian