Larry Shaughnessy / CNN Security Blog & Russia Today – 2012-08-15 11:52:24
Pentagon: Iran Training Pro-regime Militias in Syria
Larry Shaughnessy / CNN Security Blog
(August 14, 2012) — US Defense Secretary Leon Panetta on Tuesday accused Iran of training pro-Assad militias in Syria in an increased effort to to prop up the embattled Syrian president.
“There’s now an indication that they’re trying to develop — or trying to train a militia within Syria to be able to fight on behalf of the regime,” Panetta said during a news briefing at the Pentagon. “We are seeing a growing presence by Iran and that is of deep concern to us that that’s taking place.”
US Joint Chiefs Chairman Gen. Martin Dempsey, who briefed the media with Panetta, said this Iranian-trained militia appears to be made up of local civilians, “generally Shia, some Alawite.”
But while Iran helps the Bashar al-Assad regime, the United States and others continue to assist the opposition.
The United States is providing non-lethal aid such as communications equipment while other countries are “providing more aggressive assistance to the opposition,” said Panetta.
Panetta said instituting a no-fly zone is “not a front burner issue for us,” but Dempsey said the United States is talking with others about the option.
“We have been in discussion with Jordanians and and the Turks. They’re both interested mostly in the effects that could spill from Syria into their countries. Both have examined the possibility of a safe haven. And with a safe haven would probably come some form of no-fly zone. But we’re not planning anything unilaterally,” Dempsey said.
As it has from the start of the unrest in Syria, the Pentagon is keeping a close eye on the regime’s large stockpile of chemical and biological weapons (CBW).
“We continue to monitor those sites, working with Turkey, working with Jordan. We’ve been in discussions with Israel, as well, to determine what steps need to be taken to ensure that those sites are secure and maintained so that those weapons don’t fall into the wrong hands,” Panetta said. “We’re continuing to develop plans with the adjoining countries to ensure that they will always be secure.”
Even as the fighting rages on, the Pentagon is already talking about what the country may look like if al-Assad is overthrown.
Panetta said the United States does not want a repeat of what happened when the Saddam Hussein regime collapsed and a US diplomat dissolved the Iraqi military.
Panetta said he believes the Syrian military will be needed.
“How do we develop a process to ensure that the different segments of the opposition can come together and be able to organize in some kind of transitional government?” Panetta asked. “How do we deal with some of the other groups like Al Qaida and [the Iran Revolutionary Guard Corps]? How do we deal with Hezbollah in this process?”
If President Barack Obama decides the US military should do more in Syria, forces are ready, said Panetta. “There is no question in my mind that we have positioned a sufficient force in the Middle East to deal with any contingency at this time.”
US Criticizes Iran for Aiding Pro-Assad Militias
(August 15, 2012) — American defense officials accuse Iran of training and aiding pro-regime militias in Syria. The accusations are hypocritical, coming from a country that does the same for the other side of the conflict, geopolitical analyst Eric Draitser told RT.
US Defense Secretary Leon Panetta and General Martin Dempsey, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, have shared their concerns about a growing Iranian presence in Syria and its role in backing the government of Bashar al-Assad during a news briefing at the Pentagon on Tuesday.
“There’s now an indication that [Iranians] are trying to develop — or trying to train a militia within Syria to be able to fight on behalf of the regime,” Panetta explained. It is “dangerous” that Iran supports a regime that “we think ultimately is going to come down,” he added.
Meanwhile, General Dempsey added that Iranian-trained militias are being used to take some pressure off of Syrian government forces, which have been worn out by the 18-month long war.
While Iran remains the Syrian government’s only real ally in the region, Washington continues to provide “non-lethal aid” to the opposition. The total sum that had been officially spent by the US on humanitarian aid to Syrian rebels exceeds $76 million. Earlier this month, reports emerged that President Barack Obama had also signed a secret order allowing the CIA and other intelligence agencies to support opposition forces seeking to oust the Assad regime.
Eric Draitser, a geopolitical analyst for stopimperialism.com, told RT that these comments by US military officials have shown an “unbridled hypocrisy ” coming out of Washington.
RT: So, Leon Panetta criticizes Iran for working to form a pro-regime militia in Syria, thus aggravating the situation on the ground. What are these accusations based on?
Eric Draitser: Well I think these accusations arise out of US disapproval of this recent summit, which the Iranians put forward in Tehran, that brought together Russia and China and Venezuela and many other players around the world. The United States was kept out of the summit, as were many of the US client states including Qatar and Saudi Arabia. So clearly, the United States is upset at the fact the Tehran is trying to play a central role in conflict resolution, a conflict that the US has been fomenting now for a year and a half.
The comments of course illustrate something far beyond that, and that is the unbridled hypocrisy of Washington — accusing Iran of doing precisely what Washington has been doing, namely forming militias and engaging in fomenting civil war.
RT: Just recently, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton announced additional multi-million-dollar aid to the Syrian rebels, but at the same time Washington accuses Iran of interference. How fair is it that it’s okay for them, but not Tehran to get involved?
ED: The United States is the pot calling the kettle black, essentially doing whatever it can to foment the chaos. To turn Sunnis against Shiites, to turn Alawites against Kurds and so forth, and try to destroy the Syrian state in that way. And then they turn around and say that the Iranians are doing the same thing by forming pro-Assad militias.
I think we could take it one step further to show that this really demonstrates the US’s desperation in Syria. They know that they are outmatched diplomatically, they are outmatched in terms of foreign policy. And so the only thing they can do is use Syria as an issue to demonize the Iranians, which is the ultimate enemy in the region for the US establishment.
RT: Is it possible for the rebels to win without the US meddling that you’ve mentioned?
ED: It is impossible for the so-called rebels to win anything without the support of the United States and their clients in the region. We know that the Free Syrian Army is little more than a disorganized gaggle of various terrorist organizations and other extremists. The Syrian National Council is made up primarily of US puppets from various think-tanks like the Brookings Institution and so forth. They have no clout in Syria.
There will be no cessation of violence, there will be none of these things until the United States determines that its policy of destroying Syria has failed and that they pull back from that. The so-called opposition will be left to fend for themselves, and they will surely be routed because they don’t have real support in Syria.
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