Best Defense

How to know if President Obama has ordered covert actions against Assad

Like I said the other day, I expect that even if Congress declines to authorize the use of military force in Syria, President Obama will order a variety of covert actions in support of the rebels. How can we know if these are occurring? Basically, I think we should look for things happening that the ...

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Wikimedia

Like I said the other day, I expect that even if Congress declines to authorize the use of military force in Syria, President Obama will order a variety of covert actions in support of the rebels.

How can we know if these are occurring? Basically, I think we should look for things happening that the rebels would have liked to do a long time ago but were unable to carry out. For example, assassinations of senior Syrian officials. I could see, for example, stealthy drone attacks on the convoys of the officials who oversaw the use of chemical weapons — but credit being given to Syrian rebels. I also think we could see things like signals intercepts being passed to the rebels, as well as other helpful intelligence, like real-time satellite imagery. Basically, any anomalous action bears a second look.

Fast transmission of targeting info could significantly boost the effectiveness of the opposition, I think. I’ve been told that, during the Iran-Iraq War, the U.S. provided Saddam Hussein’s air force with good photo imagery of Iranian military targets, such as major supply depots and corps-level headquarters, and that the subsequent Iraqi airstrikes broke an Iranian offensive and so changed the balance of the war.

Yet even as I discuss this, I wonder: If the rebels win, how will they treat Armenians, Jews, Christians, and other minorities?

Thomas E. Ricks covered the U.S. military from 1991 to 2008 for the Wall Street Journal and then the Washington Post. He can be reached at ricksblogcomment@gmail.com.

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