Obama's allies in Syria moderately fly Islamist flag, discuss using chemical weapons

Some video of our secular moderate rebel brothers-in-arms has surfaced that shows them talking about launching their own chemical-weapons attacks if Western powers don’t strike the Assad regime.  Fox News notes that the video came from a pro-regime website, but experts seem to think it’s authentic:

The four and a half minute video posted two days after the Aug. 21 Damascus attack features rebel commanders speaking while a black and white Islamist flag flies in the background.

Fox News Middle East specialist Walid Phares, who reviewed the tape, said, “The narrative is jihadi and the red line they’re talking about is about the use of weapons they have not used before — and what comes to my mind would be chemical or biological.”

A separate analysis identified one of the men as a deputy to General Salim Idris, the leader of the Free Syrian Army, the same group some members of Congress describe as the moderate opposition in Syria.

Yigal Carmon, the president of the Middle East Media Research Institute, who also reviewed the tape, said,”The message is if the West doesn’t act, we (the rebels) too will have no red lines, and will use chemical weapons.

While there is no evidence the opposition has chemical weapons, the possibility of their use has been discussed according to Phares.

“A year ago on some of the jihadi chat rooms, including in Syria, there has been talks about using all of the weapons needed and it’s ideologically permissible for them to use those weapons,” he said.

That’s the Free Syrian Army – pretty much the only significant fighting force that anyone in the Obama Administration ever cites as “moderates” worthy of our support – flying an Islamist flag and talking about using their own weapons of mass destruction.  Lovely.

Hey, maybe some Muslim Brotherhood prankster snuck up behind them and planted that flag when they weren’t looking.  And at least they’re only threatening to use chemical weapons.  Surely foreign-policy wizards working for Barack Obama – the political genius who can’t even get Obama For America (er, excuse me, “Organizing For Action”) to come out in support of his Syrian intervention, and who might be facing a bipartisan House majority against his proposed military action – will be able to talk the boys in the Free Syrian Army out of dropping nerve gas!

We keep hearing that the jihadi elements of the Syrian resistance are bleeding away, blown across the border like so many hateful little leaves by the mighty winds of moderation.  How’s that coming along, Fox News?

At the same time, and apparently compounding the situation, the flow of foreign fighters into Syria has grown significantly according to Thomas Joscelyn of the Foundation for Defense of Democracies.

“This a dire situation where we have the Assad regime which is despicable in one hand and Al Qaeda and its allies on the other,” Joscelyn said. He estimated there were 10,000 Islamist fighters in Syria and many are battle hardened and effective.

“A big part of the problem here is the extremist groups, including Al Qaeda, basically have the best fighters, the best trainers, the best leaders for this type of jihad,??? he said. ???So even groups that are not extremist in nature tend to defer to them in the fighting because they’re the most efficient.

“What we’re seeing inside Syria right now is very much a replay of what happened in Iraq. In Iraq, we underestimated Al Qaeda’s designs on the country and what they were trying to do.”

Which is exactly why we have to provide the jihadis with air cover as quickly as possible, according to Secretary of State John Kerry.  Just days ago, he was assuring Congress that the “moderate” rebels were in the catbird seat, but now he’s telling MSNBC that if we don’t launch a unilateral military intervention post-haste, “more extremists will be attracted to this, because they will be funded as the only alternative in order to take on Assad.”

“He was trying to make the case that absent U.S. intervention, we will see growing strength among those parts of the Syrian rebel forces that are the most extreme,” explained MSNBC host Chris Hayes.  (Hayes also said there were “several reasons to be somewhat skeptical” of the argument that punitive strikes will deter the Assad regime from further WMD deployment.  That’s the only argument we’ve heard from the Obama war hawks for days, and now there’s skepticism about it on MSNBC – a network where guests must shout to make themselves heard above the war drums, and Bush-era angry doves now sit upon thrones made from Syrian skulls.)

How in the world are we supposed to change the balance of power in the rebel forces by lobbing cruise missiles at Assad’s empty buildings and helicopter pads for a couple of hours?  Answer: we can’t… which is why mission creep is already causing an out-of-control escalation in the Syrian mission, before a single shot has been fired.  The New York Times reports that President Obama is already asking the Pentagon to develop an “expanded list of potential targets in Syria, in response to intelligence suggesting that the government of President Bashar al-Assad has been moving troops and equipment used to employ chemical weapons while Congress debates whether to authorize military action.”

Hmm, well, maybe last weekend wasn’t the best time for Obama to go golfing with Joe Biden, then.  Show of hands: is anyone outside the Obama White House even remotely surprised that Assad would be moving his military hardware into civilian areas to get ready for American missile strikes?  And guess what, folks!  All of a sudden, it’s not a zero-footprint standoff cruise missile attack any more:

Mr. Obama, officials said, is now determined to put more emphasis on the ???degrade??? part of what the administration has said is the goal of a military strike against Syria ??? to ???deter and degrade??? Mr. Assad???s ability to use chemical weapons. That means expanding beyond the 50 or so major sites that were part of the original target list developed with French forces before Mr. Obama delayed action on Saturday to seek Congressional approval of his plan.

For the first time, the administration is talking about using American and French aircraft to conduct strikes on specific targets, in addition to ship-launched Tomahawk cruise missiles. There is a renewed push to get other NATO forces involved.

The strikes would be aimed not at the chemical stockpiles themselves ??? risking a potential catastrophe ??? but rather the military units that have stored and prepared the chemical weapons and carried the attacks against Syrian rebels, as well as the headquarters overseeing the effort, and the rockets and artillery that have launched the attacks, military officials said Thursday.

Gen. Martin E. Dempsey, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, has said that other targets would include equipment that Syria uses to protect the chemicals ??? air defenses, long-range missiles and rockets, which can also deliver the weapons.

If you haven’t already forgotten every last word Barack Obama said about his proposed 100-percent-safe, sharply limited, over-in-a-few-hours punitive missile strikes before yesterday, please do so now.  That’s all become as inoperative as his Nineteenth Pivot to Job Creation.  According to one unnamed official, the strike plans have already been revised fifty times.

And get ready for things to escalate even further, because the UK Daily Mail got its hands on a secret Defense Department memo from 2012 that estimated it would take 75,000 U.S. ground troops to secure Syria’s chemical weapons stockpiles and production facilities after the fall of the Assad regime.  The jihadi elements we’d be trying to keep those WMD away from have grown a lot stronger since 2012.

Things we get even worse if we face serious reprisals for Syrian intervention – a contingency the Obama Administration doesn’t seem even slightly prepared for, to hear John Kerry talk.  Of course, there’s the usual blood-in-the-streets talk from Assad, but the Wall Street Journal also reports that American intelligence has “intercepted an order from Iran to militants in Iraq to attack the U.S. Embassy and other American interests in Baghdad in the event of a strike on Syria,” which is part of “an expanding array of reprisal threats across the region.”  Another possible threat is an assault by Iranian-backed Hezbollah forces on the American embassy in Beirut.  And the Russians keep doing strange, somewhat unnerving things in the area, most recently dispatching the warship Nikolai Filchenkov to Syria with a secret “special cargo.”

American personnel in threatened embassies relying on Team Benghazi for protection must be feeling mighty nervous right about now.  If there were clear American strategic interests at stake, and we had competent leadership in Washington, we could take these threats under due advisement and proceed with caution.  But who thinks the bumbling Obama team is ready to cope with a regional war, unleashed by a round of inconsequential punitive air strikes, much less a more serious operation that ends up putting al-Qaeda in charge of Syrian WMD?

To all the Democrat partisans whining that all opposition to Operation Stalemate comes from anti-Obama partisans, I would gently point out that yes, it does matter who’s going to be in charge of a prospective war, and a glance at the wreckage of American foreign policy around the globe inspires zero confidence that Barack Obama and his team can be trusted to run one.