Syria is considered to be a secular dictatorship with poor human rights and has been on the U.S. list of state sponsors of terrorism as a “safe-haven” for terrorists. In fact, in a 1986 CNN interview, former US Secretary of State, Alexander Haig, stated that the country he regarded as the world’s worse state sponsor of terrorism was “unquestionably Syria” (Former Secretary of State Alexander Haig dies at 85, 2010).
Syria has publicly condemned international terrorist attacks and has not been directly linked to terrorist activity since 1986. Because the relationship between The United States and Syria has been a rollercoaster for the past six to seven decades; it would be wise to perhaps implement ADD IN MY THESIS aka MY RECOMMENDATION Historic and Present Relationship between Syria and The United States This rollercoaster of a relationship between the United States and Syria goes back to the 1950’s up until the present day. It began in 1957 when the Central Intelligence Agency attempted to topple Syrian President Shukri al-Quwatli (Crane, 2015). Following this event, relations were very rocky until 1991 when Syrian President Hafez al-Assad made a historic decision to accept then-President Bush’s invitation to attend a Middle East peace conference and to engage in subsequent negotiations with Israel. These efforts to engage in Middle East peace negotiations also continued throughout the Clinton Administration with the last including then-President Bill Clinton’s presidential summit in March of 2000 (Humud & Blanchard, 2017). It is fair to state that following the attacks on September 11, 2001, tensions between the U.S. and the Middle East.
Relations began to deteriorate when to Syrian intelligence agencies opposed the Iraq War. Serious contention arose because these syrian forces failed to prevent foreign fighters from using Syrian borders to enter Iraq and refused to deport the elements from the former Saddam Hussein government that actually supported Iraqi rebels (Crane, 2015). Beginning in 2008, the Obama administration attempted to resume harmonious relations with Syria. The administration took the first step in rapprochement by appropriately lifting travel restrictions for American citizens traveling to Syria.
In 2010, Secretary of State for Political Affairs William Burns arrived in Damascus, where the U.S. Embassy in Syria stands, and hosted talks with President Bashar al-Assad in an attempt to revive relations. The talks discussed “specific steps to promote regional stability, revive Syria-Israel peace talks, and strengthen U.S.-Syrian bilateral relations” (Humud & Blanchard, 2017).
However, the conversation was described as “candid” meaning that common ground was met on those issues pertaining to Iraq (Humud & Blanchard, 2017). In 2011, diplomatic cables between the U.S. embassy in Damascus and the State Department were released and revealed that the United States gave financial support to political opposition groups at least until 2010. These cables were sent because embassy staff became worried as Syrian intelligence agents were investigating these programs. “Safe zones” is a concept that has most recently appeared during presidential campaigns and administrations. A “safe zone” is an area where violence and flying is prohibited and is regulated by checkpoints, observation posts, and security buffer areas (Garamone, 2017).
For instance, during and after President Trump’s campaign, he proposed establishing more of these safe zones in Syria as an alternative to Syrian refugees migrating to the U.S. In months leading up to implementation, various foreign governments (Saudi, Jordan, Lebanon, etc) informed Trump that they supported the creation of these safe zones; however, Syrian President Bashar Assad stated that the idea was “Not realistic at all” (Garamone, 2017). Identification of U.S. Intelligence Agencies Involved:The United States Intelligence Community (IC) is a group of sixteen separate national agencies that work both separately and together to conduct intelligence activities. This range of activities are delegates in order to support foreign relations and national security of the United States.Among the sixteen member organizations, the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) is by far the most involved U.
S. agency in Syria, and has been involved since as early as the 1950s. In more recent years, CIA involvement in Syria has escalated. In 2008, the CIA conducted a paramilitary raid in Sykkariyek, Syria which involved “about two dozen U.S. commandos in specially equipped Black Hawk helicopters,” (Schmitt & Shanker, 2008). Following this instance, it was revealed that there had been several other raids since 2004, but no details were ever revealed.
Involvement of the CIA continued to escalate even more in September of 2013 when President Barack Obama revealed that the CIA had trained and deployed the first rebel group. This deployment and supplying of weapons is recognized as one of the first tangible steps in terms of support since the U.S. stated they would begin providing assistance to the opposition. American officials predicted that this sort of assistance would not be sufficient enough to lead the rebels to victory, but instead hoped that it would foster a stalemate that would encourage a negotiated resolution of the Syrian Civil War. And as a result of this resolution, Syrian President Bashar al-Assad would resign. National Security Act, E.
O. 12333 Executive Order 12333 was signed by President Ronald Reagan on December 4, 1981 and was titled United State Intelligence Activities. The purpose of Executive Order 12333 was to extend powers and responsibilities of all U.S. intelligence and federal agencies to cooperate fully with the CIA when requesting information (Executive Order 12333, 2013).
Part one describes “Goals, Direction, Duties, and Responsibilities with Respect to the National Intelligence Effort” which lays out roles for various intelligence agencies. Part two discusses “Conduct of Intelligence Activities” which provides guidelines for actions of various intelligences agencies. And finally, part 3 outlines “General Provisions” such as congressional oversight, implementation, procedures, and so on (Executive Order 12333, 2013). Overall, Executive Order 12333 is a fundamental document that authorizes the expansion of data collection throughout the American intelligence community and across all data centers. Identification of Syrian Intelligence Agencies Syria has four main intelligence services that all fall directly under the control of the Syrian president, Bashar al-Assad: The Political Security Directorate, General Security Directorate, Military Intelligence, and Air Force Intelligence. These all have overlapping functions so that the president is not overly dependent on any single one of them, The purpose of this overlap is to give the president two strings to his bow, or in other words, give him two possible means of reaching an objective. Despite this redundancy, each agency is still suppose to operate in total secrecy; unlike our U.S.
agencies, none of the Syrian services are permitted access to information about any of the others, or even of the identities of agents working in other services (Middle East Intelligence Bulletin, 2000).The Political Security Directorate (PSD) is responsible for detecting signs of organized political activity in opposition of the Assad regime. More specifically, this involved surveillance of suspected political dissidents, as well as the activities of foreigners residing in the country. The PSD also monitors all media and propaganda in an effort to control the narrative presented to the general public (Rathmell, 2016). The General Security Directorate (GSD) is the main civilian intelligence service, and is divided into three branches.
The internal security branch observes and investigates the population in general. The external security we can equate to the CIA, and the Palestine division monitors the activities of Palestinian groups in Syria and Lebanon (Rathmell, 2016). Syria’s Military Intelligence service and Air Force intelligence also go hand-in-hand. Military Intelligence is, as expected, responsible for necessary surveillance operations and planning of said operations. It is also responsible for providing training and overall support to nearby extremist groups, and mitigating political protests while coordinating the Syrian and Lebanese military efforts (Rathmell, 2016). The Air Force Intelligence service has arguably evolved and transformed into Syria’s most secretive and fearsome agency. Domestically, it has frequently had a large role in operations against Islamist opposition in the country and nationwide manhunts for members of the Islamic Liberation Party.
Internationally, Air Force Intelligence has had a significant role in the president’s promotion of worldwide terrorism (Rathmell, 2016)). According to sources, the agency’s workers are frequently stationed around the world in various Syrian embassies in order to drive and coordinate terrorist operations. The most well-documented examples of this was the attempted bombing of an Israeli airliner at London’s Heathrow airport in April 1986 (Rathmell, 2016). Current Operational Environments An operational environment is the “composite of the conditions, circumstances, and influences that affect the employment of military forces and bear on the decisions of commanders” (Pike, 2009).
Variables that are considered when determining the operational environment include, but are not limited to: military variables, physical environment, and other foreign interests. The military variable explores the military capabilities of all relevant actors (including terrorists, militias and insurgents) within a given operational environment. Such capabilities include equipment, manpower, military doctrine, training levels, resource constraints, and leadership issues. According to Global Fire Power, Syria is ranked 44th (out of 133 countries) in regard to their military strength (Pike, 2009). All components of their military strength, as listed above, are only a small fraction of what the U.S. has readily available. The physical environment variable references how a region’s climate and geography affect the execution of operations.
Syria has a contrasting climate depending on the area; it is very humid near the Mediterranean coast, yet very arid in the deserts and steppes. In addition, some areas are more prone to heavy amounts of precipitation than others. Desert landscapes provide little cover and the lack of landmarks makes navigation difficult (The World Factbook: SYRIA, 2017). These less complex landscapes also expose any weaknesses of the enemy.
Lastly, it is also important to keep in mind other foreign interests; more specifically in this case, the interests of Iran and Russia. Iran shares the same interests as the Syrian government’s interests; these interests include access to sea ports in the Mediterranean, the defeat of Sunni extremism, and the end to dominating Western ideals. Overall, Iran strives to maintain the regime of President Bashar al-Assad, but has also made efforts to prevent Sunni-dominated government should the current government fail (United States Army Training and Doctrine Command, 2016).Russia has also provided an immense amount of support to Syria. Most, if not all, Russian officials are advocates for the Syrian regime in international politics and could challenge any security resolutions that threaten the Syrian government’s sovereignty as they have reportedly provided training and materials to the Syrian military. Russian support focuses on enabling military trade between the two countries and protection of Russian interest in the Mediterranean Port of Tartus.
Russia has moved a number of naval assets including a battalion of naval infantry to the Port of Tartus to perform routine missions, but it is expected that these forces can be repurposed if Russian interests are threatened. (United States Army Training and Doctrine Command, 2016)