October 19, 2005
North Korea (DPRK) - Threat Assessment
Following is the Theat Assessment regarding Syria that was jointly written by myself, Marvin Hutchins of Little Red Blog, and Bill Rice of By Dawn's Early Light. An introduction and explanation of these "Threat Assessments" can be found in my post on the matter here.
Following is our assessment of the threat posed by North Korea to the United States as of May 2005:
The Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK, popularly known as “North Korea”) is perhaps the last of the old-style Stalinist, totalitarian regimes left on the planet. Its secretiveness and paranoia is legendary. It has earned it’s place in the “Axis of Evil” through its military threat to American interests if not the United States itself, sponsorship of terrorism and gross violation of human rights. North Korea’s current leadership is a threat to regional security, most notably South Korea. Japan and the United States are at risk due to nuclear missile threats. North Korea’s dire economic condition, owing to a regime that is geared solely for keeping itself in power, creates added security risks as it exports missiles, weapons, drugs and weapons technology to other unscrupulous nations.
Korean history is long and complicated, and due to physical proximity, the peninsula has been much influenced by China. For our purposes we will limit ourselves to the start of the twentieth century.
After Japan defeated Russia in the Russo-Japanese War in 1905, Korea became a protectorate of Japan. Japan formally annexed the peninsula in 1910, and began a long reign of oppression that only ended with their defeat in 1945.
At the end of World War II the peninsula was divided into two occupation zones along the 38th parallel. The United States administered the Southern half, and the Soviet Union the Northern half. As in Germany, the division was only meant to last a short while, until elections could be arranged and a government formed. However, just as with the situation in Europe, divisions between the Soviet Union and the West quickly overshadowed ideas of post-war cooperation, and two governments in Korea were set up. In February of 1946, the Red Army, which occupied the Northern half of the peninsula, set up a communist government under Kim Il Sung. The U.S. refused to recognize the communist government and in 1948 helped set up a government under Rhee Syngman in the South.
In June of 1950 the DPRK invaded South Korea (Republic of Korea, or ROK). At the time this was seen as part of a global attempt by the communists to assert control over as much territory as possible, and post-Cold War research has confirmed that Joseph Stalin gave his blessing to the attack. After initial success by the North, United States forces, under the auspices of the United Nations, stopped the communist attack. After an ambitious amphibious attack at Inchon planned by Gen. Douglas MacArthur, routed the North Korean army along the Chinese border. Intervention by Chinese troops resulted in temporary defeats for the United States and her allies, who eventually stabilized the front around the 38th parallel. Long and arduous peace talks eventually produced an armistice. No peace treaty has ever been signed, so the parties are still officially at war. The 38th parallel dividing the two Koreas is the world’s most heavily militarized border.
The Korean War (1950 – 1953) became the defining event for the peninsula for the rest of the twentieth century, and indeed to this present day. The DPRK has never given up its desire to overrun the South, and maintains a very large military establishment. The government of the ROK used fear of Northern aggression to resist democratic reforms. The United States maintains some 32,500 troops in the ROK to maintain a forward defense (however, outside of Seoul) , though this will drop to 25,000 by 2008.
The first twenty-five or so years of South Korean history was marked by as series of authoritarian governments. Despite this, the South experienced strong economic growth, causing it to be labeled one of the “Asian-tigers”. However, popular dissatisfaction with the government came to a head after the 1979 assassination of Park Chunghee, with protests against authoritarian rule roiling the South for the next twelve years. Finally, in 1987, the government agreed to hold elections and Roh Tae-woo was elected president. This event started a process that led the South toward becoming a democratic government, which it is today.
The current ROK government under President Kim Tae-chung has adopted a “Sunshine Policy” towards the North. This policy stresses dialogue with the North, rather than military buildup and economic sanctions and is supported most strongly by the younger generation of Koreans that did not live through the Korean War.
The government in the North remains a hard-line communist dictatorship. It is perhaps the last fully Stalinist dictatorship in the world today. Its leader is Kim Jong Il, son of Kim Il Sung, who died in 1994. Their official governing philosophy is “Juche”, or “self-reliance”, and is marked by the extreme form of isolation that the government has imposed on its relations with the rest of the world. The North’s economy is a veritable “basket case”, and the agricultural situation has gotten so bad that starvation is commonplace in much of the country with some estimates as high as 3.5 million deaths .
Military – The DPRK is a significant military threat to the United States and our allies, most notably South Korea and Japan. Despite massive economic failure resulting in one of the lowest per capita incomes in the world, the DPRK maintains a million-man military (Korean People’s Army, or KPA) capable of doing significant damage to South Korea and other countries. Their quest for nuclear weapons, now probably a reality, makes them all the more dangerous.
One primary issue in a conventional war on the peninsula is that more than 25% of the South’s population lives near their Northern border. Seoul, the capital of the ROK, is less than forty miles from the DPRK. The KPA keeps most of its forces along the 120 mile DMZ . The KPA has built extensive underground fortifications housing thousands of artillery and short-range rocket launchers capable of inflicting massive damage on Seoul and its surroundings on short notice.
Despite the size of the KPA, it is a technologically backward force. Their strength is in shear numbers and firepower. That the United States would ultimately prevail in such a conflict, though with current strains on US forces in the War on Terror, the total devastation to South Korea would be extreme.
The KPA also maintains chemical and biological weapons, and has refused to sign international agreements banning such weapons. Although they are unlikely to possess much in the way of pathogens, they do have a large and mature chemical weapons industry. The KPA possesses and is capable of delivering all types of chemical weapons; blister, nerve, choking, and blood agents. The North’s desire for hard currency cannot be forgotten when examining their willingness to export such WMD technology to unstable regimes or terrorist organizations.
The North is currently engaged in developing long-range missiles that could theoretically carry nuclear warheads. The No Dong and Taepo Dong 1 can hit Japan, while the Taepo Dong 2, with a 4,000 - 6,000 km range, can strike U.S. basis in the Pacific such as Guam, as well as Alaska. A 3-stage version of the Taepo Dong 2 is under development, which may be capable of delivering a warhead to the western United States.
Most alarming of all is their relentless march toward obtaining nuclear weapons. Despite a variety of U.S. and allied approaches, ranging from all carrot to all stick, nothing has dissuaded them from this goal. The DPRK claimed in 2003, and formally in 2005, that they did in fact possess nuclear weapons, and although it is entirely possible that this was a calculated bluff, between this statement and other sources prudence dictates that we assume that they currently possesses 2 – 6 bombs. Whether they are deliverable on missiles, artillery, or even aircraft is another matter. Recent rumors suggest they intend on testing a nuclear device perhaps as early as June 2005.
Most significantly is the propaganda that emanates almost daily from the DPRK propaganda machine. Despite it being the worst sort of crude communist propaganda, it reminds us of the extreme threat that this nation poses to our allies and us.
Terror – the DPRK represents a terrorist threat to the United States and our allies. The nature of their threat takes on several forms, and is unique in the annals of terrorism around the world.
The history of DPRK terrorist activities is extensive and alarming. Rather than use proxy organizations, they have carried out operations themselves. “Fishing boats” have off-loaded agents who have gone ashore in Japan and kidnapped civilians walking along the beach. The Japanese victims were taken to North Korea where they were kept as virtual slaves and forced to teach Japanese to North Koreans.
In 1983 DPRK agents tried to kill South Korean President Chun Doo Hwan, who was visiting Burma (now Myanmar). In 1987, they bombed KAL flight 858, killing 115. South Korea believes that in 1996 DPRK agents killed one of their diplomats in Vladivostok, Russia. To this day they harbor four members of the 70’s era communist Japanese Red Army Faction terrorist group. In 1970 these Japanese hijacked a JAL airliner and flew it to North Korea, seeking asylum.
In the past the DPRK has been suspected of selling weapons to groups to separatist groups such as the Moro Islamic Liberation Front in the Philippines.
More recently is the likelihood that the DPRK has openly spread the threat of missile and nuclear terror via the A.Q. Khan network. The potential for further attempts to sell or give a nuclear technology or weapons to a terrorist group such as Al-Qaeda remains a primary concern.
Economic - While the DPRK does not represent an economic threat to the United States or our allies; the abysmal state of their economy concerns us both because of the human tragedy and the prospects for mass unrest in the case of regime collapse.
Civil – North Korea is one of the worst violators of human rights in the world. The government is a one-man dictatorship on the Hitler/Stalinist model. There is absolutely no freedom of the press, of religion, or any pretense of fair trails for those accused of a crime. Public executions are common. Forced labor camps, torture, even trafficking in North Korean “wives” for Chinese men. There is absolutely no civil society, as we understand it, in North Korea.
The situation with regards to the DPRK is unfortunately bleak. The government of that country seems determined to continue its present course towards maintaining totalitarian control of the population, a failed economic central planning model, and a pursuit of nuclear weapons and the missiles with which to deliver them to a wide range of targets.
Various attempts over the years have been made to get the DPRK to change its ways, and none have succeeded. The history of the country forces us to assume the worst when dealing with it. Pyongyang seems to sway between ratcheting up the tension and bringing it back down again. Whichever tactic they adopt at the moment is designed to gain momentary advantage while they continue to pursue their nefarious goals.
Additionally we note that China may well be playing North Korea off against the United States in an attempt to divert us from Taiwan. While this is largely speculation, it is plausible given the lack of Chinese pressure on the DPRK on issues from nuclear weapons to a refusal to impose sanctions.
The editors recommend that the United States adopt (or continue to follow) the following policies with regards to the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea:
1. Require multinational talks, the six-party talks including the U.S., China, Russia, South Korea, Japan and North Korea, to end the current nuclear crisis. Under no circumstance should the U.S. participate in bi-lateral negotiations with the DPRK.
2. Continue humanitarian aid regardless of the actions of the DPRK. While this does open the door to abuses, such as the possibility that the DPRK could divert aid to its military, we believe that the suffering of the North Korean people is such that food and medical aid needs to be sent regardless of “political” consequences. In order to avoid the abuses of the “Oil for Food” scandal, humanitarian aid needs to be managed through nations and organizations that have a proven record (i.e. not the United Nations).
3. The U.S. should consider potential further actions against the DPRK should they refuse to adhere to their pledge for a nuclear free Korean peninsula. This should include U.N. sanctions, an embargo of non-humanitarian aid, cessation of fuel supply and the permanent end to KEDO (Korean Peninsular Energy Organization).
4. We must pressure China to stop their forcible return of North Korean refugees. If China refuses to accept them, we should work towards finding them residence in South Korea or elsewhere.
5. A strong military presence needs to be maintained in the Republic of Korea. The DPRK needs to understand clearly that the United States will respond to military action on their part, and only our continued presences in the region or on the peninsula will ensure that. This remains an additional incentive for the U.S. to maintain a larger naval force structure and avoid the potential pitfalls of carrier fleet reduction.
6. The United States, Japan and our allies should continue to vigorously pursue all deployable options for missile defense.
October 16, 2005
Syria - Threat Assessment
Following is the Theat Assessment regarding Syria that was jointly written by myself, Marvin Hutchins of Little Red Blog, and Bill Rice of By Dawn's Early Light. An introduction and explanation of these "Threat Assessments" can be found in my post on the matter here.
Following is our assessment of the threat to the United States posed by Syria, as of June 2005
Syria concerns us for several reasons; it’is a military threat to the Middle East, it supports Islamic terrorism, it possesses weapons of mass destruction, and it continues to violate the civil and human rights of its own citizens. As such, it is likely that Syria only narrowly escaped inclusion in President Bush’s “Axis of Evil”. Syrian support for Islamic terrorists crossing the border into Iraq also represents a significant problem for the United States, for much if not all of our efforts in the War on Terror depends on success in Iraq.
Syria, however, also represents a great possibility for success. The Ba’athist regime of President Bashar al-Assad is relatively weak and could conceivably fall. Should this occur, the opportunity for the United States, Middle Eastern allies and the citizens of Syria to create a democracy is likely, although with caveats addressed later.
Syria is an ancient region, whose history stretches back thousands of years. Throughout time it has been part of many great empires, including those of the Canaanite, Hebrew, Assyrian, Babylonian, Persian, Greek, Roman, Byzantine, and most recently, the Ottoman Turk. Syria is significant in the history of Christianity, Islam and Judaism.
After the dissolution of the Ottoman Empire in the wake of World War I, the region of Syria was charged to France under a League of Nations mandate. Following World War II, Syria was able to achieve its independence in 1946.
For the next fifteen years Syrian politics was marked by instability and a series of military coups. Syrian leaders eventually followed Egyptian President Gamal Abdel Nasser's leadership, and in 1958 the two countries formed the United Arab Republic. The two countries failed to complete the merger and in 1961 Syria seceded from the pact.
In 1963 another coup was engineered, this time by the Arab Socialist Resurrection Party, who also called themselves Ba’athists. Ba’athism is a secular ideology that combines portions of Socialism, militarism, nationalism, and pan-Arabism. “Ba’ath” means “rebirth” in Arabic.
Various Ba’ath regimes have run Syria since the 1963 coup. In 1970, Minister of Defense Hafez al-Assad seized power in a bloodless coup. He ruled until his death in 2000, when his son, Bashar al-Assad was elevated to power.
The Assads are members of the Alawi sect of Islam, the largest religious minority in Syria at less than 15% of the population. 74% of the country is made up of Sunni Muslims, and the rest being Christian and Jewish. There is much speculation of the significance of the Alawi rise to power in Syria, as well of the significance of sectarian disputes in the daily governance of Syria. Much of it is no more than speculation and the application of generalizations based on broader Middle Eastern sectarian and ethnic disputes. [I’d rather not join in that speculation, aside from addressing the Kurd ethnic group, the rest of that debate is largely bunk with regard to Syria – (two of my best friends are political exiles from Syria and have shaped my view over the years). If you both prefer this remain as Tom originally worded it, I’ll gladly reverse my position – for the sake of Threats Watch at least.] [I think that reinserting Tom’s religious breakdown would be helpful, but we could agree to remove commentary from the numbers.]
Syria has been involved in all but one Middle-East war with Israel. And, as addressed in our Arab-Israeli Conflict assessment, remains a hindrance to the Middle East peace process. Arab armies, deployed from Syria, invaded Israel in 1948 shortly after the UN mandate to form Israel. In 1967, Syria amassed troops along its border with Israel, as did Egypt in the Sinai, and in the war that followed Syria lost the Golan Heights to Israel. In 1973 Syria along with Egypt attacked Israel again. Israel, once recovering from the attack, routed the Syrian and Egyptian forces. In Israel’s second offensive into Lebanon, in 1982, to destroy Palestinian Liberation Organization (PLO) forces, Syrian air forces engaged the IDF and were defeated.
Syrian policy towards Israel has been marked by continued hostility and support for the most extreme terrorist groups. Unlike Egypt and Jordan, who have signed peace treaties with Israel, Syria remains in conflict with Israel. Syrian support for terrorism goes back to the earliest days of Palestinian terrorist groups. These groups include Hamas, Hezbollah, Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine-General Command (PFLP-GC), Popular Struggle Front (PSF), Democratic Front for the Liberation of Palestine (DFLP) and the Abu Musa Organization (AMO). Syria appears to have turned a blind eye at best to Al-Qaeda and Arab fighters traveling into Iraq. Al Fatah and the PFLP-GC received funding, arms, and training from Syria. Syria even established it’s own terrorist group, the PFLP-GC, which was led by a Syrian army officer who broke off from the regular PFLP. Today Syria supports to some extent all three of the Islamist Palestinian terrorist groups; Hizbollah, Hamas, and Islamic Jihad, although most of its funding and attention goes to Hizbollah. The exception to Syria’s support for Islamic terrorist organizations has been the Muslim Brotherhood as exemplified by Assad’s attacks on the residents of Hama, where as many as 20,000 may have been killed to eliminate the Muslim Brotherhood and other opposition to Assad.
Like Iraq under Saddam Hussein, Hafez al-Assad pursued weapons of mass destruction, most notably chemical and biological weapons. Unlike Iraq, Syria still possesses them. Syria’s stockpiles of chemical weapons include the nerve agents sarin, tabun, and possibly VX. They also have produced mustard gas, a blister agent. Exact quantities are uncertain. Syria apparently has a biological weapons program but it is not known if they have produced significant quantities of any useable agents. There is no evidence of a nuclear program. Syria is known to possess older Soviet missile systems (including ballistic missiles) and North Korea redesigned Scuds missiles.
In 1976 President Assad sent his army into Lebanon, ostensibly to quell the civil war and to impose order. For the next twenty-eight years, Syria maintained some 16,000 – 20,000 troops in Lebanon, along with numerous intelligence personnel. In addition, perhaps a million Syrians work and/or live in Lebanon.
In recent months Syria has been forced to evacuate Lebanon as a result of public and world reaction to the assassination of Lebanese politician Rafik Hariri. Although the Syrian military has left Lebanon, the UN nor the US will assert that Syrian intelligence operatives have departed. .
Military – The Syrian military consists of some 400,000 troops. It is a conscripted force, with all Syrian men required to serve 30 months in the service upon 18 years of age. [Note: This is a part of the reason that my two friends and their families are exiled.] Historically, the modern nation of Syria received virtually all of its armaments from the Soviet Union. With the breakup of its chief supplier in 1991, the subsidized supply chain has been seriously disrupted. As a result, much of its equipment is now obsolete and in a poor state of maintenance due to lack of spare parts. It is a well-disciplined force, by Arab standards, although its officer corps suffers from the lack of initiative inherent in any Soviet-trained military.
While the Syrian military is not overly powerful relative to those of Israel or the United States, it is strong enough to cause trouble in the region. In concert with Egypt the Syrian military is and has been a threat to Israel. The Syrian army has also been used to dominate Lebanon and subjugate its citizens. Although it has recently pulled out of Lebanon, the possibility of a reinvasion bears watching. Lastly, like so many other authoritarian regimes, Syria uses its army to oppress its own citizens, sometimes with quite bloody results.
The Syrian military not only possesses chemical, and probably some limited amounts of biological weapons, but has the ability to deliver them through short-range missiles. The major part of their missile force is made up of Scud B, C, and D variants, with a range of 300km, 500km, and 700km respectively. Syria produces these missiles indigenously, having received technical assistance from China, Iran, and North Korea. While most of these missiles are fitted with conventional warheads, some of the longer-range ones no doubt have chemical or even biological warheads. Russia and Syria have discussed (in early 2005 the potential sale of additional arms including anti-aircraft missiles.
Terror – Syria is a direct sponsor of terrorism. Historically they have focused their attention on Israel, as outlined above. Since the U.S. invasion of Iraq in 2003, Syria has been a major conduit for terrorists moving into Iraq. It is unclear how much of this is with the direct knowledge and support of the leadership of Syria, and how much with the support of “local leaders” or lower-ranking military officers acting independently. Regardless, given that the government has shown determined brutality in stamping out dissent, they certainly could end the infiltration of terrorists into Iraq if they were serious about a stable Iraqi government or making efforts at friendship with the United States.
As such, Syria must be counted as a major terrorist threat to the United States and the surrounding region, including Iraq, Lebanon, Palestine and Israel..
Economic – Syria is not an economic threat to the United States or any of our allies. Syrian oil revenue of some 60,000 barrels a day that were smuggled out of Iraq pre-war has now obviously come to an end, which was a good source of foreign income for Syria.
In May of 2004 the United States imposed sanctions on Syria under the Syria Accountability and Lebanese Sovereignty Restoration Act. The purpose behind this measure was to pressure Syria into ending its support for terrorist groups, its occupation of Lebanon, its support of terrorists in Iraq, and its possession of weapons of mass destruction. The act prohibits the export to Syria of anything other than food and medicine, and also halts most civil and commercial air traffic to Syria by US carriers. Due to the power of the US economy, it will also in general discourage foreign investment in Syria,
Civil – Syria is ruled by a dictatorship that allows for no expression of dissent, and brutally crushes all opposition with force. The Ba’athist party, and that of President Assad, is ideologically opposed to pluralism and democracy. Torture and “disappearances” are common. Freedom of expression and association are non-existent.
Syria has maintained close ties with Iran since 1980, supporting it during the Iraq-Iran war. A "Higher Iranian-Syrian Joint Committee" was created, whose purpose was to enable the two countries to cooperate better in economic and scientific fields as well as in sharing military and intelligence information. The two countries both support Hezbollah, and have cooperated in operations in Lebanon and the West Bank.
In February of this year, Syrian Prime Minister Naji al-Otari visited Teheran, no less than one day after the assassination of the Lebanese politician Rafiq al Hariri. The purpose of the visit was to strengthen ties between the two countries, and to shore up Iranian support for Syria, in the wake of U.S. pressure on Syria to end it’s support of terrorism in Iraq.
While Syria remains a major threat to U.S. interests and our allies, it is our position that we are at a point where tremendous change in either the regime itself, or at least in the way that it behaves is required. Syria has recently been forced to evacuate its troops from Lebanon, and is thus on the strategic defensive. [should we include info about the Lebanese vote or is this too far off the path?] Many members of the Syrian military and government are likely dissatisfied with the rule of Bashar al-Assad, who has neither his father’s authority nor strategic sense. It is probable that he is currently occupied with attempting to shore up his power and stave off a coup from either the left or the right. A peaceful or democratic change in regime would dramatically reduce regional tensions and assist the development of a peaceful Iraq.
Syria is allowing terrorists and foreign fighters into Iraq. Short of an incursion into Syria, the US position is to conduct military assaults such as Operation Matador to decrease an organized threat and to send a clear message that foreign incursions will not be tolerated to the Syrian government. The editors of Threats Watch are aware that escalation to military confrontation may have unforeseen negative consequences. However, failure in Iraq is not an option and should be the driving focus of US foreign policy in the region. As such, if the flow of terrorists from Syria is not stemmed soon, stronger action must be taken.
Accordingly time is of the essence. If we do not act soon, Asad may be able to stabilize his rule, or if overthrown, equally odious Ba’athists or Islamist may take power. The potential also exist for civil war.
1. Infiltration of terrorists into Iraq from Syria must end immediately. This is not negotiable and is our highest priority. We must make it clear to the Syrian regime that we will not end our military actions at their border if they do not significantly curtail foreign fighters and terrorists into Iraq. The US retains the right to conduct strategic bombing attacks within Syria to route out safe houses and staging areas. If we are not able to quickly neutralize terrorists flowing into Iraq from Syria, we should take the following actions:
a. Our initial ultimatum to Syria should be made in private, to not humiliate or place in an untenable position Asad’s government. It should be made clear that our policy will be one of a carrot or stick, and that he can either chose the path of Ghadaffi of Libya or Hussein of Iraq. Confidence building responses would be met with an easing of trade restrictions on Syria.
b. Our military actions should come as close to the border with Syria as possible in conducting operations. If required, the US should consider limited strategic precision bombing missions within Syria against government command and control structures or foreign terrorist assets if intelligence proves actionable.
2. Syria must give up its weapons of mass destruction without condition. It must be made clear to the Syrian regime that their Baathist regime may go the way of Iraq’s if greater cooperation is not forthcoming.
3. The United States must make it clear that remnants of Syrian control of Lebanon must end. Syria must remove all intelligence assets from the country, and not be allowed to reassert even partial control by use of proxies such as Hizbollah. As such, it should be our policy to:
a. Encourage the formation of a Lebanese government that is truly representative of all its people. We must work with all relevant international institutions to effect this goal. Further, we should use a carrot-and-stick approach with regard to Syrian compliance, using all means at our disposal, economic and diplomatic
b. U.S. intelligence and diplomatic assets must pay close attention to Lebanon so as to judge Syrian compliance.
4. Human rights within Syria must be a part of U.S. policy. We must make it clear that we will only fully accept a Syrian government that is representative of its people, and that the one in power now does not qualify. To effect this a carrot-and-stick policy with regard to economic and diplomatic pressure should be applied as strongly as possible
5. As Israel is our strongest ally in the region, we must ensure that they have the necessary equipment to defeat Syria in a military confrontation. By doing so we ensure that the regime of Bashar al-Asad realizes that it cannot retake the Golan Heights by force.
6. Any negotiations with Syria over disputed territory or peace with Israel must be made with the condition that Syria must reform its government first to respect Western views of human rights. Once again, a carrot-and-stick approach should be used; first Syria reforms its government, then we will let them participate at the bargaining table.
(not part of the original assessment)
MEMRI reports that a second high-ranking Syrian official has "comitted suicide":
Ghazi Kan'an – Second High Ranking Syrian Official to Commit Suicide in Bashar Al-Assad's Presidency
Syria's minister of interior and "strongman" in Lebanon for more than a decade Ghazi Kan'an is the second high-ranking Syrian official reported to have committed suicide since Bashar Al-Assad became president of Syria. The first was prime minister Mahmoud Al-Zu'bi, in June 2000.
A series of clashes in the last year between American and Syrian troops, including a prolonged firefight this summer that killed several Syrians, has raised the prospect that cross-border military operations may become a dangerous new front in the Iraq war, according to current and former military and government officials.
The firefight, between Army Rangers and Syrian troops along the border with Iraq, was the most serious of the conflicts with President Bashar al-Assad's forces, according to American and Syrian officials.
Some current and former officials add that the United States military is considering plans to conduct special operations inside Syria, using small covert teams for cross-border intelligence gathering.
The broadening military effort along the border has intensified as the Iraqi constitutional referendum scheduled for Saturday approaches, and as frustration mounts in the Bush administration and among senior American commanders over their inability to prevent foreign radical Islamists from engaging in suicide bombings and other deadly terrorist acts inside Iraq.
Increasingly, officials say, Syria is to the Iraq war what Cambodia was in the Vietnam War: a sanctuary for fighters, money and supplies to flow over the border and, ultimately, a place for a shadow struggle.
October 15, 2005
Threat Assessments - Introduction
A few months ago, I entered into a venture with two other bloggers whereby we were going to start a new site, dedicated to tracking threats to our country. The enterprise didn't work out, but we did write several "Threat Assessment" papers, and when we parted it was agreed that we could each publish the documents. Over the next few weeks, I am going to post those papers on this site.
The assessments were jointly written by the three of us, which much editing and back-and-forth. After each is posted, therefore, due credit will be given to all three of us, as I want to make clear that they are not my work alone. However, since I am a co-author on each piece, and since I agreed to the final result, I take full responsibility for their content. Further, we were not able to finalize each one before parting. Feel free, therefore, to direct your comments to me alone.
Here is a list of the countries and areas of concern for which a Threat Assessment document was produced:
Sudan China North Korea Syria Afghanistan Islamic Terror
Here is an outline of our characterizations, or how we evaluated each country or area of concern
Military – The threat associated with a particular country, organization or entity in the form of conventional or non-conventional weaponry or war.
Terror – The threat or likelihood of terrorism associated with a particular country, organization or entity in the form of terrorism, attacks on combatants or non-combatants by combatants not aligned with, representing or serving the military interests of a recognized national government or regularly formed militias.
Economic – The potential to assert a nations economic interest through policy, trade, or other means. Generally limited to the actions directly aimed at weakening the economic credibility or influence of other global players in a particular market or industry.
Civil – How the citizens, or subsets of them, are treated within a nation or system of governance – ideology; focusing on civil and human rights, property, political and economic liberties, and religious freedom.