The Wall Street Journal reports: The U.S. 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, officials said, amid an expanding array of reprisal threats across the region.
Military officials have been trying to predict the range of possible responses from Syria, Iran and their allies. U.S. officials said they are on alert for Iran’s fleet of small, fast boats in the Persian Gulf, where American warships are positioned. U.S. officials also fear Hezbollah could attack the U.S. Embassy in Beirut.
While the U.S. has moved military resources in the region for a possible strike, it has other assets in the area that would be ready to respond to any reprisals by Syria, Iran or its allies.
Those deployments include a strike group of the USS Nimitz aircraft carrier and three destroyers in the Red Sea, and an amphibious ship, the USS San Antonio, in the Eastern Mediterranean, which would help with any evacuations.
The U.S. military has also readied Marines and other assets to aid evacuation of diplomatic compounds if needed, and the State Department began making preparations last week for potential retaliation against U.S. embassies and other interests in the Middle East and North Africa.
U.S. officials began planning for a possible strike on Syrian regime assets after the Aug. 21 attack outside Damascus in which the U.S. says Syrian government forces killed over 1,400 people using chemical weapons. The U.S. military has prepared options for an attack and beefed up its military resources in the region, including positioning four destroyers in the Eastern Mediterranean.
That process slowed last weekend when Mr. Obama said he would first seek an authorization for using military force from Congress.
A delay in a U.S. strike would increase opportunities for coordinated retaliation by groups allied with the Assad government, including Shiite militias in Iraq, according to U.S. officials. [Continue reading…]
In the event that the U.S. goes ahead with strikes on Syria, it goes without saying that U.S. interests across the region will be possible targets for acts of retaliation of some kind from a variety of possible sources. So why have U.S. officials chosen to leak this particular classified intelligence on a purported threat from Iran? Is this all part of President Obama’s new found desire to promote transparency in the intelligence community? Unlikely.
Maybe there are some members of the administration who are trying to hit the brakes and want to alert the public to the risks involved in the attacks. Think Benghazi.
But this report isn’t based on whistle-blowing — it’s based on a briefing and the object of the exercise soon becomes clear.
An alarm bell is being rung and the message to Congress is: don’t hold up the strikes on Syria because if you do, you will be responsible for the next Benghazi.
But just a minute! Wasn’t it only last weekend that Obama declared: “our capacity to execute this mission is not time-sensitive; it will be effective tomorrow, or next week, or one month from now.”
It’s not time-sensitive, but the longer the delay, the greater the risks of retaliation.
It’s not time-sensitive, but the delay that’s already taken place through seeking Congressional approval means that the Pentagon is already working on expanding the target list.
But if the White House is now hitting the panic button, this might have less to do with the information its getting from the Pentagon and more to do with the word from Capitol Hill.
Concerted pressure from AIPAC notwithstanding, there is a strong possibility that Congress may this time around pay more attention to public opinion than anything else and as a consequence reject Obama’s plan. Obama will then be on a trajectory to enter his own unique expression of unilateralism: no support from Britain, nor from the UN, nor from Congress, nor the American people. Even George Bush never attempted to go it alone to this degree.
Obama’s already passed the point of no return. He’s committed the U.S. to this operation with or without the support of Congress.
With Libya, Obama led from behind. With Syria, he may be on the brink of leading with no one behind.