Updated this post to include the text of military options in Syria:
The military option of training and advising must be viewed in the context of a broader strategic vision against al-Assad, and the forces loyal to him. By all accounts as of today al-Assad has regained ground in most of the major strategic arteries which feed Damascus and keeps it continuing indefinitely. If the rebels, whose numbers have been estimated in excess of 80,000 men, are to be trained and advised then they have to have the right equipment. The president has authorized weapons shipments and training for the rebels (in Jordan), and while the CIA no doubt has assets in the north of the country, this alone is not enough. A no fly-zone which has been promulgated by the likes of Sen. McCain, and Graham are should not be entirely out of the question. In fact if the rebels are to hold onto their gains while steadily progressing to Damascus from Homs then the Idea of a no-fly zone in the upper hinterlands of the country from Aleppo till following the Euphrates heading east in Syrian territory is a good one. This action alone would allow the rebels to hang on to precious supply routes without the risk of being outflanked while continuing southward towards Damascus.
In the event that Homs is recaptured by the rebels I think that we face a juncture in the fighting that will force us to ultimately have to determine what our military objectives are.
The first one seems simple but is rather not, A further push down the western end of the country reclaiming Qusayr and eventually retaking Damascus. I’m assuming the American military establishment in the pentagon have this in mind since they are training forces across the border in neighboring Jordan in the hopes that Al-Assad will let his guard down south of Damascus once he sees that the rebels have retaken Homs and Qusayr. This is simply not going to be the case. I think we should remember al-Assad is a Baathist like Saddam Hussein, and his security forces the Fedayeen are some of the most fearsome in the region. Along with Hizbollah, Iranian Republican Guard Corps (IRGC) troops and guidance from Russian Spetsnaz this is a daunting task indeed.
The second logical idea is to after capturing Homs and Qusayr is to grind down al-Assad’s forces in a slug match with air support from America or NATO. This is another mistake in reasoning I believe, since al-Assad has many types of anti air deterrents be they soviet era Mig-29’s, MANPADS, SA-7’s, or the much feared shipment of Russian S-300’s. This along with the sheer density of Damascus makes a frontal assault far too costly and not worth the risk. One noteworthy tactic that I believe is just beginning to be used is the spreading out of hit and run style attacks, from sea ports in al-Assad’s hometown, to the far reaches of eastern Syria near the Iraqi border. These types of attacks would make any mad dash noteworthy yet doomed to fail since the rebel forces are not concentrated on one specific target. In my opinion any gains using this tactic will not hold so long as Assad has access to the major arteries that all coalesce at Homs. And as Frederick Hohenstaufen once said: “He who defends everything, defends nothing.”
The third, and final which is my own personal best idea, is to retake Homs and Qusayr and deprive Damascus of any routes to receive additional supplies. By looking at the map it becomes clear why Assad went on the offensive to prevent the rebels from keeping Qusayr and Homs. There are routes which run directly from Beirut to Qusayr which allowed for Syrian allies to transport goods directly to the front in Homs expeditiously. And also by recapturing Homs he (Assad) was able to have one congruous state that was aligned with the rest of his territories to the only ports Syria has in the North West of the country. For military reasons the fight should be taken to Assad in Homs as soon as possible. This will allow for the rebels to cut off these vital ports from Assad and the rebels can then use them as their own. And by capturing Qusayr you force Assad to take a very dangerous path from Beirut almost straight to Damascus, something he’d rather not do. By then circumvallating Damascus and not letting anything come in or go out of Damascus the rebels would then be able to negotiate with Assad surrender or a Syrian Rebel Putsch as it is so called.
This post contains a power point entitled “Syria: Military Choices, Diplomatic Decisions, and Strategic Imperatives “. This is a retrospective of what I believe to be the U.S. governments choices in Syria as well as a third option (with map) which is my own personal decision planning idea. Syria Military and Diplomatic Options Web Version