"Red line" update: Yep, a no-fly zone over Syria is a possibility, says national intel chief

Remember Tuesday’s post about Obama’s “red line” in Syria having been crossed? I’m treating this as circumstantial evidence that it’s true and that the Pentagon and CIA are now huddling over what to do about it. Need more evidence? Hagel apparently had a “long conversation” with Obama at the White House yesterday about Syria, the result of which was to boost U.S. forces in Jordan. That’s significant because WaPo reported weeks ago that American soldiers were already there assisting Jordanian special forces in case they have to cross the border and start grabbing Assad’s chemical weapons. U.S. officials weren’t coy when explaining the purpose of the deployment:


[Hagel] said the troops will work alongside Jordanian forces to “improve readiness and prepare for a number of scenarios.”…

The deployment “creates an additional capability” beyond what has been there, one official said, and will give the United States the ability to “potentially form a joint task force for military operations, if ordered.”

The new deployment will include communications and intelligence specialists who will assist the Jordanians and “be ready for military action” if President Barack Obama were to order it, the official said.

Carl Levin knows something’s up and he’s not being coy either:

The creation of a no-fly zone, either along the Turkish or Jordanian border with Syria, is a “possibility” for the Obama administration, Director of National Intelligence James Clapper told lawmakers.

Certainly … as the [Syrian] opposition gains control of sufficient geography on the ground, then that’s a possibility,” Clapper told members of the Senate Armed Services Committee on Thursday…

Clapper’s comments come days after Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel “had a long conversation with the president” on U.S. options in Syria at the White House, committee chairman Sen. Carl Levin (D-Mich.) said Wednesday…

“Something is happening, something is going on,” Levin said after Wednesday’s Senate committee hearing on the situation in Syria.


What’s going on, presumably, is that the “red line” was crossed and now O feels obliged to do something about it. This tweet, from foreign-policy expert Micah Zenko, is interesting too but I can’t find a fuller quote anywhere online. Which is too bad, because if he’s conveyed Clapper’s comment accurately, it’s a big deal:

“IC” is “intelligence community,” of course. Is this how O’s going to try to wriggle free of his “red line” threat if he decides that intervening in Syria is simply too risky, by having intelligence simply refuse to confirm the reports from British intelligence that chemical weapons were used recently? On what planet is a simple question of fact — “did Assad use WMD?” — a “policy question”?

Here’s Hagel yesterday explaining the sudden Jordanian deployment.

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