US officials are discussing air raids against Syrian government and army
Syrian army and a Palestinian pro-government militia (the Jerusalem Brigade') have captured the Palestinian Handarat refugee camp in the northern outskirts of eastern Aleppo two days ago. Moreover it looks very much like this time they will be able to hold on to it. For anyone following the battle of Aleppo closely this is very significant as the previously inconclusive fighting for Handarat had been a focal point of the battle for over six months now.
Eastern Aleppo remains a heavily defended fortress but real, if slow, progress is being made.
One group of people who appears none too happy with that are US officials:
Officials said the speed of the Russian and Syrian offensive against Aleppo has put pressure on the White House to accelerate its deliberations and forced policy makers to look at options they previously were reluctant to seriously consider.
Apparently even this, actually rather slow pace of advance, has Washington in panic mode.
Reuters reports that as a result the Americans are holding "staff-level" talks to come up with a recommended course of action for Obama to take:
As a result, one of the officials said, the list of options is narrowing to supporting rebel counter attacks elsewhere with additional weaponry or even air strikes, which "might not reverse the tide of battle, but might cause the Russians to stop and think."
Another official said any weapons supplies would not include shoulder-fired anti-aircraft missiles, or Manpads, which the Obama administration fears could fall into the hands of Islamic State militants or al Qaeda-linked groups.
The most dramatic option under consideration – but considered less likely – would be a U.S. air strike on a Syrian air base far from the fighting between Assad’s troops and rebel forces in the north, officials said.
So there you go. The US wants us to believe that under the Kerry-Lavrov pact it was willing to bomb al-Nusra and any rebel group which did not disassociate from them, but because that deal fell through the US will now ramp up arms shipments to the very same rebel groups and is even considering launching air strikes against the Syrian government in their support. Makes sense. If you're going to start a WW3 with Russia it might as well be for the benefit of jihadist who declined to commit to your truce because it didn't include al-Qaeda.
Actually much of the Reuters report is spent explaining the US doesn't have any brilliant options here. Firstly even the hawks themselves don't know if there is a move to play here:
Even administration advocates of a more muscular U.S. response said on Wednesday that it was not clear what, if anything, the president would do, and that his options "begin at tougher talk," as one official put it.
"Tougher talk" -- got it.
Secondly they're bringing up options and shooting them down themselves as soon as they do:
U.S. officials had considered a humanitarian airlift to rebel-held areas, which would require escorts by U.S. warplanes, but this has been deemed too risky and has been "moved down the list," one official said.
Funny how moves which are deemed "too risky" aren't abandoned but merely "moved down the list".
Finally, they're deluding themselves into thinking Russians will be impressed by moves like these:
Other ideas under consideration include sending more U.S. special operations forces to train and advise Kurdish and Syrian rebel groups, and deploying additional American and allied naval and airpower to the eastern Mediterranean, where a French aircraft carrier is already en route.
Training rebels has been an embarrassing fiasco, and Kurds are mainly fighting ISIS, plus they are enemies of the rebel camp. The Russians won't be shaken by either option.
The key thing to understand is that it's not Russia which outmaneuvered the US. It is the US which tricked itself into the blind alley it finds itself now. The US isn't struggling to come up with a move that will impress the Russians because of Russian strength in Syria, but because of American weakness -- weakness which isn't borne out of lack of US capability, but out of the utter lack of any sense, logic or rhyme to its policy.
Recall this is the power which was first fighting Assad, is now fighting Assad and ISIS both, and came close to fighting Assad, ISIS and al-Nusra-friendly rebels all at the same time. Obviously when you find yourself both backing and opposing so many of the factions it becomes impossible to "win".
This is what puts the Russians -- who actually know what they want in Syria -- in a position to shrug off the demands to halt the Aleppo effort as America's "emotional breakdown".