Mideast Expert: Obama's Syrian Goal Should Be Regime Change

Friday, 30 Aug 2013 05:16 PM

By Bill Hoffmann

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A limited and narrow strike against Syria as President Barack Obama says he is now considering is "too little, too late," according to Rick Francona, a retired U.S. Air Force lieutenant colonel and Middle East specialist.

"We're doing maybe the right thing but for the wrong reason and looking for the wrong objective. The objective of this should be regime change," Francona told George Marlin, guest host of "The Steve Malzberg Show" on Newsmax TV.

"We've been saying for years now since the Syrian revolution began two years ago that [Syrian President Bashar] Assad has to go, yet, when it comes time to do something about it, we're not willing to step up and cause that to happen."

Story continues below video.

The United States says it has found evidence that Assad used chemical weapons against Syrian rebels last week, which killed more than 1,400 people.

But Francona, who worked in the Mideast with the National Security Agency, the Defense Intelligence Agency and the CIA, believes that without the goal of a military strike being a regime change, nothing will change.

“Assad is not going to stop killing his own people. He's already killed some say 120,000 of his own people, yet if he kills 1,500 with chemical we're willing to launch the US military arsenal at him? That just doesn't make sense to me,” he said.

In addition, the fact that the United Kingdom has declined to partner with the U.S. in a strike is a major blow, Francona believes.

“The British have been with us in virtually every military operation we've conducted for decades. They're our closest ally, some would say our best ally, and for the British to wash their hands of this and lets us to do this on [our] own really says something for the lack of political clarity in what we're doing,” he said.

“If the British aren't going to be there, it will be us alone … We have the French and there will be some trappings of some multi-national things but this looks like it's going to be yet another American show.”

The time to have moved on Syria was about 18 months ago, when the United States could have started supporting the Syrian rebels, before they became influenced by Islamists, according to Francona.

“There was very little Islamist influence there. They turned to the West. They turned to their Gulf Arab allies and said, help us. And we didn't help them so they turned to the only people that would, and those happened to be the Islamists,” he said.

“So now we've had a year and a half of constant influx of Islamic fighters and Islamic fundamentalists from all over the region pouring in there.”

Francona sees an inevitable power struggle in Syria’s future.

“I call it the second battle for Damascus. That will be between those who want to set up a secular society and those who want to set up some sort of Islamic state,” he said.

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