Below is an excellent sitrep on the Syrian civil war. The author, Patrick Cockburn, is one of the very best observers of the Middle East.
DECEMBER 17, 2012
Descent Into Holy War
by PATRICK COCKBURN, Counterpunch
Syria today resembles Iraq nine years ago in another disturbing respect. I have now been in Damascus for 10 days, and every day I am struck by the fact that the situation in areas of Syria I have visited is wholly different from the picture given to the world both by foreign leaders and by the foreign media. The last time I felt like this was in Baghdad in late 2003, when every Iraqi knew the US-led occupation was proving a disaster just as George W Bush, Tony Blair and much of the foreign media were painting a picture of progress towards stability and democracy under the wise tutelage of Washington and its carefully chosen Iraqi acolytes.
The picture of Syria most common believed abroad is of the rebels closing in on the capital as the Assad government faces defeat in weeks or, at most, a few months. The Secretary General of Nato, Anders Fogh Rasmussen, said last week that the regime is “approaching collapse”. The foreign media consensus is that the rebels are making sweeping gains on all fronts and the end may be nigh. But when one reaches Damascus, it is to discover that the best informed Syrians and foreign diplomats say, on the contrary, that the most recent rebel attacks in the capital had been thrown back by a government counteroffensive.
Phi Beta Iota: For decades we have talked about the need to “cast a wide net.” When clandestine reporting is non-existent or flat out false, when Embassies are bunkers with junior diplomats cowering behind the guards and unable to speak the foreign language even if they were willing to travel outside the capital city, US “Human Intelligence” or HUMINT can be said to be a failure. Open Source Intelligence (OSINT) would normally include a broad spectrum of overt human contacts across the entire country, including cell phones that can be reached efficiently for quick “eyes on” updates. This is not something the CIA's Open Source Center (OSC) is capable of doing because they are incompetent at OSINT at the same time that CIA is incompetent at HUMINT. It is time for somebody, anybody, in the Department of Defense to get it right.