American interest in Syria is clear that preventing terrorist acquiring chemical weapons; depriving Iran of its most important ally and staging-base in the Middle East; and preventing al Qaeda fro establishing an uncontested safe haven in the Levant. Assad has one of the largest chemical weapons arsenals in the world. Iran’s own military and security forces are active in Syria in defense of the Assad regime. Recent media reporting suggests that the intelligence community was not tracking preparations for Assad’s most recent use of chemical weapons in real-time. Syria’s use of chemical weapons increase the risk of those weapons falling into al Qaeda hands. Persuading him to keep the weapons locked up as securely as he can—is a step toward reducing that risk. Best solution is destroying the weapons or remove them from Syria. Bombing is a risk of releasing clouds of toxic gas that could kill scores or hundreds. Using such advanced munitions, moreover, would require putting manned aircraft over Syrian airspace, which in turn means attacking the Syrian air defense system in advance. And bombing would make it impossible to determine whether all of the weapons were destroyed. Removing the weapons would require ground forces in large numbers. It appears Assad keeps his chemical weapons at a variety of sites around the country. Each strike force would need to be able to overcome the guard forces at each facility very quickly and then hold it against regime counterattacks. These would need to be specialists in handling these weapons. The US military has indicated that such an option could require tens of thousands of troops. Four military forces are operating ion the ground in Syria today, candidates for custody of the weapons arsenal, Assad, Hezbollah, Al Qaeda and the free Syrian army. If it were clear that Assad was going to win the war that allows Assads forces to continue their custody over the arsenal. Neither Hezbollah nor al-Qaeda is trustworthy custodian and since the US has no desire to send the military force the only hope of managing Syria’s chemicals threat lies with the success of the FSA. Deterring or preventing Assad form using his chemicals or dispersing them is of primary importance,. A punitive strike would be unlikely unless it destroyed or otherwise incapacitated the weapons systems. There would have to be several strikes. Preventing Assad form using his weapons supporting the FSA is America’s other two interest in Syria—depriving Iran of its forward staging area in he Levant and preventing al Qaeda from establishing a safe haven there.
Source—weekly standard, Fredrick kagan

When Kerry argued that Syrian opposition forces are not dominated by Islamic extremist “I just don’t agree that a majority are al Qaeda and the bad guys”. “There are about 70,000 to 100,000 oppositionist…maybe 15% to 25% might be in one group or another who are what we would deem to be bad guys”. A number of analysts on the ground in Syria suggest more recent evidence argues otherwise, the regime brazen chemical attack last month in he Damascus suburb suggests Assad may thin his position is becoming increasing vulnerable and that he’s running out of options. Assad was willing to test Obama red line and deploy again, his unconventional arsenal, because Obama wanted no part of the Syrian conflict.
It all comes down to a choice between Assad and an al Qaeda project to turn Syria into an Islamic emirate. Officials first claimed that they didn’t know who was in the opposition, later the White house said they didn’t know that al Qaeda was in the ascendant. The only strategically sound course would be to let them fight each other until on one was left standing. In certain parts of Syria, especially near the Turkish border, Sunni extremists including Al Qaeda affiliates, have until recently been a significant part of the war against Assad. Without western support, Syrian fighters flocked to the groups that could offer money and arms, much of it coming from private donors in the Gulf Cooperation Council states. Increased Saudi involvement has translated into a decline in the relative weight of hard-line Salafis. “Finally we’re starting to fight the message that the opposition is al Qaeda. The president neither forged coalitions among American allies to face down the Iran-Russia-Assad alliance, nor built up rebel units that would be accountable to Washington in the event that someday he might need one or the other or both. Only France is willing to side with the USA.
Sources- weekly standard, lee smith

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