U.S. contemplating 'an Assad aftermath'
File photo of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.
July 23rd, 2012
05:12 PM ET

U.S. contemplating 'an Assad aftermath'

By Barbara Starr

Senior level Obama administration officials are now holding regular high-level meetings to discuss the ongoing situation in Syria and begin thinking about U.S. priorities in a post-Assad era, a senior U.S. official told CNN Monday.

"We are in the early stages of contemplating an Assad aftermath," the official said. While Syria has been a top priority for months, the official said specific concerns about the security situation in Syria have grown in recent days.

"The meetings are being convened to discuss the current situation and ensure that we are doing all we can as the crisis has worsened," the official said. "The intensity of the discussions has grown. The level of concern has increased considerably."

The administration also has stepped up its external discussions with Israel, Jordan and Turkey as the threats of spreading violence and refugees streaming across their borders has grown. There are also specific discussions with all those countries about Syria's chemical weapons stockpiles.

Syria's foreign ministry said Monday that the country has chemical weapons that it would be willing to use against foreign attackers. The admission led to strong warnings from U.S. officials, including President Barack Obama, who warned it would be a "tragic mistake."

"They should not think for one iota" about using the chemical weapons, Pentagon spokesman George Little said Monday.

And State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland said: "Any talk about any use of any kind of a weapon like that in this situation is horrific and chilling. The Syrian regime has a responsibility to the world, has a responsibility first and foremost to its own citizens to protect and safeguard those weapons. That kind of loose talk just speaks to the kind of regime that we're talking about."

The senior U.S. official said U.S. and allied concerns took a leap forward when extensive fighting reached Damascus last week.

"It suggested the regime might be on its last legs," the official said.

While no one can predict when, and indeed if, Assad might leave office, the uptick in fighting, the resulting violence and the increased concern about the fate of Syria's chemical weapons all have led to the increased U.S. concern and need to plan for a post- Assad era, he said.

That in turn has led to discussions about a post-Assad political framework in Syria. The official emphasized the United States is not trying to impose a new political leadership, but rather to understand which opposition leaders are out there, and their relative strengths.

To that end, the U.S. intelligence community has also sent personnel to neighboring countries to talk to opposition groups to try to determine who the United States might be able to work with, the official said.

Although the United States sees the opposition forces gaining strength, they still haven't shown they can hold ground.

Another U.S. official said, "The insurgency is clearly picking up steam and operating across larger swaths of territory. Some of the myriad groups that make up the armed opposition are talking to each other more and it looks tactical coordination is improving. The real test now is whether insurgent fighters can beat back their adversaries and hold onto key areas in the face of a counteroffensive."

 CNN's Pam Benson contributed to this report.

soundoff (81 Responses)
  1. Troy

    If we had a strong military presence in a neighboring country we would not even have to flex our muscle. Just the fact of being there would have deterred the whole situation. If you don’t know your history you’re bound to repeat it. Let’s all give Obama a pat on the back for bringing home the troops. Then when our children and grandchildren are over there in the next conflict let’s study our history,

    July 25, 2012 at 1:01 am | Reply
  2. Mohammad A Dar

    What is wrong if Syrian government uses chemical weapons against hindu's, criminal countries if they are attacked by hindu criminal countries of the west and their hindu criminal allies Jew's, self centered after having committed hinduism terrorism by hindu criminal government of USA by use of Phosphorus bombs mixed with depleted uranium and their hindu allies labeled as Israel, but hindu's pagans of Persia and Egypt.

    July 24, 2012 at 10:25 pm | Reply
  3. Sir Cecil

    The truly frightening thing is that the Internet gives a voice to such non-minds as are evidenced here.

    July 24, 2012 at 3:51 am | Reply
    • joelpeter

      and for what intellectual endeavour were you granted a knighthood ,Sir Cecil, pray tell.

      July 24, 2012 at 4:30 am | Reply
    • George Patton

      Thank you, Sir Cecil. These people will believe anything this government tells them since they don't seem to be able to think for themselves!!!

      July 24, 2012 at 11:03 am | Reply
  4. maltesefalconx9

    Sure clean the rats out of the West Bank territory though, huh! Be like old times.

    July 24, 2012 at 3:31 am | Reply
  5. maltesefalconx9

    Can't wait to get the CIA out of the Middle East completely. What utter garbage.
    Who cares what happens to izraeel.

    July 24, 2012 at 3:25 am | Reply
    • Thinker23

      YOU should care. If Iran or another enemy of Israel will start another war the largest oil field on the planet may become unusable for many centuries. As a result the prices of oil will skyrocket and the world will be thrown into a crisis of epic proportions effectively ending our civilization as we know it. So YOU should care what happens to Israel.

      July 24, 2012 at 5:28 am | Reply
      • thejust

        O, the Israelis certainly wouldn't be responsible....

        You retard.....

        Thankfully, many people are waking up to the fact of israels part in global instability, and their ever increasing control of US politicians, through AIPAC.

        how dumb did they actually think we would STAY??

        July 24, 2012 at 2:38 pm |
      • storm

        if our civilliation is based on Israel, then the end of that farce can't come fast enough...

        July 24, 2012 at 2:40 pm |
      • bigs

        Thinker, respectfully, you are a completely brainwashed moron.

        Israel has been caught red handed during several of their betrayals of their only friend in the world.

        And if a civilization depends on that kind of treachery......well.....look to Roma.....

        Remember the liberty

        July 24, 2012 at 2:44 pm |
  6. maltesefalconx9

    "Bomb, bomb, bomb Iran" – totally innappropriate, right Oldland?

    July 24, 2012 at 3:17 am | Reply
  7. maltesefalconx9

    Is the "U.S. intelligence community" the CIA? Then why don't they just say "the CIA"?

    July 24, 2012 at 3:04 am | Reply
    • Bob

      Incorrect! The Intelligence Community is 17 agencies with the United States government that falls under The Office of the Director of Intelligence. The CIA is an agency that collects information and performs analysis for the POTUS.

      July 24, 2012 at 10:11 am | Reply
    • Chris

      I know you don't know very much about these things which is obvious by your previous comments but the intelligence community is not just the CIA, the NAVY and Air Force both have intelligence units.

      July 24, 2012 at 10:15 am | Reply
  8. booboot0805

    America has fought many wars and got involved in many conflicts in the last 20 years and alall of them had the same purpose: prevent muslims from killing other muslims, or to protect them from outside enemies i.e., Afghanistan, Iraq, Somalia, Libya, Tunisia, Egypt, Kosovo, Bosnia, etc... . Most Americans now believe it should never have happened. Let's keep out of everyone of those conflicts. Let the Russians, Chinese and Indians deal with them. They are a lot closer to them than we are. At worse, we should sell an equal amount of weapons to each side . . . at the greatest profit possible.

    July 24, 2012 at 2:06 am | Reply
  9. Michael E. Mouse

    Where is the oil?

    July 24, 2012 at 1:53 am | Reply
  10. jonathan

    re: And State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland said: "Any talk about any use of any kind of a weapon like [chemical weapons] in this situation is horrific and chilling."

    Just a bit hypocritical I'd say. If Syria threatens to use chemical weapons, its horrifying and chilling, but when the US drops white phosphorus on Fallujah, Iraq, its...............just collateral damage.

    July 24, 2012 at 12:01 am | Reply
    • George Patton

      Thank you, jonathan. How so very true that rings!!!

      July 24, 2012 at 12:20 am | Reply
  11. DCBill

    I would surprised–and quite upset–if the US isn't aiding those fighting Assad or those helping those who are fighting Assad.

    I would be shocked if no US (or Israeli, British, French, or Saudi) special forces (branches notwithhstanding) are not already in Syria, or on its borders, actively working with the opposition.

    Whether we want to be or not, we already are part of this mess in that we will have to deal with soembody when the major shooting stops.

    Sugegsting Obama "butt out" is head in the sand stuff (no pun intended).

    July 23, 2012 at 11:52 pm | Reply
    • George Patton

      Here goes another weak minded, warmongering Tea Partier spewing out his ignorance. Contrary to what this clown above says, we have no right to interfere in Syria at all. 75% of the world's current problems are caused by Western interference!!!

      July 24, 2012 at 12:17 am | Reply
      • Adam1027

        So your telling me that, we have no interest in working with regional and international bodies to help prepare for when this country implodes and there are chemical/biological weapons laying around. No one is saying we should send troops or directly topple the government. They're just saying that we need to be prepared for all scenarios and know who the people are, then we can be in a position to help get the weapons out! How can you be so dumb! How about you just take a rational perspective about things in life. There is no way in hell we a large amount of troops in. Almost nobody has suggested that...

        July 24, 2012 at 1:16 am |
  12. John Kaufman, Oceanside, CA

    This country hopely needs to stay out of this mess. Do not get involved here. We have already been through 2 wars in which our foreign involvements have bankrupted this country, killed thousands of our soldiers, and wounded many more. This country needs a rest from our involvement in foreign conflicts with our interventions. Give us all a break, Obama and Congress, back off and stay out!

    July 23, 2012 at 11:37 pm | Reply
  13. Steve

    The United States should mind it's own business. If it wasn't for their Israeli connections we'd leave this country go just like we do in Africa but the Mid-East is an OIL rich area & we don't want to get our fingers out of their pockets. As for them threatening to use their weapons – well, just stay the fuk out & it'll be fine, LOL

    July 23, 2012 at 11:35 pm | Reply
    • Thinker23

      But of course, Steve! Run away from the enemy and the enemy will disappear... Right?

      July 24, 2012 at 5:30 am | Reply
    • Bob

      That is what we did with Europe following WWI. Not a good idea. What small problem we ignore now will blow up in our face decades later.

      July 24, 2012 at 10:13 am | Reply
  14. Realist

    Why do guys keep on calling this an "Arab Spring"? These revolutions should be called an "Arab Nightmares". In every country this happens, these movements are infiltrated by AL Qaeda elements, Militant Islamists, and radicals. Clearly, the results are not in the US, World, or the host peoples interets.

    July 23, 2012 at 11:18 pm | Reply
  15. rosa

    JImmy Carter all over again?

    July 23, 2012 at 11:02 pm | Reply
    • Linusg

      Carter was a hundred times more intelligent and capable than Bush. Remember? Bush, the guy that presided over 9/11, the guy that started a bloody and costly war under false pretenses and the same guy that presided over the financial meltdown. Carter only "mistake" was the failed attempt to rescue the hostages held by Iran.

      July 24, 2012 at 12:19 am | Reply
      • Nodack

        And Carter's failing to get the hostages out was because the military failed in their mission and Carter got the blame. The same thing could have happened trying to kill Bin Laden, but luckily they pulled it off. Did Obama get the credit for the successful mission? No because it was a success. If like the Carter rescue attempt it failed we would all be talking about how Obama failed to get Bin Laden and it was Obama's failed mission and what a dumb idea it was to go to Pakistan to try to get Bin Laden.

        July 24, 2012 at 3:12 am |
  16. Flashtrum

    Top priority? We've done nothing, and I'm not sure there is anything to do. Are we going to choose sides on every civil war that any country goes through, and then apply military might? With this administration, chances are we'll choose the wrong side 9 times out of ten.

    July 23, 2012 at 10:42 pm | Reply
    • Nodack

      What makes you say that? The only thing Obama got us into was Libya. We didn't lose a single person in that conflict and not one US soldier set foot on the ground. Obama got us out of Iraq, got Bin Laden and is trying to get out of Afghanistan.

      His record is stellar IMO. You just hate Obama and can't help but to say crap about him.

      July 24, 2012 at 3:17 am | Reply
      • Jim Carry

        What a mess you left in Iraq and the same mess you will leave when you get out of Afghanistan.I don't smell democracy there Only mess, mess and mess ...nothing else.

        July 24, 2012 at 4:34 am |
  17. George Patton

    Just who are we Americans to contemplate or even plan a post-Assad Syria? We need to leave that decision to the Syrian people instead of planning another phoney revolution similar to the one in Libya last year! This expansionism on our part is what's helping to keep us in this current depression here!!!

    July 23, 2012 at 7:20 pm | Reply
    • Adam1027

      What? We aren't planning their future, we are preparing ourselves for a country that may have unaccounted chemical weapons, and where the opposition may end up being in no shape to keep them out of the hands of terrorists after the collapse of the regime. How does the U.S. cooperating with allies in the region just to be prepared not make sense to you...

      July 23, 2012 at 9:45 pm | Reply
      • NasTeaMan

        Derp. The opposition IS the terrorists, so, yeah, I guess they'll have a hard time keeping the chemical weapons from themselves should they win. Or have you not been paying attention that Al Qaeda and the Muslim Brotherhood are part of the opposition? They said so themselves. Don't worry, it's not like these same people used mustard gas on tribes that were against the NTC in Libya a few weeks back. Oh, wait, if it wasn't on CNN, it didn't happen.

        July 23, 2012 at 11:34 pm |
    • Splash kid

      Cant anyone read and comprehend. The article states nothing about US planning Syriacfuture. It is about relations with a post Assad Syria . I can't read CNN comments any more To many nincompoots

      July 23, 2012 at 11:25 pm | Reply
  18. Thinker23

    I'm afraid that it is a bit more complicated than that, Saeed. For starters I would like you to explain the reasons Russian leaders will be willing to sacrifice itheir own country and its population in order to allow the Ayatollas to get nukes.

    July 23, 2012 at 5:45 pm | Reply
  19. saeed

    USA can't do anything Russia will nuke USA and Britain its no Moore complicated then that.

    July 23, 2012 at 5:15 pm | Reply
    • HDawg

      Nuke your towel head country. Russia doesnt want an of USA. Once we unleash the fury no one will. Now go back in your hole and hide

      July 23, 2012 at 6:19 pm | Reply
      • George Patton

        The guy who posted the above is obviously some weak minded, war loving Tea Partier. Gee, have these guys no shame?

        July 23, 2012 at 7:15 pm |
      • saeed

        Funny china will drop one bomb and the shock wave will take out half of Britain.

        July 23, 2012 at 7:47 pm |
    • saeedTheTowelHead

      Baaaaaaaaaaaaaah, Baaaaaaaaaaaaaah, Baaaaaaaaaaaaaah, Daaaaaaaaaaaaaddy?

      July 23, 2012 at 9:49 pm | Reply

Post a comment


 

CNN welcomes a lively and courteous discussion as long as you follow the Rules of Conduct set forth in our Terms of Service. Comments are not pre-screened before they post. You agree that anything you post may be used, along with your name and profile picture, in accordance with our Privacy Policy and the license you have granted pursuant to our Terms of Service.