Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Obama Pulls Back Syria Threat

Obama Push to Hit Syria Takes Detour - Carole E. Lee & Janet Hook 

President Barack Obama's campaign for an attack on Syria took an unexpected turn as his administration inadvertently gave the Assad regime a potential way out that spawned second thoughts on Capitol Hill and enthusiasm among international opponents of a military strike.

After Secretary of State John Kerry suggested in off-the-cuff comments that President Bashar al-Assad could avert an attack by promptly handing his chemical weapons to the international community, Russia declared its support and quickly got Damascus on board.

The shift, which Mr. Obama called "a potentially positive development," paused a Senate debate and complicated the president's pitch...
(Wall Street Journal)

Dismantling Chemical Weapons Could Take Years - Phil Stewart 

Any deal with Syria to hand over its chemical weapons in the middle of a civil war would be difficult for inspectors to enforce and destroying them would likely take years, U.S. officials and experts caution.

Syria's chemical arms cache is believed to be spread over dozens of locations and it would be difficult to shield arms inspectors from violence.

Brig.-Gen. Mustafa al-Sheikh, a Syrian army defector, said that most of the chemical weapons have been transported to Alawite areas in Latakia and near the coast, though some chemical munitions remain in bases around Damascus.

Assad Could Win without Chemical Weapons - Avi Issacharoff

If Assad agrees to Moscow's suggestion to hand over the chemical weapons he has, not only could he avoid a U.S. military strike, he'll also preserve the current situation in Syria, which gives him and his army an advantage over the disorganized and fragmented opposition.

Over the past year Assad has used chemical weapons around 13 times, mainly for tactical reasons - like conquering an area and clearing it of opposition fighters and local population.

The incident outside Damascus on Aug. 21 was an exception. Assad can reach similar results using conventional weapons alone.   
(Times of Israel)


Putin's Desperate Attempt to Save Assad - Ron Ben-Yishai

If Syria will be given time to hide a certain amount of its chemical weapons, and if Syria will not be forced to destroy its chemical weapons, then the agreement will not be worth anything. In addition, should the negotiations on an agreement drag on, Syria will be able to transfer at least part of its chemical weapons arsenal to Hizbullah in Lebanon. Such a development would be just as bad for Israel as having the WMDs fall into the hands of the jihadists in Syria.
(Ynet News)

Russian-Brokered Deal a Mixed Blessing for Israel - Herb Keinon

If Syrian President Assad honors the deal - a huge "if" - then a very deadly weapon will be removed from Israel's doorstep. Israel would also be relieved of worrying that these chemical weapons could be transferred to Hizbullah or other terrorist organizations. While the assessments in Jerusalem have long been that Assad would be reluctant to use his chemical weapons against Israel because of fear of retribution, radical terrorists might not harbor a similar fear or even care about the payback.

The bad news is that Assad is left standing, which sends the message to Iran: No worries, this world won't interfere, you can get away with it. Even if Assad has to forfeit his WMD stockpile, he will still literally get away with murder. Assad is now turning his country from an Iranian proxy into an Iranian client state. If he survives, it will be because of Russian political cover and Iranian and Hizbullah physical and material assistance.

The main peril to Israel right now is not the Sunni terrorists, but rather the possibility of an Iranian-led Shi'ite axis - one that soon could be armed with nuclear weapons - stretching from Iran through Iraq, Syria and into Lebanon. Iran remains Israel's principal threat today, a threat that becomes existential if it gains nuclear arms. As such, anything that benefits Iran is bad for Jerusalem. Assad remaining in power benefits Iran. 
(Jerusalem Post)

Obama's Diplomatic Acrobatics -Daniel Pipes, PhD

Lurching from self-imposed trap (the "red line" statement) to self-inflicted crisis (the need for congressional approval), the administration erodes the credibility of the U.S. government and increases the dangers facing Americans. Enemies of the United States, its allies, and modern civilization itself will take succor in this ignominious performance and grow in strength.
[National Review Online]


LHwrites said...

This is a sad and complicated situation. The complications are not created by this administration, though conservatives sure like to pain it that way. The country is sick and weary of war---with good reason. They have been involved with two of them for over a decade. Neither went well, Iraq, we knew it wouldn't and there was never any justification to go in there. Afghanistan, we had to go in there, and had we focused on that one war--our win would be more decisive and effective. The President is hamstrung by the mistakes of his predecessor. It is disingenuous for all the smarmy Republican barbs and complaints when they helped screw up the MiddleEast (more than it already was)and created the situation that leaves America so weary of war. Not to mention, but of course I will, that our screwing up Iraq is what empowered Iran, that until then was cowed by their mortal enemy next door. The conservatives are very good at complaining about today while forgetting how we got here. As Santayana aptly put it, "those who do not remember the past are condemned to repeat its mistakes". It is not a surprise that most of the current republicans don't want to remember the past. Just as republicans in congress enjoy some of the richest health benefits, while continuously trying to rewrite history to deny hard working uninsured Americans of their right to affordable coverage, they like to complain daily about how Obama handles everything---while ignoring their decades of inaction, and worse---years of stupid and failed actions. America, Israel and average Americans are all worse off today because of the failures and stupidity of the same people complaining today. We would all be wise, whenever hard right wingers speak, to remember those sage words of George Costanza, I paraphrase: Whatever their instincts tell them---we should all do the opposite.

Bruce said...

I agree that this situation is sad and complex. However, Obama seems to be parroting Bush in his focusing on the wrong target. Bush hit Iraq when Iran was the issue. Obama is focusing all this attention on Syria, when Iran is the puppetmaster.

I say hit Iran now.

LHwrites said...

Bush hit Iraq when Afghanistan was the issue. Iran was not a credible threat while Iraq was a functional and powerful neighboring enemy. Part of Hussein's lies about WMD were to keep Iran cowed. We knew this because Saddam was a friend of ours for a decade while he pummeled Iran, and we probably knew exactly what he didn't have---which is why Colin Powell felt abused and betrayed by the Bush administration. Thanks to the mishandling of Iraq, the American people would never support striking Iran now. Syria is the actual problem because it is slaughtering innocents. It is using gas. We could bomb them fiercely and show Iran that even worse is waiting for a nuclear minded troublemaker. However, how much do you bomb Assad when in reality he could have been more aggressive, and his replacements might be 10 times worse? That is what stays Obama's hand. He's not as arrogant or foolhardy as the previous administration. That is why he left this one to Congress---let the loudmouths who never contribute anything, only complain about the attempts to solve problems by others---let them have to deal with the real world for a change. Congress is being forced to consider how messy reality is---not the black and white dream world of Rush Limbaugh and Tea Party Republicans.

Bruce said...

It's true that during the Bush years, Iran was not yet understood as the bigger threat. Israel did understand this and apparently advised Bush against hitting Iraq.

I hope that you're wrong about Americans not supporting a strike on Iran. Americans do perceive Iran as a threat. I hope they'd support a strike if it were surgical and quick.

I understand what you're saying about Congress, but it was a poor move as he could not line up the votes [which makes us look weak].