Shape-Shifting on Syria
To expect people in the Middle East to do what the United States demands -- without the expenditure of American political and military resources on behalf of allies and against adversaries -- is the biggest wishful thinking of all.
The United States has not made the case that the national security interest of the United States requires the use of military force in Syria. Others have made the case for regime change, punishment, and deterrence against future use of non-conventional weapons by Syria, Iran or North Korea; and some of those cases are compelling. But the Administration has articulated no outcome toward which it is willing to commit substantial military resources and political capital.
The Administration has cast its goals primarily in the negative: no regime change, no tip toward the rebels, and no boots on the ground. In the affirmative: a shot across the bow and an exercise in American credibility presumably to influence both Syria and Iran. President Obama asserted that he would decide -- with or without Great Britain (now without), with or in defiance of the UN (now in defiance of), with or without Congress (now with) -- what he thinks is best. In fact, the Administration has been clearer, more definitive and more adamant about its prerogatives as than it has been about what outcome it seeks.
Congress will now debate the need to enforce "red lines" and ensure American credibility, including to Iran, in the face of tremendous domestic opposition to American intervention in the region. Congress will now have to make the case the Administration did not.
The question is, "What outcome does the United States seek through military action?"
American policy toward Syria has had serial phases:
- Preference for a reformed Bashar Assad.
- Determination to remove Assad from power through a political process, retaining the structure of the Syrian state and its secular nature. This involved the first attempt to find common ground with the Russians at the UN.
- Willingness to support insurrection and revolution by Syrian rebels, while publicly trying to keep arms length from any actual military assistance. The administration dissembled on its role in arming and training the rebels in this phase.
- Threats or "red lines" that implied a willingness to respond to unacceptable violence with armed force.
- A return to the political forum of the UN precipitated by Great Britain, this time knowing there would be no common ground with the Russians.
In 2009, the current administration flattered and cajoled Bashar Assad, returning the U.S. Ambassador to Damascus and partially lifting sanctions on the regime (including on aircraft engines, which had major implications later as the war intensified). For the next two years, a stream of American politicos visited and chatted up Assad; this was the period of the famous "Rose in the Desert" paean to Asma Assad in Vogue magazine and dinner with the Kerrys. They called Bashar Assad a "reformer"and hoped for change.
There was no change, and in August 2011 the Administration demanded that Assad resign, shifting America's desired outcome from an "improved Assad" to "no Assad."
Publicly eschewing arming the rebel forces, the U.S. supported Saudi Arabia, Qatar and Turkey in their vetting and arming groups of their choosing while we tried to organize the political opposition. In early February 2012, the U.S. and its allies went to the UN Security Council with a laundry list of demands for the Assad government, including that it dissolve itself. Russia vetoed the resolution on behalf of its client, to the expressed fury of Secretary of State Clinton.
Later that month, Secretary Clinton called on the people of Damascus and Aleppo to rise up in protest and "start pulling the props out from under this illegitimate regime." In March 2012, President Obama and British Prime Minister Cameron blustered together about the war in Syria as "appalling" and "unacceptable." This appeared to be a shift in tactics if not strategy -- from demanding a political transition to supporting the overthrow of the Assad government. It turned out, however, that the administration had been hiding the depth of the CIA's involvement in vetting rebel groups and providing them with intelligence and other information, as well as an American role in shipping arms from Libya to Syria.
The understanding by the Russian and Syrian governments that the U.S. had been calling for political transition while helping the armed opposition made future diplomacy unlikely.
The President's famous "red line" on the movement or use of chemical weapons by the Syrian government appeared in August 2012. The implication of a "red line" is that it can be crossed only at some cost. The implication of an American "red line" is that the cost would be imposed by America -- another escalation in the U.S. determination to be rid of Assad without saying as much.
In May 2013, the U.S. and Russia were touting agreement on a new political process, but in June, a series of Syrian government advances and some evidence of chemical use prompted a very reluctant President Obama to announce the overt provision of small arms to the rebels. How reluctant? The deputy national security advisor made the announcement in a phone call while the President decamped to Ireland. More of his statement covered what the U.S. would not do, not supply and not support than what the administration would do. In July, Senators Levin, Menendez and McCain called for direct American military involvement including targeting runways to "degrade Assad's ability to use air power and ballistic missiles."
Now, a year after the casual declaration of the "red line," the Syrian government almost certainly has used chemical weapons against its people. The United States is committed to that line and to military action in a way it previously was not.
The Russians predictably vetoed a Security Council Resolution, and David Cameron became the first British Prime Minister to lose a war vote in Parliament since 1792, leaving President Obama back where he started -- wishing for the immaculate transformation of Syria into a secular and gentle democracy, and wishing to stay out of the fighting. But the nature of the regimes that have ruled the region for nearly a century virtually ensures that all transformation will be hard and violent. To expect people in the Middle East to listen to the United States, to do what the U.S. wants or demands -- without the expenditure of American political and military resources, on behalf of allies and against adversaries -- is the biggest exercise in wishful thinking of all.
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|The hunt for the hidden agenda of President Obama [46 words]||Thomas Thomas||Sep 6, 2013 05:24|
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by Burak Bekdil
In Turkey however, the protests were not peaceful. They included smashing a sculpture than was neither Jewish nor Israeli.
It was the usual "We-Muslims-can-kill each other-but-Jews-cannot" hysteria.
If Turkish crowds were protesting against Israel in a political dispute, why Koranic slogans? Why were they protesting in Arabic rather than their native language? Do Turks chant German slogans to protest nuclear energy?
by Burak Bekdil
So in the EU-candidate Turkey, a pianist should be punished for his re-tweets, but a pop-singer should be congratulated for her first-class racist hate-speech. This is contagious.
No reporter present at Mr. Ihsanoglu's campaign launch speech thought about asking him if his commitment to the "Palestinian cause" included any affirmation of the Hamas Charter, in particular a section that says, "…The stones and trees will say, 'O Muslims, there is a Jew behind me, come and kill him.'"
Turkey is also the country where a few years earlier, a group of school teachers (yes, school teachers!) gathered in a demonstration to commemorate Hitler.
by Debalina Ghoshal
Despite Chapter VII of the UN Charter and UNSC Resolutions, it seems that North Korea will continue developing its missiles -- and eventually weaponize them with nuclear warheads.
"North Korea's ballistic and nuclear threat is very much a near-term threat. ... Steady progression in their program is not harmless." — Victor Cha, Centre for Strategic and International Studies.
On March 26, 2014, North Korea reportedly test-fired medium-range ballistic Rodong missiles -- capable of reaching Japan and U.S. military bases in the Asia-Pacific region.
Since February, South Korean officials claim that North Korea has confirmed at least 90 test-firings, among which ten were ballistic missiles.
by Khaled Abu Toameh
It is important to note that these cease-fire demands are not part of Hamas's or Islamic Jihad's overall strategy, namely to have Israel wiped off the face of the earth.
Many foreign journalists who came to cover the war in the Gaza trip were under the false impression that it was all about improving living conditions for the Palestinians by opening border crossings and building an airport and seaport. These journalists really believed that once the demands of Hamas and the Palestinian Islamic Jihad are accepted, this would pave the way for peace between the Israelis and the Palestinians.
To understand the true intention of Hamas and its allies, it is sufficient to follow the statements made by their leaders after the cease-fire announcement this week. To his credit, Ismail Haniyeh, Hamas's leader, has never concealed Hamas's desire to destroy Israel.
Hamas and its allies see the war in the Gaza Strip as part of there strategy to destroy Israel. What Hamas and its allies are actually saying is, "Give us open borders and an airport and seaport so we can use them to prepare for the next war against Israel."
by Burak Bekdil
A front-page headline was particularly revealing: They (Israel) bombed a mosque in Gaza! Including the exclamation mark!
A quick internet search, if you typed "mosque bombing Shiite-Sunni," would give you 782,000 results on July 16.
Why did we not hear one single Turkish voice protest the death of 300,000 Muslims in Darfur?
Hamas's Charter is must-read fun.