World View: U.S. Escalates Syria Crisis with Confirmation of Chemical Weapons

This morning's key headlines from GenerationalDynamics.com

  • U.S. escalates Syria crisis with confirmation of chemical weapons
  • Bill Clinton slams Barack Obama for Syria leadership failures
  • Qusair battle turns Sunni Arab people and nations against Hezbollah
  • Congressmen whine because Obamacare applies to them

U.S. escalates Syria crisis with confirmation of chemical weapons

Funeral for Hashem Salman, 28, who was who was shot and killed at a rally outside Beirut's Iranian Embassy Sunday while protesting Hezbollah’s involvement in the Syrian conflict. (Daily Star)
Funeral for Hashem Salman, 28, who was who was shot and killed at a rally outside Beirut's Iranian Embassy Sunday while protesting Hezbollah’s involvement in the Syrian conflict. (Daily Star)

The White House issued a statement late on Thursday confirming that the regime of Syria's president Bashar al-Assad has crossed a "red line" with the use of chemical weapons on its own people, causing some 150 deaths:

"Following a deliberative review, our intelligence community assesses that the Assad regime has used chemical weapons, including the nerve agent sarin, on a small scale against the opposition multiple times in the last year. Our intelligence community has high confidence in that assessment given multiple, independent streams of information. The intelligence community estimates that 100 to 150 people have died from detected chemical weapons attacks in Syria to date; however, casualty data is likely incomplete. While the lethality of these attacks make up only a small portion of the catastrophic loss of life in Syria, which now stands at more than 90,000 deaths, the use of chemical weapons violates international norms and crosses clear red lines that have existed within the international community for decades. We believe that the Assad regime maintains control of these weapons. We have no reliable, corroborated reporting to indicate that the opposition in Syria has acquired or used chemical weapons. ...

The President has been clear that the use of chemical weapons – or the transfer of chemical weapons to terrorist groups – is a red line for the United States, as there has long been an established norm within the international community against the use of chemical weapons. Our intelligence community now has a high confidence assessment that chemical weapons have been used on a small scale by the Assad regime in Syria. The President has said that the use of chemical weapons would change his calculus, and it has. ...

Put simply, the Assad regime should know that its actions have led us to increase the scope and scale of assistance that we provide to the opposition, including direct support to the SMC. These efforts will increase going forward.

The United States and the international community have a number of other legal, financial, diplomatic, and military responses available. We are prepared for all contingencies, and we will make decisions on our own timeline."

However, while this statement escalates the rhetoric, it avoids talking about any specific action, presumably for the same reasons as before -- that any aid given to the rebel groups could fall into the hands of Jabhat al-Nusra or other al-Qaeda linked groups. The problem is that President Obama has repeatedly used highly threatening rhetoric, sometimes specifying "red lines," but has taken no action when a red line is crossed except to move the red line. This has subjected him to some ridicule in the Mideast. Now it appears to be happening again, although Obama has promised to evaluate all options. Guardian

Bill Clinton slams Barack Obama for Syria leadership failures

The harshest critic of president Barack Obama on lack of leadership in Syria has been Senator John McCain. But now, former president Bill Clinton has said that he agrees with McCain. At a press event on Tuesday held jointly with McCain, Clinton criticized Obama for allowing his decisions to be too strongly guided by opinion polls:

“Some people say, 'Okay, see what a big mess it is? Stay out!' I think that’s a big mistake. I agree with you [McCain] about this. Sometimes it’s just best to get caught trying, as long as you don’t overcommit — like, as long as you don’t make an improvident commitment.

Nobody is asking for American soldiers in Syria. The only question is now that the Russians, the Iranians and the Hezbollah are in there head over heels, 90 miles to nothing, should we try to do something to try to slow their gains and rebalance the power so that these rebel groups have a decent chance, if they’re supported by a majority of the people, to prevail? ...

[If you blame a lack of action because] there was a poll in the morning paper that said 80 percent of you were against it ... you’d look like a total wuss. And you would be."

Suggesting that president Obama might look like a "total wuss" is pretty strong language. Politico

Qusair battle turns Sunni Arab people and nations against Hezbollah

The White House justified its statement Thursday threatening action in Syria because of chemical weapons, but that's really old news. It's far more likely that the White House was pressured by last week's news of the stunning victory by the al-Assad regime in Qusair, aided by Hezbollah fighters from Lebanon. Analysts that I've heard have expressed little doubt that Assad could not have won that battle without help from Hezbollah's fighters, who have been trained in street fighting by Iran.

Hezbollah's popularity surged among Sunni Muslim Arabs in the wake of the 2006 war between Israel and Hezbollah in Lebanon, at a time when Sunni and Shia Muslims were largely united over the American military in Iraq. However, all of that changed very rapidly in the last few weeks, since Hezbollah's leader Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah gave a fiery speech promising to defeat Sunni Muslims in Syria, and then followed up by supporting al-Assad's Shia-Alawite army in Qusair.

According one Saudi writer, the attitude of the Sunni Arab public has become vitriolic:

"They have exposed a malicious racist spirit that places its pains above all others’ pain. They are moved by the desire of blind vengeance. They know no mercy, tolerance or justice. They consider that the ones responsible for all these pains are everyone who belongs to the sect of the tyrant. This is how crimes were attributed to people who have nothing to do with the fighting in the Syria. They were only attributed to them because they happen to belong to the same sect. ...

At first, I thought they were bats of darkness on Twitter. I thought they were masked people who enjoy insulting, criticizing and accusing others of infidelity on Twitter because they know no one can pursue them or hold them accountable. But I later realized that the situation is far more dangerous and expanded than that. A university scholar who teaches in a prominent university in our country wrote 'we must remind our children that the infidel Shiite and Alawites are the ones who [committed crimes] against our people in Qusair. I will spit in the face of whoever preaches to me about tolerance.' A Saudi reminded him of humanitarian, cultural, national and religious references that unite people and described the former’s stance as reactionary and primitive. The university teacher responded saying: 'Welcome to reactionism and primitiveness that will purge our country of your impurity.'"

The Sunni Arab Muslim vitriol at Hezbollah is being translated into threats by the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) of Sunni Arab nations.

"The GCC strongly condemns Hezbollah’s blatant intervention in the crisis in Syria which caused the death of civilians. ...

Hezbollah’s illegal intervention and the horrific practices of its militias in the region will harm its interests in GCC countries. The GCC council decided to take measures against Hezbollah loyalists' residencies as well as their financial and trade transactions."

The exact sanctions were not described, but this kind of statement directed against Hezbollah would have been unthinkable a few weeks ago.

For years I've been writing that the Mideast is heading to a new war between Sunni and Shia Muslims, between Israelis and Arabs, refighting the genocidal 1948 war that followed the partitioning of Palestine and the creation of the state of Israel. It's now a possibility that this war will be an expansion of the war in Syria, triggered by the invasion of Hezbollah militias into Syria. Daily Star (Beirut) and Al Arabiya (Dubai)

Congressmen whine because Obamacare applies to them

This is really hilarious. Republicans and Democrats in Congress, and their aides, have suddenly discovered that the Obamacare law, which nobody read before it was passed, actually applies to them. They're whining and panicking because their health insurance costs will skyrocket, and the resulting policies won't be as good. It couldn't happen to a nicer bunch of people. Politico


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