World View: Obama Administration Lays Out Case for Syria Intervention

World View: Obama Administration Lays Out Case for Syria Intervention

This morning’s key headlines from

  • U.S. Administration lays out the case for Syria intervention
  • Britain’s leaders engage in soul-searching

U.S. Administration lays out the case for Syria intervention

President Barack Obama says that he has not yet made a decision on Syria, buthe’s set several “red lines,” and failed to do anything when the redlines were breached. He’s flip-flopped on his own attitudes asstated in 2007-08 when he criticized President George Bush for actions that he’s apparently about to do. Thus, many analysts believe Obamahas no choice but to launch an American attack on Syria, and theyexpect an attack this weekend, possibly with some support from Franceand Turkey.

Secretary of State John Kerry gave a very strongly worded statement,apparently in preparation for an attack on Syria: 

Our intelligence community has carefully reviewed andre-reviewed information regarding this attack, and I will tell youit has done so more than mindful of the Iraq experience. We willnot repeat that moment. …

Well, we know that the Assad regime has the largest chemicalweapons program in the entire Middle East. We know that the regimehas used those weapons multiple times this year…. We know thatthe regime was specifically determined to rid the Damascus suburbsof the opposition, and it was frustrated that it hadn’t succeededin doing so. 

We know that for three days before the attack the Syrian regime’schemical weapons personnel were on the ground in the area makingpreparations. And we know that the Syrian regime elements weretold to prepare for the attack by putting on gas masks and takingprecautions associated with chemical weapons. We know that thesewere specific instructions. We know where the rockets werelaunched from and at what time. We know where they landed andwhen. We know rockets came only from regime-controlled areas andwent only to opposition-controlled or contested neighborhoods. 

And we know, as does the world, that just 90 minutes later allhell broke loose in the social media. With our own eyes we haveseen the thousands of reports from 11 separate sites in theDamascus suburbs. All of them show and report victims withbreathing difficulties, people twitching with spasms, coughing,rapid heartbeats, foaming at the mouth, unconsciousness anddeath. … 

The United States Government now knows that at least 1,429 Syrianswere killed in this attack, including at least 426 children. Eventhe first responders, the doctors, nurses, and medics who tried tosave them, they became victims themselves. We saw them gasping forair, terrified that their own lives were in danger. … 

We also know many disturbing details about the aftermath. We knowthat a senior regime official who knew about the attack confirmedthat chemical weapons were used by the regime, reviewed theimpact, and actually was afraid that they would be discovered. Weknow this. 

And we know what they did next. I personally called the ForeignMinister of Syria and I said to him, “If, as you say, your nationhas nothing to hide, then let the United Nations in immediatelyand give the inspectors the unfettered access so they have theopportunity to tell your story.” Instead, for four days theyshelled the neighborhood in order to destroy evidence, bombardingblock after block at a rate four times higher than they had overthe previous 10 days. And when the UN inspectors finally gainedaccess, that access, as we now know, was restricted andcontrolled.

What form will the attack take? Almost all analysts say that therewill be three days of cruise missile strikes, launched from fivedestroyers in the Mediterranean Sea. 

According to one assessment from a U.S. official, the intensity of theattack will be “just muscular enough not to get mocked” but not sodevastating that it would prompt a response from Syrian allies Iranand Russia. However, the attack may be mocked anyway.

Many analysts, both Republican and Democrat, are concerned that thiswill be a “pinprick” strike, allowed al-Assad to brag that he survivedan attack by the Great Satan and just go on killing hispeople, with and without chemical weapons. So the concern is that theattack will be worse than doing nothing. U.S. Dept. of State and LA Times

Britain’s leaders engage in soul-searching

1782 - The Last Time This Happened (Daily Mail)
1782 – The Last Time This Happened (Daily Mail)

After Britain’s prime minister David Cameron’s shocking defeat onThursday in the House of Commons and his subsequent announcementthat Britain will not be participating in any military actionin Syria, many British politicians are going through somesoul-searching. 

The vote against Cameron was led by his opposition leader,David Miliband, leader of the Labor Party, who said: 

People are deeply concerned about the chemicalweapons attacks in Syria, but they want us to learn the lessons ofIraq. 

They don’t want a rush to war. They want things done in the rightway, working with the international community.

Miliband was branded a “f****** c***” who was giving “succour to Assad,” and on Friday he did a partial flip-flop, saying, “I don’tthink the Government should wash its hands of this issue.” 

According to Lord Hurd, foreign secretary from 1989-95: 

I cannot for the life of me see how dropping somebombs or firing some missiles in the direction of Syria, withtargets probably some way removed from the weapons that we havebeen criticizing, will lessen the suffering of the Syrianpeople.

Many people pointed to the sense of déjà vu, as if the days leading upthe 2003 Iraq invasion were being replayed with the same kinds ofintelligence reports talking about WMDs. 

However, Lord Paddy Ashdown, born 1941, told the BBC (mytranscription), referring to the 1938 Nazi invasion of Czechoslovakia: 

I think the consequences for that [yesterday’s vote]are that we are a diminished country this morning. The specialrelationship [with the United States] will certainly be damaged,maybe grievously so. 

Speaking as somebody who spent nearly 50 years trying to serve ourcountry one way or the other, I woke up this morning feelingdepressed, and I must say, I’m somewhat ashamed, that now I mustwatch those people die in agony, in Syria, and including people,kids being napalmed yesterday, and say that the response of mycountry has nothing to do with me. … 

But I think there’s a real danger that Britain certainly returnsto isolationism. I think there’s a real danger that the worldwill itself go into a period of isolationism, if something doesn’tconcern us, then we don’t need to be bothered. 

[In the 1930s, people said,] ‘Czechoslovakia is far away countryof which we need know little.’ You remember the famous phrase fromthe 1930s, and how badly it turned out in the end. Of course Irecognize that parliament yesterday was representing the nationalwill. There’s no mood for this. Strong mood against it in thecountry. But we should just remember that when NevilleChamberlain came back from Munich with the peace of paper thatsaid ‘Peace in our time,’ he was the most popular prime ministerbefore or since we’ve ever had. And Churchill was deeplyunpopular. Which of these two proved to be right?

Daily Mail (London)

KEYS: Generational Dynamics, Syria, Barack Obama, John Kerry,Britain, David Cameron, Lord Hurd, Paddy Ashdown,Neville Chamberlain, Winston Churchill, Czechoslovakia 

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