8.28.2013

SYRIA FORCING THE PRESIDENT'S HAND

The saga of President Obama's saving face effort in wake of last week's chemical weapons attack. 


Assad,Obama,Syria,Chemical Weapons
by James Towe

President Obama estimated Bashar al-Assad a rational actor not likely to carry out a chemical weapons attack. The use of 'WMD' by a confident and rallying Syrian regime was thought to be highly unlikely, thus presenting Mr. Obama the opportunity to offer a 'red line' to the world. Low risk, high dividend, right?

The president and his inner circle had calculated that Assad would not cross 'that' line. I felt a sense of disbelief when I learned that the Syrian dictator had allegedly acted with such abandon. As stated in a previous post, I thought immediately of desperate rebels as the culprits; international attention was fading for their cause.

An intercepted phone call from Syria's defense ministry may shed light on how events unfolded. 

As reported by The Telegraph, sources claim U.S intelligence intercepted a panicked phone call from Syria's defense ministry following the attack. Assad's forces were attempting to push back rebels in a Damascus suburb and were frustrated by the strength of the rebel position. The concern in the call suggests a frustrated commander may have been responsible without the knowledge of Assad or his ministers.

The deaths of hundreds of innocents is appalling and all too common (in varying forms) for that troubled region. I am simply expressing that such swift condemnation and call for action seem premature and likely will harm more civilians. 
 
Few believe there are good options for Syria. As of today, two groups comprise the anti-Assad camp: the president, in an attempt to save what credibility is left of his foreign policy and those supporting the 'freedom fighters', as labeled by Senator John McCain (R-AZ). 

To engage in a bit of vernacular, the president understands that the good guys (rebels) are actually also the bad guys and the bad guys in power (Assad) are probably no worse than the other bad guys (rebels), if that makes sense. Mr. Obama isn't interested in helping overthrow Assad. McCain and company want Assad replaced.

We will probably never know why senators John McCain and Lindsey Graham (R-SC) are so passionate about assisting al-Qaeda laden rebel groups throughout the Levant and Fertile Crescent. What we can determine, with some amount of certainty, is why this president feels compelled to act, at this time, in this chaotic conflict. 

It just might be the result of an American foreign policy in tatters. Not since Jimmy Carter has our position globally been perceived with such weakness by our allies and adversaries alike.

The president has painted himself into a corner. If he fails to act after American warnings were ignored, the possibility of miscalculations by our foes increases dramatically.  If he does act, he may further destabilize the region. 

Assad is certainly no friend of America's, but were the opposition to prevail, it would prove a more destabilizing feature in a seemingly hopeless region. I vote to leave this one alone.