War as a gesture 2

Our view on the pros and cons of a US military attack on Syria is very close to Douglas Murray’s as he expresses it in The Spectator (UK):

For me the conundrum of Syria now comes down to one particular problem. That is one which the House of Commons stumbled over last week and which the US Congress is likely to stumble over in the week ahead. The West has now given ample warning to President Assad of its intention to strike at some point. President Obama has famously drawn a red-line over the use of chemical weapons.

The problem then is this. If any country carries out punitive strikes against the Assad regime they will undoubtedly and rightly be demonstrating the international community’s revulsion over the use of chemical weapons. But if the targets that are hit in the resulting strike are meaningful (government buildings, installations etc) then there is the risk that such an intervention could tip the balance in the Syrian civil war. If that balance is tipped and Assad is severely weakened or even falls as a result then whoever carried out the strikes will be at least partly responsible for what comes next. That is a responsibility which neither America, Britain, France nor any other Western power can handle and it is one which none of us wants.

So – and here is the imponderable – the only purpose of strikes must be to hit targets which are meaningless. … That means something akin to President Clinton’s futile lobbing of missiles at an aspirin factory in Sudan as a response to the 1998 al-Qaeda embassy bombings in Africa. …

I don’t believe that the military should be used for making gestures, but rather to exert power and punish enemies in as meaningful a way as possible.

And the US should only intervene when its own interests are at stake. We want Iran’s nuclear installations to be attacked – in as effective a way as possible.

While Obama dithers, Israel bombs Syria 1

Obama swore that there would be “enormous consequences” if Bashar Assad, presently at war with al-Qaeda in his own country, used chemical weapons.

Bashar Assad has now used chemical weapons. So Obama has snapped into dithering over whether to do anything about it and if so what.

Meanwhile Israel, being in the region actually threatened by Assad’s lethal chemistry, took to the air and bombed Syrian chemical weapons stores.

This is from The Tower:

Syrian opposition forces reported that IAF [Israeli Air Force] strikes had taken place on Syrian territory. The opposition reports also indicated that the Israeli attack targeted Syria’s chemical weapons program.

Since it is impossible to bomb a program, it is to be understood that Israel targeted chemical weapons. Targeted and destroyed (some of) them.

Israeli officials have been increasingly explicit in warning that Jerusalem would act to prevent the Syrian regime from crossing the double red line that Israeli officials had set at the onset of the Syrian conflict: no transfer of advanced Syrian weapons to terrorist allies of the embattled Bashar al-Assad and no seizure of those weapons by Al Qaeda-linked opponents fighting to overthrow the regime.

President Barack Obama has endorsed the Israeli position [in a manner of speaking]:

“That’s an issue that doesn’t just concern Syria. It concerns our close allies in the region, including Israel. It concerns us,” Obama said, also acknowledging the possibility that militant groups might acquire some of those weapons. “We cannot have a situation where chemical or biological weapons are falling into the hands of the wrong people.”

The president noted that he has not ordered any armed U.S. intervention yet, but said: “We have communicated in no uncertain terms with every player in the region, that that’s a red line for us, and that there would be enormous consequences if we start seeing movement on the chemical weapons front, or the use of chemical weapons. That would change my calculations significantly.”

A great threatener, President Obama.

The odds of transfer or seizure have dramatically increased in recent weeks.

Israeli officials publicly worried earlier this week that Assad’s forces had already transferred small amounts of chemical weapons to the Iran-backed terror group Hezbollah. For its part Hezbollah is thought to have poured literally thousands of fighters into Syria, and has become deeply embedded in the Syrian army’s battles against opposition forces. The regime has kept much of the Syrian army out of the fighting due to fears of defection. There are no such worries with Hezbollah’s fighters, and Hezbollah forces had already been deployed to guard Syrian WMD arsenals months ago. Iran and Hezbollah have also reportedly built an enormous force to seize control of Syria if necessary.

The risk of chemical weapons seizure has also spiked. Areas evacuated by Syrian forces, especially those around the border area with Israel, have been filled in by fighters from the Al Nusra Front. The beginning of April saw the largest redeployment of Syrian army forces in 40 years, and rebels are now within striking distance of Syria’s largest WMD caches. The Al Nusra Front is, according to the the State Department, merely an alias for Al Qaeda, and Al Nusra fighters have pledged allegiance to the global terrorist group. Islamist rebels in Syria have pledged to attack Israel and top Israeli military officials believe those attacks would include the use of chemical weapons. …

As the White House mulls whether Syria has crossed President Obama’s red line and used chemical weapons, the U.S. military and intelligence community are quietly acknowledging that the United States does not know where many of those weapons are located… At the heart of the concern is that the Syrian military has transferred more and more of its stock of sarin and mustard gas from storage sites to trucks where they are being moved around the country. … Also worrisome … is intelligence from late last year that says the Syrian Scientific Research Center — an entity responsible for Syria’s chemical-weapons stockpile — has begun to train irregular militias loyal to Syrian President Bashar al-Assad [namely Hezbollah] in how to use the chemical munitions.

Now Obama can claim that he took action through Israel. So Israel is his right hand. (He is left-handed). He can also, if he thinks it expedient, claim that his left hand doesn’t know what his right hand is doing.

Posted under Israel, News, Syria, United States, War by Jillian Becker on Saturday, May 4, 2013

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