Tuesday, September 10, 2013

CONSIDER THESE consider SYRIA: Intervention postponed?

It is indeed boring to hear that Obama stepped back after having decided to strike Syria.  Instead facts show that he used every tool he had to gain time for a political solution even if currently Russia looks like the peace broker in the region this time.
During this valuable historic week between the attack which certainly obliged him to publicly assure the world that he was going to remain true to his commitment to act and the return of Congress from their summer recess on September 9th, he had the chance to assess that there was no support for this initiative. He did go through the motions of briefing members of the Congress on Aug 30th, 31st, September 1st and Sept 2nd and announcing that he wants to share the responsibility with Congress – as he is entitled by the constitution to act alone if he so chooses, he is equally entitled not to use this right if he decides not to - and then he met with Putin – all that before the 9th.
Britain’s Milliband told journalist Christian Amanpur that it was the decisiveness of the US government that persuaded Putin that they were serious about the attack and led him to make this offer – which was immediately taken up by Syria – the country has already promised to join the chemical weapons’ convention with Russia assuming the responsibility to monitor Syria’s promise.

Whether one decides to believe this or not is not that important at this point. The important thing is that even if it takes a very long time to have the Syrian chemical weapons destroyed, now Assad’s alliances are in a different place. – for now.

In his second presidency Obama has acquired the experience that intensification in war does not necessarily guarantee success. In order to avoid an unsupported intervention in a country which balances extremism with legitimate rebellion, sometimes leadership may have to be flexible.

Isn’t it reasonable to think that Assad would save face accepting a suggestion to submit his chemical arsenal to the west that came from his ally Russia instead from the USA?
Isn’t it reasonable to think that the UN Security Council can now come to a resolution without any veto distractions if asked to impose on Syria to turn over its chemical weapons to the west in complete declaration while warning of heavy sanctions in case of disobedience? (France is already drafting the question as Obama was speaking.)  A question to invade Syria would never get a positive answer and this international organization would seem - and be - incapable to help.

If this doesn’t work, Obama will have to reveal the evidence that Assad gassed his people – because the American people demand to know - and things may then take the course of war. Time meanwhile will tip the situation with the now quasi-willing countries one way or another and the US Congress will then share the responsibility for the final decision.

Timing was everything again – should one thank the stars that the chemical weapons attack happened while Congress was in recess? Maybe. It is not easy to guarantee that an intervention will not go down a slippery slope. An intervention in a civil war is not a ballet on eggshells where one targets what one should and successfully avoids what one shouldn’t:  anything can go wrong any time. The military knows that and people who have been in war-torn countries know that too.

Having said that, one cannot ignore the question of the Syrian rebels which remains unanswered: “Chemical weapons killed 1500 – conventional ones have killed 100,000. Why hasn’t the west intervened sooner?”

-By Elena Spilioti for Ta Yp Opsin ( Consider These) podcast

Listen to Ta Yp Opsin news roundup with journalists Elena Spilioti and George Zorbas for information, interviews and analyses on current affairs.

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