Focal Points Blog

Syria: Suddenly a Race to Peace?

Courtesy Wikimedia Commons

Courtesy Wikimedia Commons

Suddenly it seems as if the United States is competing with Russia to find an alternative to attacking Syria.

As we posted this morning:

“The Syrian government has accepted a Russian proposal to put its chemical weapons under international control to avoid a possible U.S. military strike, Interfax news agency quoted Syria’s foreign minister as saying on Tuesday,” reports Reuters.

Now, reports Politico, “in response to a Russian offer Monday that Syria should give up its chemical weapons in order to avoid the prospects of military strikes”
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Will Turning Over Control of Its Chemical Weapons to Russia Prevent the U.S. From Attacking Syria?

Courtesy Wikimedia Commons

Courtesy Wikimedia Commons

“The Syrian government has accepted a Russian proposal to put its chemical weapons under international control to avoid a possible U.S. military strike, Interfax news agency quoted Syria’s foreign minister as saying on Tuesday,” reports Reuters this morning.

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said, “Syria had agreed because this would ‘remove the grounds for American aggression,’ the report said.”

Of course, Lavrov is scarcely speaking for President Obama, who spoke for himself with Scott Pelley of CBS News about the proposal.
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Prompt Global Strike Too Prompt for Its Own Good?

Courtesy Wikimedia Commons

Courtesy Wikimedia Commons

Conventional Prompt Global Strike (CPGS), still under development, is a weapons system designed to provide the military with the option to strike fast, even on the other side of the world. It affords the speed of nuclear intercontinental ballistic missiles, but without nowhere near the destructive power of a nuclear warhead.

I know, it’s odd that intercontinental missiles have never been developed without warheads, or that they weren’t developed first. Even though it’s not nuclear, CPGS comes with its own set of problems. Foremost among them: that a state targeted might experience difficulty determining if the incoming is a CPGS or a nuclear warhead – with the retaliation decisions the latter would entail. At Global Security Newswire, Elaine Grossman outlines its other problems.
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Assad and Obama Whiff at Chances to Defuse Crisis

Courtesy Wikimedia Commons

Courtesy Wikimedia Commons

The hypothesis that the Syrian chemical weapons attacks may not have been perpetrated by President Bashar al-Assad – or the opposition – has been graining traction. Reuters reports (Sept. 8):

Syrian brigade and division commanders had been asking the Presidential Palace to allow them to use chemical weapons for the last four-and-a-half months, according to radio messages intercepted by German spies, but permission had always been denied … Germany’s Bild am Sonntag paper reported on Sunday, citing German intelligence.

In other words

Syrian government forces may have carried out a chemical weapons attack close to Damascus without the personal permission of President Bashar al-Assad.

Meanwhile, on Sept. 6, in a New York Times op-ed Representative Alan Grayson (D-FL) lamented the Obama administration’s failure to share intelligence on Syrian chemical-weapons attacks with – never mind the public – lawmakers themselves.
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Syria: Helps to Know Whodunit Before Sentencing

Courtesy Wikimedia Commons

Courtesy Wikimedia Commons

With Syria, the United States has been judge, jury, and hopes to be the executioner. The trouble is that its idea of who the accused is remains ill-defined. The United States seeks to hold the Assad regime responsible, but, if it has any idea who ordered the attack – the president, top military command, or local commanders – it’s not letting us in on the secret. As is often the case, that hasn’t stopped us from rushing to judgment, declaring the administration and military guilty, and sentencing them.
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Attacking Syria to Undermine Iran

Iran President Hassan Rouhani. Courtesy Wikimedia Commons.

Iran President Hassan Rouhani. Courtesy Wikimedia Commons.

As many have noted, launching missile strikes against Syria might once again harden the arteries that, since Hassan Rouhani was elected president, has been transporting fresh blood to Iran’s relationship with the West. Unfortunately, turning the relationship toxic again may be what the Washington and Israel wants.

At the Independent, Robert Fisk asks of the strikes, “But why now?” He attempts to answer his own question.

I think that Bashar al-Assad’s ruthless army might just be winning against the rebels whom we secretly arm. With the assistance of the Lebanese Hezbollah – Iran’s ally in Lebanon – the Damascus regime broke the rebels in Qusayr and may be in the process of breaking them north of Homs. Iran is ever more deeply involved in protecting the Syrian government. Thus a victory for Bashar is a victory for Iran. And Iranian victories cannot be tolerated by the West.
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What Happens if Syria Strikes Back?

Copy of a detail of “The Battle of Anghiari,” Leonardo da Vinci’s lost depiction of the futility of war. Courtesy Wikimedia Commons.

Copy of a detail of “The Battle of Anghiari,” Leonardo da Vinci’s lost depiction of the futility of war. Courtesy Wikimedia Commons.

Cross-posted from the Colorado Progressive Jewish News.

A few days ago, writing about the Obama decision to postpone a military strike against Syria, we speculated:

At the least, it buys time to build opposition to such a reckless course. At the most, it is the beginning of a change in direction. Too early to tell. we would hope the latter but fear the former.

Didn’t take long for the smoke to clear on that one.

Having lost a key ally as Great Britain announced it would not participate in a military strike, Obama saw his foreign base of support shrink to nearly naught. He made a tactically clever move: to shore up his domestic support to compensate for the loss. From the tenure of the discussion in the Senate yesterday, which we forced ourselves to watch (for a while anyway), it was pretty clear that the U.S. Senate will stand behind Obama and formally support military action. Although there are stipulations, limitations to Obama’s field of action (no troops on the ground, a sixty-day window for military strikes with the possibility of a further Congressional approval), war has a way of escalating from one set of conditions to another and those limitations might turn out to be “flexible,” as they were in the case of Libya where a no-fly zone transformed almost immediately into an “air attack zone.”
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Humanitarian Intervention: The Gift That Keeps on Giving to U.S. Imperialism

Courtesy Wikimedia Commons

Courtesy Wikimedia Commons

Cross-posted from the Black Agenda Report.

With the announcement by the Obama administration that it intends to launch an attack on Syria in response to the chemical attack alleged to have been carried out by the Syrian government, the U.S. Administration has again assumed for itself the role of global “gendarme,” policing, punishing, and as its drone warfare program demonstrates, even executing the natives of the global village at will. In its single-minded dedication to this global role, the Obama administration has also freed itself from the constraints of international law as the President shamelessly declared that he was “comfortable” operating outside of the global legal frameworks that the U.S. itself helped craft.

How is it that the administration can announce to the world its intentions to circumvent, and by doing so, subvert international prohibitions on war? By wrapping itself in the false flag of humanitarian concerns for the suffering masses in Syria. President Obama, the corporate and financial elite’s most effective propaganda weapon since Ronald Reagan, explains to the world that it is only the plight of people in Syria that drives the U.S. decision to attack the country.
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Missile Strikes Might Only Enable the Assad Regime

CIA map of Syria. Courtesy Wikimedia Commons

CIA map of Syria. Courtesy Wikimedia Commons

At the Atlantic, James Fallows presents a useful overview of Syria by long-time foreign-policy analyst William Polk. One passage – which can be filed under Unforeseen Side Effects – jumped out at us.

Finally, if the missile attacks do succeed in “degrading” the Syrian government, [the Assad regime] may read the signs as indicating that fighting the war is acceptable so long as chemical weapons are not employed. They may regard it as a sort of license to go ahead in this wasting war.   Thus, the action will have accomplished little. 
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Atlantic Reporter Mark Bowden Tries to Portray U.S. as David to Middle-East’s Goliath

Courtesy Wikimedia Commons

Courtesy Wikimedia Commons

The current issue of the Atlantic has a lengthy article on drone warfare, which starts off with a startling metaphor.  It’s David and Goliath.  David, vastly outgunned by the giant, pulls out his trusty slingshot and smooth stone, and, drone-like, takes down the enemy.  Thereupon, though there is an awkward carcass to dispatch first, the adoring multitudes anoint David king and he starts on his new assignment, with the familiar historical results.

Yes, drone-like.  The burden of the metaphor is that America’s introduction of drones into the wars of the Middle East (and soon into just about everything else, it appears) is technologically the same as, and not morally different from, David’s slingshot innovation.
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