By HUGO oDiOGOR with agency report
What will be the consequences of President Barack Obama’s failure to get the needed domestic and international support to punish Syria’s President Bashar Assad for gassing his own citizens with serum and other deadly chemicals? That is the million dollar poser before Americans and the global community who are watching the outpouring of emotions on both sides for and against the impending military strike on Damascus.

To some international observers on the Syrian crisis: is Obama weeping more than the bereaved? The United States lawmakers are expected to seat today to take a comprehensive look at the presidential request for Congressional approval to use limited military force to incapacitate Syria’s President Bashar Assad who has in the past two years killed over One million Syrians and sent over two million others into refugee camps in Turkey, Jordan, Lebanon, Egypt etc.

Bashar al-Assad
Bashar al-Assad

The plan to strike limited targets especially the Syrian Military command and control structures, the strategic institutions and intelligence centers, and infrastructures that that have been used to overwhelm the opposition will cripple the military capabilities of the Assad regime.

The military action by the US and its allies is aimed at achieving a limited goal of telling Assad that he can be punished for crossing the red line. The US is however, facing a catch 22 situation in Syria.

While the opposition camp would welcome the ouster of Assad from power, the US political establishment, its public and diplomatic communities are concerned that toppling Assad will only create another anti-US regime in Syria.

The failed experiment of regime change campaign in Iraq, Egypt and Libya has warned Washington to be wary of the forces pushing to topple Assad.

NUISSANCE DIPLOMACY

Emboldened by the lack of international consensus at the United Nations and domestic divisions among the political establishment in America, President Bashar Assad seems to be lapping up the joy of seeing the great powers unable to come to terms on how to handle the Syrian situation.

The situation in Syria remains dicey and Western powers are coming to terms with the fact that their concept of promoting regime change has often thrown up some unintended consequences as they have seen in Iraq, Iran, Afghanistan, Libya and Egypt.

The complexity of the Syrian situation is amplified by the fact that the most potent rebel group in Syria is backed by Al-Qaeda. Assad also enjoys the support of other radical groups like Hezbollah in Lebanon, and Hamas.

The US would not want to replicate the experiences of Iran, Iraq, Libya and Egypt in the name of exporting democracy and human rights to Al Qaeda infested groups.  Russia knows that only Assad can guarantee and protect its economic interest in Syria.

BRITISH DUPICITY

With the British already cold on joining in the proposed military strike, the alliance between US and France continues to suffer from the expected global consensus to deal with Assad for allegedly using chemical weapons on Syrians, a practice that was banned globally after the Second World War.

Then the British Parliament voted against going to war, and Prime Minister David Cameron, an advocate from the beginning, now had to bow out. The British had been part of wars the Americans had dreamed up. This was one crisis that the British had helped create and the parliament voted against it.

Many British members of parliament openly said the United Kingdom was no longer the Americans’ lap dog. For those who know Britain would not want to make their daughter a widow, the decision of members of British parliament to join America to attack their son-in-law in Damascus has not come as a surprise.

OBAMA’S DILEMMA

Obama on his part has tried to avoid the leadership mistake of George W. Bush in going to Iraq, but there are discussions that the President reserves to right to over ride the Congress in the event of the Congress turning down France seems fascinated by the outcome of its interventions in Libya and Mali, now it want to add Syria to the list.

But surely there will be unanticipated result of the planned punitive strike on Syria for the alleged use of chemical weapons against civilian population by yet to be identified culprits. As far as Washington and Paris are concerned, President Bashar Al Assad is culpable and there is no reason for the civilized world to let him go scot free.

The United States and France have taken it upon themselves to strike the fear of God into Assad, who has been waging a two year costly war on his people. On the surface the proposed military strike is planned to destroy Assad’s war making capacity and title the balance of power in the war that has been heavily against a well armed Syrian Army. The second goal is to ensure that exit of President Assad from power but the issue of the post Assad regime in Damascus is frightening evening to those who are thinking along that line.

The prospects of the emergence of an Islamic state in Syria or paving way for Al Qaeda backed groups to take over the reign of power in Syria. This could further complicate the US geo-strategic calculations in the Middle East and beyond.

The Canadians have decided that much as they disliked chemical weapons use, they would not be available for military intervention in Syria. Germany has also excused itself, given the logistics of its forth coming elections. Turkey is ready to support the strike but the fear of Syria degenerating into another Lebanon is potent. Jordan and Israel are not immuned from a possible domino effect of the proposed military strike.

The relationships between Russia and in Syria dates back to the 1970s when the defunct Soviet Union supported the coup that brought Hafiz Assad to power. Relationship between the defunct Soviet Union, now Russia, and Syria has been institutionalized at personal and institutional levels. Russia has supported the Assad clan since the 1970s and remains totally committed to the survival of the regime.

Weakening Assad’s power base in a political environment that requires strong leaders with despotic tendencies will produce another unstable country like Iraq, Libya, Egypt and Afghanistan.

OPTIONS OF MILITARY STRIKES OF SYRIA

Those who are sceptical of military entanglement fear that any action could escalate those Western forces might get drawn into a more protracted struggle, “mission-creep” risking an open-ended military commitment in Syria which could become another Iraq or Afghanistan.

The US Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Gen Martin Dempsey, gave the most authoritative assessment of the military options as seen by the Pentagon that is available in an unclassified form. Although these are not mutually exclusive; a combination of different options could well be employed.

The US has Four destroyers that are equipped with cruise missiles in the eastern Mediterranean USS Gravely, USS Ramage, USS Barry and USS Mahan. It has Cruise missiles also be launched from submarines

Airbases at Incirlik and Izmir in Turkey, and in Jordan, could be used to carry out strikes

Two aircraft carriers – USS Nimitz and USS Harry S Truman are in the wider region

Cruise missiles could be launched from a British Trafalgar class submarine. HMS Tireless was reportedly sighted in Gibraltar at the weekend

The United Kingdom has Royal Naval power in the region namely: HMS Illustrious and frigates HMS Montrose and HMS Westminster – which includes helicopter carrier

RAF Akrotiri airbase in Cyprus could also be used

Aircraft carrier Charles de Gaulle is currently in Toulon in the western Mediterranean

France has Raffale and Mirage aircraft which it could deployed from Al-Dhahra airbase in the

UAE

Past military interventions

Iraq 1991: US-led global military coalition, anchored in international law; explicit mandate from UN Security Council to evict Iraqi forces from Kuwait

?           Balkans 1990s: US arms supplied to anti-Serb resistance in Croatia and Bosnia in defiance of UN-mandated embargo; later US-led air campaign against Serb paramilitaries.

?           In 1999, US jets provided bulk of 38,000 NATO sorties against Serbia to prevent massacres in Kosovo – legally controversial with UN Security Council resolutions linked to “enforcement measures”

?           Somalia 1992-93: UN Security Council authorised creation of international force with aim of facilitating humanitarian supplies as Somali state failed.

?           Libya 2011: France and UK sought UN Security Council authorisation for humanitarian operation in Benghazi in 2011. Russia and China abstained but did not veto resolution. Air offensive continued until fall of Gaddafi.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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