Ewan MacAskilll writes in The Guardian
The Obama administration is rightly reluctant to be drawn in to the Middle East. So, even after announcing on Thursday that it is likely that chemical weapons had been used, the White House has begun to backtrack.Obviously the debacle over Iraq in 2003 and claims of WMDs and stockpiles of biological weapons is weighing on Obama's mind. The best course is simply to stop the covert intervention and demands that 'Assad must go'. Authoritarian states are bad. Yet anarchy can be worse than tyranny.
Desperate to avoid following through on its warning of "consequences", the White House has thrown up lots of seemingly reasonable excuses: there is no certainty yet that chemical weapons have been used; the US cannot intervene on the basis of intelligence alone; and in any case, it may only have been a small amount.
The US and UK seems bereft of intelligent statesmen who understand that backing the "right" Sunni opposition , often aligned to the Muslim Brotherhood, are not necessarily any better than the Baathist regime. It is absurd the USA backing what were its enemies a decade ago.
The aims of "regime change" have less do do with "humanitarian intervention". The phrase seems to have been dropped and the siren voices so confident in "liberal intervention" a decade ago in Iraq are largely silent. Brian Brivati, Nick Cohen etc They have little or no opinion on this.
The geopolitical strategy is to remove Assad and the land bridge between the Shia ascendancy in Iraq ( a consequence of the US invasion and the removal of sunni predominance under Saddam Hussein ) and Iran. It is Iran that provides the main bulwark to hegemony over the Middle East and Asia.
It's part of the New Great Game for oil and gas. Remove Assad's Syria ( even if it means tacitly turning a blind eye to the ethnic cleansing of Allawite Shia's, Christians and Druze) , then Iran is encircled and flanked from both sides by the US in Iraq and Afghanistan.
Iran's use of its proxies in Lebanon through Hizbollah would be severely curtailed. The balance of power would be conclusively turned against Iran in the Middle East. It's ability to profit from exports of gas to the east via the IP pipeline would be thwarted by the NATO backed TAPI Pipeline.
Syria fits into this complicated geopolitical jigsaw in this way. The strategy has been US hegemony over Gulf oil and also the oil and gas of the central Asian republics that emerged after the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991. It is a geostrategy formulated by Zbigniew Brzezinski ( influential on Obama ).
The US is already "drawn" into the Middle East. It is absurd to imply that it has not been in Syria or elsewhere. The CIA is already trying to co-ordinate and train the Sunni jihadist militias ( the right ones ) as if this policy and "regime change" can be installed to order in that way.
More generally, the US needs to disengage from the Middle East, advocate "regime change" in Saudi Arabia and start to reform its economy so that it is not dependent for 60% of its oil from these dangerously volatile lands. The UK should have preserved it's North Sea oil but squandered it.
The only solution to the Syrian crisis must be a rapprochement with Russia and China and pragmatic diplomacy that will stop all sides using this as a proxy war. The Great War of 1914 to 1918 was triggered off by the Great Powers being drawn in to ethnic wars started by the demise of the Ottomans.
The Syrian Civil War is a long term legacy of the collapse of the Ottoman Empire in 1918 delayed for almost a century. If British diplomats and US politicians were more intelligent and historically minded they would be able to see their clumsy interventions will do more harm than good.