Thursday, 29 August 2013

Syria : The Missile Strikes as 'Coercive Diplomacy'.

The Obama administration's preferred option for a potential strike on Syria is likely to leave Bashar al-Assad's government with significant chemical weapons and military infrastructure, according to military analysts.
In the first confirmation of the scope of any attack, White House principal deputy press secretary Josh Earnest told reporters Thursday that Obama was contemplating "something that is discreet and limited."But "boots on the ground" or "any military options aimed at regime change" were not up for discussion, State Department deputy spokeswoman Marie Harf told reporters Thursday. Similarly, "we're not talking about a Libya-style, open-ended no-fly operation,"
One comparison here is Operation Desert Fox in 1998 when the US and UK bombed Iraq for four days in order to 'degrade' Saddam Hussein's capacity to produce and use 'weapons of mass destruction'. The aim of these air and missile strikes could be similar to that outlined by Madelaine Albright.
"I don't think we're pretending that we can get everything, so this is - I think - we are being very honest about what our ability is. We are lessening, degrading his ability to use this. The weapons of mass destruction are the threat of the future. I think the president explained very clearly to the American people that this is the threat of the 21st century. What it means is that we know we can't get everything, but degrading is the right word."
The difference is that this is 2013 and Syria is in the middle of a serious civil war. To start bombing is effectively to commit to the anti-Assad side and the insurgents backed by Qatar and Saudi Arabia. If the bombing is a token gesture to prove US 'credibility' it will do nothing to ensure that.

Assad is not going to be removed by his military capacity being 'degraded' but it could lead to an intensification of the war on the ground as he loses the advantage he had until this as yet unexplained and alleged chemical weapons attack. It is said the aim is not 'regime change'.

It is difficult to understand what the logic behind these missile strikes would be beyond proving that crossing Obama's 'red lines' on chemical weapon use ( despite their being no conclusive proof as to the facts as yet presented to the UN security council ) means he would give a 'green light' to a strike.

The bellicose rhetoric of 'punishment' advocated by France's President Hollande, mingled with statements about humanitarian intervention and 'acting as the conscience of the world' wheeled out in Britain by the oily Michael Howard today, adds up to nothing coherent other than what is obvious beneath the spin and deceit.

Put clearly, the strikes would be the opening salvo in longer campaign of coercion implicit in the position taken by the West that 'Assad must go' for two and a half years after the civil war broke out in 2011. The US and Britain have always made that the precondition for negotiations on a political transition in Syria.

The fact is that this threatened use of force is an extension of the unwillingness to engage in proper diplomacy with Iran in order to uphold the West's tacit backing for Saudi Arabia, Turkey and Qatar's proxy war in Syria against their main Persian Gulf rival.

This strategic alliance is mostly concerned with the geopolitical and energy interests it shares with the West. Yet engaging in diplomacy with Tehran was one of the only ways that could have brought about the political settlement Western statesmen claimed they wanted.

At a meeting last Monday in Istanbul of Western diplomats from 11 “Friends of Syria” nations made clear strikes could be expected. The group wasset up with the express purpose of organising regime change outside of the UN Security Council after the Russian and Chinese veto on a resolution condemning Syria in February 2012
 “The opposition was told in clear terms that action to deter further use of chemical weapons by the Assad regime could come as early as in the next few days, and that they should still prepare for peace talks at Geneva”

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