Monday, August 26, 2013

Now that U.S. reports confirm Assad's use of chemical weapons, what is next?

Reports coming out of Washington indicate that the U.S. government now believes there is little doubt that Syrian president Assad's forces did indeed use chemical weapons against his own people, although reports also suggest that Assad's permission to examine the area was extended to UN observers too late, and even then was limited to a few hours, thereby generating more obfuscation.
In Izvestia, the Moscow newspaper, Assad, of course, denies his forces used chemical weapons, pointing the finger at the rebels. His choice of that news outlet indicates to most observers the continuing support of President Putin and the Russian government for his cause.
However,  back in Washington, now that a second incidence of the possible use of chemical weapons is confirmed, the administration has to do something, along with allies. There is mounting evidence that Turkey would join a coalition of forces, should the UN be unable to pass a resolution calling for some form of push back, and the foreign minister of France has indicated that while all options are on the table, except no action.
The world holds its breath as the community of world leaders contemplates what action(s) would be most effective in bringing this conflict to a ceasefire, a negotiated peace and the removal of Assad.
Interestingly, China seems to be holding her cards very close to the chest, and whatever position she takes could eventually prove critical to any UN resolution that endorses military action against the Assad regime.
Whether the world can and will operate as a "civil society" as the Foreign Secretary of Great  Britain claims requires it to express its anger in opposition to the use of chemical weapons by any government against its own people. Surely, that maxim would also hold in a conflict in which chemical weapons were used by one country against another country against which it was at war.
Or course, the U.S. government and its people are not only war-weary, they are budgetarily constricted and ironically it will be the Republicans in both the Senate and the House that will be supportive of any measure to bring the U.S. military into the fray, taking out the Assad airforce, for example, or providing safe fly zones for refugees to move out of the country. There is, according to most recent reports no indication that Obama and his officials are contemplating "putting American boots on the ground"...code for imposing U.S. armed soldiers on the situation. Nevertheless, U.S. missiles, drones and aircraft carriers from which to launch same, can and would do considerable damage not only to Assad's airstrike capacity but also to the "collateral damage" that inevitably ensues from military intervention of any kind. As one commentator on the Sunday U.S. talk shows put it, "If the U.S. strikes Syria, and Iran, an ally of the Syrian regime, decides they disapprove of such a strike and then decides to drop missiles on Tel Aviv, then what happens?"
Everyone knows there is a boiling cauldron in the Middle East, and the Syrian conflict is an integral part of that boiling pot....
Can the world, through collective and collaborative action, including eventual negotiations, bring the temperature down both in Syria and throughout the region? So far the evidence points to little more than a negative response to that hypothetical. And so, for now, the world, including the Syrian people wait for the world's response. Will it be surgical, measured and discreet? Or will it be the spark the ignites a much wider conflict?

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