The New US Strategy For War On Syria

There are two things we must understand about the delay in US war on Syria. First of all, this was a tactical retreat on the part of the Administration, in the face of strong antiwar sentiment and resistance by people who turned out in protests, called and emailed their representatives and the White House and filled out petitions. This was true in the US, as well as in Europe and elsewhere, leaving the US virtually alone in the intended war. Even the French President who initially backed the war had to retract later. The Administration also realized that they didn’t have the congressional votes, especially in the House. Going to war alone, without the UN or congressional approval, would have been too risky, politically, and could put fuel on anti war flames. This was a face saving way to get out of the bind thy found themselves in, in the face of the opposition to war.

The second thing we must understand is that this is only a temporary and tactical retreat and the Administration still wants to wage war on Syria. That has not changed. Their approach and timing has. Their first approach was the one employed against Libya. To get UN authorization for that war, they told UN Security Council they just wanted to enforce a “no-fly zone” to prevent regime’s aerial bombing of the opposition. The “no-fly zone” on paper, soon changed, in practice, to fly and bomb, at will, for weeks, including heavily populated urban centers, by NATO war planes, killing thousands of people and leveling much of the capital.

When they failed to convince the Russians and Chinese to let them do the same in Syria, they tried to do it on their own, regardless. But, since they had to retreat from that, they will now try the strategy taken for Iraq in 2003, which is to demand that the regime cooperate fully with UN inspectors, giving them full access to every military facility and weapons depots and then prove that it has no chemical weapons – proving a negative which can’t be done. And if it fails, which there is plenty of opportunity to make sure it does – especially given the ongoing war – it gets attacked by NATO, with or without the UN approval, and as suggested already by Lindsey Graham, also without congressional approval. He said: “I can’t imagine Obama not using military force after all this if the regime does not cooperate, regardless of US Congress”. “Any agreement must verify that the regime keeps its commitments”, said Obama, last night, as he tried again to make a case for war by mentioning the victims of the chemical attack which still isn’t clear who committed. Again, he tried to justify a military attack as a “punishment” and “deterrent”, hoping the absurdity of it all will be lost on people. The hope is that after what is rightly being called “pause” and “delay”, they will have more support among people, as well as the cooperation of at least their European allies, if not Russians’ and Chinese’. Already, France and Britain tried to get Russians to agree to military attack should Syria fail to give up all its chemical weapons.

The strategy has changed from: “we need to go to war and kill people because Assad has killed people” (not a quote) to “we need to go to war because they are not keeping their end of the bargain”.

Some try to sell the war to a reluctant public by calling it a “surgical missile attack” to remove the regime’s capability to deliver chemical attacks in the future. That’s nonsense. First of all, there is nothing “surgical” about a military attack which will kill hundreds, if not thousands, of people and destroy the nation’s infrastructure, communication network, water treatment facilities, dams, roads, airports, hospitals and schools, as has been done in every other “surgical attack” of the past. Secondly, missile strikes are not going to, nor are they intended to, obliterate chemical weapons.

What is being ignored and pushed aside is diplomacy and peaceful negotiations to end the war which is being waged with the support of several Gulf states, including Saudi Arabia and Qatar, as well as Turkey and Jordan. Even their “diplomacy”, as they say they’re trying now, is to create the conditions and pretext for war. We must continue to forcefully object to all wars and make our objection heard, regardless of the excuse they come up with.

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