- The establishment of a transitional governing body with full executive powers – which includes members of the government and opposition.
- The establishment of a meaningful national dialogue process.
- Review of the constitutional order and legal system.
- Free and fair multiparty elections.
- Full representation of women in all aspects of the transition.
Obama’s red line was crossed on August 21st with 1400 dead from chemical attacks in Syria. The UN weapons inspection team has landed and Obama has been briefing US senators all day. The UK has voted not to participate in any military intervention, France is keen to participate, and US military assets are in place. Russia is arguing that the Syrian regime using weapons is absurd, and Iran has declared that if the US attacks Syria it would be the spark for something larger in its “shadow war”. This is the situation as Obama began making his speech this evening.
What commentators missed in the run up to this speech is just what a fix Obama is now in. Elected to end a war in the Middle East, starting another is not an attractive option. Using most of his political capital on domestic issues has also left him vulnerable at home – as senators such as McCain act daily to undermine the Presidents credibility. As such when the President argues tonight that a decision would be made by Congress if it will intervene in Syria, the administration was laying down the gauntlet and playing a shrew political game that will only strengthen the President. If Congress say no, the President save face internationally passing political responsibility to the legislature; if congress say yes, he has a mandate for action based on the democratic values of the US. This is a politically astute move that takes us back to Obama’s Chicago politics. What it is not, is leadership in the Middle East from the executive office of the US. This being said, buying time through this move is in and of itself a good move, that will hopefully allow cooler heads to prevail. What the White House needs is a strategy, it appears they have one at home, but are yet to develop one for the worlds most immediate crisis.
- Peter King: ‘Under the Constitution the President Has the Right to Take Action’ Against Syria Without Congress (theblaze.com)
- Growing unease over potential Syria strike (firstread.nbcnews.com)
- Obama: No decision yet on Syria (politico.com)
- NBC News Reporter: Obama May Bypass Congress on Syria Action to Avoid Delay, Hearing ‘No’ from ‘Isolationists’ (theblaze.com)
- Syria: Yet Another Obama Mistake? (themartyoradioshow.wordpress.com)
- Bandar, Zionist Lobby Partnering to Maneuver Obama into Prolonged War with Syria (uprootedpalestinians.wordpress.com)
- White House gives Congress new evidence of chemical arms use in Syria (reuters.com)
- Obama’s Syria Quagmire (america4everyone.wordpress.com)
- Kevin Rudd talks Syria with Barack Obama as campaign focus turns to national security (abc.net.au)
- Kevin Price: Echos of the ‘Bush Doctrine’ in Obama’s Syria Rhetoric (huffingtonpost.com)
A month ago America’s top military officials were warning about the very real problems of war with Syria. It would not only be expensive in military terms, but also in financial (estimated to cost $1bn a day). But recent events, the suspected chemical attack in suburbs of Damascus, put the Obama administration in a tricky spot. The so called “red line” has been crossed, the Geneva II process is going nowhere, and the President already lacks credibility – a policy of silent diplomacy that leads nowhere is worse than a policy that is at least seen to be trying to move in the right direction.
Given all of this, the Obama administration is now looking at a Kosovo model intervention, based on an Obama version of the coalition of the willing – i.e. don’t use NATO, but pull in Britain, France and anyone else who maybe useful for such a task. The Obama administration will no doubt wait for the UN to leave, and then strike by the end of the week. A one off strike to send a clear message to the regime (no matter what the UN comes back with). Such an approach will bring the West squarely into confrontation with the Assad-Hezbollah-Iranian crescent. What remains to be seen, is if this will deter the Assad regime, or be the start of a much larger intervention …
The United Nations has released figures showing that 7.6 million people became refugees in 2012 – the highest since 1994 (here). Events in Syria are being cited as a major new contributor to the number. Indeed, 55% of refugees now come from Afghanistan, Somalia, Iraq, Sudan and Syria.
The release of the report comes just a day after the US has pledged to give more than $300 million in additional humanitarian assistance to those caught up in the countries civil war. This takes the US total to around $815 million since the war began. This makes the US the single largest contributor of humanitarian aid. Indeed, this is more than double the European Commission’s €265 million ($354 million). This just highlights the massive international action that is taking place as Syrian’s are displaced internally, but also fleeing to Jordan, Lebanon, Turkey and Iraq. The aid is clearly needed for medical emergency relief, protection, food, water, sanitation, shelter, winterization and psychosocial support, but also for hygiene kits,legal assistance, and emergency medical rehabilitation for the disabled and injured. Absolutely tragic – and worth watching this to see what help the aid can do (here).
What’s troubling about this picture however, is that there is increasing sectarian violence spreading throughout the region. This is especially the case in what are becoming the refugees first point of call – Lebanon, Jordan and Iraq. This could well have a knock on effect leading to an increased number of refugees into the EU. As such, this isn’t just a humanitarian crisis for those in Syria, there are significant interests at stake for the EU …
- Obama Pledges $300 Million Humanitarian Aid for Syrian Refugees (thejakartaglobe.com)
- EU envoy says refugee crisis worst since WWII (dailystar.com.lb)
- Jumblatt calls for Syrian refugee camp (dailystar.com.lb)
- Obama Wants to move Tens of Thousands Syrian Refugees to the US (bunkerville.wordpress.com)
- UNRWA braces for Syrian Palestinian influx (dailystar.com.lb)
- US unveils $300 million in new aid for Syrian refugees (mainbaghihoon.wordpress.com)
- US unveils new $300 million aid package for Syrian refugees (voicerussia.com)
- Refugees From Syria Suffer in Malaysia (carefugees.wordpress.com)
- Obama Considers Resettling Tens of Thousands Syrian Refugees in the US (iranaware.com)
- Syrian refugees in neighbouring countries (libraryeuroparl.wordpress.com)
The US and UK have been discussing Syria today, calling it “the most urgent crisis in the world today“. What’s clear from the speech is that there doesn’t seem to be a solution to the crisis offered here. Hague argues that “The United Kingdom believes that the situation demands a strong, coordinated and determined approach by the UK, The US and our allies in Europe and the region”, but then goes on to argue that “We agreed today that our priority remains to see a diplomatic process in Geneva that succeeds in reaching a negotiated end to the conflict”.
This doesn’t strike me as a “strong” position, but rather defaulting to the Geneva 2 process and waiting to see what happens. This is especially the case is as Carnegie Endowment scholar Yezid Sayigh is right that the conference may well not take place (Here). It would appear that it is a rather weak position because all of our eggs are in one basket with out a clear solution to the crisis emerging.
The daily beast is reporting that behind the closed doors of a McCain Institute event, President Clinton is contrasting his intervention in Kosovo with the lack of intervention in Syria. He claims that Obama risks looking like a “Wuss” , a “Fool” and “Lame”. These are strong words, and break from the usual convention of former President’s not commenting directly on the current President’s foreign policy.
This will no doubt add pressure on the White House, and strengthen those already within the US foreign policy bureaucracy advocating a shift in policy. What’s more, it appears that Clinton has set out a national security rationale for intervention.
The positive side of this for the Obama administration is that if he pulls of the aims of Geneva 2, then he will be able to lay claim to a distinctive Obama Doctrine – negotiation before intervention, accepting America’s perceived decline, and redefining America’s role in the world far more cautiously. This is a Doctrine that mixes selective-engagement (which argues that he U.S. should seek a balance of power that allows for peace amongst major global powers, restricts its