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 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.
European flag outside the Commission (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
News reports that the Obama administration successfully lobbied the European Commission to strip its data privacy legislation of a measure that would have limited US intelligence agencies ability to spy on EU citizens should come as little surprise. Dropping the “Anti-Fisa clause” is just another step in the EU’s willingness to compromise the rights of its own citizens to the US for the sake of the transatlantic partnership. Anyone who has had to travel to the US, would have witnessed the erosions after September 11, 2001.
However, it is unsurprising that Europe behaves in this way. The US is still the world’s most dominant power with technological power far beyond that available in the EU – why antagonise the US when most data servers of large tech companies holding EU citizens data are in the US? Would the Anti-Fisa clause have made any difference to US requests to US based companies regarding handing over data on EU citizens – especially when they are supposed to be done in secret? More importantly, would the EU want to jeopardise US-EU relations at the same time that it is opening trade talks.
Ultimately, the US will continue to weaken data protection legislation, and the EU is likely to obligee such requests. This transatlantasism isn’t an equal partnership, it is a relationship with one clear powerful player.
For a great read on this go to Transatlantic Counter-Terrorism Cooperation