The civil war in Syria is horrendous in so many ways. The effects are measured in more than the casualties of the over one-hundred-thousand murdered, almost countless injured with many having horrific injuries, equally uncountable refugees having fled over the borders to Jordan, Lebanon and Turkey, all of the major cities suffering damage that has erased or threaten to erase entire neighborhoods, severely damaged infrastructure, and now the looming threat of continued use of nerve agent and other chemical weapons by the Syrian military at the orders of dictatorial President Bashir al-Assad. As damning as all of this is, there is another distressing side to this conflict, it is spreading across borders into Lebanon predominantly as well as into Jordan and Turkey to a lesser extent. This past week the effects of the Syrian civil war next door exploded in Lebanon with car bombs striking a southern neighborhood of Beirut in the heart of Hezballah held areas and two huge car bombs severely damaging two Mosques in Tripoli during Friday prayers murdering around fifty worshipers and injuring numerous others. Additionally, a terrorist front claiming alignment with al-Qaeda launched six rockets towards Israel over the weekend with one being intercepted by an Iron dome unit, one landing within a residential area between Acre and Nahariya, two falling in open areas and two never quite making out of Lebanon falling within the border. The Israelis responded with an airstrike which targeted the launch location reported to have struck an actionable target. These attacks all are directly traceable to the Syrian civil war.
There have been attempts by terrorists to strike in both Jordan and Turkey but have fortunately been prevented from executing their plans thus far. Still, the threat that the violence from Syria could spread must be very troubling for both the people in the neighboring areas as well as the authorities responsible for preventing these attacks. There have also been the first intentional attacks launched at the Israeli troops manning the Golan Heights by Syrian military forces that launched artillery or mortars across the armistice lines. The Israeli response reportedly destroyed the Syrian position. Responding to these recent attacks from Syria and Lebanon government spokespeople as well as Prime Minister Netanyahu stated unequivocally that Israel will not stand silent and will respond forcefully to any threat posed to the Israeli population. In addition to this ratcheting up of the Syrian war into the neighboring countries there have also been reports that the Syrian military under orders from Bashir al-Assad released chemical weapons upon civilian targets. Preliminary inspections have confirmed this and there are United Nations inspectors in Syria who are hoping to be allowed to inspect the area under suspicion to confirm whether or not actual chemical weapons have been deployed. United States Secretary of Defense Hagel sounded determined when he stated to the media that should it be proven that al-Assad has deployed chemical weapons on civilians that would require an immediate and decisive response from the United States. French Foreign Minister also called for action to prevent any further use by al-Assad of chemical weapons especially against civilians.
All of this posturing possess a serious question, even if al-Assad had used chemical weapons, who can the Americans and their allies work through in theater in order to avoid placing troops inside Syria, even if all that is required would be pilots as any possibility which might place service members of the United States or their allies to be captured by either side in Syria would present serious difficulties. Such a possibility would probably make any intervention by the United States to be restricted to missile attacks or other stand-off munitions. Perhaps this is behind the orders to retain the USS Mahan, a cruise-missile armed warship, in the Mediterranean Sea along with her relief ship, the USS Ramage. This should provide an area of interest which there should be kept a close watch as once the reports confirm chemical weapons use, President Obama will have little alternative but to finally act. Thus far President Obama has clung to the fact that there has been no definitive proof, which for Obama means a report from the sole authority as far as he is concerned, the United Nations, to avoid acting on his promise of severe consequences against al-Assad for any such transgression. With United Nations observers presumably scheduled to confirm the chemical weapons use allegations early this week President Obama will no longer be able to equivocate any further and he will have to either step up and act or become even more irrelevant and inconsequential, if such is even possible. This could be the week where President Obama becomes completely invisible on the world stage and no longer will be credible outside Washington D.C.
Beyond the Cusp