Beyond the Cusp

April 28, 2013

Empty Threats

President Obama has managed to take the full might and power of the United States of America and make it as impotent as a child who threatens to hold their breath until they turn blue. Once again this week President Obama stepped up and reiterated his willingness to act should Bashir Assad or either rebel group utilize any of Syria’s extensive stores of chemical weapons. His actions were necessitated by reports of possible use of said chemical weapons as reported by the intelligence agencies of France and Britain. These reports coincided with a more strongly worded statement from the head of Israeli military intelligence that President Bashir Assad had indeed used his chemical weapons. The Israeli communicated that they had proof that Syrian troops had released Sarin nerve agent on two occasions and not just military grade tear gas whose use had been reported earlier. This was likely stressed as President Obama had discounted the use of the military grade tear gas as not being sufficient to cross President Obama’s red line on chemical weapon use. The Israeli report was initially confirmed by United States Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel who later retreated from his position claiming to have been surprised by the Israeli claim as they had not informed him while he had been visiting Israel earlier on the week. So, where does that leave things?

 

The thing about the Israeli claim is it was backed up by the Syrian rebel forces which are currently receiving nonlethal supplies from Western powers when they admitted to knowledge that Israeli agents were working within Syria and would quite likely have first-hand evidence of any chemical weapons use. For the rebels to actually admit to the presence of Israelis inside Syria is a rather bold statement that would not be issued lightly. Despite the mounting evidence that Bashir Assad has resorted to using his chemical weapons, President Obama has chosen inaction and a simple restatement of his initial threat that any use of chemical weapons by either side would result in immediate action by the United States. When the initial reports of potential use of chemical weapons was issued by Britain and France President Obama requested clarification as to which chemicals were known to have been released. When it was then reported that there were suspicions of possible caustic chemicals as well as the aforementioned tear gas, President Obama dismissed the rumored use of caustic agents dismissing them as equally possible industrial chemicals such as chlorine being accidentally released as a result of the use of explosive munitions. When President Obama backed off these initial reports it might have been understandable that the American threshold to qualify as chemical weapons use was higher than that of their European allies and Israel. But with the reports of Sarin gas being released on the battlefields of Syria one might expect a reaction from the United States at least somewhat stronger than words, especially a stale repetition of the President’s original warnings. Does President Obama really believe that setting a red line and then when it is violated, simply resetting the red line will gain respect from the likes of Bashir Assad, a treacherous dictator who has already murdered tens of thousands of his own countrymen and sent millions into exile will recoil in fear from mere words that President Obama has given indication he never intended to back with actual actions?

 

And Bashir Assad is far from the only world leader watching to see if President Obama is a credible leader who backs his words with actions. There is always North Korean dictator Kim Jong-Un, another one who likes to hear himself threaten. The one thing absolutely necessary to keep the likes of Kim Jong-Un impotent is to mean action when one threatens to use it. If Kim Jong-Un expects for a minute that any threat of action by the United States is not going to be actually executed, then he is very likely to act on his threats in the belief that there would be no real consequences. And Kim Jong-Un is not the most dangerous of threats on the international stage. There is Iran and the Ayatollahs with their nuclear project which thus far words have proven to be less than useless, yet here too President Obama appears to be satisfied to talk until a nuclear Iran is a verified fact and a half a dozen cities around the world lie as smoldering ruins. With new leadership in Mainland China there is a need for the words of the President of the United States to have great weight, not great doubts. It is for exactly such reasons that President Obama must not allow his word to become a matter for questions rather than being taken at face value and his every word heeded. It is for reasons of credibility that President Obama may find necessity requiring him to act against the Syrian chemical weapons threat. It is not necessary for United States military forces to put boots on the ground as all that is required to fulfill President Obama’s warnings against the use of chemical weapons would be to destroy the chemical weapon storage facilities. My bet would be that should President Obama decide to commit a couple of B-2 stealth bombers, as he did in a show of strength to Kim Jong-Un, to actually bomb the Syrian chemical weapon stores, Israel would be more than agreeable to provide accurate coordinates and might even offer to turn off the Syrian radar grid, though such would not be really necessary with stealth bombers. The old children’s rhyme, “Sticks and stones can break my bones but words can never harm me,” does not apply in the realm of world politics where words can do one great harm, even break more than bones.

 

Beyond the Cusp

 

December 24, 2012

Just Another Mass Murder of Innocents in Syria

The forces loyal to Assad utilized an airstrike to slaughter people who were simply lining up at a bakery to purchase bread and pastries. The toll has already reached close to one-hundred with expectations that the final count of dead might exceed two-hundred. The result was bodies stacked and slung all over the entire block of the street in front of the bakery with dead and wounded lying together as others searched to find the living and separate them from the dead. The scene is captured in this <a href=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tIfdO7yzKeM&feature=player_embedded target=blank>explicitly graphic video</a> showing a scene of trauma expectant in the aftermath of such a horrific and senseless slaughter of innocent noncombatants. This attack comes on top of the revelation that Assad’s forces have begun to use scud missiles against rebel forces and civilians with no discrimination between the innocent civilians and those who have taken up arms against his rule. This has to lead one to believe that Assad is but a decision away from the use of his chemical weapons on these scud missiles and the horrors and havoc such will render on the remaining Syrian population in addition to the rebel forces. Meanwhile, the world leaders decry these attacks and invest great numbers of words and promises that they are monitoring the situation in Syria and will take serious and decided action should Assad introduce chemical weapons to the conflict. Judging by the lack of serious response to the over 40,000 civilian deaths estimated to have resulted from the civil war thus far, one has to wonder if such threats are empty bluster more than resolutions to take the actions threatened.

On the other side of the coin, news continues to enforce the existence of two distinct and separate groups which comprise the rebel forces. One group is a cobbled union of secularists, disparate minority groups, and Muslims who wish to establish some form of democratic governance with universal rights while the other group consists of Islamists belonging to the Muslim Brotherhood, al-Qaeda, Salafists, and other Sunnis who favor establishing a Sharia State. Many fear that once Assad is taken down from power the fighting will simply turn with these separate rebel groups beginning yet a second civil war for the future of Syria. The parallels between the situation in Syria and the history of the French Revolution is frightening and if the conflict in Syria should come to a similar end, the future for Syria is bleak and dark at best. This bifurcation of the rebel forces has also made supporting the rebels a more difficult proposition fraught with possible mistakes and weapons and aid falling into the hands of terrorists instead of the intended secular forces. Much has been speculated as to how much of the weapons and aid has already fallen into presumably unintended hands and this has clouded the plans to send further such assistance. This is definitely not an instance where one can simply make decisions using the old system of the enemy of my enemy is my friend as some of those who are enemies of Assad are also enemies of the West and a threat to the Western way of life. Decisions, decisions, all I can say is I am glad these are not decisions that will rest on my shoulders.

Then there is the last threat, the stores of chemical weapons. There are serious concerns as to into whose hands these deadly weapons of mass destruction will end up falling. There are many who claim that there are some who we can trust to receive these stores and some we must avoid allowing to come into possession of Assad’s vast stores of chemical weapons. My vote is that there is nobody who we should allow to come into possession of these weapons and possess such a threat. Assuming that the forces of the world continue with their hand-wringing and making bold statements while taking no actions, then these diabolical weapons are going to fall into somebody’s hands and the only safe solution would be to make sure that at the end of the fighting these weapons are destroyed and not left for anybody to possess, or even worse, to use. That is the one action which needs to be planned for and executed preferably with great stealth and assurances that all of these chemical weapons are destroyed. These weapons should not be allowed to continue to exist even if it is in the hands of a Western country, the Russians, the Israelis, or anybody else. The destruction of these chemical weapons stores has to be the one result of this conflict that must be made a primary goal. Any other path would be pure folly and could only end, sooner or later, in catastrophe.

Beyond the Cusp

March 20, 2012

Could Syria be Reaching Endgame Finally?

Much of the news this past weekend informed us that the protests, revolution, civil war, government slaughtering its own citizens had reached its first anniversary and was heading into its second year with little hope of an end in sight. But does this pessimistic outlook actually reflect the reality in Syria? The answer to that question is actually still up for debate and the answer is completely dependent upon ones interpretation of events. So, let’s take a look at the facts and their implications for the immediate future.

 

The shelling has persisted on a daily basis with the ferocity and casualties, though undetermined by observers, appear to continue to climb steadily. It has come to light that the Russians have continued to supply President Bashir Assad’s forces with the necessary weapons of war though protesting that these supplies are not being used against the people. The flow of refugees fleeing the carnage into Turkey has prompted Turkey to consider clearing a buffer zone to accommodate the increasing numbers in order to keep them separate from the native population so they can be returned across the border once the violence has concluded. On the other side, it has been announced that Saudi Arabia will be sending arms and supplies to the rebel forces in order to facilitate an improved possibility of their being victorious. Along a similar line, Iraq has closed all transport access across their lands to Iran preventing direct land supply to President Assad. This has been seen as possibly slowing or preventing Iranian heavy weapons shipments as well as cutting deeply the number of ground forces which could be provided to Assad. Adding these points to the rest simply makes the case for continued violence without end. These have been the subjects the press has emphasized and the picture painted by them is extremely bleak.

 

Despite all the news reports with their heavy emphasis on the end of civilization is upon us reporting, there is some news which may be indicative of an end coming into sight. Towards the end of 2011 we witnessed the defection of some low and middle rank officers and larger numbers of enlisted troops bringing their weapons and strength to the rebels. This has continued into 2012 and has also begun to see the defection of higher ranked officers with some of the General rank officers now changing sides. Once the Generals begin to depart for safe zones where they will be beyond the reach of any vengeance from the rebels or going further and joining the rebel cause, that is the sign that the game is lost for the existing governance. This has been happening and took a measurable uptick this past weekend. I am not about to predict that the slaughter and violence in Syria will be ending imminently, but I will predict that we are entering the endgame and the rebels appear to be gaining the upper hand. My best guesses would place the end of the Assad dynasty in Syria should occur before the end of May, and with his fall the end of the major fighting. What follows is not as easily predicted and will depend on whether Assad is captured along with much of his remaining upper echelon of people. If that should be the case, then we will most likely witness some form of trial similar in nature and whose outcome will be just as predictable as the trials of the Egyptian leadership currently still proceeding. If Bashir Assad is offered safe asylum by Russia, Iran or any other country, then we are very likely to see extensive and prolonged purges and the hunting down of people who held any position of relative power in the Assad government for quite a while. This will continue until either the people tire of such or sufficient blood has been spent towards paying for the suffering under Alawite rule in Syria.

 

Should I be correct and the rebels take control over Syria, this will not be a victory for the Western nations beyond Syria no longer being an Iranian proxy. The new Syria will very likely form a strong bond with Egypt as the Muslim Brotherhood and the Salafists will be in command and ruling both countries. For a better picture of what this will likely resemble one need go back no further than the United Arab Republic (UAR) which existed from 1958 through 1961. The relations between Egypt and Syria remained tight even after the unity collapsed into separate rule until after the Yom Kippur War in 1973. The final nail in the coffin of their relationship came with the peace treaty between Egypt and Israel signed by President Sadat and Prime Minister Begin on the 26th of March 1979. Should these two countries which are perched on opposite ends of Israel once again merge their foreign policies, this will not bode all that well for Israel as eventually they will once again attempt to annihilate the Jewish State. The fall of President Assad will bring an end to what some have named the Year of the Presidents where revolutions removed numerous “Presidents for life” from their ruling perches in the Arab Middle East. Will this then usher in the possibility of the Year of the Kings where many other Muslim countries may be next for uprisings and possible civil wars? It’s the Middle East; you didn’t foolishly expect an end to violence, did you?

 

Beyond the Cusp

 

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