Chemical Watershed: Momentum Shifts again in Syrian Civil War, Part 1

Published on Spiegel Online International, by Christoph Reuter and Holger Stark, September 02, 2013 (Photo Gallery).

The US has stepped back from an immediate response to the use of chemical weapons in Syria on Aug. 21. But Washington continues to profess certainty that Syrian autocrat Bashar Assad is behind the attack. The situation on the ground provides clues as well … //

… The Red Line: 

Indeed, late last week it looked as if one of the most brutal attacks in this most brutal conflict of the Arab Spring could mark the beginning of the end for the dictator’s clan. According to a US government report, at least 1,429 people died on Wednesday, August 21, when rockets with chemical warheads rained down on a number of Damascus suburbs. At least 426 of the casualties were children.

The US government noted that this clearly crossed the “red line” that President Barack Obama had drawn months earlier.

But then, after a week of US saber-rattling, Obama made a fateful decision that not even his top national security advisers had seen coming. After a 45-minute walk on Friday night, he decided to seek Congressional approval before taking military action in Syria.

Within hours, some elite units of the Syrian military returned to Mt. Kassioun to resume shelling opposition areas. In other parts of the country, witnesses reported scenes of confusion, while a triumphant Syrian president crowed that Syria “is capable of confronting any external aggression.” His surreal propaganda channel Dunya TV added that the first two US warships had defected out of fear of Syrian reprisals.

The US administration had not been interested in forcing regime change in Syria in the first place. The American people are far too afraid of being drawn into yet another bloody and hopeless conflict, in which the US has little to win, but much to lose. For the Americans, it’s more a question of restoring their credibility. To do so, they will have to make it clear to Iran — Assad’s protector — that warnings from Washington are to be taken seriously in the ongoing dispute over Tehran’s controversial nuclear program.

The idea was to win back a degree of moral superiority. The Americans have to show the world that truth backs their threats of war — and that there is such thing as a just cause, from their perspective at least. Consequently, acquiring proof that the poison gas attack was actually ordered by the Assad regime is of crucial political importance. After all, Obama ran for office as a president who intended to end wars, not start them.

Most Important Document of the Decade: … //

… Stocks of Poison Gas: … //

… (full text).

Part 2: Are Assad’s Forces in Trouble?

Links:

Mathematical modelling in economics, on RWER Blog, by Lars Syll, Sept 3, 2013;

The largest occupations in the USA, May 2012, on RWER Blog, by merijnknibbe, Sept 2, 2013;

(see also: Welcome to our new blog: politics for the 99%).

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