Powered by WebAds

Friday, August 23, 2013

Assad calls Obama's bluff

Lee Smith explains the strategic thinking behind Bashar al-Assad's chemical weapons attack outside of Damascus this week.
Yes, yes, it’s terrible, say many, but why would Assad be so foolish as to use his unconventional arsenal when a U.N. investigating team is already in the country collecting evidence on past use of chemical weapons? Well, Assad is not a fool: The purpose of waging an attack under the watchful eyes of the U.N. is to show his adversaries that the international community, the Europeans, and even the Americans are not going to help them, no matter what. Assad’s message to the rebels is: In spite of their moral posturing, their stern admonitions, even their revulsion and horror at watching children paralyzed by nerve agents, your Western friends won’t help you. Indeed, they are so craven, so eager for a reason to do nothing, they will suggest that the chemical attack was perhaps a ploy—that to get them to enter the war on your side, you killed your own children.
There’s also a military logic at work in Assad’s chemical attack last week. For months, the regime has been shelling these neighborhoods northeast of Damascus, explains Tony Badran, research fellow at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies. “But every time the regime tries to enter—armored units or infantry—they’re repelled by rebel fighters. Last week’s attacks, and these areas were [also] subjected to chemical weapons attacks in the spring, are intended to disrupt rebel defenses.”
There’s a strategic purpose, too. “These neighborhoods are not far from Mt. Qassioun,” says Badran, “which is the military’s center of gravity. It’s not just a military base, but also high ground from which the regime can easily fire on the rebels.” Moreover, Badran explains, “the neighborhoods attacked last week overlook the Damascus-Homs highway, which is one of the regime’s main communications lines. A little further northeast is an airport in Dumayr where the regime is supplied by direct flights from Iran. Therefore, it’s essential Assad establish control over this strategic territory.”
Assad has no reason to fear escalating against the rebels because the actor most capable of ending the regime’s 40-year reign of terror won’t lift a finger. Sure, the United States could destroy the Syrian Air Force, as Obama’s chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, General Martin Dempsey, explained in a letter to congressman Eliot Engel. “The use of U.S. military force can change the balance of power,” wrote Dempsey, “but it cannot resolve the underlying and historic ethnic, religious and tribal issues that are fueling this conflict.” So, according to the Obama-Dempsey doctrine, if all the “historic ethnic, religious and tribal issues” that are fueling a conflict can’t be resolved, there’s no point in doing anything. The Obama-Dempsey doctrine would have meant doing nothing in the 1990s in the Balkans. It would have meant—it did mean—doing nothing in the 1930s. It will always be an excuse for doing nothing.
More than two years after Obama first demanded that Assad step aside, the United States is now facing a unique moment in its long history of involvement in the Middle East. What makes it unprecedented is less the violent furies raging across the region than the fact the commander in chief has to an unprecedented degree weakened America’s hand and sullied America’s reputation. With all his empty talk, the president who says he does not bluff has made America’s word cheap.
The problem is that Obama's demand that Assad step down should have been enforced two years ago when the US could have backed non-Islamic rebels. But Obama was too busy cozying up to Assad back then.

What could go wrong?

Labels: , , , ,


Post a Comment

<< Home