Tuesday, September 10, 2013


By the time this article is published US cruise missiles may very well be weaving, ducking and dodging their way to the Syrian capital Damascus.

Last week US President Barack Obama delayed action on Syria pending permission from Congress, their house of representatives.

Bashar Al Assad’s regimes has come out hammer and tongs to quell a rebellion, triggered about two years ago by a wave of unrest sweeping across north Africa and the Middle East.

The Arab spring has so far accounted for the governments of Tunisia, Egypt, Libya and has caused instability in Yemen and Bahrain.

Syria, while not an oil producing nation is a critical player in the region as it neighbours Israel and served as Russia – and previously the USSR’s, key ally in the region.

"Damascus has been particularly brutal at attempting to put down the civil unrest for the last two years and while the fighting has seen the depopulation of whole cities, horrendous atrocities by both sides and the creation of millions of refugees, the west has held off from meting out its favoured prescription, until now...

A consensus has developed that Assad and his cronies can kill as many Syrians as they want using conventional weapons – bullets and bombs, but once they unleashed chemical weapons they would have crossed the line and would force an international intervention.

Last month that line was crossed and it was expected that western armies would be strapping up their boots and straining at their leashes to get at the bad guys in Syria.

However the British parliament have thrown out proposals to go to war and NATO – the umbrella US and European Union defence organization, has said it would not participate in airstrikes. There is decidedly no appetite for this fight by the usual suspects.

The dilemma for Obama and company is that while Assad is not a preferred dinner guest, the rebels who oppose him are reported to have among their number Al Qaeda elements or sympathisers. So to weaken Assad, it is feared, is to allow Al Qaeda a foothold in Syria.

In addition going by recent experience – Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya, it is clear foreign intervention and regime change seem to create more problems than they solve.

Complicating matters further is Russia, which has refused to hang Assad out to dry, complicating the delicate process of cobbling a credible coalition of the willing.

"A move to eject Assad would be an easy sell were it not for the US preferred mode of engagement of bombing countries back to the Stone Age before marching in to mop up the surviving pockets of dissent and reconstruction contracts...

This modus operandi is a hangover from a failed raid on Mogadishu by US troops in 1993 to capture then rebel leader Mohammed Farrah Aidid. The US forces lost 18 troops – some of whose corpses were dragged through the streets of Mogadishu by angry militants, forcing them to pull out.

The embarrassment of that engagement has made the US reluctant to commit soldiers to foreign adventures hence the use of air attacks to soften potential targets. The problem is that these bombs don’t only get the bad guys but account for thousands of more lives in what is euphemistically referred to as “collateral damage”

We would like to believe that, especially this last point is weighing heavily on Obama’s mind and lending to his apparent indecisiveness in smoking Assad and his gang out.

The critics of all things America, think it’s really out of his hands.

There is an impetus for action that has little or nothing to do with ridding the middle east of one of its most nefarious dynasties or bringing democracy to the middle east but more to do with stabilizing the region, which holds huge oil reserves that the US is not keen to lose control of or at least ensure uninterrupted flow to world markets.

"And it’s not that the US needs the oil for its own consumption. Earlier this year it was announced that because of larger than expected shale oil reserves the US in five years will be a net exporter of oil...

Oil is important because it underpins the US dollar. If some unfriendly nations take control of middle eastern oil and decoupled oil from the dollar, the US economy would be in trouble, a situation that cannot be allowed to happen at all costs.

The cynics would have it that US military industrial complex needs to dispose of its stocks -- guns, ammunition  and other military hardware to remain alive,  what better way than to go to war and get paid for it? War is good business when you are not the one being bombed to smithereens.

And what are the chances of the US and its allies raining hail and brimstone on Syria for the sins of Assad and his cronies?

There are those who see Syria as the perfect US target – small country, that can’t hit back with any effectiveness if they tried and which campaign will be wrapped up in a matter of weeks or months. Grenada and  Panama come to mind.

It is likely that there will be intervention in Syrian sooner than later, but the previous interventions have left a sore taste in our mouths and the cheering will be mooted at best.

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