UK, Germany, Italy out, France still in on Syria strike
posted at 10:01 am on August 30, 2013 by Bruce McQuain
After the stunning “no” vote in the UK Parliament, President Obama’s “coalition” partners have pretty much dwindled to … France.
The British parliament voted late Thursday against military action in Syria, whittling down the core of the planned coalition to the United States and France. Italy and Germany have said they won’t take part in any military action.
The British ‘no’ vote raised questions about France’s participation — and ratcheted up pressure on U.S. President Barack Obama, who is also facing domestic skepticism about military intervention in Syria.
Amid the resistance, the U.S. administration shared intelligence with lawmakers Thursday aimed at convincing them the Syrian government used chemical weapons against its people and must be punished.
Obama appeared undeterred by the difficulties forming an international coalition, and advisers said he would be willing to retaliate against Syria on his own.
“The president of the United States is elected with the duty to protect the national security interests in the United States of America,” said White House spokesman Josh Earnest.
Of course, the administration has yet to define how hitting Syria “to deter and degrade” does anything to “protect the national security interests of the United States”. In fact, even the most ardent of Obama’s supporters and supporters of the strike are finding it difficult to do that. While the White House spokesman is completely right about the duty of the president, a strike on Syria has no justification under that “duty to protect the national security interests” of the country. Until it can, it has no justification, legal or otherwise, for striking Syria.
As the cite mentions, not only is Britain out, but Germany and Italy have made it clear that they’ll not be participating in any strike on Syria. So America’s oldest ally as well as our predominant NATO allies have opted out.
France sent a clear signal on Friday that it was preparing strikes against the regime of Bashar al-Assad, with President François Hollande saying the Syrian government’s alleged use of chemical weapons against its own people cannot go unpunished.
“There are few countries with the capacities to inflict sanctions with the appropriate means,” Mr. Hollande said. “France is among those. It is ready.”
The French President said he would speak about the situation in Syria with U.S. President Barack Obama later Friday.
Hollande doesn’t have to get the French Parliament’s okay to commit France’s armed forces, but by law, he must inform Parliament within 3 days of any such commitment. France has scheduled an emergency meeting for Sept. 4. I assume you can do the simple math necessary to make an educated guess when France might strike. There’s also this to factor in:
Mr. Hollande ruled out conducting strikes against Syria before United Nations inspectors, who were dispatched to Damascus last week, had left the country. The inspectors, who are investigating whether chemical weapons were used, are expected to leave Syria on Saturday.
How would France strike? Probably by air with standoff weapons:
French military analysts say France’s most likely role would be from the air, including use of Scalp cruise missiles that have a range of about 500 kilometers (300 miles), fired from Mirage and Rafale fighter jets. French fighters could likely fly directly from mainland France — much as they did at the start of a military campaign against Islamic radicals in Mali earlier this year — with support from refueling aircraft. France also has six Rafale jets at Al Dhafra air base, near Abu Dhabi in the United Arab Emirates on the Persian Gulf, and 7 Mirage-2000 jets at an air base in Djibouti, on the Red Sea.
And the goal?
Hollande reiterated that any action is aimed at punishing the regime of Bashar Assad, not toppling him.
“I won’t talk of war but of a sanction for a monstrous violation of the human person. It will have a dissuasive value,” he said.
Apparently the 100,000 already dead didn’t suffer enough of a “monstrous violation of the human person” to attract France or the US’s attention. But note one thing – “punishment” does not equal “national security interests”. And punishment is what this is all about. Punishment for ignoring the warnings of the West about chemical weapons use.
Meanwhile the Obama administration continues to try to build support even while ignoring the Congress and the people:
As President Obama prepares to make his case for a possible military strike against Syria’s government, he faces a formidable obstacle — the public.
A new IBD/TIPP Poll of 904 adults, conducted Aug. 24-28, shows Americans have misgivings about military action vs. Bashar Assad’s regime.
Just 13% of those surveyed said they would “strongly” support U.S. military action in Syria. Another 25% said they would “somewhat” support it, for total support of nearly 39%.
In contrast, 52% said they opposed such a move either somewhat or strongly.
Not that it will matter. This is about ego. This is about demagoguery and putting one’s self in a box. What it isn’t about the national security interests of the United States.