U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry told Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov his comments about Syria averting a U.S. military strike by turning over its chemical weapons within a week were rhetorical and not meant to be a proposal, a senior U.S. Official said on Monday.
France and Germany on Monday welcomed a Russian proposal that the Syrian regime hand control of its chemical weapons arsenal to international supervision as a way of staving off the threat of military action…
“The proposal of Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov merits close examination,” Fabius said, demanding that Assad “commit himself without delay to put his chemical arsenal under international control and to let all of it be destroyed”.
Washington’s crisis over Syria started with a gaffe. Another gaffe may very well end it.
If the Obama administration’s response to Bashar Assad’s alleged use of chemical weapons appears erratic, improvised and incoherent, that’s because it has been, ever since the president declared the use of chemical weapons to constitute a “red line” that apparently prompted US action. A different improvisation, from his secretary of state on Monday, offered the Obama administration an opportunity to climb back from the brink of a war Obama initially wanted to avoid…
[E]ven if Obama signs on to this new push to avoid the strikes he proposed, it will not resolve the persistent ambiguity about the depth of the US investment in ending the Syrian conflict. During congressional testimony last week, Kerry vowed that additional US aid to the “vetted” Syrian opposition is forthcoming.
True to form, the White House is portraying the latest improvisation as entirely consistent with a well-crafted strategy Obama has put in place from the start.
The conflict in Syria and the increasing likelihood of Western involvement is occupying hearts and minds at this year’s festival. Still, when it comes to Hollywood voices publicly weighing in on the debate over U.S. intervention in the territory, the silence has been deafening.
A number of high-profile Hollywood names on hand for the festival, who’ve been outspoken in the past on U.S. military intervention, have been uncharacteristically quiet on the issue. THR reached out to more than a dozen, including Susan Sarandon, Penn Jillette, Josh Brolin and Tim Robbins, all of whom were unavailable for comment. One TIFF attendee contacted by THR was ready to comment until being cautioned against it by his film’s distributor…
When asked about the Syria situation Sunday, one well-known auteur on hand to preview footage of his upcoming release demurred, adding that he “didn’t notice” Hollywood’s conspicuous silence on the subject.
At this point, it’s risky and probably futile to try to understand the ad hoc decisionmaking and zig-zagging public rhetoric of the Obama administration’s handling of Syria. But even before Barack Obama shares his latest thoughts on the crisis with the American people, in television interviews today and a speech tomorrow night, a new proposal and the administration’s eager response suggest another zig (or zag) might be coming…
Would President Obama, having escaped from the box he put himself in on chemical weapons, allow the slaughter by conventional weapons to continue? Before the confirmed use of chemical weapons, the president seemed content to stand on the sidelines and call hopefully for Assad to go. What now?
Even if the Kerry/Russia plan gives the president a face-saving way to avoid military conflict in Syria, it does little to erase the damage of his dithering and unseriousness over the past month – and the past two years. And the timing of this proposal, coming as it does on the same day that Assad explicitly threatened the U.S. with “repercussions” from “different factions,” could well be seen in the region as yet another example of American weakness.
If the administration’s management of the domestic politics of the Syria intervention has been bizarrely lacking in strategic thought, its management of the actual military strategy seems even worse. What, exactly, is the plan? As best as outsiders can tell, the administration wants to hit the Assad regime hard enough to “teach it a lesson,” but not so hard that the regime actually falls. The administration appears to fear that the failure of the regime would either bring to power Islamic radicals or – more likely – crack the Syrian state altogether, plunging Syria into a generation of chaos like that suffered by Lebanon from the mid-1970s through the early 1990s.
The administration wants to hurt Assad enough to change his behavior — but not so much that he and his Iranian and Hezbollah allies will seek to retaliate against US interests. It wants to degrade his power enough so that he will not use chemical weapons again, but not so much that he decides he has nothing to lose and unleashes every atrocity in his inventory…
If Syria isn’t worth a fight to the end, it’s better not to start. If you can’t be sure that Congress will vote your way, don’t ask in the first place. That’s strategy — and strategy is the thing that’s been missing from the Obama administration’s Syria policy all the way through.
[I]f I were George W. Bush or Romney, I’d be sorely tempted to laugh, because Obama’s chickens are coming home to roost. Obama was elected after he and his party sowed distrust of U.S. military endeavors, mocked “intelligence estimates” about “weapons of mass destruction,” and suggested that anything the United States did in the region was probably somehow a scheme to benefit oil companies. Now Obama and his administration are shocked to find that when they go on about intelligence estimates and weapons of mass destruction, people don’t take them seriously.
Likewise, Obama has repeatedly shown his disdain for Congress and his willingness to act without congressional approval in all sorts of areas, from ObamaCare implementation to gun control. So it’s not surprising that members of Congress seem to be a bit . . . distant now that Obama suddenly wants them to bail him out of his unfortunate “red line” remark.
But I’d bet that Bush and Romney aren’t actually laughing. That’s because they’re both serious men who understand international politics and who care for the future of the country. They no doubt understand that, as fun as it is to watch a political opponent twist in the wind due to his own ineptitude, the price will ultimately be paid not by Obama, but by the people of America.
Our diplomacy is a joke, our president is a laughing stock, our enemies are emboldened, and we’ve still got over three years of this to go.
As a result, President Obama finds himself in the biggest and ugliest public mess of his career, with a total policy meltdown playing out on the front pages and cable TV studios of the world. It is like a slow motion Bay of Pigs, unrolling at an agonizing, prestige wrecking pace from day to day and week to week. It is almost impossible to defend whatever policy he actually has in mind at this point, yet the consequences of a congressional vote that opposes him are grave.
We’re hoping the Good Foreign Policy Fairy comes along and waves her magic wand over this Syria mess and somehow helps the administration avoid the disaster it has struggled so hard to produce. Otherwise, it’s hard to see anything good coming out of this epic policy meltdown beyond, perhaps, a useful reminder to future presidents that the Constitution does place limits on executive power, and that regular consultation with Congress about important foreign policy problems is probably a good idea.
If there really is a special providence for drunks, fools and the United States of America, this would be an excellent time for it to put in an appearance.
The problem for Mr. Obama is that at least since the end of World War II, Americans have taken pride in being No. 1. Unless the American people have been as fundamentally transformed as their country is quickly becoming, America’s decline will not sit well. With more than three years in office to go, will Mr. Obama be willing and able to endure the continuing erosion of his popularity that will almost certainly come with the erosion of the country’s power and influence?
No doubt he will either deny that anything has gone wrong, or failing that, he will resort to his favorite tactic of blaming others—Congress or the Republicans or Rush Limbaugh. But what is also almost certain is that he will refuse to change course and do the things that will be necessary to restore U.S. power and influence.
And so we can only pray that the hole he will go on digging will not be too deep for his successor to pull us out, as Ronald Reagan managed to do when he followed a president into the White House whom Mr. Obama so uncannily resembles.
Via the Standard.