Right Web

Tracking militarists’ efforts to influence U.S. foreign policy

Obama Resists Growing Pressure to Intervene in Syria

Neoconservatives and other U.S. hawks are mounting pressure on the Obama administration to intervene in Syria, but so far the administration has remained committed to largely diplomatic measures.

Print Friendly

Inter Press Service

While recent reports of two mass killings in Syria by pro-regime forces have increased pressure on President Barack Obama to intervene more directly in support of the opposition, his administration appears determined to avoid any military involvement.

Citing the increased violence, neo-conservatives and other hawks have been pressing their case for Washington to arm opposition forces and aid Turkey and Jordan in creating and enforcing "safe zones" for civilians along their borders with Syria, at the very least.

"In addition, the U.S. and our NATO allies could strengthen sanctions on Syria by mounting a naval blockade of the Syrian coastline," according to Max Boot, a prominent neo-conservative at the Council on Foreign Relations.

"This would make it more difficult for Syria's principal supporters, Russia and Iran, to provide arms to the regime," he wrote in the Los Angeles Times, noting that airstrikes to take out the regime's key military assets — as they did in Libya — should also be considered.

For now, however, the administration, concerned about the possibility of being drawn into yet another Middle East quagmire and worried that further militarising the conflict risks destabilising Syria's neighbours, is firmly resisting such advice.

While expressing growing scepticism about efforts by U.N.-Arab League Envoy Kofi Annan to implement a ceasefire and a transition plan that would eventually remove President Bashar al-Assad from power, the administration is standing by the former U.N. secretary-general, who will meet with Secretary of State Hillary Clinton here Friday.

Citing reports of a massacre of 78 civilians in a village in central Hama province, Clinton toughened her rhetoric in an appearance with her Turkish counterpart in Istanbul. Assad, she said, has "doubled down on his brutality and duplicity".

"Syria will not, cannot, be peaceful, stable or certainly democratic until Assad goes," she declared, stressing that Washington intends to intensify economic and diplomatic sanctions against the regime and encourage other governments to do so as part of a coordinated effort to persuade Assad's supporters in the military and the business community to abandon him.

Annan himself also suggested that more pressure should be brought to bear on Assad in remarks to the U.N. General Assembly Thursday. Conceding that his five-week-old ceasefire plan was "not being implemented", he said it was time to consider "what other options exist to end the violence".

"The violence is getting worse," he said. "…(T)he country is becoming more polarised and more radicalised. And Syria's immediate neighbours are increasingly worried about the threat of spillover."

According to the well-connected Washington Postcolumnist David Ignatius, Annan hopes to gain the U.N. Security Council's approval for the creation of a "contact group" composed of the Council's five permanent members, a representative of the Arab League, Turkey, and Iran to draft a detailed transition plan that, among other things, would provide Assad with safe exile in either Russia or Iran, new presidential and parliamentary elections, and reform of the country's security forces.

Involving both Russia and Iran — both of which have, to a limited extent, distanced themselves from Assad, particularly in light of the latest reports of regime-backed mayhem — in this process could reassure them that their interests will be protected in a post-Assad regime.

The administration is expected to support the proposal, at least as it regards Russia, which has long been seen by Washington as the key to diplomatic efforts to persuade Assad to step down.

Iran's involvement, however, is considered far more problematic, as Clinton made clear, saying it was "hard…to imagine that a country putting so much effort into keeping Assad in power …would be a constructive actor." She added that Iran would not be considered an "appropriate participant at this point".

Meanwhile, hawks here have cited the mass killings in Hama and in Houla as proof that Annan's diplomatic efforts — which included the deployment of up to 300 monitors — were a waste of time at best.

"One immediately required action is to abandon any wishful thinking that (Annan's) …efforts will help the situation, or that Russia's conscience will finally be shocked straight," wrote Florida Sen. Marco Rubio, a rising star in the Republican Party with neo- conservative views, in the Wall Street Journal.

"The U.S. should urge Mr. Annan to condemn Assad and resign his job as envoy so that Syria's regime and other governments can no longer hide behind the façade of his mediation efforts."

Arguing that diplomacy "doesn't stand a chance …unless the military balance tips against Assad", Rubio, who is reportedly being considered by presumptive Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney as his vice-presidential running-mate, went on, arguing "empowering and supporting Syria's opposition today will give us our best chance of influencing it tomorrow."

Danielle Pletka, vice president of foreign and defence policy studies at the neo-conservative American Enterprise Institute (AEI), urged the administration to "double down on the light arms that the Saudis and Qataris are supplying to the Free Syrian Army" and transfer "more substantial weaponry to groups reportedly in line to be vetted by the CIA".

"Far from intensifying a conflict that is claiming thousands of lives, effective weapons may finally give the edge to the opposition and coax more significant defections from the Syrian army," she argued, noting that such bold moves could bolster Obama's re-election prospects.

In recent days, the neo-conservatives have been joined by a few liberal interventionists, including former secretary of state Madeleine Albright's spokesman, James Rubin, who argued in foreignpolicy.com that overthrowing Assad could forestall an Israeli attack on Iran, and her ambassador to Morocco, Marc Ginsberg, who called for the administration to "send the Neville Chamberlin (sic)- wannabe former SecGen (Annan) back to his rocking chair."

At the same time, there has been substantial pushback by leading figures of the foreign policy establishment, including former secretary of state Henry Kissinger.

"We cannot afford to be driven from expedient to expedient into undefined military conflict taking on an increasingly sectarian character," he warned. "In reacting to one human tragedy, we must be careful not to facilitate another."

Similarly, Fareed Zakaria, former editor of the Foreign Affairs journal and Time magazine's editor-at-large, defended the administration's approach of working with other countries to impose and tighten sanctions on the regime and its key supporters and pressing Russia to abandon Assad.

"It would be morally far more satisfying to do something dramatic that would topple Assad tomorrow," he wrote in his weekly column in Time. "But starving his regime might prove the more effective strategy."

Jim Lobe is the Washington bureau chief of the Inter Press Service and a contributor to Right Web. He blogs at http://www.lobelog.com/

Share RightWeb

Featured Profiles

The Foreign Policy Initiative, founded in 2009 by a host of neoconservative figures, was a leading advocate for a militaristic and Israel-centric U.S. foreign policies.


Billionaire investor Paul Singer is the founder and CEO of the Elliott Management Corporation and an important funder of neoconservative causes.


Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL) is known for his hawkish views on foreign policy and close ties to prominent neoconservatives.


Ron Dermer is the Israeli ambassador to the United States and a close confidante of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.


Blackwater Worldwide founder Erik Prince is notorious for his efforts to expand the use of private military contractors in conflict zones.


U.S. Defense Secretary James “Mad Dog” Mattis is a retired U.S Marine Corps general and combat veteran who served as commander of U.S. Central Command during 2010-2013 before being removed by the Obama administration reportedly because of differences over Iran policy.


Mark Dubowitz, an oft-quoted Iran hawk, is the executive director of the neoconservative Foundation for Defense of Democracies.


For media inquiries,
email rightwebproject@gmail.com

From the Wires

Print Friendly

The time has come for a new set of partnerships to be contemplated between the United States and Middle East states – including Iran – and between regimes and their peoples, based on a bold and inclusive social contract.


Print Friendly

Erik Prince is back. He’s not only pitching colonial capitalism in DC. He’s huckstering ex-SF-led armies of sepoys to wrest Afghanistan, Yemen, Libya and perhaps, if he is ever able to influence likeminded hawks in the Trump administration, even Iran back from the infidels.


Print Friendly

Encouraged by Secretary of State Rex Tillerson’s statement late last month that Washington favors “peaceful” regime change in Iran, neoconservatives appear to be trying to influence the internal debate by arguing that this is Trump’s opportunity to be Ronald Reagan.


Print Friendly

When asked about “confidence in the U.S. president to do the right thing in world affairs,” 22 percent of those surveyed as part of a recent Pew Research Center global poll expressed confidence in Donald Trump and 74 percent expressed no confidence.


Print Friendly

A much-awaited new State Department volume covering the period 1951 to 1954 does not reveal much new about the actual overthrow of Mohammad Mossadeq but it does provide a vast amount of information on US involvement in Iran.


Print Friendly

As debate continues around the Trump administration’s arms sales and defense spending, am new book suggests several ways to improve security and reduce corruption, for instance by increasing transparency on defense strategies, including “how expenditures on systems and programs align with the threats to national security.”


Print Friendly

Lobelog We walked in a single file. Not because it was tactically sound. It wasn’t — at least according to standard infantry doctrine. Patrolling southern Afghanistan in column formation limited maneuverability, made it difficult to mass fire, and exposed us to enfilading machine-gun bursts. Still, in 2011, in the Pashmul District of Kandahar Province, single…


RightWeb
share