Harper commmentary to pass on
I received the following email this evening, with an invitation to pass it along to others. I make no claim of accuracy but from past experience, the author is generally well informed. It certainly tracks well with events of the past week. pl
"From a series of meetings in Washington today with a number of contacts, I have reached the following conclusions regarding an imminent U.S. attack on Syria.
First, as of late Friday afternoon, Aug. 23, President Obama concluded that Syrian government forces had used chemical weapons in the Aug. 21 attack in a Damascus suburb. At that point, the White House put out a statement to select reporters from an "unnamed senior White House official" making it clear that the President was convinced of the Syrian government's use of CW.
By Tuesday morning, the Obama strategy and timetable had shifted and some hardened decisions had been made. Track I was abandoned because it would take too much time to go to the UN Security Council when there was near-certainty that Russia and China would veto. By then, enough European, Arab and other allied states had agreed to back a retaliatory action that it was felt there was enough credible international support to attack soon.
Although JCS Chairman Gen. Martin Dempsey and Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel opposed military action, once the President made the decision, the objectives of the Pentagon shifted to controlling the targeting decisions and limiting the possibility of an all-out war. For Obama and his inner circles of advisors (Rice, Jarrett, Axelrod, Power, Michelle Obama), the level of military attack had to be sufficient to avoid Republican attacks for only making a symbolic response to the alleged CW attacks, while avoiding a major escalation or a clear intervention to give the rebels a decisive edge. It appears that cruise missile attacks are planned, to target command and control sites and storage facilities for missiles, other delivery systems, and possibly some CW.
Secretary of State Kerry has spoken with Russian counterpart Sergei Lavrov, and has informed him of the American plans, along with reassurances that the United States is not targeting any Russian strategic interests in Syria or seeking regime change. The Russians were told that the U.S. is convinced Assad's forces used chemical weapons, and the U.S. actions are in retaliation for the Syrians crossing Obama's "red line." One source indicated that there is some tacit agreement from the Russians that, so long as the attack is so limited, they will not escalate. This is, of course, a very risky proposition, given the degeneration of U.S.-Russian relations of late. It is likely that there are also military-to-military back channels communicating this message as well, although I do not have details.
There is no clear assessment of how Iran will respond, and what impact this will have on the new Rowhani government in Tehran.
Israel and the Israel Lobby have been pressing for such U.S. action since last week. Israel believes that the longstanding cease-fire deal that they had with Syria is over, given the penetration of both Al Qaeda and Hezbollah networks inside Syrian territory. Last week, rockets were fired into northern Israel and Israeli intelligence concluded that the rockets were fired by Al Qaeda linked rebel factions. Israel wants the United States to take care of the Syria crisis fast, because the status quo is intolerable for Israeli security.
It would appear that these limited strikes by the U.S. are imminent, and that they could likely occur before President Obama leaves early next week for St. Petersburg for the G-20 heads of state summit.
Comments are welcome. pl
This entry was posted in government
. Bookmark the permalink