Pres. Obama made a statement in the Rose Garden of the White House Aug 31 effectively canceling a US strike on Syria’s missile and WMD stockpiles in response to the gassing of Syrian citizens in Damascus Aug 21, which killed over 1,000 Syrians including 400 children and with as many as 3,500 others treated for lesser affects of Sarin gas. Obama said he believes he should have authorization from Congress, when they return from summer recess on Sept 9.
The announcement follows this week’s defeat of Prime Minister David Cameron's mandate initiative with the British Parliament for military action; defeated in a late evening vote after Opposition Labour Leader Ed Miliband suddenly withdrew support after being lobbied to for several hours to do so by Labour Shadow Foreign Secretary Douglas Alexander, a confident of the Obama Administration.
Obama’s actions raise the question of whether he had any intention of taking action against Syria to begin with and it is important to frame his moves within the primary goal of his Middle East policy. Pres. Obama has repeatedly stated that Israel must return to its pre-1967 borders giving up all of the West Bank, Jerusalem, the Golan Heights and portions of Israel that even Arab nations have conceded belong to Israel.
To that end Pres. Obama reached out to Pres. Bashar al-Assad and normalized relations with Syria in 2010, reversing the Bush policy of including Syria among the ‘Axis of evil’ nations. Syria was placed in that category due to continued funding and training of al-Qaida groups by the Assad regime to fight US forces in Iraq beginning in 2003; the same al-Qaida groups which now fight in Syria’s civil war independently of the Free Syrian Army (FSA), but who sometimes attack both sides in the name of the FSA.
Before the Syrian Civil War began, another effort to the same end was the financial and organizational support of the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt by Non-governmental Organizations (NGO’s) tied indirectly to Obama and Democrat Party political action committees such as Barack H. Obama Foundation based in Kenya and run by his half-brother Malik Obama. An effort aimed at Islamization of Egypt in order to rip up the Camp David Accords and re-militarize the Sinai bordering Israel.
Both efforts had the same common goal, which was to place Israel back within the north and south military ‘pincers’ it faced from 1949 to the signing of the Camp David Accords. Obama’s plan has at least in Egypt been totally thwarted with the military coup and removal from power of the Muslim Brotherhood; and Israel and Egypt now quietly working together to pacify terror cells in the Sinai.
Syria however, is still undecided. The civil war there was not anticipated, or expected to last this long. Another key factor in the Syria angle however is Hezbollah; the Iranian supported terror army in southern Lebanon composed of men from everywhere except Lebanon.
Syria under the Bashar al-Assad regime and before that his father Hafez al-Assad acts as Iran’s ‘ammo depot’ for Hezbollah from whence arms, ammunition and Iranian manufactured rockets funnel into southern Lebanon.
In concert with that support, operatives of Iran and the Assad regime meddle in Lebanese politics destabilizing Lebanese society along sectarian religious lines, keeping them disunited so that Hezbollah rule can flourish and grow, which it has with Hezbollah now having seats in Lebanon’s legislature.
Without Assad in control of Syria, Hezbollah cannot survive. Attempts by Iran to maintain Hezbollah after Assad’s fall would require a seaborne supply effort which Iran is not capable of and would be easily blockaded by Israeli naval forces. Nor does Iran have the massive number of aircraft it would take for an airlift.
Whether the chemical attack on his own people was ordered personally by Assad or by his brother Maher Assad in command of the troops which fired the weapons is irrelevant. Pres. Obama needs Bashar al-Assad right where he is; in control of Hezbollah’s ammunition depot, Syria. If any US military action is taken it will likely be in the form of cruise missile strikes on abandoned office buildings and aspirin factories and last no more than a few hours at most.