This is a cross-post by Marc Goldberg
The gathering of warships in close proximity to Israeli territorial waters continues and gives a frightening glimpse into the way that the Syrian civil war has succeeded in sucking in both regional and international powers. Thus far the US, Russian and French navies have a presence in the Eastern end of the Mediterranean. Our own Navy is looking rather shabby in comparison to supremely cutting edge quality of the warships sent by some of the Great Powers. Except for our diesel submarines of course, which may explain why the Russians have sent an anti-submarine vessel along with a missile cruiser into the region. They appear utterly determined to defend their base in the Syrian port of Tartus.
It’s an uncomfortable position to be in. Even with the UK announcing that it will not be a part of a strike the naval build up continues. The French particularly seem to be up for the fight while the Americans are still publicly dithering. I can understand their wish to wait, their problems are on two critical levels. On the one hand they aren’t going to get any support from the UN for a military strike due to Russian influence. Putin remains Assad’s best friend in the Security Council, able to veto any resolution calling for military intervention.
Even if the US was to build up a diplomatic coalition of enough strength to feel comfortable in launching attacks on Syria what exactly would they strike? No Western politician is advocating boots on the ground (though one would speculate that there are CIA and Special Forces already there), nor are they talking with any enthusiasm about imposing a no fly zone on Syria.
The word doing the rounds at the moment is ‘Tomahawk’. These cruise missiles allow the US a super clean attack option, none of their servicemen and women would be placed in harms way by such a strike and the effectiveness of these weapons is well known. Which brings us to the biggest stumbling block of all; What on earth would the Tomahawks be shooting at?
And here we come to the point. Obama declared the use of chemical weapons to be a “Red line”, he looked ridiculous when he didn’t move the first time Assad’s forces deployed them and he’s going to look ridiculous if he doesn’t do anything now. He has to do something to maintain some kind of credibility. Iran is watching and the soundbite “all options are on the table” with regards to Iran will appear very weak indeed if America fails to act now. Whether the option he chooses to go with in this instance has any substantive affect on the overall conflict is another question unlikely. I doubt it will in and of itself though it will set a precedent for further US military action in Syria, a slippery slope indeed when you have no strategy. And so all of us must wait to find out exactly what it is that Obama is going to do.
The Assads by the way are rumoured to have fled to Iran.