Cruise missiles heading for Syria?
Judging by news reports and the Sunday-show chatter, it’s time for the U.S. and our allies to do to Syria what Miley Cyrus’ risque performance at the MTV Video Music Awards did to Will Smith and his family: randomly bomb them into a state of shock.
Last week’s gas bombing in the suburbs of Damascus wasn’t the first time the Assad regime crossed President Obama’s chemical-weapons “red line,” but this time Assad climbed out of a giant teddy bear wearing a dental-floss bikini and twerked right across it, so something must be done.
For the record, Boy Assad insists that he’s not the one who used chemical weapons, and his besties in Russia totally believe him, as related by Fox News:
In comments published Monday in the Russian newspaper Izvestia, Assad was quoted as saying “Failure awaits the United States as in all previous wars it has unleashed, starting with Vietnam and up to the present day.” Assad added that the accusation of chemical weapons use were “against elementary logic,” explaining that Syrian government forces were near where the alleged attack took place.
Reuters reported later Monday that a convoy of United Nations weapons inspectors had left a Damascus hotel and were en route to the site in the eastern suburbs of the Syrian capital.
Also Monday, Russia’s foreign ministry, an ally of Assad’s, released a statement saying that Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov had urged restraint to US Secretary of State John Kerry when the two spoke by phone Sunday.
“[Lavrov] stressed that the official announcements from Washington in recent days about the readiness of U.S. armed forces to ‘intervene’ in the Syrian conflict have been received in Moscow with deep concern,” the statement read in part, according to Reuters.
Having completed the ritual invocation of Vietnam demanded by Middle Eastern strongman protocol, Assad then told his troops to open fire on that U.N. convoy, driving them back to base in a hail of sniper bullets.
It’s always tough to confirm chemical weapons deployment and establish responsibility in the middle of a hot war zone, especially after Assad’s air force helpfully bombed the crap out of the crime scene over the past few days. There has been speculation that Iranian forces fighting on Assad’s behalf might have decided to use poison gas, and of course the possibility of false reports by the rebels, or even rebel forces using captured chemical weapons, must be considered.
But the Israelis are convinced the Assad regime is behind the attack, having intercepted Syrian army communications to that effect. Israel cites this willingness to use weapons of mass destruction as a reason for more urgent action against Iran’s nuclear weapons program. Actually, their case would be even more bolstered if it turned out Iranian agents in Syria were the ones spraying sarin gas all over the suburbs, but the Syrian army intercepts are said to clearly implicate the regime’s command-and-control apparatus.
According to the New York Times, the Obama White House spent the weekend looking over a list of targets for cruise-missile strikes:
Officials say that a list of possible targets for a military strike has been circulating in the White House since late last week. The list, which the Pentagon originally prepared months ago for Mr. Obama, includes both chemical-weapons sites and broader military and government targets, depending on the type of action the president orders. If strikes are carried out, the targets would probably be hit by cruise missiles fired from Navy ships.
The president, who warned a year ago that the use of chemical weapons by Syrian government forces would be a “red line,” has faced criticism from Congressional Republicans and others for failing to respond more forcefully to evidence of earlier, smaller-scale chemical attacks. Mr. Obama, who inherited two costly wars — in Iraq and Afghanistan — has been extremely reluctant to commit American military forces, even in the form of missile strikes, to another tangled conflict in the Middle East.
Obama’s been “extremely reluctant” to commit American forces to “tangled conflicts” in the Middle East, because of the wars he “inherited?’ That’ll come as a big surprise to Moammar Qaddafi. Is it now editorial policy at the New York Times to pretend that Obama’s disaster in Libya never happened? That will make it easier to avoid talking about Benghazi during Hillary Clinton’s 2016 presidential campaign.
The UK Telegraph cuts to the chase, reporting that “Royal Navy vessels are being readied to take part in a possible series of cruise missile strikes, alongside the United States, as military commanders finalize a list of potential targets.”
The Christian Science Monitor says polls still show 60 percent opposition to intervention in Syria from the American public, with only 9 percent firm support for direct U.S. involvement, but you wouldn’t know that from watching the Sunday talk shows:
On the TV news shows Sunday, sabers were rattling across party lines with the new evidence that Obama’s “calculation” likely had been changed with hundreds of deaths in Syria attributed to “a whole bunch of chemical weapons,” as he put it last year.
Appearing on “Fox News Sunday,” Republican Sen. Bob Corker of Tennessee called for the US to respond in a “surgical and proportional way, something that gets their attention.” Democrat Rep. Eliot Engel of New York said the US must respond “quickly,” together with NATO allies, possibly using cruise missile strikes, as the US and NATO did in Libya when it ousted Muammar Qaddafi.
Sen. John McCain (R) of Arizona has been most vociferous in calling for US military action in Syria, especially as Obama continues to resist the idea of anything unilateral.
In a statement Sunday morning, Senators McCain and Lindsey Graham (R) of South Carolina called for the US to “take limited military actions in Syria” in the face of what “clearly constitutes the commission of a war crime.”
“Now is the time for decisive actions,” the statement says. “The United States must rally our friends and allies to take limited military actions in Syria that can change the balance of power on the ground and create conditions for a negotiated end to the conflict and an end to Assad’s rule. Using stand-off weapons, without boots on the ground, and at minimal risk to our men and women in uniform, we can significantly degrade Assad’s air power and ballistic missile capabilities and help to establish and defend safe areas on the ground.”
“In addition,” McCain and Graham assert, “we must begin a large-scale effort to train and equip moderate, vetted elements of the Syrian opposition with the game-changing weapons they need to shift the military balance against Assad’s forces.”
It’s unlikely that provocation this blatant can be addressed with a mere Strongly Worded Letter, not after the markers Obama put down about chemical weapons “red lines” last year. Something in Syria is probably going to get hit by a cruise missile launched from an American warship over the next couple of days.