Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Amnon Lord: The Syrian Rift - Part I : Initial World Reaction



by Amnon Lord


We now know that most of the anonymous photographers who gave the world the video films of the gas attack on Huta, a suburb of Damascus, are no longer among the living. David Kenner from the magazine "Foreign Policy" wrote about this in Ma'ariv in the beginning of the week. It was these images of the corpses of women and children with dilated pupils, wrapped in white, that set off the rush to obtain permission both from the best intelligence sources of the United States and also another country in the region, apparently Israel. While anyone who could do so, fled from the chemical killing field, the activists, photographers from the Syrian opposition, went in. Some of them were unprotected, inhaled the gas and died.

The films, along with intelligence findings, convinced the heads of the American administration beyond any doubt that an attack using a chemical weapon had occurred. It was Bashar Asad's senior commanders who executed this attack on August 21.

In my opinion, this is the seminal event of the year. This is the most significant event. It acted as a chemical separation process and continues to do so - yes, well after the activation of the weapon. It separates the good from the evil, the apathetic from the appalled, the hypocritical defeatists from those who are willing to stand up and act, the ethical people from the cynical "realists". It has also, according to all the signs, generated a significant revolution in consciousness among the heads of the administration, President Obama and Secretary of State John Kerry.

Fuad Ajami, for example, says that it was Obama's passivity during the past two years that actually shaped the character of the Syrian campaign. And this is a campaign that Bashar Asad leads, and he is destroying Syria with these battles, and dismembering it into groups and ethnic and sectarian conclaves. In Ajami thinks that Obama could have brought about the fall of the miserable tyrant, Asad, in the beginning phases of the war, and Ajami is not alone in this opinion. But meanwhile, Asad is becoming stronger and stronger. The disastrous chemical attack, which killed more than 1,400 people, strongly reinforces Netanyahu's view.The West's weak response reinforces it even more. Reactions have become routine: Russia looks on, Syria examines the response - if it will come, how strong and so forth. But more importantly, the Iranians are watching, too. Last week, the prime minister repeated his statement several times that after the chemical attack, Syria is a "test case".

From many points of view, John Kerry's personal drama was more intense than President Obama's. Obama, after all, despite being the president who is supposed to end the wars, and who withdrew from Iraq and Afghanistan - nevertheless engaged in wholesale killing of al-Qaeda terrorists in the battle fields of Afghanistan and Pakistan. The shrouded body that was sent to the depths of the sea two years ago testifies to this. Usama is slumbering with the fish. So Barack Obama, despite all of the criticism that he gets, does have the killer instinct. His problem is that he has no sense of strategy. 

But Kerry actually used to be Bashar al-Asad's friend. In the years 2009-2010 he visited Bashar the chemist five times. He was photographed with his wife as they dined together with Asma and Bashar, the fashionable couple featured in Vogue Magazine in 2010, in their favorite restaurant. Kerry saw Syria as a "key player in Washington's efforts to resuscitate the peace process in the Middle East, and bring peace and stability to the region". Just as the battle of the opposition against Asad broke out in Syria, Kerry - still a senator at the time, and head of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee - planned to hop over for another visit to his friend in Damascus. The Obama administration prevented it. Ironically, the reason was because such a visit from a senior American senator would signal "weakness on the part of the West". 

At the end of last week, John Kerry was much more combative than anyone else in the administration. Certainly much more so than the president himself. He revealed the smoking gun and stated definitively that a chemical attack had occurred, and that he could state the exact number of fatalities. He prepared the political ground for a military attack, which everyone expected would occur within 24 hours at the most.

His about-face was like what they used to say about neo-conservatives: Who is a neo-conservative? A Liberal who was mugged by reality in a dark alley. But the problem is that most of those who have been mugged don't complain to anyone who would actually do something about it. Meanwhile, it seems that the two good Liberals, Obama and Kerry, have registered a complaint - to be debated in Congress.

Part II next: It may be Late in Coming, but it will be Powerful


Amnon Lord


Translated from Hebrew by Sally Zahav with permission from the author. 

Source:Yoman Section of "Makor Rishon" Newspaper, Issue 839, 4.9.2013, pg. 6-7, 

Copyright - Original materials copyright (c) by the authors.

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