Monday, October 21, 2013

Syria: Press the Pause Button

     This weekend, the Washington Post redirected shell-shocked Americans from the government shutdown back to the situation in Syria.  Although President Obama was rescued by Vladimir Putin, the conflict is not over and those still involved are hopeful the world has not forgotten about the millions of displaced refugees.  In an interview, embattled Syrian President Bashar Al-Assad sounded almost jubilant about the developments that took place.  He mentions how his chemical weapons stockpile was outdated and was becoming useless.  It was only being sustained to deter Israel and maintain prowess among the international community.  Assad did not seem concerned that UN inspectors where going to be dismantling his chemical weapons.  How does this make the US look now?
     As I have said and even as President Obama has said, America is not the world's police force yet many Syrian refugees are begging for someone to step in and bring Assad to justice.  Now without the threat of a US attack, Assad can continue to carry on assaults on battered rebel groups.
     Everyone in the foreign policy punditry seems to be discussing Obama's shifting ideology especially given his stance on drones and recent use of Special Forces.  More relevant to this situation is the shake-up among his advisers - former UN ambassador Susan Rice replaced Tom Donilon in Obama's inner circle and Rice's UN position was filled by Samantha Power.  Both are known to be hardliners when it comes to the use of military force in the name of humanitarianism.
     Obama has received much criticism for his reliance on advisers over cabinet secretaries on matters of foreign policy.  His surprising brake in thought to unilaterally intervene militarily to allow a vote in Congress despite believing he would not be in violation of usurping war powers is especially intriguing given this shake-up of personnel.  It will be even more interesting to see if the US decides to act in the future or if the "get out of jail free card" given to the administration by Russia will suffice in separating Obama from the region.  Obama has neglected his "pivot" to Asia thereby upsetting many of his Asian counter parts.  Maybe now he will be able to focus more diplomatic energy towards Asia and more specifically, the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP).
     Secretary of State John Kerry will attend a peace conference in Geneva next month which Assad proclaims "may take place just to please Russia."  However, many in the Arab League have not forgotten about the Syrian Civil War and for their part, they are quite furious that the rest of the world has not done more to intervene.  The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, a strong ally to the rebels in Syria who have supplied them with weapons, has voiced they may decline a seat on the powerful UN Security Council.  A seat on the Security Council allows nations to vote on sanctions and resolutions among other things.  The Saudis are upset with the UN (and their ally, us) over their inaction and blind eye toward Syria.
     Fervor in this country has cooled down but the fighting still rages in Syria.  Will the Obama Administration decide enough is enough and intervene in the coming months?  Obama learned a valuable lesson that threats must be acted upon in order to have any impact which is why I believe he will draw down some of his rhetoric on belligerent dictators.  It's still worth noting Susan Rice may be chewing off the president's ear if matters continue to worsen. Perhaps an easy way out for Obama would be another Security Council Resolution that would carry more weight than say, inspecting and removing weapons but calls for military action with a joint coalition if Assad continues to massacre innocent citizens.  For now, the Syrian civil war drags on and the most important thing for sovereigns to remember is it's a civil war despite nations such as Iran sponsoring proxies.              

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