ON 'RED LINES' BEING CROSSED IN SYRIA
"Royal Navy vessels are being readied to take part in a possible series of cruise missile strikes, alongside the United States, as military commanders finalise a list of potential targets. Government sources said talks between the Prime Minister and international leaders, including Barack Obama, would continue, but that any military action that was agreed could begin within the next week. As the preparations gathered pace, William Hague, the Foreign Secretary, warned that the world could not stand by and allow the Assad regime to use chemical weapons against the Syrian people “with impunity”. Britain, the US and their allies must show Mr Assad that to perpetrate such an atrocity “is to cross a line and that the world will respond when that line is crossed”, he said. British forces now look likely to be drawn into an intervention in the Syrian crisis after months of deliberation and international disagreement over how to respond to the bloody two-year civil war. The possibility of such intervention will provoke demands for Parliament to be recalled this week. The escalation comes as a direct response to what the Government is convinced was a gas attack perpetrated by Syrian forces on a civilian district of Damascus last Wednesday. The Assad regime has been under mounting pressure to allow United Nations inspectors on to the site to establish who was to blame for the atrocity. One international agency said it had counted at least 355 people dead and 3,600 injured following the attack, while reports suggested the true death toll could be as high as 1,300. Syrian state media accused rebel forces of using chemical agents, saying some government soldiers had suffocated as a result during fighting. After days of delay, the Syrian government finally offered yesterday to allow a team of UN inspectors access to the area. However, Mr Hague suggested that this offer of access four days after the attack had come too late. “We cannot in the 21st century allow the idea that chemical weapons can be used with impunity, that people can be killed in this way and that there are no consequences for it,” he said. The Foreign Secretary said all the evidence “points in one direction”, to the use of illegal chemical agents by Assad regime forces. A Government source added that even if UN inspectors visited the site of the attack, “we would need convincing by the UN team that this was not the regime’s attack because we believe everything points to the fact that it was”.... The Prime Minister, however, is believed to have abandoned hope of securing any further meaningful response from the UN amid opposition from Russia. Labour said Parliament must be recalled if Mr Cameron was considering a military response, but Downing Street sources said this may not be necessary as the Prime Minister retained the right to act urgently if required. Mr Cameron will face criticism for any British military involvement from many MPs, who believe the Armed Forces are already overstretched and must not be committed to another distant conflict. Any retaliatory attack would be likely to be launched from the sea as the Syrian air force is judged to be strong enough to shoot down enemy jets".Tim Ross & Ben Farmer, "Navy ready to launch first strike on Syria." The Daily Telegraph. 25 August 2013, in www.telegraph.co.uk/news/worldnews/middleeast/syria/10265765/Navy-ready-to-launch-first-strike-on-Syria After months, nay almost two years of discussions in the press and capitals of the Western Powers, the time it seems is coming when the same powers will abandon merely talking about employing the use of force and begin to employ force against the regime in Syria. Judging from what is being proposed, the military measures are those which more akin to say what the ex-Iraqi Dictator, Sadaam Hussein faced in the post-bellum, First Gulf War to the Second Gulf War (1991-2002), a series of pinpricks and isolated, air and missiles strikes, rather than a consistent endeavor to use military force to cripple and then oust the regime hic et nunc. As an unnamed official (probably the American National Security Advisor or Deputy National Security Advisor) quoted in to-day's Financial Times, noted:
"The three governments were considering a series of one-off strikes on Syrian regime military assets to make clear that much of the international community would not tolerate the use of chemical weapons in modern warfare, the official said. The official said that these strikes could take place as early as this week, but added that western allies were not planning a sustained military intervention in the Syrian civil war on the side of the opposition rebels, something that has often been mooted in the past" 1.The overall effect of such limited military intervention will be of course simply that: 'limited'. It will not change the overall calculus of the ongoing struggle between the regime and the opposition. It will faute de mieux, merely allow the Western Powers to 'save face' vis-`a-vis elements of its own and the international public opinion. Having been imprudent enough to introduce 'red lines', into its discussions of the Syrian Crisis, the Western Powers, the Americans in particular would look helplessly impotent and helpless if they failed to use force now, given the widespread belief that last week's gas attack in the suburbs of Damascus was delivered by the regime. Of course events being what they are, it could very well be that we will learn in x number of years hence that the gas attack was engineered precisely by the opposition in order to force the hand of the Western Powers. That is a supposition which at this stage cannot and apparently will not be proven nor disproven. All that one can indeed say is that on the surface at any rate, the proposed Western military intervention, will do little good, will (hopefully) do little harm and will accomplish little more than making bien-pensant Western public opinion feel better about itself. Something which au fond, says more perhaps about the limits of American power in the post bellumIraq, and approaching post bellumAfghanistan than anything else. 1. James Blitz, Stephanie Kirchgaessner and Abigail Fielding-Smith, "West eyes air strikes on Syrian military." The Financial Times. 25 August 2013, in www.ft.com.