As soon as Obama deferred the decision to strike Syria to Congress there was widespread hysteria about Obama’s credibility when it came to taking military action. But there is a key difference between the US and Israel, the US doesn’t need a policy of deterrence, it strikes when it feels it necessary and that is all. President Obama isn’t surrounded by enemies on all sides, he is the commander-in-chief of the most powerful fighting force the world has ever seen. He can afford to wait if he wants to and he certainly doesn’t need Israel’s permission to do so.
The US has amassed a huge amount of striking power both in the Eastern Mediterranean and in the Persian Gulf. This is in the form of not one but two carrier battle groups in the Arabian Sea (nicely positioned to threaten Iran) and six warships, 5 of them capable of deploying cruise missiles, plus the USS San Antonio, a troop ship carrying several hundred Marines.
The power has been assembled though the button has yet to be pushed.
And waiting makes sense if you consider that what Obama really wants is diplomatic backup. As a point of fact waiting to create a coalition speaks volumes about the type of action that the US President is considering taking. A token effort of a few cruise missiles is an action that he could take at any moment, but a longer term, broader operation with more meaningful results requires a longer list of countries who are in it for the duration. This is a particularly important consideration with the Russians so entrenched in the country.
Although it is wonderful that the French are so heavily on board with a strike against Syria the real ally that Obama wants with him is the United Kingdom. When David Cameron unexpectedly lost the vote to take the UK into military action ripples were sent across the Atlantic. It was only then that the President who killed Osama bin Laden started making noises about Congress. While Congress mulls over their position politicians in the UK have become restless. The opposition leader Ed Miliband has been accused of playing politics with Syrian orphans and it’s not playing well with anyone.
While senior British Tories are publicly saying that there’s no point in another vote there are rumbings from Parliament and in the media that a new vote must be held. The BBC reports that;
“Some senior politicians, including former Westminster party leaders Lord Ashdown and Lord Howard and former Foreign Secretary Sir Malcolm Rifkind, have said the US delay – pending Congressional approval for strikes – could allow the House of Commons to “think again”. ”
In other words, don’t count the UK out yet, the vote by Congress gives a very convenient amount of time for David Cameron to re-group and appear to cave to pressure for a new vote. The wild talk about Obama not having what it takes to order a strike on Syria flies in the fact of his actions thus far in the war on terror. He ordered a surge in Afghanistan, he has ignored Pakistani sovereignty over and over again to launch drones at terrorist targets there and has done the same in the Yemen, the prison in Guantanamo Bay remains open.
The bottom line is that while Israelis are understandably concerned there is a much bigger game being played here and Israel is only a marginal player in it. the strikes are inevitable and when they come could irrevocably change the face of the Middle East, such moves are not made easily or quickly nor should they be.