The option is still somewhat confusing, but it is clear that there are two American vessels capable of firing Tomahawk missiles from the Mediterranean to Damascus whose orders to return to the Naples base have been revoked. At this time Obama is evaluating whether it is a matter of crossing the so-called line in the sand, the one set when he declared, over a year ago, that the use of chemical weapons in the Syrian war would not be tolerated. Aside from the fact that this already occurred in March, now that the problem has been made manifest through horrifying images of the Damascus massacre and, faced with photographs of children killed by sarin gas, the entire world has demanded an explanation of his intentions, something is moving. Obama gathered the team of national security advisers yesterday for a definitive discussion of putting the military machinery in motion.
As he explained to CNN, it is a very difficult undertaking for an American President without the institutional support of the United Nations. But it seems that at this point international pressure is such that it is forcing his hand. Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel has stated that the U.S. “will shortly determine what has happened in Syria.” Assad accuses Germany, Saudi Arabia and Qatar with supplying chemical substances to the “terrorists” or rather to the rebels. According to Syrian state television, there are soldiers who are suffocating from the gas used by the rebels. Even if true, it does not excuse Assad from the systematic massacre he has been carrying out day after day since January 2011, not only the Damascus attack that some sources state are linked to a dangerous nearing of the rebels to the centers of Alawite power in the capital. The more than one-hundred thousand dead, two million refugees and 5 million displaced persons are weighing on Obama’s international reputation and the loss of moral stature of the U.S.; a heavy crisis of conscience for the entire West has arisen in the face of so much ugliness, bringing to mind Europe’s sufferings during the past century, without anyone having lifted a finger.
The probability of the UN approving an intervention in Syria is zero, because Russia takes good care of its favorite client, which is also the only one left to Iran. The axis is strong: therefore, the possible hypothesis being considered by Obama’s men is a Kosovo-type of intervention, a NATO war from the air (never the famous “boots on the ground,” too reminiscent of George Bush). As the New York Times has written, Kosovo is the most obvious precedent for Obama because the massacre of civilians was the also the motivating force, and then President Bill Clinton could use protecting the vulnerable population to justify 78 days of air raids. The precedent is also good for Obama because Clinton represents a Democratic and leftist precedent, a very good friend of the European governments, a good number of which are in turn governed by the left (in Italy Obama could count on Letta, as Clinton was able to count D’Alema among his supporters on that occasion). The hypotheses are all those that do not involve a ground-based attack.
The “Destroyer” vessels could act from the water. It should not be forgotten that the United States has guided rebel group exercises on the Jordanian-Syrian border and the CIA has been directly involved. Obama has left 700 American combat troops in Jordan in response to a request by the Jordanian government. The exercises included the use of the Patriot system (which serves to block enemy missiles) and combat aircraft. The decision to intervene against Assad does not necessarily mean aiming at his destruction. Up to now an important deterrent has been the nature of the rebel groups, which include many Islamic extremists of the Jihad, al-Qaeda type, belonging to Jabhat al-Nusra, which has enlarged its ranks since incorporating thousands of combatants from the Free Syrian Army. Its 5000 men are the most extremist and the most determined. They prevail over the army’s 50 thousand and form alliances with the Syrian Liberation Front (37 thousand combatants) and the Syrian Islamic Front (13 thousand warriors). These groups are avowed Sharia supporters and during the course of the war they have carried out unspeakable atrocities, torturing and killing without restraint. No doubt yesterday the Obama experts discussed at length what could happen if Assad falls from power and a furious and aggressive Vladimir Putin was among their most disturbing thoughts.
This article originally appeared in slightly different form in Italian in Il Giornale; English copyright, The Gatestone Institute