In the end, they met. Even though Obama cancelled his bilateral meeting with Putin during the G20 and Putin shrugged, the two showed their humanity yesterday by discussing a few ideas. But that didn’t resolve the situation. But Obama was happy to go home (and before Congress) with the encouraging support of the majority of countries (including Italy) that, in a joint declaration, stated that Assad was responsible for the violence and use of chemical weapons even though they preferred a non-military solution. For both leaders, the meeting was “constructive” even though there are still “differences.” During a press conference, Putin unleashed a furious campaign to delegitimize a possible American attack against Syria from the G20 podium, suddenly forgetting the economic agenda that he was promoting as the elegant host. Sad but decisive, Obama answered with typical American pride that we’ve rarely seen from him that this unique situation requires his country to decide what is and what is not moral in the contemporary world. He announced that he will speak to the American people on Tuesday from the White House to explain to the country that Assad is a threat to the peace and safety of the world.
During a heated discussion, Europe offered a proposal which, along with a moral claim, seems a bit ineffective, as often occurs. At one time, it dreamed of trying Saddam Hussein. Then it had illusions of peace and safety that Gheddafi destroyed. Now, it’s like a little butterfly sitting on Assad’s shoulder amid the storm. The idea would be for the G20 to resolve the Syrian crisis peacefully. A Lebanese newspaper, Al Joumouria, discusses the matter: Assad should resign in favor of a transition government which would include men from the government and the opposition until the peace conference in Geneva. Assad would agree on three conditions: immediate elections after his resignation, a safe escape for his family and a guarantee that he will not be tried as a war criminal. Another Lebanese newspaper, Al Mustaqbal, said that Washington would have rejected any compromise because it feels that Assad doesn’t have the right to decide anything and the opposition would never accept.
In the meantime, rumors are whirling in Washington that, despite the repeated affirmations that the war would be “limited in scope,” the attack would be “significantly larger.” The campaign wouldn’t just be conducted by launching Tomahawks from US ships in the eastern Mediterranean but through a two-day air strike. This would include missile air strikes and long-range bombs from B-2 bombers that transport satellite-guided bombs and cruise missiles from B-52s and B1s that will carry long-range surface-to-air missiles from Qatar. The importance of the mission seems commensurate with the need to strike 50 sites where, according to intelligence, there are weapons of mass destruction that Obama claims he wants to destroy. Putin, however, claims that there is no way to strike without causing untold damage to civilians and soldiers. The cost of the operation continues to increase. Chuck Hagel has spoken of “tens of millions of dollars.” But even Putin is spending Russian tax payers’ money: he moved four gigantic war ships into the Mediterranean and the enormous Nikola Filchenkov, claiming that it is carrying a “special load.” And then there’s Putin’s mysterious threat against… well, we’re not sure who: “In case of an attack, we’ll help Damascus,” he said yesterday. Iran and Hezbollah are ready to fight to the death. The US has already intercepted an Iranian order to attack “American interests in Baghdad.” Hezbollah announced that it has ten thousand fighters in Damascus who are ready to defend Assad and attack Israel, which has nothing to do with anything but somehow always gets dragged into it.
In fact, at the G20, Putin realized that his cynical pro-Assad stance has easily led him to become the cheerleader of the pacifists, who have the greater support in the contemporary world. Rather than just supporting an untenable axis like Iran-Syria-Hezbollah, he is moving into the virtuous anti-war camp. This confusion should be avoided at all costs but it is actually voluntarily supported by too many virtuous nations. And so a general feeling of anti-Americanism is on the rise thanks to the image of America as a country that loves war.
This article originally appeared in slightly different form in Italian in Il Giornale; English copyright, The Gatestone Institute