Syria Under Threat of Attack By Obama and US?
The Three Reasons the US Wants to Attack Syria and Remove President Assad
On Tuesday, the Syrian government failed to meet a mandatory deadline for turning over the stockpile of chemical weapons their government had in its arsenal. According to a September 13, 2013, agreement that Syrian President Bashar Assad signed, the Syrian government was to turn over ninety percent of the cache of weapons they possessed by the Tuesday deadline. To this point, they had only turned over about four percent.
Over the weekend, United Nations representatives attempted to get the Assad government to abide by the commitment made in the agreement, but had not success. Since then, many of the western nations and their Arab allies, who wish to see an end to Assad regime, have met to discuss what the next step should be in forcing Syria’s compliance with the agreement.
Standing in their way is Syria’s most powerful ally – Russia. The Russia government has already stated that they will not support any UN resolution to bring military action against Syria. Since Russia is one of the permanent members of the UN Security Council (UNSC), they can block any authorized action from the UN, thus leaving it to the western nations to determine whether they have the fortitude to take action without UN approval.
This is a war that has been waging since early 2011, yet it was not until last year, when it was revealed that Syria appeared to be using chemical weapons on its own citizens, that calls were made to remove Assad from power. The United States had helped rebel groups in Libya and Egypt, but had failed to do so in Syria, only offering humanitarian aid. The alleged attack by the government led to calls for the United States to impose international law and punish Assad and his government for use of these weapons; ultimately, pushing to remove him from power.
During World War I, chemical and biological agents were frequently used by both sides as a means to overcome the attrition that had become trench warfare. Millions of soldiers from both sides had been mercilessly slaughtered attempting to assault trenches fortified with machine gun nests. This led to the use of chemical and biological agents as a means to try to injure and kill enemy soldiers, while also pushing them back from the affected area. While it was a popular means of attack, it had very little success; it was actually the invention of the armored tank that ended the success of trench positions. Yet, millions of soldiers who survived these attacks were left permanently disabled by physical deformities and respiratory ailments caused by the agents.
Following WWI, the primary combatants of the conflict decided that these weapons, now classified as weapons of massive destruction (WMD’s), could not be allowed to be used any longer. In 1925, the Geneva Protocol was approved by the United States, Italy, the United Kingdom, and Japan, the four primary winners of WWI, which prohibited the use of asphyxiating or poisonous gases, and biological agents as weapons of war. Thirty-eight nations signed the original agreement, and since then it has been reaffirmed twice, in 1972 and 1993, with now over 138 nations ratifying it.
One of the provisions of this agreement is that any nation that uses such weapons is viewed as an “outlaw state,” and is subject to military action for violating this agreement. This is the law being used against the Assad regime.
But is this really the reason the United States is becoming so involved in Syria? It may be a lot more complicated than is currently known.
First of all, no one has ever conclusively proven that Assad used these weapons. Despite a United Nation’s report that “concluded” that the Assad regime was responsible for these attacks, the Obama Administration has never conclusively supported that report. In fact, White House Chief of Staff Dennis McDonough stated that the only “support” for the assertion that Assad is responsible comes from the “common-sense test,” which he stated dictates that only the Syrian government could be responsible for the attack. Yet, he also stated that there is no “irrefutable, beyond-a-reasonable-doubt” evidence which Americans could trust as absolute proof of Assad’s culpability.
With this in mind, it would be very easy for the President to have backed away from any necessity to remove Assad. Without any proof that Assad was actually responsible for this attack, he could have easily stated that he had no real justification to take military action; after all, this is a country which believes in “innocent until proven guilty.” No proof of guilt has been established.
In addition, the United States does not intervene in every situation like Syria’s. The U.S. did not intervene in every Middle East civil war, such as in Tunisia. It does not seek the removal of evil dictators in other countries, such as North Korea. The government does not intervene in every humanitarian crisis, such as that in South Sudan. Why intervene in this one?
What this shows is that the answer is just not that simple. There must be more to this.
To answer this question, it must first be established that the most cynical approach to an explanation is probably the most right. While it is sad to admit this, it is a rarity that any high ranking government official does anything for altruistic means. While thousands of Syrian civilians being maimed and injured would be a great reason to get involved, it is most likely not the reason the President is wanting to take action. Atrocities go on every day, all over the world, and is frequently ignored by the U.S. Government. So the reason lies elsewhere.
If the true agenda is looked for, then there are most likely three primary reasons why President Obama is pushing for this. The first of this comes back to one of America’s favorite reasons to be involved in wars – oil. For nearly twenty years, the European Union has been trying to get a natural gas pipeline run from Afghanistan, that will provide needed natural gas to Europe, while bypassing Russia and its allies. Such an agreement was made with the Taliban in the late 1990’s to run such a pipeline through Azerbajain and Georgia, on its way to Turkey. This was completely approved by the United States government.
In 2000, the U.S. Government sought to change the pathway of the pipeline, making it so that one would run through Afghanistan, then through Pakistan, and out into the Arabian Sea. This was a choice made by oil giant Unocal. This was not met with great enthusiasm by the Taliban. A year later, the United States invaded Afghanistan, removed the Taliban from power, and placed Hamid Karzai in power. Interestingly enough, Karzai had a long history of cooperation with Unocal.
So how does this relate to Syria? If the pipeline is moved through Pakistan and into the Arabian Sea, this would require ships to pick up the oil, sail around the Arabian Peninsula, up the Red Sea, through the Suez Canal, and into the Mediterranean Sea, where it would be dispersed throughout Europe. This would have been a great plan five years ago, but with the increase in tension throughout Egypt, and with the new Egyptian leaders being more interested in aligning with Russia, travel through the Suez Canal has become much dicier. This required a new option to be created.
If natural gas came to the Arabian Sea and was then taken by boat to ports in Iraq, it could then be shipped by pipeline to Turkey. Only one thing stood in the way of this plan – Syria. Remove Assad, a pro-Russian leader, and put in one who is receptive to western interests, and the pipeline could continue straight from Iraq to Turkey. A simple regime change and all problems are solved.
It must be realized that oil plays a significant part in a lot of U.S. diplomacy. This is one of these examples. The President feels inclined to get involved here because it is in the interest of U.S. oil companies that he do so.
Another reason there is such a push for this war is to try to hurt Iran. Iran primarily follows the Shia form of Islam. This is true of Syria as well. Because of their close religious ties to each other, they have both sponsored terrorist groups, such as Hezbollah, which are of like belief. In the world, it would be safe to say that most Islamic terrorists comes from groups who are associated with Al-Qaeda or with Shia groups, such as Hamas and Hezbollah.
It is because of this that the United States has long sought to bring instability to this relationship, in an attempt to stop these terrorist activities. By removing Assad, Iran would be hurt, and would become more isolated within the world community. This has been a goal of every U.S. President since Ronald Reagan.
In addition, Syria’s support of Shia-led terrorist groups has caused massive turmoil in countries like Lebanon. The nearly twenty year civil war waged there in the 1980s and 1990s was a direct result of Iranian and Syrian backing of Shia-led rebels seeking to overthrow the government. This struggle has recently been renewed, and a push to remove Assad is viewed as a means to reduce the chance of this returning to an all-out civil conflict.
Lastly, the legacy of this president must also be considered. At the time of the chemical weapons attack, the president found himself entangled in a variety of potential scandals, which could have left a very negative legacy upon his time in office. There was the Internal Revenue Service scandal, the seizure of Associated Press phone records by the Attorney General’s office, the renewed revelations about the attacks in Benghazi, the Eric Snowden leaks about the National Security Administration’s record seizures, and the GSA misuse of millions of dollars on lavish trips and events; all of these happened within a five week period of time. This threatened to derail the President and cripple his ability to govern.
It is likely that the president did what all presidents do; he changed the focus to international affairs. Chemical weapons are used on innocent civilians. The news media rushed to the scene to get images of people suffering or killed by the agents. The world community was outraged. The President then looked “Presidential” by wanting to take action.
The problem was, no one bought it. The likelihood that President Bush lied about WMDs to invade Iraq had left many skeptical and unwilling to intervene in Syria. Not many supported the idea that military action was needed. Even the President’s supporters seemed skittish to want to involve the US in this conflict.
An agreement by Assad temporarily halted the need for military action. Now that Syria has failed to uphold their part of the deal, there is a renewed sense of urgency to take action. Is it not interesting that this is occurring after the Healthcare.gov website is still failing, the recent report that the insurance sign-up is two million less than proposed, and the economy is found to not be progressing as well as expected. Maybe these are not of major concern to the president, but one can be sure that if his rhetoric increases, then maybe there is a scandal out there that will really harm him; the American people just aren’t aware of it yet.
There are many reasons to want to see a regime change in Syria. Assad is a real piece of work, and probably should not be in power. His harming of his people and his support of terrorism around the world are good reasons to remove him. They are just not the reasons U.S. leaders want him removed.
Editorial by Robert Pannier