Aggressive War on Syria: State of Play 2

Obama on the Verge of Being Handed a Major Defeat on Syria

Yves Smith, Naked Capitalism

Thursday, September 5, 2013

Other writers have covered in gory detail how the US insistence that it has proof that Assad was behind the chemical attacks looks like a not-sufficiently-improved version of the Iraq WMD playbook. Nothing from the Administration in the last 48 hours has dented these critics’ case. Indeed, one has to wonder as to why the US is trying to pre-empt UN evidence-gathering and analysis. Might it be that it would finger the rebels, as in the folks the US has been funding? Are we prepared to go after them if they were the ones who crossed Obama’s red line?

But what is relevant right now is not what actually happened in Syria (why should we trouble ourselves with pesky details?) but that, as Lambert put it, the imperial reality-creating machine is starting to break down before our eyes. Since I am trying to minimize time on the Web this week (I am still in theory on vacation), it would have been easy to have been snookered by the news stories of the day: Boehner agrees to support Obama on Syria! Senate Foreign Relations Committee passes resolution authorizing an American strike on Syria! Both houses are falling into line, so resign yourself to more Middle Eastern misadventures.

Reports from inside the Beltway give a very different picture. The Senate Foreign Relations Committee passed the authorization resolution with weak support, a 10-7-1 vote. This sends a message to the Senate that even some hawks are loath to throw their weight behind it. By contrast, with the Amash amendment (the amendment attached to a Defense Department funding bill that would have curbed the NSA), the House leadership of both parties were resoundingly opposed, and current and former military and intelligence officials sounded dire warnings as to all the terrible things that would happen if the resolution passed.

ThinkProgress’ House whip count as of the end of Wednesday broke down with 47 members of the House as firm or inclined to a yes vote, 187 firm or inclined to a no vote, and 220 unknown or undecided. Firedoglake comes up with a broadly similar picture: 55 firmly or inclined to a yes, 155 firmly or inclined to a negative vote. One of my Congressional sources says based on his conversations with Republicans he is pretty certain the Administration will be forced to withdraw the resolution or postpone a vote in the House.

This vote is turning out to be another TARP-type watershed, with the public virtually unified in its opposition (calls to Congresscrittters are reportedly running well over 90% against intervention). And remember, it took a market swan dive, a second TARP vote, and the additional of lots of pork to reverse the initial vote. But also bear in mind that the reason TARP was initially voted down was the barrage of voter phone calls and e-mails against it, reportedly 99% opposed until financial services firms started getting employees to call in favor of the bill, which shifted the tally to a mere 80% or so of callers opposed. So if you have not called or written your Congresscritters, be sure to do so pronto.

France won’t attack Syria if U.S. doesn’t, prime minister tells his Senate

By Matthew Schofield, McClatchy Foreign Staff

Wednesday, September 4, 2013

French leaders warned Wednesday that failing to respond to the alleged use of chemical weapons by the Syrian government would send a dangerous signal to the dictators of the world.

But French Prime Minister Jean-Marc Ayrault also said that his country would not launch a retaliatory strike on Syria if the United States decides not to do so.

“France will not act without U.S. support,” he told his country’s Senate as France’s Parliament began to debate whether the country should take military action to punish the government of President Bashar Assad for a chemical weapons attack that the U.S. and France claim his forces launched on Damascus suburbs Aug. 21.

Just hours before the French discussion of a response began, Russian President Vladimir Putin, who’s consistently rejected the notion that Assad’s government used chemical weapons, seemed to open the door for possible Russian participation in a strike, telling a television interviewer that “if it is proven the government was behind the attacks, there will be a reaction.”

“My question is what will be the U.S. reaction if the evidence shows that the rebels were behind the use of chemical weapons?” he asked. “Will the U.S. stop providing the rebellion with weapons in that case?”

The leader of the primary opposition party in the French Senate warned, however, that any action without a United Nations mandate carried the risk of isolating France. Christian Jacob, the head of the center-right Union for Popular Movement, the party of former President Nicolas Sarkozy, warned of “similarities with Iraq” in the run-up to any Syrian attack, saying there was no U.N. consensus and that the intelligence on which the U.S. and France have made their case is less than definitive.

“Where are our allies?” he asked. “Where is the United Nations Security Council resolution?”