Washington resumed its war rhetoric against Syria on February 10, when Obama reaffirmed at a press conference that was held after his meeting with French President Francois Hollande his readiness to use force against Damascus. “I always say that I reserve the right to it” – he said. Obama also stated that last autumn a military operation was considered to be suitable. However , he said , the only way to settle the Syrian issue is by political means. “War is no solution, but the situation is very unstable , it is dangerous not only for Syria but for the entire region,” – Obama said.
The aggressive rhetoric of the American president is nothing new. In September 2013 the U.S. authorities were actively discussing the possibility of launching a missile strike against Syria, but Russia offered an alternative solution that implied the elimination of the Syrian chemical stockpiles. It was a popular believe at the time that Russia saved the United States from yet another pointless conflict. Although there were those who looked at this picture differently: they believed that Moscow folded to a big Washington bluff of enganing in a full scale military conflict in the Middle East, while it was pursuing a different goal — to pressure Syria by both military threats and diplomatic means into destroying its chemical stockpiles – the only serious deterrent factor in the Syrian defence. In addition, Israel is no losing position here, it has always considered the Syrian WMD arsenal as the only real obstacle to a possible war against Damascus, especially if the latter is to be invaded by Islamic extremists. And it was Russia that persuaded the Syrians to destroy chemical stockpiles, assuming that by doing so it saves Damascus from allied aerial attacks. In either way, the only winners of the elimination of the Syrian WMD are the U.S. and Israel .
Now, when the destruction of chemical chemical stockpiles picked up steam, Washington decided to throw off the mask and start blackmailing Assad again by statements about the possible air strikes on Syria, but this time around this poor country has no counterargument, since the potential means of retaliation are already eliminated . The American president went on, pointing the finger at Russia as a country that supposedly should bear all responsibility for the promt destruction of the Syrian chemical arsenal, although the UN Security Council Resolution explicitly states that the OPCW bears it. But the US Chief Executive bluntly said that “Russia has a responsibility to ensure that Syria complies”. Earlier, the UN Security Council expressed dissatisfaction with delays in the shipments of the chemical substances, the OPCW had to explain that the delays occurred due to the technical reasons and problems with security.
By the attempts to throw Damascus under the bus, Obama is once again trying to put Syrian government in a bad light, deliberately diverting international attention away from his own guilt in the delay. After all the American MV Cape Ray with two Field Deployable Hydrolysis Systems on board can only arrive to the Mediterranean Sea in the second half of February and in these circumstances it would be utterly irrational to move the Syrian WMD from the well protected sites to a less secure port Latakiya.
The first pile was shipped from Syria on January 7, the second – on January 27 , the third – on February 10. The experts from Russia, USA, China, Syria, and those representing the United Nations has drawn a road map in Moscow that would allow the fleets engaged to ensure safe evacuation of the Syrian chemical weapons on December 27. In January-February Russian cruiser “Peter the Great”, in collaboration with the Chinese, Danish and Norwegian seamen have successfully completed tasks of ensuring a safe transportation of Syrian chemical weapons to the locations of its destruction.
The American rhetoric of the possible usage of force against Syria has been traditionally revoiced by the European allies of the US. The foreign ministers of the European Union are considering the possible transfer of the Syrian frozen assets to the OPCW. This was stated by the head of the EU diplomacy , Catherine Ashton on Februrary 11. “We decided to make sure that assets frozen in the EU could be invested into the OPCW fund to help with the removal and destruction of the Syrian chemical weapons,” – said Ashton in Brussels. But that’s illegal! On what ground can the EU withdraw funds of a sovereign state and transfer them to a third party? All these sanctions initiatives strongly resemble those that were taken three years against Libya , which accounts were also frozen by the EU .
For sure, we can assume that President Obama made his statement about the possible military scenario in Syria to cajole Francois Hollande who seems to be extremely hostile towards Damascus. Just like his predecessor Nicolas Sarkozy towards Libya. But back then it was clear – the Libyans threatened Sarkozy to publish a dossier that would prove that Tripoli’s financial aid allowed Sarkozy to hold his presidential campaign . And Sarkozy could find no better way of keeping them quiet than wiping Libya off the map together with its leaders, which implied the use of truly barbaric methods.
And how about Hollande? Was somebody paying for his future presidency too? In his case the reasons are even simpler- the French leader is trying to show value for the Saudi Arabia, Qatar and the UAE money, in hopes of getting generous economic infusions and military contracts in exchange for his support of all anti-Syrian activities. But that’s not all. It looks like Obama is starting to test the public opinion in the U.S. to have a “plan B” in case the talks between the Syrian government and the opposition in Switzerland would go nowhere.
And it seems to be a likely scenario, since the breakdown of the settlement process is just behind the corner. The first round of negotiations have gone nowhere and the second one does provide no ground for optimism. The opposition has been actively torpedoing any positive gestures of Damascus to show their sponsors of their Persian Gulf, the U.S. and Turkish sponsors that they are not getting paid for nothing. And now we’ve got Saudi Arabia that is nervously purchasing new weapons . Should Saudis be preparing for a war, it is clear that they will no be fighting Iran this time around, since the armed forces of the latter are simply risking to annihilate the entire Saudi forces. It seems to be far more convenient for the Saudis to invade Syria and fight against Syrian troops at their leisure, together with the Turkish army, under the US aerial umbrella.
So the statement made by Obama shouldn’t be ignored, since his words may be followed by deeds. Therefore, Damascus should now be closely monitoring all statements made by the US Chief Executive from now on and be prepared for a new military escalation around Syria in the spring of this year
The conflict in Syria is in its fourth year. Everyone is tired. The opposition is not able to defeat the government. Terrorist attacks have strongly discredited Islamists. The shift is inevitable now. Therefore, it is possible that after the complete elimination of the Syrian WMD arsenal the most aggressive supporters of the usage of force will push as hard as they can. Syrian conflict is clearly entering a new phase of its development.
Alexander Orlov, political analyst, Orientalist expert, exclusively for the online magazine New Eastern Outlook.