On the 21ST of August, the world was plunged into a very serious and a potentially extremely dangerous crisis, which resulted from the appalling atrocity which was perpetrated by the Syrian government against its own people. The allegation was that the northern suburbs of Damascus were attacked on that day by forces belonging to the Syrian regime using the prohibited nerve agent Sarin, killing more than 1,400 people, 400 of them children, the Americans were exceedingly upset, the Secretary of State John Kerry said that this kind of behavior is unacceptable, the Syrian government has crossed a very treacherous red line. This is beyond every norm of proper international behavior, it is a threat to our national security and we cannot accept it, and it cannot go without punishment. This was followed few days later by a stamen from the secretary of defense Mr. Hagel, who said we are deploying a task force in the eastern Mediterranean for a possible military strike against the Syrian regime as a response to the crime they have committed against humanity, and we are only waiting for the order from our commander in chief to go. This was a stunning and a totally unanticipated piece of news to the Americans, but they reacted to it in not a much unexpected manner, some were with the plan, and many others were against it.
One faction insisted that the behavior of the Syrian regime was totally unacceptable, it is beyond the norms of even the most basic rules in international behavior, the Syrians have committed an atrocious crime, they have crossed a very dangerous red line, and they have to be punished. The others insisted that they have had enough of their government getting them and quite regularly in very ugly and horrid situations like what is happening in Syria nowadays, which is no business of the United States to interfere in it like that, they were worried that in spite of the insistence of the administration that it is going to be a short and a very limited strike, that this kind of involvement has a dynamics of its own and that it could easily escalate into something bigger like what has happened so many times in the past. This analysis was shared by almost all of the European countries, [except France], and many other countries all over the world, including Russia and China. This was making it very difficult for the President to decide, so he went to Congress asking for an authorization to go ahead with his plans for Syria, this was a decision which he was not constitutionally obliged to make, but he thought it was better to have Congress with him, so he went to them on Friday August 30.
President Obama was elected to end America’s foreign wars, which he admitted that they were becoming an increasing burden and that the people were weary of them, he was elected on the strength of his promise that he would be engaged in what he calls nation building at home, Obama was by nature and inclinations very much against the notion and practice of war, but he was trapped in his own red lines, and he was in an extremely untenable position, he had to make a decision which he was not very happy with, but the presidency is a very lonely place, and a president might be caught in a catch 22 situation when he would have only one choice, and the choice was framed in the following words “the United States could not turn a blind eye to what had happened in Damascus, he said that we should take military action against the Syrians, the Syrian government carried out chemical weapons attacks in which 1429 people died”, but to make sure that the responsibility for the outcome of what was becoming an increasingly unpopular action should be shared with other politicians, which in a democracy is a blameless thing to do, so he went to Congress seeking an authorization to use force against the Syrians, but Congress was in a holiday, so it was decided that the senate should vote on the president’s proposal when it reconvenes on September 9th.
The President’s decision to seek congressional approval was made according to senior white house officials on Friday afternoon, it had not been planned until then, he said he had the constitutional authority as commander-in-chief to order military action without the backing of Congress, however, he said it was important to have the debate. By Tuesday September 3 he had won backing from key political figures on his plans for the military strike he was contemplating, senate republican leader Mitch McConnell welcomed the president’s announcement, senators John McCain and Lindsay graham gave their backing, house speaker John Boehner and the house majority leader Eric Cantor gave his backing and others did the same, but that was the end of the story.
UN secretary general Ban KI-moon had already said that the organization’s charter permitted military action only in self-defense or with the agreement of the Security Council.
On Thursday British MPs defeated a Government motion to take part in a military action in Syria.
The French said they were going to wait for the results of the laboratory testing of the samples collected from the site of the chemical attack which is expected to come in two or three weeks’ time,
Russian president Putin challenged the United States to present evidence that the Syrian government has actually committed the atrocity, and China called for restraint, and in a letter on Thursday September 5th from pope Francis to Putin on the occasion of the convening of the G20 summit in Moscow which he was chairing, the Pontiff urged the world leaders meeting there to lay aside in his [the pope’s] words, “the futile pursuit of military action in Syria”.
At home things were also not going smoothly for president Obama. There was a very strong opposition to his plans in Congress and in the country at large, but he was fighting back. He has been for the last week leading a gigantic media blitz trying to convince congress to grant him the authorization to execute his plan against the Syrians. Obama said he is going to address the nation next Tuesday to talk directly to the people and ask them for their support to what has become an extremely controversial act.
This was the situation late on Sunday September 8th, America and the whole world were holding their breath, about what might happen during the next few days, if the Senate and the House would grant the president the authority he was requesting, then soon after that the missiles would start falling on Damascus with an outcome which is totally unpredictable, but the Americans and the world were in for a big surprise.
It was reported from Moscow, on Monday, at the end of a meeting between the Russian foreign minister and his Syrian counterpart, that the Syrian government has accepted an proposal from the Russian government to put their stockpiles of chemical weapons in the hands of some international authority to dismantle them and later on to destroy them, the Russian’s proposal was a very interesting development it was received with a good deal of enthusiasm and hope, but also with a good deal of caution and skepticism.
Few minutes after 9 PM Eastern Time, on Tuesday September 10, president Obama gave his long awaited address to the nation. During his 15 minutes talk he repeated most of what he has been saying during the crisis, about the need to punish dictators who cross red lines and use prohibited weapons of mass destruction against their own people, which was the duty of the United States to do, and so on and so forth. There was a very promising piece in Obama’s speech, he said he is going to put his plans for a military strike against Syria on hold and give diplomacy a chance, and with that promise the ball fell into the United Nation’s quarters, all eyes were now focused there, were diplomats are working for a possible security council resolution to resolve the dangerous and terrifying crisis we had during the last 3 weeks. During those very tense days the situation in the Middle East was worsening and deteriorating, the explosion was intensifying and becoming extremely perilous, diplomacy might be able to solve the crisis.
Today Saturday September14, it was announced from Geneva/Switzerland that the two foreign ministers of the United States and Russia, have reached after three days of intense negotiations, an agreement on a framework for Syria to destroy all its chemical weapons. This agreement removed a major block from solving the current crisis, but it will not be easy, and it might take time, but it is worth it. Anything is better than war.
Saturday September 14, 2013