Obama defends restraint as military updates war plans

Syria chemical warfareGetty
By Michael Hughes

President Barack Obama cautioned against impulsively intervening in Syria during an interview with CNN on Friday while U.S. military officials refreshed airstrike options.

The U.S. also added a Navy destroyer to its eastern Mediterranean fleet, bringing the number of ships in the region equipped with Tomahawk sea-to-land missiles to four. Defense secretary Chuck Hagel told reporters it was the Pentagon’s duty to provide “all options for all contingencies to the president of the United States.”

Meanwhile, some national security aides, according to The New York Times, have been studying NATO’s air campaign in Kosovo “as a possible blueprint for acting without a mandate from the United Nations,” in anticipation of Russia and China likely vetoing Security Council authorization of military action.

The escalation of war planning comes on the heels of allegations the Assad regime launched a chemical weapons attack earlier this week which killed up to 1,300 people.

Obama worries about getting mired into another costly intervention that could “breed more resentment in the region.” He did concede that the U.S. needs to prevent the proliferation of WMDs to protect American allies and bases in the region.

Yet he countered calls to act more aggressively for fear of violating international law, a sentiment which contradicts the White House’s aforementioned search for a viable unsanctioned solution.

Congressional leaders like Senator John McCain and certain domestic media outlets, such as The Washington Post, The National Review and Weekly Standard, have been pushing for U.S. military intervention despite admonitions by defense department officials that engagement could have negative long-term ramifications.

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According to Media Matters, last month General Martin Dempsey, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, reported that a rush to military action “could inadvertently empower extremists or unleash the very chemical weapons we seek to control.” Dempsey added that a military incursion could cost taxpayers up to $1 billion per month.

Global opinion seems divided along sectarian and geopolitical lines, with an editorial in Qatar’s pro-Sunni Peninsula suggesting that if the Assad regime is responsible for chemical weapons use it should be “brought to justice by the international community.”

Sharif Al Nashashibi in a Gulf News opinion piece blames the international community’s inaction for the “prolongation and intensification” of the Syrian conflict. Nashashibi also accuses the UN of abandoning the Syrian people and signaling that “future chemical attacks can take place with impunity.”

According to Turkey’s Today’s Zaman, Turkish foreign minister Ahmet Davutoglu lamented the fact that although all red lines had been crossed with respect to Syria’s WMD usage, the UN Security Council has failed to act.

Russia’s Ria Novosti reported that Moscow believes the opposition is using allegations of the weaponization of chemicals to disrupt the peace process. Russian officials have asked for an objective professional probe considering reports in the past have proven false.

China’s foreign ministry has also emphasized the importance of an impartial investigation, stressing that “all sides should avoid prejudging the outcome.”

Iran has accused Syrian “terrorists” of manufacturing reports of chemical attacks to undermine the Assad regime. Parliamentarian Hojjatollah Soori, according to Iran’s Press TV, said the Syrian government would never use chemical weapons and that such claims “are meant to raise a hue and cry and create a negative climate on the international stage to distort the realities on the ground…

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