Thursday, December 6, 2012

Is NATO preparing for a military intervention in Syria?

[MoonOfAlabama] "While U.S. "officials" continue to spread rumors of Syrian preparations of chemical weapons the reliable center-left German daily Süddeutsche Zeitung reports (in German) on U.S. attempts to get NATO to fight a war against Syria. The report is by Martin Winter, the resident Süddeutsche correspondent in Brussels. As similar reporting has yet to occur in the English media I offer my (rough) translation of his important piece.
'... During a diner for NATO foreign ministers on Tuesday evening NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen talked about the situation in Syria and about the conflict with Iran over the street of Hormuz in a way that one participant characterized as "beating the drums of war".
As multiple sources confirmed to the Süddeutsche Zeitung Rassmussen said with regards to the situation in Syria and the western dependency on the oil supply through the street of Hormuz that NATO must not "bury its head in the sand".
As was clear to everyone at the table what he meant: NATO should prepare for a military intervention in Syria. Politically this would be a radical change of NATO's current course which excluded any intervention in Syria. Rassmussen was supported by the foreign minister from Turkey and Great Britain as well as the American Hillary Clinton.

In difference to the USA or Rassmussen many European foreign ministers do not trust American secret service reports claiming that Syria may prepare for the use of chemical weapons. European secret services, including the German Bundesnachrichtendienst which is well networked in the Middle East, have "no perception" in that direction. Earlier Tuesday the Russian foreign minister Sergej Lavrow had warned his NATO colleges in Brussels to take reports on such weapons in Syria at face value. Russia had in recent years looked into into many such rumors and reports and many had proven to be false or half truths.
Together with Rassmussen all the foreign ministers had warned Syria on Tuesday with consequences from the "international community" should it use weapons of mass destruction. But, said a minister from a smaller county, that did not imply NATO but the United Nations. Westerwelle harshly rejected a question about a military mission behind the drawn "red line" he had also drawn. There has to be a political solution [he said].
Even if there was no vote during the dinner at least two opposing camps were visible: One formed around the USA, Turkey, Great Britain and the NATO secretary general with France leaning into that direction. The other camp, which Germany belongs to, sternly rejected these ideas. One of the reasons is that they estimates the risk as high that one would help people to rule in Damascus who would turn out to be more dangerous than the current regime and who would then have their hands on chemical weapons.
But there is also a different reason for the German and Dutch foreign ministers to turn against Rassmussen. They are afraid that, should their be suspicion that NATO may think of a military intervention in Syria, they will meet resistance in their parliaments while requesting permission to deploy Patriot air defense missiles to Turkey.
Then those Patriots, including two German batteries, would be part of a military offensive and no longer, as held out so far, solely for the defense of Turkey. If that point will ever be reached is unsure. Even an order to the military leadership of NATO to plan for a mission in Syria, even provisional, needs the approval of all 28 NATO member countries. The dinner meeting was far from achieving such. Rassmussen opened the political U-turn with two questions: What would NATO do should the Syrian army use chemical weapons? And what if Iran would block the street of Hormuz? France foreign minister Laurent Fabius dismissed the second question remarking that one should not ask questions "which are not acute". But the one with regard to Syria started a fierce and controversial debate in which the German foreign minister Guido Westerwelle and his colleges from the Netherlands, the Czech Republic or Poland argued against Rassmussen.
It seems like the U.S. and its tool Rassmussen want, like in Libya, contract NATO for their dirty fights. Judging from user comments in German online media there is, despite an avalanche of anti-Syrian propaganda, a strong opposition against any intervention in Syria. Should Westerwelle (or chancellor Merkel) support a NATO mission their advantage in next years federal elections would be at risk. I therefore expect that the German government will continue to reject any NATO intervention in Syria as well as in Iran. Today's report on how the U.S. failed to control the weapon flow from Qatar to Libya will only bolster their arguments.

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