Saturday, May 25, 2013

"The rapidly rising violence in Iraq & Lebanon is draining US interest in a Syria intervention"

'The shifts in the US strategic posture which we foreshadowed last week took on more concrete form in President Obama’s speech on national security delivered at the National Defense University on May 23rd. Commentary both friendly and negative is already coursing through the Washington foreign policy bloodstream, with questions being asked about how practicable the new approach is. What does seem clear, however, is that the speech signals that the era in which all international events tended to be viewed through the lens of 9/11 is drawing to a close. The implications will manifest themselves over time, but one may certainly deduce a greater US readiness to keep its distance from military engagement in international crises.  Syria may be the test bed of this new posture. As an NSC official commented to us: “Three years ago, we would have been deeply involved with arms supplies and probably a no-fly zone. Now this is not happening.” Instead, the US Secretary of State and the Russian foreign minister, who will meet in Geneva on May 27th are preparing for an international conference on Syria’s future despite the clear preference of the US’s NATO and regional allies for a more robust posture. US officials are increasingly uneasy about the failure of the Syrian opposition to coalesce around a united program, much less one than does not involve extremists. The rapidly rising violence in Iraq and Lebanon is also draining US interest in intervention. By contrast, US commitment to diplomatic reinvigoration of the Middle East peace process is deepening. As Secretary of State Kerry made clear in his meetings with Israeli and Palestinian leaders, he is under no illusions about the prospects for an early breakthrough. Nonetheless, with Obama having identified this issue as one of the “underlying grievances and conflicts that feed extremism”, we sense that Kerry will not lightly abandon the search – albeit that he is conducting this in the face of almost universal skepticism among US regional analysts that either side is remotely interested in substantive talks. Further his efforts to navigate impartially between the two sides will not be helped by the appointment of General John Allen, former commander in Afghanistan, as special envoy for military issues...'

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