Saturday, September 28, 2013

'Collapsing Syrian opposition is welcome relief to the Obama administration'

 'Meeting with Mr. Nobody at the UN'
"... over Iran and Syria he (Obama) appears to enjoy at least the possibility of major breakthroughs. Following the P5+1 and ministerial meeting with the Iranian side in New York on September 26th, US officials are genuinely optimistic about the change of tone they detect from President Rouhani and his negotiating team. As we reported last week, skeptics and pessimists vastly outnumber the optimists – CIA officials recall Rouhani’s devious behavior at the time of the Iran-Contra affair under President Reagan. Nonetheless, as one State Department official put it to us: “This is an incoming wave and we intend to ride it.” Obama’s telephone conversation with Rouhani should be seen in this light. On September 30th Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu is expected to warn Obama against mistaking a change of tone for a change in substance. We do not, however, expect Obama to be persuaded from his present course of testing the Iranian good faith. Nor do we detect much anxiety among senior officials that Israel will seek to disrupt the diplomatic track by taking unilateral military action.  In addition to the nuclear dossier, in his meeting with Iranian foreign minister Zarif, Secretary of State Kerry broached possible cooperation with Tehran over Syria (where Iranian support for the Damascus regime is of great concern) and Afghanistan to help preserve stability as the US military presence draws down. On Syria Administration officials are equally glad that they have successfully negotiated what they see as a tough, enforceable Security Council resolution to put into operation the US-Russia agreement on eliminating Syria's chemical weapons. Once again, there are plenty of critics that the Administration is allowing itself to be duped by Russian President Putin and Syrian President Assad. However, with new doubts about the viability of the external Syrian opposition with which they have made common cause, US officials welcome any mechanism that allows them to postpone a decision about military involvement. Foreign policy planners with interests outside the Middle East will be glad if the affairs of that region can take less prominence. Both Kerry and Secretary of Defense Hagel travel next week to Japan, Indonesia and South Korea where, in exchanges with allies, they will focus on China. Finally, the attacks in Nairobi have set alarm bells ringing in Washington. We expect a stepped up training and intelligence presence in Africa, backed up by drone strikes when suitable targets present themselves."

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