Saturday, June 22, 2013

Syria: "Kerry is advocating air strikes, but the military commanders strongly resisting"

'The aftermath of the White House’s announcement that the US would start arming the Syrian oppositioncontinues to reverberate around Washington. Despite the intense subsequent discussion of the decision by Administration officials in the run-up to the G-8 summit, most especially by President Obama in his meeting with Russian President Putin, many commentators remain puzzled about the strength of the government’s commitment and about what its ultimate objectives are. There are reports that Secretary of State Kerry is advocating air strikes, but our sources at the Pentagon tell us that US military commanders are strongly resisting this course. With Obama due to visit Africa next week, it will be difficult to bridge these divisions. Kerry will be in the Middle East next week, with regard to both the Middle East peace process and Afghanistan. On the former, there is zero optimism in Washington that the moment is anywhere near auspicious on either the Israeli or the Palestinian side to resume talks. With regard to the latter, the intended talks with the Taliban in Doha have got off to an uncertain start, with both the Afghan government and the Taliban raising awkward pre-conditions for attending. Invidious comparisons are already being whispered to us by our Administration contacts to the Paris peace talks that ended the Vietnam War. The election of Hassan Rowhani as the new president of Iran came as a surprise in Washington. After a carefully worded State Department response to the result, there has been some optimistic analysis that this represents an opportunity for an improvement in US relations with Tehran. The louder voices, however, have reflected the entrenched suspicion that has for decades bedeviled relations between the two countries. With hostility to Iran increasing on the back of Hezbollah’s successful engagement with the Syrian regime – widely assumed in Washington on Tehran’s orders – prospects for a breakthrough with Tehran are dim....'

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