Sunday, August 25, 2013

Pentagon: "Syria is a swamp and any level of intervention will drag the US in deeper"

'As we observed last week, even as the Administration is trying to look across the Pacific – Secretary of Defense Hagel met with his Chinese counterpart in Washington and has departed to Asia for the ASEANmeeting on August 28th in Brunei – its gaze is drawn remorselessly back to the Middle East.  Even as the consensus among decision-makers starts to form that the situation in Egypt is stabilizing in the favor of the military without Washington having to act, the sudden deterioration in Syria confronts the White House with a decision it had hoped to avoid. To date, President Obama has reacted cautiously. From conversations we have held with senior officials, we understand that his first instinct is that any US involvement in Syria would be counter-productive and would undermine his objective of, as indicated by the new CENTCOM commander, to reduce the US military footprint in the region. As one NSC analyst explained to us: “The President is extremely mindful of the law of unintended consequences. He wants to be sure that any US intervention ends well. It’s not easy to be 100% reassuring on that point.” Obama’s caution is echoed in the Pentagon source where a contact tells us:  “Hagel is deferring to the generals whose view is that Syria is a swamp and any level of intervention will drag us in deeper." Nonetheless, pressure is rising in Washington to take action. As and when US intelligence agencies can firmly establish conclusive proof of regime responsibility for the use of chemical weapons, we expect some form of punitive action, possibly in the form of cruise missile attacks against regime military positions, especially its airpower. It is not inconceivable that action could take place next week, perhaps under NATO rather than UN authority. In the meantime Secretary of State Kerry is conducting an active dialogue with his Russian counterpart to bring pressure on Damascus. If this happens, this could significantly mitigate the damage in US-Russian relations following the Snowden affair....'

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