Two days ago, I wrote a report predicting what would happen in Syria when Obama orders military strikes to start. At that time, Secretary of State John Kerry had just gone live on television to make the case for military intervention in Syria. Since then, it appears that the momentum behind an attack has stalled. Why?
LOS ANGELES, CA (Catholic Online) - There are several reasons why Obama has stayed his military hand from striking Syria. None of them are a lack of will or resolve on his part, but rather the result of intense outside political pressure and circumstances.
An inspection team from the United Nations is still present on the ground in Damascus. Those inspectors could become targets for the regime or rebels in the wake of a U.S. attack. Since those inspectors must deal with both rebel and regime authorities as they transit the country, they are vulnerable to the changing whims of both.
Note that Al Qaeda-friendly units such as the Al Nusra brigade believe they too will be targets in the event of a U.S. strike.
A U.S. strike could also damage infrastructure and give the Assad regime a reason to detain, or at least delay the departure of inspectors.
Obama has already denied a UN request that inspectors be given through Sunday to complete their investigation. This suggests Obama is anxious to order the attack. In my previous article, I mentioned that Obama will be traveling on Tuesday to the G8 summit in Russia where he will meet with Russian leaders including Vladimir Putin. It would certainly be an awkward meeting should bombings be happening as the the G8 summit occurs.
The new likely window for the attack then, is Saturday through Monday, local time.
For command and control reasons, it is unlikely that Obama will order an attack while he is out of the Oval Office. If an attack does not happen before Monday, it will not likely come at all.
And an attack may not come the more time that passes. Although Britain and France have signaled their support for a strike, virtually every other world leader has called for patience and peace including Pope Francis and the Bishop of Antioch, Gregory III.
Some leaders have gone farther and warned of unforeseen consequences. Iran has signaled its readiness to aid Syria by striking against Israel as a proxy target for the U.S.
Syria has said it will follow suit. It is believed the terrorist groups, Hamas and Al Qaeda may retaliate with terror attacks against Israel too. This complicates the strike calculus. Although Israel isn't likely a direct player, it is the closest ally in the region and perhaps the greatest enemy of Iran, Syria, and various terrorist organizations. In fact, Israel is the primary motivation for Islamic terrorism.
Al Qaeda has its own theories about a U.S. strike, with word spreading across the region that any strikes will start with Syrian military targets, then continue with a second wave against Al Qaeda-friendly brigades in Syria. They have warned their loyalists to take cover and prepare.
Russia has warned that U.S. intervention would also provoke consequences from them. Without specifying a threat, the Russian government has warned against a strike in a region they feel is within their sphere of influence. While military action is possible, the most likely response from Russia would be condemnation and a vow of renewed support for the Assad regime.
The Obama administration clearly believes they can implement a single quick strike that will punish the Assad regime and aid the Free Syrian Army without inflicting major civilian casualties or toppling his regime. This may be true, in which case Obama may get away with launching a limited strike.
Syrian allies may not want to become involved in a wider conflict with the U.S. and the U.N. Will not likely do anything against the United States. In fact their recent statements and the early termination of the investigation suggests the UN is as resigned to the attacks.
The real resistance to Obama may be entirely domestic. The consensus view expressed by Congress and pundits alike, is that Obama does not have the authority to order a strike on Syria without an imminent threat to the United States. Congress has asked Obama to call an emergency session so they can vote on authorizing a strike.
Obama has refused.
There is finally, the issue of just what the strikes will really accomplish. Assad know the attacks are coming. Syrian civilians have fearfully cleared store shelves in preparation and those who can are distancing themselves from potential military and regime targets.
The Syrian military is also probably moving its assets around to make targeting by cruise missiles difficult. Cruise missiles require advanced targeting and are designed to destroy fixed, soft targets such as radar sites and SAM sites, but not mobile units.
Cruise missiles are not well suited to busting deep bunkers either. Warehouses are easy targets, but bunkers hewn into mountains and caves are more difficult to penetrate. Assad is probably moving both mobile assets and troops to make them difficult to hit.
Inside sources from the military have already said they do not intend to target Assad's chemical weapons stores for fear of collateral damage.
At this point, with opposition well stated and the likelihood of the unforeseen consequences being a significant possibility, Obama may hold off on ordering a strike after all. For the moment, there is little promise of return and a great promise of consequence.
The President would be well served by thinking twice.
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