The Israel Defense Forces have launched missiles attacking a military research facility in Damascus. The government has likened this to a “declaration of war” on the Assad regime. This has created a problem with nearby Lebanon, whose government claims that the Israelis used Lebanese airspace to carry out the bombing. Despite these claims, Israel seems ready to justify any measures used, even if it means encroaching on foreign airspace. This is all part of an effort to thwart Hezbollah’s efforts against Israel. Interestingly, this is not the first time Israel has attacked this specific target. In January, the IDF bombed the facility, killing two government soldiers. The official statement Saturday from the IDF was that they had attacked a convoy carrying munitions designated for Hezbollah fighters. Israel has long been extremely vocal about their commitment to protecting the homeland from terrorist attacks which have been funded by the Syrian government as well as the Iranian government. It would seem that Israel would be getting their money’s worth with an involvement in Syria, as they would significantly destabilize their enemy as well as promote the rise of a government more conducive to their interests.
President Obama reiterated his commitment to keeping American forces out of Syria, and suggested that such an arrangement would not be good for anybody.
With the latest news that Israel is taking a more proactive role in the Syrian civil war, it begs the question of the coordination with the American government. Does this mean that Israel is doing the “heavy lifting” under the direction of the Americans, or is Israel taking more expedient action on its own initiative? Such a theory would suggest a “proxy war” at works. Could a possible rift be developing over the two nations’ differing strategies, or is this part of a larger plan of the Obama administration?
In reaction to the growing body of evidence that the Syrian government is using chemical weapons against rebel forces, President Obama has sought to clarify his “game-changer” comment. First, he wants to know the whole story: who, what, when, etc. His predecessor knows all to well the consequences of making bold decisions based on impartial information. However, the Syrian populace has not reacted the same way, and the public outcry over the international community’s lacksadasical response is intensifying. Assuming that the presence of such munitions is confirmed by the Obama administration, what does that mean for American involvment going forward? Directly arming the rebels would initially seem a logical move, however such a measure involves significant risk. The controversial strategies used by the Afghani freedom fighters during the ’80s were helped by direct American assistance, until the Reagan administration could not have it on their conscience to be directly abetting terrorism. There are a number of avenues the Obama administration
could pursue on the subject, so the challenge now is to decide which is best.
Remanants of a bomb blast that hit Damascus yesterday and killed 13 people
President Barack Obama seems to be going back on his word after receiving credible confirmation that the al-Assad regime is using saron gas in their civil war. Previously, he had sworn that the use of such measures would be a “game changer” as far as American involvement could be concerned. To be fair, President Obama cited the botched 2003 invasion of Iraq as an example of why important foreign policy decisions absolutely cannot be made with incomplete or potentially inaccurate information. In a meeting with King Abdullah II of Jordan last week, the two discussed the feasibility of increased nonlethal aid, and Obama concluded the collaboration by promising to double the Americans’ assistance. Interestingly, it was the regime that had originally invited (encouraged) the United Nations inspectors to make their own judgments about the use of chemical weapons. Perhaps al-Assad though he could get away with it, or perhaps there was an elaborate effort to frame the opposition. In any case, Prime Minster David Cameron echoed the careful approach of the Obama administration, while basically admitting he has already made up his mind. Does this mean Obama is working to avoid a foreign policy disaster like his predecessor? With his approval ratings hovering just south of midpack and a recalcitrant Congress to contend with, caution may just be the best thing for his remaining years in office.
The Bahrainian government has been working diligently to ensure the best possible performance for the Formula 1 race they are hosting. However, protesters have taken advantage of the attention the race itself is attracting from the Western world. Tensions have remained exceptionally high following the 2011 uprising between the Shiite majority and the ruling Sunni minority. The Human Rights Watch has taken notice and issued a statement outlining their belief that the police will not hesitate to repress any dissident with brutal force. For that reason, the uprising failed to gain the traction of similar movements in surrounding Middle Eastern countries. Bahrain is being judged with extra suspicion this year after canceling their hosting of the 2011 Grand Prix, a move that was made after participants expressed their concerns about the nation’s stability. The sudden cancellation has been estimated to have cost the government as much as $800 million. Last year’s event went on as planned, even as fires were lit in protest on streets directly bordering the racetrack, and the entire scene was viewed as a public relations disaster. Formula 1 management didn’t seem to care, as they viewed the event as a unifying force that would soothe some of the tensions that had previously existed. Regardless, the eyes of the world’s most-watched sport (500 million viewers) are on Bahrain, and the government is in a crucial position either to impress the world with a well-executed event, or to further embarrass themselves with another brutal crackdown on dissidents’ activities.
2012 Champion Sebastian Vettel
A decade has passed since the American-led invasion of Iraq commenced in March of 2003. Looking back in retrospective, it was hard to say no to such a move: intel connected numerous al-Qaeda cells to various Iraqi cities, Saddam’s aggression towards fellow Arab countries, and the most important factor of them all (at least publicly): the weapons of mass destruction. The Bush Administration’s fears were justified, at least at the time. Not to mention the fact that the aforementioned WMDs were supplied by the Reagan Administration during the ’80s in an effort to combat Soviet influence in the region. When the search for weapons turned up dry, popular opinion of the directive turned sour. Ethnic clashes between the Shi’ite and the Sunni, who had enjoyed significant liberties under Saddam, brought further instability to the region. Combined with a mounting death toll and quickly escalating costs, pressure mounted on the Bush Administration to end the occupation. Many would say that his defiance contributed to his record low approval ratings. Indeed, President Obama won in 2008 not the least bit due to his commitment to a timely withdrawal.
What does this mean for American foreign policy going forward? For one, the memories are recent enough to trigger massive resistance to any invasions for the foreseeable future. It could also sow the seeds for increased American discontent for generations to come, forcing future presidents to take foreign threats into account. For now, all we can do it learn from the mistakes of the past and move on from there.
The Muslim Brotherhood has been caught at it again: conveying a different message to their Western followers versus their Arab allies. In an official statement released yesterday, the party released a statement on their website condemning the bombings at the Boston Marathon and expressed solidarity with their American brethren. The group’s vice chairman Essam el-Erian posted a similarly worded message on his Facebook page, however, he suggested that the attacks were somehow linked to ongoing violence in Syria, the American invasion and subsequent occupation of Iraq, and the French war in Mali. While he did not specifically blame any group or individual, the differing messages to the Arabic world versus the English-speaking regions call into question the group’s motives, and also makes one wonder why they would go to the effort to broadcast different opinions. Perhaps this is an effort of appealing to the right people, and in the process telling them what they want to hear.
Russia’s foreign minister Sergey Lavrov has pledged to launch a probe of alleged war crimes committed during the Syrian civil war. Of more importance, Lavrov said, is ending the violence as soon as possible. Jordan has now been opened up for use as a staging area for foreign aid directed at assisting the fighters in any way possible.
In any case, a team of UN investigators is awaiting word in Cyprus for word to go ahead with a full inspection of the alleged use of chemical weapons by both sides in the conflict. Interestingly, the al-Assad regime encouraged the inspection and insists that any instances of biological warfare fall entirely on the rebellion. Could this mean that the government has quickly removed any evidence of their illicit activities and is using the UN as a pawn to shift support away from the rebels? Or could there be “planting” of evidence at work, where the helpless rebellion will be charged with war crimes? Let’s not forget that the UN inspectors found absolutely no traces of WMDs in Iraq, even after the U.S. government gave Saddam’s regime weapons in the ’80s to fight the Soviets.
Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavov