Moon of Alabama Brecht quote
August 28, 2013

U.S. Rush To Strike Syria Slowed Down

Following the deadly use of unknown chemicals by unknown sources in Syria the Obama administration tried to rush into some "punitive" strikes on Syria, which would have unintended consequences and little success. To this purpose it tried to derail an investigation into the incident by UN observers in Syria.

Today it looks like this rush has been blocked by several forces.

The claim by Secretary of State Kerry that Syria was too slow in accepting a UN probe proved to be a lie. The UN only asked Saturday, after the U.S. blocking was rejected, to start an investigation in Syria and was allowed to do so by Syria on Sunday. UN secretary Ban Ki Moon resisted U.S pressure and the UN team in Syria continues its investigation. It will need at least four days until its has some reasonable results. The UN declared that its observers so far have found some "chemical substances" which will have to be analyzed and it insisted that any strike would only be legal if the UN Security Council could agree on it.

The Obama administration has yet to provide any evidence that the alleged chemical attack came from the Syrian government. The only "evidence" purposefully leaked is from rather suspicious Israeli communication intercepts of alleged confused talk between Syrian military units AFTER the alleged attack happened. Those certainly ain't proof of Syrian military involvement.

While the UN insists that a strike could only be internationally legal following an UNSC affirmation, Bush lawyer Jack Goldsmith argues that such a strike, without congressional approval, would be illegal under U.S. domestic law.

In the UK premier Cameron faces resistance not only from the labour party but from a significant part of his fellow conservatives. A rush by Cameron today to get a Libya like UNSC resolution for "all necessary force" to "protect civilians" in Syria was rejected by Russia and China who insisted on voting only after getting results from the UN observers in Syria.

In Europe Poland, Belgium, the Netherlands, Italy, Germany and Norway have, for good reasons, spoken out against any use of force against Syria. Austria blocked its airspace for any air operation related to Syria. The Arab League blamed the chemical incident on the Syrian government but rejected to endorse any punitive measures.

The Turkish premier Erdogan, who would also like to strike Syria, is like Cameron running into problems with his own party. He also has a huge problem with the tanking Turkish Lira and rapidly increasing interest rates. The Turkish economy is currently taking a deep dive which is at least partly to blame on Erdogan's aggressive foreign policy.

In the U.S. skeptical voices against any further interference in Syria are getting some attention. The U.S. people seem to be solidly against any new war in the Middle East.

Today's slow down of the rush to war may only turn out as a delay that still ends in a catastrophe. But today showed that any strike will lack any international legitimacy. It also gives a shimmer of hope that the whole deadly nonsense may be avoided.

Posted by b on August 28, 2013 at 17:55 UTC | Permalink

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@ ThePaper
I agree on the tactical option as maximum impact from Assad + allies with minimal involvement.

But regarding 'early attack date is Saturday to Sunday night' it means that UN inspector will leave the country with conclusions and maybe evidence.
I don't think he will ever leave Syria.
Attacked by FSA and gone,how pity.
So another reason to start aggression a.s.a.p. - Saturday is to late.

Posted by: Christos | Aug 29 2013 10:02 utc | 101

@ ThePaper
And by the way why wait until Saturday?
The job is done and over-go home.
But probably it is not his own decision.

Posted by: Christos | Aug 29 2013 10:12 utc | 102


"I don't understand the reason behind the surgical strike'."

No one does because there is no such thing, dont be fooled by their wordplay. It will be a full bombardment if they start bombing.

Posted by: Anonymous | Aug 29 2013 10:14 utc | 103

Some very serious walking back is being reported over at haaretz.

There appears to be some US intelligence officials who are concerned that:
a) The USA can't be certain that the Syrian Army remains the sole custodian of CWs.
b) Those so-called "phone intercepts" appear to be between "officials" that nobody can actually, you know, identify.....

Seems like there are some US spooks who suspect that they are being played for fools.

Posted by: Johnboy | Aug 29 2013 10:32 utc | 104

103) very serious walk back indeed

The complicated intelligence picture raises questions about the White House's full-steam-ahead approach to the Aug. 21 attack on a rebel-held Damascus suburb, with worries that the attack could be tied to al-Qaida-backed rebels later. Administration officials said Wednesday that neither the UN Security Council, which is deciding whether to weigh in, or allies' concerns would affect their plans.

Intelligence officials say they could not pinpoint the exact locations of Assad's supplies of chemical weapons, and Assad could have moved them in recent days as U.S. rhetoric builds. That lack of certainty means a possible series of U.S. cruise missile strikes aimed at crippling Assad's military infrastructure could hit newly hidden supplies of chemical weapons, accidentally triggering a deadly chemical attack.

Posted by: somebody | Aug 29 2013 10:47 utc | 105

more walk back from AP

In addition, an intercept of Syrian military officials discussing the strike was among low-level staff, with no direct evidence tying the attack back to an Assad insider or even a senior Syrian commander, the officials said.

So while Secretary of State John Kerry said Monday that links between the attack and the Assad government are "undeniable," U.S. intelligence officials are not so certain that the suspected chemical attack was carried out on Assad's orders, or even completely sure it was carried out by government forces, the officials said.

Ideally, the White House seeks intelligence that links the attack directly to Assad or someone in his inner circle to rule out the possibility that a rogue element of the military decided to use chemical weapons without Assad's authorization. Another possibility that officials would hope to rule out: that stocks had fallen out of the government's control and were deployed by rebels in a callous and calculated attempt to draw the West into the war.

The U.S. has devoted only a few hundred operatives, between intelligence officers and soldiers, to the Syrian mission, with CIA and Pentagon resources already stretched by the counterterrorism missions in Africa and the Arabian Peninsula, as well as the continuing missions in Afghanistan and Pakistan, officials said.

The quest for added intelligence to bolster the White House's case for a strike against Assad's military infrastructure was the issue that delayed the release of the U.S. intelligence community's report, which had been expected Tuesday.

The uncertainty calls into question the statements by Kerry and Vice President Joe Biden.

"We know that the Syrian regime maintains custody of these chemical weapons," Kerry said. "We know that the Syrian regime has the capacity to do this with rockets. We know that the regime has been determined to clear the opposition from those very places where the attacks took place."

On Wednesday, State Department spokeswoman Marie Harf said it didn't really matter whether the administration knew those details with total certainty.

"We ultimately, of course, hold President Assad responsible for the use of chemical weapons by his regime against his own people, regardless of where the command and control lies," Harf said.

The CIA, the Pentagon and the Office of the Director of National Intelligence declined to comment, and the White House did not respond to requests for comment.

Posted by: somebody | Aug 29 2013 12:00 utc | 106

This was the line that really jumped out at me:
"In addition, an intercept of Syrian military officials discussing the strike was among low-level staff, with no direct evidence tying the attack back to an Assad insider or even a senior Syrian commander, the officials said."

Understand what that is saying, because it is saying (without saying it out loud) that the USA has been completely unable to identify those "Syrian military officials".

I would suggest that these US officials are talking to AP is because they believe that the reason why it has been impossible to establish the identities of those "Syrian military officials" is because the Israelis have faked this "phone intercept".

Going be interesting to see what comes from this, because we may well end up witnessing the craziest of reasons for starting a war e.g. Obama may well end up going to war simply to hide the fact that the Israelis have tricked him into starting a war.....

Posted by: Johnboy | Aug 29 2013 13:33 utc | 107

only and idiot or a liar would claim to trust anything said by the Zio-Nazis, on ANY subject.

If an Israeli told me it was Thursday, I'd get a 2nd opinion

Posted by: hmm | Aug 29 2013 13:42 utc | 108

And, of course, there is this weasel-worded sentence:
"Another possibility that officials would hope to rule out: that stocks had fallen out of the government's control and were deployed by rebels in a callous and calculated attempt to draw the West into the war."

The phrase "would hope to rule out" is screaming out at you, because it means that Obama hasn't been able to stifle the doubters within his own Administration.

Apparently there is at least "one senior U.S. intelligence official and three other U.S. officials" who think that the rebels were responsible.

Posted by: Johnboy | Aug 29 2013 13:48 utc | 109

108) Well, to be true, it was several interested people on twitter and the media that came out with "this was a war speech" when John Kerry had ended.

But what he ended it was simply this:

At President Obama’s direction, I’ve spent many hours over the last few days on the phone with foreign ministers and other leaders. The administration is actively consulting with members of Congress, and we will continue to have these conversations in the days ahead. President Obama has also been in close touch with leaders of our key allies, and the president will be making an informed decision about how to respond to this indiscriminate use of chemical weapons.

But make no mistake: President Obama believes there must be accountability for those who would use the world’s most heinous weapons against the world’s most vulnerable people. Nothing today is more serious, and nothing is receiving more serious scrutiny.

which does not really say anything.

Posted by: somebody | Aug 29 2013 14:06 utc | 110

@somebody and Johnboy
see my #44

This was an interesting exchange at State today, that the President of Syria is responsible for any atrocities that may be committed by Syrian troops. It's a responsibility not shared by western heads of state. Bush, Obama and others should be thankful for that. . .

Posted by: Don Bacon | Aug 29 2013 14:21 utc | 111

news report
The Arab League threw its weight behind calls for punitive action, blaming the Syrian government for the attack and calling for the perpetrators to be brought to justice.

Not really
Arab League states' views on Syria response far from uniform

ABU DHABI // To illustrate the dilemma the use of chemical weapons in Syria poses for many governments in the Middle East, there is no better illustration than this week's declaration by the Arab League.

Meeting in emergency session Cairo on Tuesday, country representatives to the 22-member regional bloc directly accused the regime of Syrian President Bashar Al Assad of full responsibility for the August 21 attack, calling it a "heinous crime."

But after calling on the United Nations Security Council to "take the necessary deterring measures against the perpetrators," the league stopped short of publicly supporting military action against a fellow Arab state.

Salman Shaikh, head of the Brookings Institution in Doha, said "a measured, muted Arab League response" was expected "because it's the common denominator everyone could agree upon".

The ambivalence evident at the heart of the resolution could now complicate Western efforts to gather support for a punitive strike. The United States, Britain, and France have hinted that they will not necessarily wait for approval from the UN Security Council, where Russia and China have repeatedly vetoed resolutions that went against Mr Al Assad.

Posted by: Don Bacon | Aug 29 2013 14:34 utc | 112

The Decider is busy deciding, and can't consult with mere citizens or their representatives, but his minions will brief some congress-people today on doing something illegal that the people don't want done. It's called democracy.

As President Barack Obama continues to formulate a response to the apparent use of chemical weapons on Syrian civilians, senior Obama Administration officials will hold a briefing for congressional lawmakers on Thursday on the range of retaliatory options, a White House official told TIME.

Posted by: Don Bacon | Aug 29 2013 14:41 utc | 113

Why I wouldn't send a nickel to anti-war,com -- a headline today
"Antiwar Left Stays Quiet on Syria"

Posted by: Don Bacon | Aug 29 2013 14:44 utc | 114

One thing about Obama's behavior over Syria over the last 18 months helps establish is that he is not being directed by some small clique that rules the capitalist world. What we see is complete lack of any over arching strategy or even well defined goals. No witting conspirator would run things in such slap shod manner. Nope, poor Obama is in totally over his head, has no idea how to create new situations that would benefit the US, but just reacts impulsively to one circumstance or crisis after another. Toivos wrote at 64.

Yes, in a way that is so. But it also shows that the US PTB are at logger-heads, and/or at sea. Too many contradictions have come home to roost, too many different aims are colliding. Neo-cons and J supremacists, Corps, Dems on the humanitarian shtick, the Defense Industry, oil interests, general Imperialism which requires a Show of Strength, Isolationist Nationalism, etc. (many on the take or involved in fraud and turf wars.) There are fractures all over the place.

Also, the public attitude has changed, after Afgh., Iraq, Lybia...or perhaps Syria is just perceived differently, or this time the Russia-China opposition is stiffer, etc.

As bevin at 68 says, USuk is stuck in 1989. They seem to be presenting a splendid if horrifying example of an old dog can’t learn new tricks.

This is lit on the World stage - and the ppl are noticing for sure. The Gvmts of the USuk (now plus France) are completely sclerotic, conventionalized to death, because yay-sayers to different masters can only mouth platitudes, do in-fighting sub rosa, hope for the best for themselves, and together cannot take any decisions, be they good or bad, so they hide behind procedure, cherry-picked legality, fake principles, the 'right thing to do.'

The whole mess also reveals (which it didn’t for Iraq for ex. or not that evidently..) that upper levels, say Cameron and Hollande, have different impulses than the lower level, like their ‘Parliaments’, or local pols, showing the political structure to be dysfunctional, to put it mildly. This is something W ‘democratic’ Gvmts. have tried to hide so far, to keep the public on board with a supposed ‘superior, fairer‘ system.

Posted by: Noirette | Aug 29 2013 14:46 utc | 115

Professor Juan Cole, a constant advocate of war in MENA, has concocted a theory.

US intelligence agencies released an intercept on Wednesday showing that after the attack, a ministry of defense official made outraged inquiries from a local commander as to what in the world he had done.

The intercept would be consistent with local Baath chem warfare units routinely mixing a little deadly sarin gas into crowd control gas, killing small numbers of rebels with each deployment, but in this case making an error and getting the mix wrong. Thus, around a thousand were killed instead of dozens. British intelligence seems to have come to a similar conclusion

Apparently there are new, Jordanian-trained, guerrilla forces in Rif Dimashq near the capital that account for the local commanders’ panic and desire to forcefully push them back.

The intercept does not prove that Bashar al-Assad knew about or ordered the chemical weapons attack. It does not, however, disprove that the Baath regime has a systematic policy of low level use of chemical weapons.

Syria is required by Cole to disprove his theory.

Posted by: Don Bacon | Aug 29 2013 14:48 utc | 116

The lap-dog Ban has heeled. No more a fortnight for the UN team in Syria; the master has spoken.

UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon has announced from Vienna that he spoke with (or was spoken to) US President Barack Obama, and he will pull the UN chemical weapons investigation team out of Damascus on Saturday. (h/t InnerCityPress)

Posted by: Don Bacon | Aug 29 2013 14:52 utc | 117


Professor Juan Cole, a constant advocate of war in MENA, has concocted a theory.

like I said

"only and idiot or a liar would claim to trust anything said by the Zio-Nazis"

Posted by: hmm | Aug 29 2013 14:55 utc | 118

The whole mess also reveals (which it didn’t for Iraq for ex. or not that evidently..) that upper levels, say Cameron and Hollande, have different impulses than the lower level,

This is true of just about any of the relevant involved parties.

Especially so of the NATO Mercs

The rank-and-file are clearly operating under a different set of illusions than are the controllers of these groups.

Posted by: hmm | Aug 29 2013 14:58 utc | 119


Lapdog puppet indeed, now Ban ki-moon is complicit in a illegal attack on Syria.

Posted by: Anonymous | Aug 29 2013 15:00 utc | 120

speaking of idiots and liars . . . . .

"The Guardian" of What?: The Media and War Propaganda

Throughout the crisis in Syria the Guardian has been not so much reporting the conflict as running a propaganda campaign against the government in Damascus, to the benefit of the armed Islamist groups and the outside governments sponsoring them.

The wellsprings of its ‘reporting’ have been the unsubstantiated claims of ‘activists’ no matter how wild and improbable. Without any evidence it is now accusing the Syrian government of being responsible for the alleged nerve gas/chemical weapons attack in the Ghouta district around Damascus.

The far greater likelihood that the armed groups were responsible for this atrocity scarcely rates a mention.

Building on the unsubstantiated claim that it was the Syrian military, Martin Chulov argues in favor of another one, that it was Bashir’s brother Maher who was personally responsible (the same accusation is being made by the Israeli intelligence propaganda outlet Debkafile, from which Chulov may well have taken his lead).This is how propaganda works. Once set in motion it just needs a push to keep it rolling.

Buttressing its editorial and reports, Fawaz Gerges is given space to claim that it is up to the Syrian government to prove that it was not responsible for this atrocity.

This is nonsense: if the Syrian government was not responsible for this atrocity, how can it prove what it did not do, especially when anything it says will be dismissed out of hand by the mainstream media and the governments arming, financing and training the ‘rebels’?

The onus of proof lies on those making the accusations, and so far neither the Guardian nor the anti-Assad campaigning Kim Sengupta of the Independent (where Robert Fisk has provided balance with some reports giving the perspective of the Syrian government) nor William Hague nor anyone else making this accusation has produced a scrap of evidence that this attack was carried out by the Syrian military.

Posted by: hmm | Aug 29 2013 15:02 utc | 121

Inner City Press highlights the western dominance in the UN on these matters.
#Herve Ladsous as the fourth French head of UN Peacekeeping in a row
#The US's US Jeffrey Feltman, formerly the State Department's chief on the Middle East, an Israel promoter, is Ban's political chief.
#Germany's Angela Kane, now heading the Syria investigation, has disarmament.

"When Japan's Yukio Takasu returned after a pause from being his country's Ambassador to the UN to take over Kane's job, Kane's native Germany lobbied for her to get another top UN job. She was offered one in Lebanon, as Inner City Press reported, but did not want it. So she "got" Disarmament.

So the fact that Germany has expressed a willingness to join a coalition to strike Syria, without UN Security Council approval, and the Germany's Angela Kane's role in the "UN's" chemical weapons inspection team should be noted."

Posted by: Don Bacon | Aug 29 2013 15:03 utc | 122

Why I wouldn't send a nickel to anti-war,com -- a headline today "Antiwar Left Stays Quiet on Syria" Posted by: Don Bacon | Aug 29, 2013 10:44:22 AM | 114
Well, it's all of a piece with Raimondo's various scribblings about Commie Rats. But on the other hand, their web page is probably the best news aggregator there is. It comes up regularly at 5 am english time (9 pm for them, I think), and to tell the truth, I revolve my every morning's work around that point.

Posted by: Rowan Berkeley | Aug 29 2013 15:05 utc | 123

You know, if China and Russia really do end up throwing Assad to the wolves the way they did Ghadaffi, then certain Nobel Peace Prize recipients might legitimately begin to wonder what good it is to be one of their allies in the first place.

Posted by: Monolycus | Aug 29 2013 15:11 utc | 124

115, Noirette - It is what George Galloway calls the "revolving doors" of political careers - the killing of Tony Blair.

and what the - conservative - Daily Telegraph describes here

But it's the third argument I find most interesting. This holds that when Cameron said today that it was almost certainly Assad who committed the atrocity – and that all he cares about is stopping chemical weapons use, full stop, and that this isn't about regime change – he was lying. Because he's a politician. And that's what politicians do, axiomatically. He and Obama are just big fat Bliars, determined to drag us into war due to a blend of ego, vanity, stupidity and deceit (although it's seldom explained what exactly they'd get out of this, given its manifest unpopularity with the voters).

Yes, it is not popular with voters but they get something out of it.

Posted by: somebody | Aug 29 2013 15:52 utc | 125

@alexno #37
You don't understand Jordan. Abdullah may be a fool, but he understands very well that if he touches the fundamentalist tendencies of Zarqa and the South, it's all over for the Hashemites.

My point is Abdullah is in trouble at home and he can and in my eyes will be strongarmed into allowing whatever attacks to pass through Jordan. SA and Qatar have quite an influence there and can have him deposed or at least saddle him up with a civil war. If I recall correctly it was last year there were problems with the Muslim Brotherhood in Jordan. He is afraid of Syria but more so of FUKUS and SA/Qatar.

Posted by: Gehenna | Aug 29 2013 16:18 utc | 126

One reason for the urgency for the strikes may be Russian ship rotations:
Russia sending warships to the Mediterranean amid Syria crisis: Report

"A large anti-submarine ship of the Northern Fleet will join them (the existing naval forces) over the next few days.

"Later it will be joined by the Moskva, a rocket cruiser of the Black Sea Fleet which is now wrapping up its tasks in the northern Atlantic and will soon begin a transatlantic voyage towards the Strait of Gibraltar."

Russia says this is just part of a normal ship rotation, but naturally the ships being relived will not be leaving the conflict area until the situation cools down.

Posted by: Petri Krohn | Aug 29 2013 19:08 utc | 127

William Bowles @#97

Yes, I know it's nonsense, the EU Times is like a supermarket tabloid complete with Bat Boy and pickup trucks found floating in space. I was merely remarking on what a great pressure technique it would be if Russia were to threaten to attack Saudi Arabia in reprisal if the western democracies attacked Syria. And according to more credible reporting, Prince Bandar did visit Moscow a very short time ago with the intent of getting Russia to come onboard; he is, actually, alleged to have suggested Saudi Arabia exercises a degree of control over Chechen Salafist militants, and that Saudi Arabia could ensure a trouble-free Olympics in Sochi....or not, in exchange for Russia abandoning Syria. He probably did not say exactly that, but if he even implied it it would be sufficient grounds for Russia to select Saudi Arabia for punishment in circumstances very like the nutty imaginations at the EU Times came up with.

Posted by: Mark | Aug 29 2013 19:32 utc | 128

Mark (128): here is the link for the only detailed source story about the Bandar/Putin meeting. The essential (supposed) quote from Bandar was:

The Chechen groups that threaten the security of the games are controlled by us, and they will not move in the Syrian territory’s direction without coordinating with us. These groups do not scare us. We use them in the face of the Syrian regime but they will have no role or influence in Syria’s political future.

I tried to produce a detailed analysis of the whole (supposed) conversation, here and here. My conclusion was that, if the report is genuine, Bandar was trying to con Putin in believing not just that he controlled the Chechen rebels, but that he controlled the whole Syrian rebellion, which is obviously untrue.

Posted by: Rowan Berkeley | Aug 29 2013 20:43 utc | 129

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