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Hezbollah’s Challenge

April 30th, 2013 - 5:15 pm

Hezbollah’s Hassan Nasrallah has openly upped the ante in Syria by declaring his organization on the side of Syrian President Assad.  ”Nasrallah – a close ally of Assad – also hinted that Russia and Iran, Syria’s principal supporters, would intervene militarily to prevent his defeat.”

By throwing his turban into the ring Nasrallah served notice that the Syrian conflict might drag in Israel via Lebanon or the long-range rockets Hezbollah has aimed at the Jewish state. In short, Hezbollah has escalated the Syrian conflict and internationalized it. The Guardian writes “‘Nasrallah just made sure Syria will get a lot worse,’ quoting analyst Emile Hokayem of the International Institute for Strategic Studies.”

Meanwhile the President — who drew the Red Line on chemical weapons in Syria, a line which has now been crossed — is parsing and parsing and parsing. Having in the words of Andrew McCarthy, “judicialized” the fight against al-Qaeda he  judicialized the chemical weapons threat in Syria. In a press briefing Obama said of the chemical weapons whose use proclaimed would be punished ‘we have evidence’ of use of weapons but says ‘what we don’t know is who used them’.

“What we now have is evidence that chemical weapons have been used inside Syria,” Obama told reporters. “What we don’t know is who used them. We don’t have a chain of custody. Without evidence of what happened, how can I make a decision what to do? I have got to make sure I have got the facts.”

He had better hope it wasn’t the Syrian rebels who used the chems for his relief at learning that Assad had not crossed the Red Line might be tempered by the realization that al-Qaeda had. Here’s a joke about Syria that is too cruel to speak. The Good News on Syria is that Assad is losing. The Bad News is that al-Qaeda may be winning.

But this was not a moment for such thoughts, only for mincing words and examining their meanings a process the reality based media refers to as sophistication. The President’s conduct drove Charles Krauthammer to expostulate, “chain of custody? What is this, CSI: Damascus? In the middle of a war you expect a chain of custody and decide if a weapon was used?”

But Krauthammer should realize the President thinks that way. And this is what the judicialization of war looks like: sheltering in place, warrantless searches, rules of evidence, Miranda warnings, probable cause. Speaking of the bombing of the Boston Marathon recently the President said they were still trying to figure out what happened.

We will not know that until the investigation of the actual crime is fully completed. That is still ongoing. But what I can say is based on what I have seen so far, the FBI performed its duties, the Department of Homeland Security did what it was supposed to be doing, but this is hard stuff.

Hard stuff. And harder still when the primary suspects were known to the FBI, the CIA and the DHS  years in advance and whose details were inscribed in the Massachusetts welfare rolls. The problem, Krauthammer argues, isn’t that the facts are foggy. The problem is that facing them is unbearable to Obama.

It seems that Nasrallah has got Obama’s number. He understands what Obama won’t openly admit: that his Red Line in Syria, like the fake victory over al-Qaeda, was nothing but a talking point. Krauthammer cuts to the chase.

Look, this is a president who sees himself as a liberal reformer. He remember what happened to LBJ. He knows what happened to George Bush. You get involved in a foreign war, your presidency is ruined. And I think he has been determined from the first instant with Syria that he would not allow himself to be dragged in.

I think the reason he put out this supposed red line about chemical weapons is that he imagined, A, it wouldn’t be used or that it was a way to actually postpone a decision until the future. And now that he has this kind of, you know — he doesn’t have an overwhelming instance as we had in the Saddam days where he — Saddam attacked the village from the air and killed thousands of people in one day. In the absence of that, I don’t think he will allow any evidence to compel him to engage in military activity. I think that’s where he starts from, and all over this stuff dancing around it, he is not going to allow himself to get involved.

The President was never prepared to be tough, only sound tough. He cut the military’s budget. Locked the ground forces away in Afghanistan. He left himself without a gun in a machine-gun fight.  So what was he doing drawing ‘Red Lines’?

Maybe President Obama fell victim to believing his own propaganda. Surrounded by a press corps the likes of which attended the correspondent’s dinner he may have believed that all it took to send Assad and Nasrallah packing were a few choices phrases from the teleprompter. He forgot that unlike the Press, Hassan Nasrallah, Assad and Kim Jung Un don’t need to curry favor with him. They paddle their own canoe. They are “higher information”  than his voter base; and unlike the fawning media don’t buy into his pronouncements.

So he bluffed and they called it. What’s he going to do now?

Well for one he could match them and raise. But as Charles Krauthammer noted, that’s out. Or he could go back to parsing and declare victory. That is what he is doing and will probably continue to do.

The problem is that the Bad Guys know this act already. They watched as the administration abandoned the Americans in the Benghazi consulate to their fate, even though help as it turns out, was available. They looked on as he vowed to bring the perpetrators to justice — then jailed a man in LA for producing a video. Victory! They observed as he drew a Red Line in Syria and quailed when it was crossed. They gaped as Kim Jong Un threatened to rain nuclear weapons on the United States and he sat there and took it. They marveled as two Chechen teenagers held an American city hostage, unidentified for days even though they should have been principal suspects and the President warned everyone ‘not to rush to judgment’.

And now they are eagerly awaiting his response to the gauntlet Nasrallah has thrown in his face.

But this is really hard stuff. It’s enough to make a man want to pack up and go home. And yet there is more to come. The rogue elements of the world will pile it on now. Press him until even he can retreat no longer. And then he will respond when things are desperate. He will turn to the doctor when the cancer has metastized.

That’s the problem with kicking the can down the road. The road runs out.

The problem with reality is that it is relentless. Arithmetic always wins. And we typically realize it has won too late. An administration that rose to influence on spin may eventually discover that the facts will have their revenge. Maybe starting now. So what they should do? For openers they can stop reading their own press. It’s the one thing they shouldn’t have done. Never listen to paid flattery.


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Top Rated Comments   
I think there's another approach. Recently John Kerry said that America would have to get used to 'a nuisance level of terrorism'. In another article the writers say that America has grown to a new maturity. Instead of feeling a hole in their heart like 9/11, events in Boston have left a pang but people have moved. It shows a new toughness.

I like these words. They make you feel good to be a loser. And the next time a thug approaches with the threat to molest my wife I will say, "don't! That's my red line." But when he does I'll say, "I will forbear to strike you because I want to demonstrate a new maturity." And if that man pummels me in the face, I will mutter through cracked teeth, "you might think you are winning but I am demonstrating a new toughness."

Yes. Just a nuisance level of epic failure.

That's the other way. Where is written that you have to keep winning or guarantee your safety. Isn't it better to just get used to things. Downsize your expectations. Be happy for every day people let you live another few hours.

We can adjust by upping our maturity. Moving on. Scoffing at humiliation. Maybe we can just hope that whatever bad things come out of Syria we will always be able to shrug off.
51 weeks ago
51 weeks ago Link To Comment
All Comments   (32)
All Comments   (32)
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Wretchard:

We are watching a countdown to disaster in Syria. Whoever wins the West loses. And odds are Israel will get drawn in. This should be clear by now.

This is true. What is less than clear, but likely; is that this may have been the goal of the Obama regime all along.


toadold
Not only do foreign leaders have Obama's number but the domestic scene is changing underneath him, slowly but it is changing. While working through the hype and hucksterism over at Zero Hedge I did run across something interesting. Normally when the price of gold drops people in Asian countries buy and Americans tend to sell and move their money into stocks or bonds. This time it is different, Americans bought on the price drop of gold. I suspect their has been a loss of confidence in the economy despite the everything is fine reports. Too many lies about too many things. War in the Middle East, the unemployment rate both in the US and Europe. It looks like the strands in the cable are starting to part and it could snap at any moment. Look out below.
16 hours ago Tue Apr 30 19:07:42 PDT 2013 1

A key point about gold is the divergence between "paper gold" and physical gold. The price of paper gold is falling, and the price for physical delivery of gold is rising. There are some things to watch. First was the delay in accounting for and returning Germany's gold reserves stored here earlier this year. Then, the EU demanded the seizure of Cyprus' gold reserves, making people nervous. Now Switzerland is scheduling a national referendum [that seems very likely to pass despite opposition from the Swiss banking system] that requires the return of all Switzerland's gold reserves being held overseas [including in the US] and backing Swiss currency with at least 20% gold reserves. If we refuse to return Switzerland's gold on demand ....

Domestically, Arizona just became the second state declare silver and gold coin as legal tender in paying debts to the state [Utah is the other] and over a dozen other states are in the process of doing the same. It is legal according to Article I, Section 10 of the Constitution. And if enough states do it, it could well be the basis for an alternative system to the increasingly fictional Federal Reserve fiat currency.

Add in this week's dismal economic statistics, and Obama's ability to forestall catastrophe [if he has the desire to do so] is becoming increasingly circumscribed.

Subotai Bahadur
51 weeks ago
51 weeks ago Link To Comment
The ME die was cast when Dear Leader triumphantly vacated a key strategic base with a stable ally in Iraq. The entire picture would look differently but for that piece of smug self indulgence. His policy of "leading from behind" has left us in the baggage train with the whores and the camp followers. This will end in blood and will not be pretty.
51 weeks ago
51 weeks ago Link To Comment
51 weeks ago
51 weeks ago Link To Comment
All mistakes of past administrations aside, and I may be oversimplifying things here, I think that the primary motivating factor of Barack the Sun King is that he absolutely, more than anything, wants the American People to be _afraid_. And _stay_ afraid.
51 weeks ago
51 weeks ago Link To Comment
The use of chemical weapons could easily by the result of mishandling by one of the rebel groups themselves.

If folks here haven’t done so yet, I might suggest a visit to the video download site LiveLeak.com. For those unfamiliar, LiveLeak.com is the site were groups like Al Qaeda, the Taliban, our guys-of course, and both sides of the Syrian conflict post their videos.

There are video links showing some of the Syrian rebels loading mortar shells nose down!!! Another classic was a Syrian rebel running up to a SFA tank and rolling a grenade down the barrel of its gun. He actually took the tank out that way! But holy-****, where was the tank crew in all of this?

The level of undisciplined stupidity to be seen in the videos coming from the rebel side is astounding. I can easily believe they might have gassed themselves.
51 weeks ago
51 weeks ago Link To Comment
my bad, SAA not SFA
51 weeks ago
51 weeks ago Link To Comment
RWE3,
The Step Zero was not the withdrawal from Iraq but the ankle biting delay in getting in. Those Obama admired as models of crony governance, Chirac and Villepin were guides for the seditious Americans who descended into the gutter to cripple George Bush and Dick Cheney's efforts.

We should have invaded Iraq in 2002 and then pivoted into Damascus. Even if the Democrats hadn't deliberately disarmed to prevent any future US interventions we would have to do more not less now to achieve the results that we could have had for less ten years ago. Return to my CBDR tactical problem. A small course correction ten years ago, when the ship Syria was 10,000 yards away, would have avoided a collision. Now the threat is within 2,000 yards and poses a fuzzy large blot on the radar repeater. We must turn our wheel over hard to port and order a flank bell on the outboard shaft. Pray that we don't jam the rudder against the stops and suffer a low water casualty in the boiler.

Pat Santy,
Great to hear from you Doc.

Could Assad even be right? Al Qaeda does have an incentive, and they have the morals, to poison their own people and pass the blame. That is not a reason to keep Baby Ass around. He and his backers, Iran and the Russians, started a fire in the house and now they complain that rats are running out of the basement. What Syria needs is three generations of colonial government. Give it back to the French.
51 weeks ago
51 weeks ago Link To Comment
oh please, don't bring back that old excuse, Chirac Villepin were never in position to stop Bush from doing what his hawks decided to undertake, following 9/11. Irak was the easiest target of the moment.

Hey I'm waiting for you to find a french connection with the syrian sarin gas like you did for Saddam WMD
51 weeks ago
51 weeks ago Link To Comment
"Assault weapons bad; chemical weapons, "meh." Obama's default pivot is away from responsibility. If the news is good, he's solely responsible. If the news is bad in any respect, he's got no knowledge or fault.

Dr. Robert D. Hare's "Psychopathy Checklist-Revised (PCL-R)" is the psycho-diagnostic tool most commonly used to assess psychopaths. On this checklist, psychopaths have the majority of the following traits:

Selfish, callous and remorseless use of others:
Glibness/superficial charm (smooth-talking, engaging and slick)
Grandiose sense of self-worth (greatly inflated idea of one's abilities and self-esteem, arrogance and a sense of superiority)
Pathological lying
Conning/manipulative (uses deceit to cheat others for personal gain)
Lack of remorse or guilt (no feelings or concern for losses, pain and suffering of others)
Emotional poverty (limited range or depth of feelings)
Callous/lack of empathy (a lack of feelings toward others; cold, contemptuous and inconsiderate)
Failure to accept responsibility for own actions
Chronically unstable, antisocial and socially deviant lifestyle:
Need for stimulation/proneness to boredom (an excessive need for new, exciting stimulation and risk-taking)
Parasitic lifestyle (exploitative financial dependence on others)
Poor behavioral control (frequent verbal abuse and inappropriate expressions of anger)
Promiscuity (numerous brief, superficial sexual affairs)
Lack of realistic, long-term goals
Impulsivity
Irresponsibility (repeated failure to fulfill or honor commitments and obligations)
Juvenile delinquency (criminal behavioral problems between the ages of 13-18)
Early behavior problems (before age 13)
Revocation of conditional release (violating parole or other conditional release)
Many short-term marital relationships (lack of commitment to a long-term relationship)
Criminal versatility (diversity of criminal offenses, whether or not the individual has been arrested or convicted)

I rest my case.
51 weeks ago
51 weeks ago Link To Comment
Interesting article, Wretchard, as always.
A few observations:
1. Obama, by drawing a red line about chemical weapons and then backing down, has effectively made the world safe for chemical warfare, as long as aggressor states outsource it to al-qaida or other terrorists, and perhaps they dont even need to do that. It would not surprise me if Iran was sending chemical warheads to Hezbollah for their rocket arsenal, among other things.

2. I would imagine that Turkey, Jordan, Saudi Arabia and the Gulf Arab states are weighing their own defensive options now. All have the necessary industrial capabilities, and I would imagine their own chemical deterrent arsenals (or nukes) are looking more attractive by the day. Israel, of course, has her nuclear deterrent. WMD proliferation will be the rule, thanks to Obama.

3. As for US policy, well, reversing defense cuts and rebuilding the military would be nice - but Obama will not do it, since he considers buying the 2014 election more important. I would suspect he will make whatever international concessions he has to to buy peace for the rest of his term, and let Hillary or whoever is next President worry about the future. If I were Israel, I would be very nervous indeed.

4. That said, what, realistically at this point, can be done? Well, as we all agree, there are no effective democrats in Syria. On the one hand, we have the Assad government of basically secular fascists and their Alawaite allies and supporters, backed by Iran, who have never been anything but an enemy of the USA. On the other hand, the best organized and most determined of the Syrian opposition are the Islamic fascists of the Muslum Brotherhood and theiir Al-Qaida allies. A rational policy at this point would be to play both ends against each other, on the model of Cardinal Richealeau in the 30 years war. If Assad is winning, sell gas masks and atropine injectors to the Muslum Brotherhood. If the Brotherhood is winning, sell ammunition to Assad. In this manner, keep them busy with each other.

5. I dont think you can define a good end state in Syria. Assad has probably lost too much land and too much of his army has disintegrated to beat the rebels back completely. A balkanized Syria, with the Alawites holding Damascus and an enclave in the north, a Kurdish de facto autonomous zone, and a Sunni-Muslum Brotherhood center is the most likely outcome. A larger version of Lebanon, basically.
51 weeks ago
51 weeks ago Link To Comment
My take is pretty close to yours....

But, I see most of Syria drifting right back to its ancient norm... coupled to Iraq, aka Mesopotamia.

It's not for nothing that both Damascus and Baghdad were ruled by Ba'athist parties -- both of which assumed that they should be running the whole shebang.

Such a shift might also leave Damascus, itself, attached to Jordan. Amman is, historically a cultural desert, compared to the legacy of Damascus. The only reason that Damascus was thrown into the French zone of spoils was because of negotiating convenience. Utterly lacking in any obvious natural landmarks Sykes and Picot used the Haifa to Dara'a railway as a demising line after it crossed east of the Jordan River. Damascus was thrown to the French as a consequence, even though Aleppo would've made more economic sense as a colonial capital.

Should the flow of history permit, the Kurds and Sunnis would normalize political balance back in Baghdad. The Shia would still be dominant, but wouldn't be able to entirely run over these minorities.

Without some such re-division, full on sectarian warfare must ensue. They do look evenly matched.
51 weeks ago
51 weeks ago Link To Comment
Syrians have long claimed their country to be the “beating heart of Arabism”, the cradle of modern Arab nationalism. In the late Ottoman Empire, many of the early theorists of Arab nationalism were Syrian (or Lebanese), and during the Arab Revolt in the First World War, some talented Syrian officers from the Ottoman Army went over to the Arab side. The modern Turkish Republic, the rump remaining from the dismembered Ottoman Empire, borders only two Arab states: Syria and Iraq. Neither border has ever been truly quiet; and of course Turkey now frequently enters northern Iraq in pursuit of PKK Kurdish guerrillas.

In the carving up of the Ottoman Empire at the end of World War I, France won the inclusion of the Sanjak of Alexandretta in its League of Nations Mandate over Syria-Lebanon. French policy was to maintain separate administrations for ethnic or religious groups with a geographic identity, and thus in addition to Christian Lebanon the Druze mountain of Syria, the ‘Alawite areas around Latakia, and the Sanjak of Alexandretta were given special status.

http://www.theestimate.com/public/102398.html

When Assad finds his inspriation From Algeria

http://elwatanlafabrique.wordpress.com/2012/02/10/enquete-algerie-syrie-les-vestiges-du-reve-arabe/

http://www.slateafrique.com/68751/alger-le-meilleur-allie-de-damas-ligue-arabe

Syrians roots from algerian origin

http://www.poexil.umontreal.ca/events/colloquetemp/actes/haddad.pdf

51 weeks ago
51 weeks ago Link To Comment
I think there's another approach. Recently John Kerry said that America would have to get used to 'a nuisance level of terrorism'. In another article the writers say that America has grown to a new maturity. Instead of feeling a hole in their heart like 9/11, events in Boston have left a pang but people have moved. It shows a new toughness.

I like these words. They make you feel good to be a loser. And the next time a thug approaches with the threat to molest my wife I will say, "don't! That's my red line." But when he does I'll say, "I will forbear to strike you because I want to demonstrate a new maturity." And if that man pummels me in the face, I will mutter through cracked teeth, "you might think you are winning but I am demonstrating a new toughness."

Yes. Just a nuisance level of epic failure.

That's the other way. Where is written that you have to keep winning or guarantee your safety. Isn't it better to just get used to things. Downsize your expectations. Be happy for every day people let you live another few hours.

We can adjust by upping our maturity. Moving on. Scoffing at humiliation. Maybe we can just hope that whatever bad things come out of Syria we will always be able to shrug off.
51 weeks ago
51 weeks ago Link To Comment
Wait until the next "self-radicalized" Bostonian blows a hole in John Do-You-Know-Who-I-Am Kerry's Beacon Hill brownstone or sinks his tax-evading yacht to see the "nuisance Level" of terrorism instantly redefined. As for a thug getting in Tehrayzah's face, Kerry will probably let her speak for herself in one or more of her five languages.
51 weeks ago
51 weeks ago Link To Comment
Didn't JFK 'medal' in pacifism?
51 weeks ago
51 weeks ago Link To Comment
Obama's Red Line? Cross it. Cross it! I dare you. This is a core principle for him.

These are his principles. If these don't work, well, he has others.

It seems we have seen this all play out before. It is reminiscent of the attitude of the Left in America prior to Barbarossa. Britain was the imperialist warmonger, America needed to stay out of Europe, etc. etc., on and on.

It's this week's narrative. Next week, next month, who knows? There may be another.

The principles, the narrative, the reality. It's all pretty malleable with this crowd.
51 weeks ago
51 weeks ago Link To Comment
The main problem is to define a feasibly achievable end state in Syria. Either it comes together under a new, unitary consociational government or it breaks up into smaller chunks. Iran's stake is to maintain their front against Israel. Russia's bottom line, may not be identical to Iran's.

But the definition of the problem can change if the Syrian problem metastizes. It can readily become a Kurdish, Iraqi, Jordian, Lebanese and Israel problem. If al-Qaeda gets their hands on chemical weapons the war will be widened, for some of those weapons will undoubtedly be used against Israel.

So Obama was probably hoping against hope that his mere word, his bon mot would stop the ocean waves in their tracks. But it was not to be. The waves rolled on to the shore. And now his tootsies are getting wet.

The administration has two obvious options open. First it should deploy out of Afghanistan into the key theater. Second it should focus on either a partition solution or a consensus government. That might buy the time they need.

However there's too many ticking time bombs all over to be so leisurely and measured. Iran. Egypt. And let's not forget Pakistan and North Korea. So the President really is behind the 8 Ball, and early in his second term too.
51 weeks ago
51 weeks ago Link To Comment
To achieve a goal of denying access to Syria to Iran, we would need to expect Bashar Assad to be an ingrate. On reptilian grounds, the most obvious means to keep Iran out of Syria would be to let Assad win, which would then naturally lead to tensions between Iran and Syria. Yet, what if the friendships are firm? What if Bashar Assad feels grateful for the help his is getting from Iran? In other words, what if his foreign policy is mammalian rather than reptilian?

It may not be wise to presume that the foreign policy of Syria must be necessarily reptilian.
51 weeks ago
51 weeks ago Link To Comment
What are our interests? Perhaps someone should spell them out.

Above all, we must keep al-Safira from going into al-Qaeda's hands. That is our primary interest. It is also in Russia's interest. And Israel's interest. And it's in the interests of Europe, India, China – and even Brazil. If al-Qaeda takes over that chemical weapons plant, those chemicals WILL be used on US.

We need to keep al-Qaeda from winning. If it were possible to find a proxy Sunni force willing to fight al-Qaeda, that would be wonderful. If. It may be possible to defeat al-Qaeda on the battlefield, but that would take time – and effort, and money, and men.

We should be wanting to keep Iran from maintaining its front against Israel. Easier said than done. Bashar Assad has increasingly become a puppet of Iran; the only force that could possibly pry Syria away from Iran is Russia. But what's in it for Russia?

At present, there is little reason for Bashar Assad to distance himself from Iran. What's in it for Assad? Whatever else can be said for Iran, Iran has been there for him. So has Russia. So has Algeria. Shi'ite clerics have been recognizing Alawites as fellow Muslims since the 1970's, mainly for tactical and political reasons. Still, that recognition means something, given how such recognition is hard to come by in the Middle East. If Bashar Assad distanced himself from Iran, what would he gain – and what would he lose?

If there is to be a partition, a federation, or a consociational regime, the question is – whose aegis? Russia? Iran? Algeria? Brazil? China? South Africa? Indonesia? Israel?? And who could be negotiated with on the rebel side? Any “peace” deal would merely become a face-saving way for Assad to grant amnesty to one group of rebels in exchange for turning on al-Qaeda. It would not end the war. At present, it looks as though the Syrian civil war will last for decades.

It is better to oppose Iran in Iran, not in Syria. The Iranian government probably has more support in Syria right now than in Iran. It is easily imaginable that the Iranian government would fall yet the Assad regime would still survive. In this, he is helped by the fact that most major powers desire a demographic stalemate in Syria – and a vested interest in preventing an anti-Alawite genocide.
51 weeks ago
51 weeks ago Link To Comment
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