The PJ Tatler

Letting Slip the Dogs of War

Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel told Fox News this morning  that the military was prepared for “all contingencies” relating to an attack on Syria. And British Prime Minister David Cameron is urging that the UN Security Council issue an ultimatum to President Assad telling him to disarm or suffer the consequences.

We’re a lot closer to war today than we were a week ago.

“President Obama has asked the Defense Department to prepare options for all contingencies. We have done that and we are prepared to exercise whatever option — if he decides to employ one of those options,” Hagel said.

Obama had met earlier Saturday with top national security advisers, but will continue to gather facts before deciding on a course of action, the White House said.

Meanwhile Fox News has confirmed that four U.S. Navy Destroyers are being pre-positioned in the eastern Mediterranean Sea, although no immediate instructions beyond deployment have been issued.

A senior State Department official also told Fox News that U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry spoke Saturday with the foreign ministers of the United Arab Emirates, Saudi Arabia, Jordan, and Turkey, as well as the Secretary of the Arab League to discuss the allegation of a chemical weapons attack by the regime of Bashar al-Assad. Kerry also spoke to Syrian foreign minister Walid al-Muallim Thursday to say that the Syrian government should allow an international weapons inspection team to visit the site in the eastern suburbs of Damascus, rather than continue to attack the area, thus blocking access and destroying any potential evidence. Kerry also told Muallim that he had received assurances from the rebel Free Syrian Army that the UN inspectors would receive safe conduct to and from the area.

Syria announced this morning that they would allow the UN inspectors into the area of the gas attack:

Syria has agreed to allow weapons inspectors full access to any site of a purported chemical weapons attack, effective immediately, Syria’s Deputy Foreign Minister Faisal al Mekdad tells CNN’s Fred Pleitgen.

As Western powers try to verify claims that Syria deployed chemical weapons last week in a Damascus suburb, the government is pointing the finger at rebel forces.

They are pointing it back, accusing the government of gassing hundreds of people to death.

United Nations inspectors in Syria, attempting to gather information, say that Syria has not permitted them to visit the site of the attack.

In effect, Prime Minister Cameron is volunteering the US to fight Assad. Great Britain can’t do much and the French, who are also eager to take down Assad, can do even less. America is the only nation that can project adequate military power over long distances.

Gen Sir Nick Houghton, the Chief of the Defence Staff, is to take part in a summit in Jordan tomorrow with his US, French, Turkish, Saudi Arabian and Qatari counterparts.

It follows the strongest indications to date from Washington that direct military intervention by the West was possible in the conflict.

Diplomats talked of a “change in the American posture” following the attack on the suburb of East Ghouta on Wednesday.

Mr Cameron’s officials were drafting the text of a resolution to put before the UN said to be modelled on one that offered Saddam Hussein, the late Iraq leader, “a final opportunity” to disarm in 2002.

The move risks a public row with Vladimir Putin, the Russian president, who does not want any action taken against his ally.

But US officials were studying the Kosovo conflict, in which Nato launched weeks of air strikes without UN support and in the teeth of Russian opposition.

So we have Kerry speaking with the foreign ministers of our allies and a military summit taking place in Jordan with basically the same countries. The obvious conclusion is that something is up.

There’s a stink of war in the air, and it looks like we’re going to be backing the Islamists in their effort to dethrone President Assad. Is this our “smart power” on display? Or would it be the dumbest move this administration has made to date?

Syria is warning that American intervention would set the Middle East “ablaze”:

he Syrian government accused rebels of using chemical weapons Saturday and warned the United States not to launch any military action against Damascus over an alleged chemical attack last week, saying such a move would set the Middle East ablaze.

The accusations by the regime of President Bashar Assad against opposition forces came as an international aid group said it has tallied 355 deaths from a purported chemical weapons attack on Wednesday in a suburb of the Syrian capital known as Ghouta.

Syria is intertwined in alliances with Iran, Lebanese Hezbollah guerrillas and Palestinian militant groups. The country also borders its longtime foe and U.S. ally Israel, making the fallout from military action unpredictable.

Polls strongly suggest Americans are dead set against intervening in Syria — even if chemical weapons have been used. And an intervention, it will be, not just the US lobbing a few cruise missiles at Syrian military targets. No fly zones have been discussed previously, but the rebels desperately need close air support to start to win back ground lost in the last few months as President Assad’s forces have made significant progress in reclaiming territory lost to the rebels. Without heavy weapons and armor, the rebels have been slowly retreating. Air power would give them a decisive advantage.

But empowering al-Qaeda by taking out the only viable force on the ground that can stand up to them — the Syrian military and Hezballah fighters — what furies will we be unleashing on the Syrian people and the region?

I hope somebody knows what they’re doing in the White House when the “go/no-go” decision to intervene is made.