Obama Isolated at G8 on Arms for Syrian Rebels

President Obama met with British Prime Minister David Cameron on Friday in advance of Monday’s G8 summit. The 8 leaders meeting in Northern Ireland, will likely focus in a big way on the Syria crisis.

Obama’s recent decision to become more active in Syria, at least sending light weaponry to the rebels, will have a mixed reception, perhaps an explosively mixed one.

Russia, of course, is strongly backing the ruling Baath regime and has strenuously objected to Obama’s announcement. In essence, the two superpowers are back to a Cold War footing over Syria.

In the recent discussions at the European Union, Italy and Germany opposed lifting an arms embargo on Syria. That is, those two countries did not want Europeans sending arms to either side. Because the ban had a sunset clause and because the EU could not come to a consensus, the embargo was effectively lifted.

Japan is unlikely to join in sending weapons, given its pacifist constitution, but it is somewhat stepping up its humanitarian aid to the rebels and to Jordan and Lebanon, hosts of large Syrian refugee populations. Prime Minister Shinzo Abe is a man of the right and is unlikely to oppose Obama’s plan, but he will likely be constrained constitutionally and by domestic public opinion from getting too involved in Syria.

The US can expect active support from the other three members, the UK, France and
Canada, who may well join in the effort of better arming the rebels.

As for the trial balloon floated by an Obama official as to a ‘no-fly zone,’ that step is likely to be rejected at the G8. France insists that the use of force be authorized by the UN Security Council. Everyone knows that there will be no such UNSC resolution because of the Russian and Chinese veto.

So, fierce opposition from Vladimir Putin, and just plain opposition from Angela Merkel and Enrico Letta. Neutrality from Japan. And support for small arms exports to the rebels but little more from France. Likely the UK and Canada will support whatever Obama decides to do.

Thus, the world’s wealthiest nations, excluding China, will likely split down the middle on Obama’s plan, with Russia seeing it as virtually an act of enmity.

There is some thinking of expanding the G8 to include, e.g., China and Brazil among others. Note that both of these countries are dead set against Western intervention in Syria. The US, with its hawkish ways, is increasingly isolated

27 Responses

  1. Weapons and military related articles and services account to almost half of our total exports. This is what we do. About 700 billion dollars worth. Sad.

  2. Doesn’t sound like much isolation. Sounds like Russia is the one isolated; and rightly so. They’ve been sending weapons, both heavy and light, from the very start of the conflict. Brazil will not be included in G8. Better check their very unremarkable GDP. That, coupled with its persistent crime and poverty will effectively, if not impeded, lead to BRIC becoming RIC.

    • Isolation or something being isolated means that its actions do not propagated outside of its surrounding. Obama has the initiative and all others are reacting. Obama has Russia positioned where Russia has no good option left. Obama has even neutralized UN by mastering the waiting game and not reacting too early.

      • Really, Q? That’s what’s happened? That’s what Obama has done with his Big Brain?

        Maybe you are the “Q” from the 11th dimension, who used to drive the poor USS Enterprise crew to distraction with murderous Puckish or maybe Loki-ish tricks? Played a lot of chess there, with The Only President The World Has?

        And has it done any of us any good to resolve entire nominal national collectives down to single points, talking as if there is “A” Russia and “A” Syria and “A” US Empire?

  3. And then there is poor pitiful Sarah (of the Palin-tology preschool of thought), using a somewhat different approach, a slightly modified version of the phrase attributed to Arnaud Amalric, “Caedite eos. Novit enim Dominus qui sunt eius (Kill them all. For the Lord knoweth them that are His.):” “Both sides, they’re slaughtering each other as they scream over an arbitrary red line, ‘Allah Akbar.’ I say until we have someone who knows what they’re doing, I say, let Allah sort it out.”* And, she offers what real political solutions herself?
    This is rich considering her statement was uttered at the latest Faith and Freedom Coalition Conference which is Ralph Reed’s** newest effort to recreate something like the Christian Coalition.*** The Christian Coalition is, as we know, the now fairly defunct remnant of televangelist Pat Robertson’s effort to find his way into the Oval Office, with Reed as the founding executive director.
    Once again, the spectre of the religious crusader has arisen, seeking to assert itself as the paragon of American religious fundamentalism, striking at those seen as enemies of the Christian conceit and those who serve its overall purpose (not forgetting those to be involved in the ‘end times’). At front is Ms Palin – Sarah the Bearhearted – who serves as the pin-up for the overall movement, adding nothing more than a cosmetic (as opposed to substantive) confection for the festivities, at once harpy and siren, calling the faithful.
    As the Bearhearted one should know, the Syrian issue is a little more complex than some turf feud between families or neighbourhoods. She should know all the more well, given her “Mama Grizzly” self-portrayal, that the Russian Bear is not sitting idly by while some supernatural power makes an accounting. The terrestrial forces are the ones that count and those siding with Assad make the mathematics quite a bit more complicated.
    But, Sarah might be forgiven for this academic lapse, inasmuch as she dislikes the followers of Islam, by whom the term ‘algebra’ was coined as the “word algebra comes from the Arabic language (الجبر al-jabr “restoration”) and much of its methods from Arabic/Islamic mathematics.”

    * link to rawstory.com
    ** link to en.wikipedia.org
    *** link to en.wikipedia.org
    **** link to en.wikipedia.org

  4. Maureen Dowd’s column in the NYTs embraces former president Bill Clinton’s comments that (1) embrace the US getting involved in yet another middle eastern quagmire and (2) throws Obama under the bus to in order to distance Hillary from the president she served with such lackluster results. Bill Clinton, who took polls to see where he should vacation, now swears Obama should ignore polls that show Americans war weary.

    I suspect Obama’s Syrian policy will be more like the charlatan Sarah Palin’s take on Syria, which is, “Let Allah sort it out!”

    I’m fine with Obama kicking the can down the road. At least this way we don’t needlessly lose any young Americans with a hands off policy.

  5. France, Britain and America basically attacked Libya for no good reason and did so without the benefit of a UN mandate. Libya is now unstable and this once beautiful Country is in ruins. Britain France and America have obviously been arming terrorists in Syria, all be it by indirect means and they now intend to do it directly, as the Syrian government seems to be getting on top of the situation. In Britain, prime minister Cameron says he will allow a parliamentary vote on whether or not arm the Syrian terrorists. Its quite likely he won’t win the vote as no one hear in the UK believes for one minute the rubbish Obama came out with about the Syrian government using chemical weapons. The press here is also against any arming of terrorists by our Country and the main leader writers and columnists make no bones about the folly of such an action. It seems that Cameron and his court jester William Hague (foreign minister) are the only two people in the Country who want to start a war in Syria. As the professor rightly points out, there isn’t the slightest chance of a UN mandate for an attack on Syria regardless of how minimalist it may be. Iraq was attacked and turned into hell on the basis of a lie about weapons of mass destruction and this sad Country continues to burn ten years later. Surely America won’t attack Syria on the basis of another lie about chemical weapons. I know the public in America and Britain are quite stupid, but they can’t be so stupid as to be taken in again and support their Country in another killing spree in someone else’s Country, who are absolutely no threat to them.

    • “France, Britain and America basically attacked Libya for no good reason and did so without the benefit of a UN mandate.”

      You are woefully misinformed, Mr. Wilson. The coalition, including NATO, intervened in Libya pursuant to United Nations Security Council Resolution 1973, approved in New York on 17 March 2011. UNSC Resolution 1973 authorized military intervention and the consequent “No Fly” zone that was established.

    • Apparently, the people of Libya just don’t understand as well as you do why they were better off in their “beautiful Country” with a psychotic dictator instead of a parliamentary democracy.

    • is it wrong for the usa to arm the house of saud? because we have been arming them as long as russia/ussr have been arming syria. see how it works? the rebels are the new players, staring as the cats paw

  6. Pres. Obama made a hideous mistake when, several months ago, he said proof of chemical weapons being used would cross “red line.” Now, he’s backed himself into a corner and is a victim of violating the first rule of handling an international crisis: Don’t commit to an action until you absolutely have to.

    You can write Canada off the list of nations that will support the US: Yesterday, while on a visit to France, PM Steven Harper said arms should not be sent to the rebels, which is the first sensible statement Mr. Harper has made on anything since becoming PM in 2005 or 2006.

    • Obama did not change course because of the red line, that is just cover for his position switch. The administration could have easily continued to treat the evidence as inconclusive.

      Obama’s intentions were to cut a deal with Russia in the upcoming conference. And that remains their preferred end game – a diplomatic solution.

      The switch to arming the rebels came because Iran (partially through Hezbollah) has tipped the balance and made a diplomatic resolution impossible. And unless the administration decides to intervene more resolutely, I would say they are left adrift with no policy or influence at all. Some may say that is not so bad.

  7. We learned nothing from the Vietnam War.

    We learned nothing from the Iraq War.

    We’re still fighting the Afghan War.

    For the past 70+ years War and Weapons has been the USA’s #1 business.

    Meanwhile, our infrastructure is crumbling, the American people need renewing and JOBS, we need to invest in new technology, research, education and green energy; corporations are not paying taxes and in fact, are stashing trillions of dollars in offshore tax haven accounts. Did I mention we’re still spending hundreds of billions of dollars in Afghanistan and for what?

    We need to rebuild the USA from bottom to top—sending weapons to Syria is just more MIC folly. I’m very disappointed in President Obama who had, until now, shown great fortitude in not being swayed by the McCain-led-Senate-Neocons who want endless multi-trillion-dollar wars.

    I don’t dare list the number of countries we have invaded since WWII because it makes me sick.

    Entering into Syria is madness because this bloody war already involves too many countries, most importantly—Russia—as well as Hezbollah, Iran, Turkey, Saudi Arabia and Qatar.

    The only people U.S. wars have benefitted in this century have been War Profiteers and Government Contractors, otherwise, the American people have been bankrupted and precious U.S. soldiers and innocent civilians have died for no good reason I can see.

    This is not our fight. We have no business in Syria despite reports chemical weapons have been used. We heard that once about WMDs. As for arming the rebels in Syria—which ones?

    • Yeah, but think of all the sharholders and employees of DuPont, Dow Chemical, Colt Industries, Raytheon, Boeing, Northrop, Grumman Aerospace, Fairchild, General Dynamics, Wedtech, Bell Helicopter and all of the other defense contractors who have done very well due to the wars throughout history.

      Dupont made record profits for a U.S. corpoaration during WWI as every artillery shell fired by the American Expeditionary Force was maufactured by their workers.

      Not to mention the Krupp empire in Germany and Beretta in Italy. War equals profits.

      The Central Intelligence Agency, per the NY Times report, is supposed to be ensuring that only approved rebel groups will receive arms procured through their efforts – however once the weapons enter Syria no one can guarantee who they will be sold or otherwise re-distributed to by the “approved” rebels.

      The Syrian National Coalition has attempted to get the State Department’s terrorist designation lifted for Jabhat al-Nusra so they would apparently be unconcerned about using their connections in the Free Syrian Army to see the al-Nusra Front is well-armed.

  8. For the last more than a quarter century, UK has no foreign policy of its own.

    During bush administration, Tony Blair followed Washington like a Puppy Dog & now David Cameron will do the same.

    France, Germany & even Jamaica may say no to Washington wishes but UK will always follow like a poodle.

    Washington is upset on Russian support to Syria, has Whitehouse ever refused its support to Israel. Washington has used veto on the assumptions that language is too harsh to criticize Israel.

    Washington should look its own deeds before objecting China & Russia on their policy on Syria. However, I feel sorry for all the innocent people being killed in Syria by whomever.

  9. No matter what decisions are made by the people with real and consequential power there will inevitably be little, if any, concern for the innocent and powerless people who will suffer the consequences.

  10. Um, when you have half of the world’s wealthiest nations on your side, you are not “isolated.”

    Isolated means the opposite of “having a large coalition of supporters.”

  11. Small arms will change nothing. More serious armaments will be very hard to move and implement, and will still probably not change much; a more intrenched status quo, I suppose.

    The Obama administration’s declaration that Assad’s use of chemical weapons is horribly reminiscent of another recent trumped up cassus belli. The U.S. should restrain itself as much as it can from intervening militarily. What is good for everyone is the pursuit of some political solution, even if that means Assad remains.

    Let us not let this disaster spin further out of control. The dangers of sectarian violence–evident in Iraq daily (thanks to the overthrow of Saddam), in Tripoli, in Bahrain and of course in Syria–are much too dangerous to let them take their course on their own. A wise world power would do everything in its power to ease tensions, not increase them.

  12. Isn’t that always the way it has always been?

    Were American Indians consulted before the “Trail of Tears” was imposed on them?

    Were the Palestinian families living in refugee camps since 1948 ever asked about how they felt about giving up their land to recent Jewish immigrants from post-war Europe?

    My opinion all along is that the Syrian Civil War is fueled not out of concern for human rights violations by the Assad regime – but rather political opportunism of the U.S. and Israelis to rid themselves of a Russian naval installation at Tartus and disrupting the supply line from Iran to Lebanon as to Hezbollah. The Syrian opposition are merely pawns of superpowers in international politics, and are heavily reliant on foreign aid to survive against Assad’s modern armed forces.

    What is the West doing to help Syrian refugees in Turkey, Iraq, and Jordan?

    What are they doing to contain Jabhat al-Nusra – who have been engaged in terrorist acts against Shi’ites and others?

    America’s good faith shall be judged by the level of its humanitarian aid rendered to the Syrian populace.

    • A Russian naval base at Tartus is completely insignificant to the United States. In terms of US/Russian competition, there seems to be a one-sided Cold War going on. Checking the United States remains a top-tier goal of the Russians, while checking Russia is just not very important to the US. We certainly have regional interests driving this, including opposition to Iran, but talking about this episode as an American-Russian conflict is like talking about a Yankees-Blue Jays rivalry in the AL East: only the Blue Jays think there’s one.

      To answer your question about aid: the US has committed about half a billion dollars to refugee assistance so far.

      To answer your question about the Nusra Front – the US has been trying, with varying degrees of success, to steer the arms coming from the Gulf states away from them and towards more moderate, democratic factions of the rebellion: link to nytimes.com

  13. Meeting near a golf course Dublin Ireland?

    No- the meeting is taking place in Co. Fermanagh- a long way from Dublin and in fact in the Six Counties that is in the UK.

  14. Joe from Lowell: do you have any real evidence for the claim:

    “the US has been trying, with varying degrees of success, to steer the arms coming from the Gulf states away from them [al-Nusra Front] and towards more moderate, democratic factions of the rebellion”

    The US government has never shown any ability to distinguish amongst various players in any foreign situation, beyond black and white, with us or against us. The qualifiers “more moderate, democratic” are American short-hand for our temporary (supposed) allies. They do not correspond in the Syrian civil war to meaningful categories of analysis, much less the creation of policy. Sending arms of any type to any Syrian faction (and this goes for you too Russia) will only lead to a prolongation of violence, more bloodshed and more refugees.

    The dangers here are very real, beyond the (very large numbers of) individual victims. If world powers do not act now to search in earnest for a political resolution, I fear the Lebanese civil war will pale in contrast.

    • Now that I think about it, the Lebanese civil war already does pale in comparison. Message to Jordan, Iraq, Lebanon and Turkey: be prepared to host many more hundreds of thousands. And, of course if Israel were a more welcoming neighbor, they could host a few ten thousands too (cough, cough).

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