Syria, US elections and collateral damage

The threats of reprisal on the part of Ankara and the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO), renewed the debate about the possibility of a direct or indirect military action by the United States and its allies against the government in Damascus. Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan said that the downing of a Turkish military aircraft over Syrian territory was a deliberate act, that any approximation of military force used by Damascus is perceived as a threat and that necessary measures should be taken. European media outlets mentioned that Turkish military armored units moved to border areas with the neighboring Arab country.

Prensa Latina

Anders Fogh Rasmussen, secretary general of NATO, supported the position of Ankara, and described the shootdown as a completely unacceptable measure.

President Barack Obama, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, Defense Secretary Leon Panetta, and other officials have claimed in recent weeks the possibility of a direct or indirect military action against the government of Syria.

The Republican senator from Arizona, John McCain, a former Republican candidate, predicted, on several occasions this year, a U.S. military intervention in that Arab country, which some experts interpret as the feelings of the most reactionary sectors of Washington policy.

The White House accuses Damascus of carrying out repressive measures against the civilian population and, for over a year, has increased penalties and has perpetrated all kinds of subversive actions against President Bashar Al-Assad.

According to experts, the main concern of Washington is Syrian traditional policy of support for the Palestinians and of rejecting the role of Israel in the Middle East region.

Media outlets in recent days have confirmed that the Pentagon has already completed its contingency plans for such an operation, which would have the support of its European and Arab allies.

The military command increased its espionage activities with the use of so-called drones, or unmanned aircraft, and satellites.

In Washington, experts believe that the supply of arms to the opposition is the best and less risky tactic in order to overthrow the government of President Al-Assad.

According to the New York Times, a group of officers of the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) have been working for several weeks in southern Turkey - which shares an 800 kilometer border with Syria - for the delivery of weapons and information to terrorist groups against the Damascus government.

The meeting states that the weapons are paid for by the governments in Ankara, Saudi Arabia and Qatar, including automatic rifles, grenade launchers, antitank weapons and ammunition, and that they reach Syrian territory mainly through Turkey.

The mission of the CIA is most obvious: clear and comprehensive support from Washington to the terrorist military campaign against President Al-Assad and an attempt to increase pressure against Damascus, the New York newspaper recognizes.

Other aggressive options against Syria that seem dormant are the imposition of a no-fly zone and a partial or total sea blockade, illegal actions that do not correspond, at least for the time being, with the mandate of the United Nations.

Experts note the possibility that the United States and its allies may carry out strikes against selected targets on Syrian territory, with aviation and naval forces located in the region, as the means of attack.

Press releases confirm that U.S. agents operated directly in the field in an attempt to get some of the heads of the main Syrian military units to abandon their posts and to rebel against the government.

In this context, Russia's position is a clear obstacle to the war plans of the White House.

The daily Washington Post and the New York Times coincide in highlighting the environment of frustration felt after the interview of Russian President, Vladimir Putin, and his U.S. counterpart, Barack Obama, at the Summit of the G-20.

Apparently, Obama emphasized that the departure of President al-Assad's government is the only way to resolve the crisis.

In the middle of the election campaign in the United States, the so-called great American press recognizes that it is very difficult for the White House to accurately assess the extent to which direct or indirect military actiona would turn out to be favorable.

One of the issues to be considered, both in Washington and in European capitals, to carry out a military action against Syria, would be the level of domestic support for such a measure.

According to the latest CNN survey, only 33% of Americans support a military intervention by Washington against the government of Al-Assad.

The English newspaper the Guardian reported that 52% of the French and 65% of the Spaniards support a possible intervention. In Germany and Italy, approval reaches 45% and 43%, respectively.

Military experts indicate that the preliminary assessments of the Pentagon and CIA suggest that a prolonged campaign would be a complicated mission.  It would cause many civilian casualties, with "collateral damage" that would have a high level of deaths and a considerable political cost to the attackers / aggressors.

The next presidential elections in November and the fears of American public opinion turning against the uncertain outcome of a new military confrontation, are factors that hinder a political decision to intervene militarily in Syria.

Because of all the elements involved in the process of decision making in the White House, the pros and cons would have to be weighed for a military operation of this size and to prevent, from a political point of view, President Obama himself as among the list of victims of so-called collateral damage.

Translated from the Portuguese version by:

Lisa Karpova


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Author`s name Timothy Bancroft-Hinchey