Justifying the Unjustifiable: US Uses Past Crimes to Legalize Future Ones

Diana Johnstone
Ron Paul Institute
August 26, 2013

The liberal warhawks are groping around for a pretext they can call “legal” for waging war against Syria, and have come up with the 1999 “Kosovo war”.

natokillers

This is not surprising insofar as a primary purpose of that US/NATO 78-day bombing spree was always to set a precedent for more such wars.  The pretext of “saving the Kosovars” from an imaginary “genocide” was as false as the “weapons of mass destruction” pretext for war against Iraq, but the fakery has been much more successful with the general public.  Therefore Kosovo retains its usefulness in the propaganda arsenal.

On August 24, the New York Times reported that President Obama’s national security aides are “studying the NATO air war in Kosovo as a possible blueprint for acting without a mandate from the United Nations.” (By the way, the “air war” was not “in Kosovo”, but struck the whole of what was then Yugoslavia, mostly destroying Serbia’s civilian infrastructure and also spreading destruction in Montenegro.)

On Friday, Obama admitted that going in and attacking another country “without a U.N. mandate and without clear evidence” raised questions in terms of international law.

According to the New York Times, “Kosovo is an obvious precedent for Mr. Obama because, as in Syria, civilians were killed and Russia had longstanding ties to the government authorities accused of the abuses. In 1999, President Bill Clinton used the endorsement of NATO and the rationale of protecting a vulnerable population to justify 78 days of airstrikes.”

“It’s a step too far to say we’re drawing up legal justifications for an action, given that the president hasn’t made a decision,” said a senior administration official, who spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss the deliberations.  “But Kosovo, of course, is a precedent of something that is perhaps similar.”

Ivo H. Daalder, a former United States ambassador to NATO, suggests that the administration could argue that the use of chemical weapons in Syria amounts to a grave humanitarian emergency, just as the Clinton administration argued in 1999 that “a grave humanitarian emergency” presented the “international community” with “the responsibility to act”.

This amounts to creative legality worthy of the planet’s number one Rogue State.

An Illegal War as Precedent for More War

The US/NATO war against Yugoslavia, which used unilateral force to break up a sovereign state, detaching the historic Serbian province of Kosovo and transforming it into a US satellite, was clearly in violation of international law.

In May 2000, the distinguished British authority on international law, Sir Ian Brownlie (1936-2010), presented a 16,000-word Memorandum, evaluating the war’s legal status for the Select Committee on Foreign Affairs of the British Parliament.

Brownlie recalled that key provisions of the United Nations Charter state quite clearly that “All Members shall refrain in their international relations from the threat or use of force against the territorial integrity or political independence of any State, or in any other manner inconsistent with the Purposes of the United Nations.”

Brownlie added that the alleged right to use force for humanitarian purposes was not compatible with the UN Charter.

During the past decade, the Western powers have invented and promoted a theoretical “right to protect” (R2P) in an effort to get around the UN Charter in order to clear the way for wars whose final purpose is regime change. The use of R2P to overthrow Gaddafi in Libya gave the game away, ensuring Russian and Chinese opposition for any further such manoeuvre in the UN Security Council.

Concerning the Kosovo war, in his Memorandum Professor Brownlie reached the following major conclusions:

– The primary justification for the bombing of Yugoslavia was always the imposition of the NATO plans for the future of Kosovo. It was in this context that the bombing campaign was planned in August 1998.

-The threats of massive air strikes were made in the same context and were first made public in October 1998. Neither the purpose of the planned air strikes nor their implementation related to events on the ground in Kosovo in March 1999.

–  The cause of the air strikes was quite simple: given that Yugoslavia had not given in to threats, the threats had to be carried out.

–  The legal basis of the action, as presented by the United Kingdom and other NATO States, was at no stage adequately articulated.

–  Humanitarian intervention, the justification belatedly advanced by the NATO States, has no place either in the United Nations Charter or in customary international law.

– If the view had been held that the Permanent Members of the Security Council would recognise the need for humanitarian action, then no doubt a resolution would have been sought.

– The intentions of the United States and the United Kingdom included the removal of the Government of Yugoslavia. It is impossible to reconcile such purposes with humanitarian intervention.

– The claim to be acting on humanitarian grounds appears difficult to reconcile with the disproportionate amount of violence involved in the use of heavy ordnance and missiles. The weapons had extensive blast effects and the missiles had an incendiary element. A high proportion of targets were in towns and cities. Many of the victims were women and children. After seven weeks of the bombing at least 1,200 civilians had been killed and 4,500 injured.

–  In spite of the references to the need for a peaceful solution to be found in Security Council Resolutions, the public statements of Mrs Albright, Mr Cook, Mr Holbrooke, and others, and the reiterated threats of massive air strikes, make it very clear that no ordinary diplomacy was envisaged.

The “Kosovo treatment”

As a final synopsis, Brownlie wrote a prophetic note on future use of “the Kosovo treatment”:

The writer has contacts with a great number of diplomats and lawyers of different nationalities. The reaction to the NATO bombing campaign outside Europe and North America has been generally hostile. Most States have problems of separatism and could, on a selective basis, be the objects of Western ‘crisis management’. The selection of crises for the ‘Kosovo’ treatment will depend upon the geopolitical and collateral agenda. It is on this basis, and not a humanitarian agenda, that Yugoslavia is marked out for fragmentation on a racial basis, whilst Russia and Indonesia are not.

He added: “Forcible intervention to serve humanitarian objectives is a claim which is only open to powerful States to make against the less powerful. The fate of Yugoslavia will have caused considerable damage to the cause of non-proliferation of weapons of mass destruction.”

The Brownlie Memorandum to the British Parliament is the most thorough assessment of the legal status of the Kosovo War.  It is quite remarkable that the liberal warhawks around Obama talk of using that war as a “legal precedent” for a new war against Syria.

This amounts to saying that a crime committed once becomes a “precedent” to justify the crime being committed the next time.

How Many Times Can You Fool Most of the People?

If understood correctly, the Kosovo war was indeed a precedent that should act as a warning signal.

How many times can the United States use a false alarm to start an aggressive war?  Non-existent “genocide” in Kosovo and Libya, non-existent weapons of mass destruction in Iraq, and now what looks to much of the world like a “false flag” chemical weapons attack in Syria.

The United States habitually announces the presence of a desired casus belli, dismissing demands for concrete evidence.

In Kosovo, the United States obtained withdrawal of international observers who could have testified whether or not there was evidence of “genocide” of Kosovars.  The accusations escalated during the war, and when, afterwards, no evidence of such mass murder was found, the matter was forgotten.

In Iraq, there was never any proof of WMD, but the US went ahead and invaded.

In Libya, the pretext for war was a misquoted statement of Gaddafi threatening a “massacre of civilians” in Benghazi.  This was exposed as a fake, but again, NATO bombed, the regime was toppled, and the pretext falls into oblivion.

Sunday, just as the Syrian government announced readiness to allow international inspectors to investigate allegations of chemical weapons use, the White House responded, “too late!”

A senior Obama administration official demanding anonymity (one can reasonably guess the official was Obama’s hawkish National Security Advisor Susan Rice) issued a statement claiming that there was “very little doubt” that President Bashar al-Assad’s military forces had used chemical weapons against civilians and that a promise to allow United Nations inspectors access to the site was “too late to be credible.”

In the world beyond the beltway, there is a great deal of doubt – especially about the credibility of the United States government when it comes to finding pretexts to go to war.  Moreover, setting “chemical weapons” as a “red line” obliging the US to go to war is totally arbitrary.  There are many ways of killing people in a civil war.  Selecting one as a trigger for US intervention serves primarily to give rebels an excellent reason to carry out a “false flag” operation that will bring NATO into the war they are losing.

Who really wants or needs US intervention?  The American people?  What good will it do them to get involved in yet another endless Middle East war?

But who has influence on Obama?  The American people?  Or is it rather “our staunchest ally”, who is most concerned about rearranging the Middle East neighborhood?

“This situation must not be allowed to continue,” Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said, expressing remarkable concern for Syrian civilians “who were so brutally attacked by weapons of mass destruction.”

“The most dangerous regimes in the world must not be allowed to possess the most dangerous weapons in the world,” Netanyahu added.

Incidentally, polls have been taken showing that for much of the world, the most dangerous regime in the world is Israel, which is allowed to possess the most dangerous weapons – nuclear weapons.  But there is no chance that Israel will ever get “the Kosovo treatment”.

Syria, Iran issue first explicit warning to Israel if US attacks

‘We have strategic weapons and we’re capable of responding,’ says official in Damscus; Russia: West has no proof of chemical attack

By STUART WINER and AP August 26, 2013, 5:47 pm

  • A screen capture from a video purporting to show the Syrian Army firing a Scud missile (image capture: YouTube)

    A screen capture from a video purporting to show the Syrian Army firing a Scud missile (image capture: YouTube)

    A senior Syrian official on Monday issued a first direct warning that if attacked, his country would retaliate against Israel. Khalaf Muftah, a senior Baath Party official who used to serve as Syria’s assistant information minister, said in a radio interview that Damascus would consider Israel “behind the [Western] aggression and [it] will therefore come under fire.”

    “We have strategic weapons and we’re capable of responding,” he said. “Normally the strategic weapons are aimed at Israel.”

    Muftah concluded with a warning that “If the US or Israel make the mistake of taking advantage of the chemical issue… the region will go up in flames… that will affect security not only in the region but across the world.”

    His words were echoed by Iranian officials, who on Monday shrugged off the threat of a US attack on its close ally Syria, but said that if such a strike were to take place, Israel would suffer.

    “[The Americans] are incapable of starting a new war in the region, because of their lacking economic capabilities and their lack of morale,” said Mohammad Reza Naqdi, the commander of the Republican Guards’ elite Basij force.

    “No military attack will be waged against Syria,” said Hossein Sheikholeslam, a member of Iran’s Islamic Consultative Assembly. “Yet, if such an incident takes place, which is impossible, the Zionist regime will be the first victim of a military attack on Syria.”

    Israeli military officials have indicated they believe it unlikely that Syria would target Israel if the US or others intervened, but Israel has reportedly been taking security precautions just in case.

    “Our hand is always on the pulse,” Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said Sunday. “Our finger is a responsible one and if needed, is on the trigger. We will always know how to protect our citizens and our country against those who come to injure us or try to attack us.”

    The Syrian and Iranian statements Monday came as Britain reportedly pushed for US action on Syria in the wake of a horrific alleged chemical weapons attack on civilians outside Damascus. According to a reportfrom the Times of London, British Prime Minister David Cameron wants a strike in the coming days while outrage over the alleged attack is still fresh. British Foreign Minister William Hague said in an interview with the BBC on Monday that action could be taken even without the full support of the UN Security Council.

    Meanwhile, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said that Western nations calling for military action against Syria have no proof the Syrian government is behind the alleged chemical weapons attack.

    France, Britain, Israel and some US congressmen have said military action against Syrian President Bashar Assad’s regime should be an option if it has used such weapons. A UN team is on the ground investigating the August 21 attack that left hundreds dead.

    Lavrov said in a news conference that the countries calling for action have assumed the role of “both investigators and the UN Security Council” in probing the incident.

    Mohammad Reza Naqdi, commander of Iran's Basij force (screen capture: Youtube/PresTVGlobalNews)

    Mohammad Reza Naqdi, commander of Iran’s Basij force (screen capture: Youtube/PresTVGlobalNews)

    “They cannot produce evidence, but keep on saying that the ‘red line’ has been crossed and they cannot wait any longer,” he said.

    Lavrov likened the situation in Syria to the run-up before the 2003 military operation in Iraq. He warned against military intervention in Syria, saying “the use of force without a sanction of the UN Security Council is a crude violation of the international law.”

    Russia’s foreign policy chief also blamed the Syrian opposition for manipulating reports of the attack in order to derail a peace conference on Syria. Lavrov said Russian and US experts were days away from meeting up to arrange a peace conference in Geneva on Syria.

    “This hysteria will definitely work against this meeting,” he said.

    In Syria, a UN vehicle belonging to a team investigating the alleged use of chemical weapons in Damascus was shot at by snipers Monday as experts were moving to investigate the incident, which left hundreds dead.

    “I don’t have any doubts that it will be said that the firing came from the other side. But all this is moving in one direction and doesn’t inspire optimism,” Lavrov said.

    Syrian Rebels Behind Sniper Attack on UN Inspectors?

    Opposition militants previously kidnapped multiple UN peacekeepers

    Paul Joseph Watson
    Infowars.com
    August 26, 2013

    Given their treatment of UN peacekeepers in the past, today’s sniper attack in Syria which targeted UN chemical weapons inspectors was likely carried out by opposition militants – yet another reminder that the US and Britain are about to launch military attacks that will aid terrorists.

    “Unidentified snipers have opened fire on a convoy of UN experts investigating suspected chemical weapons attacks in Syria’s capital,”reports BBC News, adding that a vehicle was shot at “multiple times” before being forced to turn back, despite being clearly marked with the UN’s familiar black on white lettering.

    The attack delayed the inspectors and meant they were only able to visit the affected sites for half an hour rather than the planned four hours.

    Given the fact that rebel militants have displayed hostility when encountering UN workers in the past, the culprits behind the attack are almost certainly fighting on the side of the FSA.

    Back in March, rebels kidnapped 21 UN peacekeepers and commandeered their vehicles on the Golan Heights and demanded Bashar Al-Assad remove forces form a nearby town before they were returned safely. The kidnapping was swiftly condemned by the UN Security Council and cited by the Toronto Star as an incident that “raised serious questions about the country’s future if Bashar Assad is ousted.”

    The same rebel brigade repeated the stunt when they kidnapped a further four UN soldiers in May.

    Rebel snipers have also gunned down numerous journalists over the course of the 18 month conflict.

    Why rebels would want to intimidate UN inspectors and prevent them from ascertaining the truth behind last week’s attack is up for debate, but since it already appears that US and Britain have made the decision to launch cruise missile attacks in aid of the rebels, any deviation from the current narrative would be counterproductive for opposition forces.

    It would make little sense for the sniper attack to have been carried out by Bashar Al-Assad’s forces given the fact that Assad invited the inspectors to enter the country in the first place. The UN has made it clear that the inspectors are not even in Syria to discover who was behind the last week’s incident, merely toconfirm that it was a chemical weapons attack.

    The last time UN inspectors assessed claims of chemical weapons use, they concluded that it was likely the rebels had launched the attacks, a finding that would not be welcomed a second time by either FSA militants or NATO powers.

    The Syrian opposition has now canceled its participation in upcoming peace talks as a result of the alleged chemical weapons attack, another sign that the FSA has no interest in a political solution that would end the violence and is instead hanging on for western military support that would grease the skids for a bloody overthrow of the current government.

    Watch the video below, which shows FSA rebels operating a sniper gun via remote control.

    Reports: U.S.-led Rebels Sent into Syria Before Chemical Attack

    Alex Newman
    thenewamerican.com
    August 26, 2013

    syriamap

    Two reports in recent days have suggested that establishment-backed Syrian “rebel” forces trained and led by American, Israeli, and Jordanian commanders entered Syria and began pushing toward the capital city of Damascus this month. According to sources cited in the international reports, the foreign-led opposition fighters began the latest offensive in mid-August, prior to the reported chemical-weapon attack in the Ghouta region of Syria widely said to have claimed hundreds of civilian lives so far.

    Sources seeking to blame the Bashar al-Assad regime for the August 21 massacre have seized on the reports to claim that the dictator, despite repeated vows not to use weapons of mass destruction absent a foreign invasion, resorted to such desperate measures to beat back the latest offensive. Those suggesting the attack was a so-called “false-flag operation” perpetrated by opposition fighters to blame on the regime, meanwhile, have pointed to the news as yet another indicator that the rebels were indeed responsible for deploying the chemical weapons.

    According to a report dated August 21 by DEBKAfile, an Israeli intelligence and analysis service, the first contingent of 250 foreign-trained “rebel” fighters entered Syria from Jordan on August 17 under foreign command. The opposition fighters were trained in “special operations tactics” by U.S. and Jordanian instructors and armed with Russian-made weapons supplied by the Obama administration and the Islamist rulers of Saudi Arabia, the report continued. “They are fighting under U.S. and Jordanian commanders based in the Hashemite Kingdom,” DEBKAfile reported referring to Jordan, adding that additional rebel fighters were standing by ready to be deployed.

    “According to our military sources, the rebel units are advancing at speed along the Syrian-Israeli border. They have forced the Syrian brigades posted there into retreating from positions inside a strip of 1-25 kilometers from the border, and captured the villages of Raihaniya, Breiqa and Beer Ajam,” the Israeli service reported, saying that the rebels were trying to create a “buffer zone” inside Syrian territory. “This Jordan-based rebel offensive was launched shortly after Gen. Martin Dempsey, Chairman of the Joint U.S. Chiefs of Staff, visited U.S. forces in Jordan and inaugurated the underground U.S. war room near [the Jordanian capital] Amman for commanding the operation in Syria.”

    The other major report about the foreign-run rebel operation, published on August 22 by Le Figaro, a leading French newspaper, also cited “military sources” reporting that two groups of guerilla fighters trained and led by the U.S., Israeli, and Jordanian governments, crossed the border from Jordan into Syria. According to the article, the first 300 rebels crossed on August 17 in the Deraa region, with the second contingent following two days later. Hundreds of fighters from the so-called “Free Syrian Army,” trained and supervised by the CIA and other foreign intelligence services, are reportedly involved in the scheme, the paper reported. The FSA is one of the many “rebel” forces operating in Syria — more than a few of which have openly declared their allegiance to al Qaeda and other Islamic terror groups.

    Turkey-based representative Khalid Hodja, speaking for an umbrella organization composed of some of the myriad rebel factions operating in Syria and known as the “Syrian National Coalition for Opposition and Revolutionary Forces” (SNC), promptly denied the two reports, claiming they were designed to raise suspicion about advances made by opposition forces. “The news report says the U.S. and Israel formed special groups made up of volunteers to prevent Syrian radical groups from having control over sophisticated weapons. This claim has no logical consistency,” he was quoted as saying by World Bulletin. “The mentioned areas are under the control of the Free Syrian Army, Syrian Islamic Front and Syrian Islamic Liberation Front. Such operations claimed by the newspaper are out of the question.”

    According to the Istanbul-based news service, Hodja blasted what he called a “show of cheap heroism” by the West. “These claims aim to spread the idea that the West is the savior of Syrian people,” the SNC representative was quoted as saying, adding that cooperation with Israeli authorities by Muslim rebel fighters was out of the question. “If the West was sincere, it would allow the arming of the opposition,” he added.

    Of course, as The New American and countless other media outlets have documented for well over a year, Western governments and Sunni Arab despots have been arming, funding, and training the opposition. The U.S. government has actually been supporting the opposition with millions of taxpayer dollars since long before open conflict erupted in Syria, according to official documents released by WikiLeaks.

    As The New American has also been reporting for a year, the Obama administration set up camp in Jordan close to the Syrian border to train rebel fighters in the use of advanced military weapons and tactics. U.S. personnel are also in Turkey engaged in similar operations. Meanwhile, there are still hundreds of American troops all along Syria’s borders, as well as Patriot missiles, fighter jets, and other military equipment. With the latest allegations about chemical weapons, the usual chorus of interventionists has become increasingly vocal in demanding that Obama launch a full-blown military assault on Syria.

    Suggesting CIA personnel were on the ground in Syria working alongside rebel forces, Le Figaro claimed that the operation may have been among the reasons for Assad’s alleged deployment of chemical weapons last week. However, as The New American reported, numerous independent experts and even foreign governments have expressed skepticism over claims that the regime was responsible for the attack — especially considering the fact that United Nations inspectors recently arrived in Syria. For now, what really happened remains unclear, but rebels have been caught perpetrating atrocities and blaming them on the regime on more than a few occasions.

    There has not yet been any official confirmation by the U.S., Israeli, or Jordanian governments about the reported incursion by foreign-led fighters into Syria. Still, the two reports promptly made headlines around the world, with various governments and analysts citing the allegations to support widely divergent views about what happened on August 21 outside of Damascus.

    Western governments have argued that “evidence” points to the Assad regime being responsible for the attack, with U.S. officials cited in news reports even claiming recently that they were almost certain the Syrian dictatorship was behind the attack. An unnamed “senior Obama administration official” wasquoted saying that, “based on the reported number of victims, reported symptoms of those who were killed or injured, witness accounts and other facts gathered by open sources, the U.S. intelligence community, and international partners, there is very little doubt at this point that a chemical weapon was used by the Syrian regime against civilians in this incident.”

    Separately, top officials have indicated publicly that American forces are ready to intervene in Syria if Obama gives the order — apparently offering further evidence that the administration is under the mistaken belief that it can start a war without permission from Congress, which is required under the U.S. Constitution. “The Defense Department has a responsibility to provide the president with options for all contingencies,” said U.S. Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel. “That requires positioning our forces, positioning our assets to be able to carry out different options, whatever option the president may choose.”

    On the other side, more than a few experts and multiple governments, including authorities from Russia, have suggested that the chemical-weapons attack may have been a “false flag” carried out by rebel forces as UN inspectors were arriving in the country — presumably to provide a justification for overt foreign intervention in the conflict by Western and Sunni powers seeking regime change. “All of this really looks like an attempt, at any cost, to create a reason to produce demands for the U.N. Security Council to side with the regime’s opponents and undermine the chances of convening the Geneva conference,” declared Russian Foreign Ministry spokesman Alexander Lukashevi in a widely quoted statement. Officials from the Communist dictatorship ruling mainland China expressed similar concerns.

    While the two most recent reports about foreign-led “rebels” entering Syria have not been officially confirmed, the news, if true, should hardly be surprising to anyone following the conflict closely. Despite the well-documented fact that the “rebels” are almost exclusively foreign-backed jihadists seeking to overthrow Assad’s secular dictatorship — the most effective opposition force even officially became a branch of al-Qaeda in April — the “regime change” effort has been nurtured by Western powers and Sunni despots for years. Regardless of the facts, it appears to analysts as though a wider war is fast approaching.

    Alex Newman, a foreign correspondent for The New American, is normally based in Europe. He can be reached at anewman@thenewamerican.com.

    Assad: Accusations that Syria used chemical weapon ‘against logic’

    RT
    August 26, 2013

    Syrian leader Bashar Assad has stressed that the claims of his government using chemical weapons made by Western countries are “an insult to common sense” and “nonsense,” in an interview to Russia’s Izvestia newspaper.

    Credit: Fabio Rodrigues Pozzebom

    Bashar al-Assad
    Credit: Fabio Rodrigues Pozzebom

    “The statements made by the politicians in the USA and in other Western countries represent an insult to common sense and neglect of the public opinion of citizens in those countries. It’s nonsense: first, they bring charges, and then they collect evidence. And it’s one of the most powerful countries that does it – the US. They accused us on Wednesday, and in only two days the American leadership announces they started to collect the evidence.… They accuse our army of using chemical weapons in the area that’s reportedly controlled by the terrorists. In fact, there is no precise front line between the army and the insurgents in that area. And how can a government use chemical weapons – or any other weapons of mass destruction – in the area where government troops are concentrated? This is against elementary logic.”

    The Syrian leader also indicated that not only the accusations stopped making sense, but the whole Western “peacemaking” plan in Syria has run amok: the Us and its allies have attempted to launch the mission, but failed to convince Russia and China to vote for it.

    “They have failed to convince their peoples and the rest of the world that the policy, which they carry out in the Middle East, is smart and effective. Moreover, it appears that the situation here is different compared to the one in Egypt and Tunisia.”

    “One and the same plot of the Arabic revolutions is no longer convincing. They may launch any kind of war but they don’t know how long it would last and how much of a territory it would cover. They have realized that their plot has gone out of control.”

    The main cause of the continuing conflict, the Syrian leader pointed out, is the influx of tens of thousands of foreign insurgents that arrive in Syria every month and kill innocent people. What’s more, the terrorists are provided with money and weapons from abroad. And, according to Assad, world leaders don’t understand the dangers that terrorism may entail – despite past experience.

    “Nowadays there are many politicians, although very few leaders, among the heads of states. The point is that they don’t know history and don’t learn its lessons. Some of them forget even the recent past. Have they learnt the lessons of past 50 years? Have they even glanced through the documents of their predecessors who failed in all wars they started since Vietnam? Have they realized those wars brought about nothing but havoc and instability in the Middle East and in other regions? To those politicians I would like to explain that terrorism isn’t a bargaining chip to pull out and use anytime one wants, and then put back. Terrorism, as a scorpion, can bite anytime. You can’t be for the terrorism in Syria and against it in Mali.”

    However, Russia’s aid helps to improve at least the economic situation in the conflict-torn country, Assad indicated, not revealing any particular details though.

    “I want to say that all contracts that have been concluded with Russia are being fulfilled. And no crisis or pressure from the US, Europe and the Gulf states interfered with the deliveries. Russia provides for Syria the things that are necessary for its protection, and the protection of its people. And the things Russia delivers to Syria according to our military contracts will undeniably lead to the improvement of the Syrian economy.”

    Senators: Bombing Syria “Responsibility of Civilized Nations Everywhere”

    Kurt Nimmo
    Infowars.com
    August 26, 2013

    Republican neocons made the rounds on Sunday, demanding the Obama administration take military action against Syria for an alleged chemical attack in Damascus last week.

    Sen. Corker calls for “surgical” strikes in Syria.

    Despite a lack of evidence, Sen. Bob Corker, Tennessee Republican and ranking member of the Foreign Relations Committee, told Fox News the United States must assume a “leadership” role in an attack. “This was not contrived,” Croker said about doubts the Syrian government is responsible for the unsubstantiated attack. “And, obviously, the world is a better place when the United States takes leadership.”

    U.S. “leadership” in the illegal war against Libya resulted in at least 30,000 people killed and 50,000 wounded.

    Corker said the U.S. must conduct “surgical” attacks but stopped short of sending troops to defeat Bashar al-Assad and his military.

    Republican senators John McCain of Arizona and Lindsey Graham of South Carolina said there is “very little doubt” that Syria used a chemical weapons against civilians, an assertion lacking any credible evidence, and said it is “the responsibility of civilized nations everywhere” to bomb and terrorize the people of Syria.

    McCain and Graham called for an intense bombing campaign. “Using stand-off weapons, without boots on the ground, and at minimal risk to our men and women in uniform, we can significantly degrade Assad’s air power and ballistic missile capabilities and help to establish and defend safe areas on the ground,” the neocon dynamic duo said in a joint statement. “In addition, we must begin a large-scale effort to train and equip moderate, vetted elements of the Syrian opposition with the game-changing weapons they need to shift the military balance against Assad’s forces.”

    In fact, “moderate, vetted elements of the Syrian opposition” are rare, if not virtually nonexistent. “Nowhere in rebel-controlled Syria is there a secular fighting force to speak of,” the New York Timesreported in April.

    Former Secretary of State Colin Powell, responsible for lending a hand in the neocon mass murder campaign in Iraq under similar dubious pretense, told CBS on Sunday he is uncertain there is such a thing as a “moderate, vetted” secular opposition in Syria.

    “I have no affection for Mr. Assad. I’ve dealt with him. I know him. And he is a pathological liar with respect to my interaction with him,” the retired general said. “But at the same time, I am less sure of the resistance. What do they represent? And is it becoming even more radicalized with more al-Qaeda coming in?”

    Top Dem: We Will Ignore Congress on Syria Attack

    Rep. Eliot Engel calls for cruise missile assault

    Paul Joseph Watson
    Infowars.com
    August 26, 2013

    Calling on President Obama to launch a cruise missile attack on Syria, Rep. Eliot Engel, D-N.Y., the top Democrat on the House Foreign Relations Committee, told Fox News that Congress would not be consulted on the move and that lawmakers would have to “assent” to it at a later date.

    Appearing on Fox News Sunday with Chris Wallace, Engel disagreed with his counterpart Sen. Bob Corker, R-Tenn., who said Obama should seek Congressional authorization before any military action.

    “I do agree with Senator Corker that I think Congress needs to be involved, but perhaps not initially,” said Engel, adding, “Perhaps the president could start and then Congress needs to resolve it an–and assent to it.”

    In other words, Engel wants Obama to launch the attack on Syria with complete disregard for the War Powers Resolution, which states that military action must be preceded by Congressional approval, and then only use Congress later as a rubber stamp.

    “I certainly would do cruise missile strikes,” added Engel, throwing his support behind military intervention that would likely see rebel fighters who are being led by Al-Qaeda terrorists seize power.

    Engel’s rhetoric is identical to that which surrounded the military attack on Libya, which was also green lighted without Congressional approval after the Obama administration ludicrously termed the assault a “kinetic military action.”

    When Obama faced criticism from Congress over the 2011 attack, he churlishly dismissed the issue, remarking, “I don’t even have to get to the Constitutional question,” before claiming that his authority came from NATO and the UN.

    According to Congressman Walter Jones, this amounted to “an impeachable high crime and misdemeanor under article II, section 4 of the Constitution.”

    Passed after the Vietnam War, the War Powers Resolution states that the President’s powers as commander-in-chief should be “exercised only pursuant to a declaration of war, specific statutory authorization from Congress, or a national emergency created by an attack upon the United States.”

    Following last week’s alleged chemical weapons attack near Damascus, the United States and Britain have begun to make preparations for cruise missile attacks on Syria that are expected to take place within days, despite Bashar Al-Assad’s government agreeing to a United Nations-led inspection of the areas where the incident occurred.

    15 Signs That Obama Has Already Made The Decision To Go To War With Syria

    Michael Snyder
    Economic Collapse
    August 26, 2013

    The Obama administration seems absolutely determined to help radical Islamic jihadists that havebeheaded Christians, that have massacred entire Christian villages, and that have pledged loyalty to al-Qaeda topple the Assad regime and take over Syria.

    Public domain

    Public domain

    Yes, the Assad regime is horrible, but if these jihadist lunatics take control it will destabilize the entire region, make the prospect of a major regional war much more probable, and plunge the entire nation of Syria into a complete and utter nightmare.  It has been estimated that somewhere around 100,000 people have already been killed in the civil war in Syria, and now it looks like the U.S. military and the rest of NATO plan to become directly involved in the conflict.  The Obama administration is actually considering an attack on Syria even though the American people are overwhelmingly against it, Obama does not have Congressional approval to start a war, and he will never get approval for military action from the UN because it will be blocked by Russia.  This is setting up to become a colossal foreign policy disaster for the United States.

    A potential war with Syria has been brought to the forefront because of a chemical weapons attack near Damascus last week that killed as many as 1,400 people.  The Obama administration and several other western nations are blaming this attack on the Assad regime.

    But others are pointing out that it would make absolutely no sense for the Assad regime to do such a thing.  They appear to be winning the civil war, and Assad knows that Obama has previously said that the use of chemical weapons in Syria would be a “red line” for the United States.

    So why would the Assad regime launch a brutal chemical weapons attack against women and children just miles from where UN inspectors were staying?

    Why would Assad risk war with the United States and the rest of NATO?

    Assad would have to be extremely stupid or extremely suicidal to do such a thing.

    The ones that benefit from this chemical weapons attack are the jihadist rebels.  The odds of foreign intervention in the conflict just went way, way up.

    We will probably never learn the real truth about who was actually behind that attack.  And even if it had not happened, the U.S. and the rest of NATO would have probably come up with another justification to go to war anyway.  They appear absolutely obsessed with getting rid of Assad, but they have not really thought through the consequences.

    The following are 15 signs that Obama has already made the decision to go to war with Syria…

    #1 Syria has agreed to allow UN officials to inspect the site of the recent chemical weapons attack that killed up to 1,400 people, but a “senior U.S. official” says that such an inspection would be “too late to be credible“.

    #2 According to ABC News, the White House is saying that there is “very little doubt” that the Assad regime was behind the deadly chemical weapons attack last week.

    #3 Four U.S. warships with ballistic missiles are moving into position in the eastern Mediterranean Sea. If the command is given, they will be able to rain Tomahawk cruise missiles down on targets inside Syria within minutes…

    U.S. defense officials told The Associated Press that the Navy had sent a fourth warship armed with ballistic missiles into the eastern Mediterranean Sea but without immediate orders for any missile launch into Syria.

    U.S. Navy ships are capable of a variety of military actions, including launching Tomahawk cruise missiles, as they did against Libya in 2011 as part of an international action that led to the overthrow of the Libyan government.

    #4 CBS News is reporting that “the Pentagon is making the initial preparations for a Cruise missile attack on Syrian government forces”.

    #5 On Saturday, Barack Obama met with his national security team to discuss what actions should be taken in Syria.

    #6 U.S. Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel says that Barack Obama has asked him to “prepare options for all contingencies” as far as a conflict with Syria is concerned.

    #7 After a phone conversation with British Prime Minister David Cameron about the situation in Syria, the White House announced that both leaders expressed “grave concern” about the chemical weapons attack that took place last week.

    #8 Military commanders from the United States, Britain, Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Turkey, France, Italy and Canada are meeting in Amman, Jordan on Sunday to coordinate plans for upcoming attacks on Syria.

    #9 According to France’s second largest newspaper, rebel forces that have been trained by the CIA have been pouring toward Damascus “since mid-August“…

    According to our information, the regime’s opponents, supervised by Jordanian, Israeli and American commandos moving towards Damascus since mid-August. This attack could explain the possible use of the Syrian president to chemical weapons.

    According to information obtained by Le Figaro , the first trained in guerrilla warfare by the Americans in Jordan Syrian troops reportedly entered into action since mid-August in southern Syria, in the region of Deraa. A first group of 300 men, probably supported by Israeli and Jordanian commandos, as well as men of the CIA, had crossed the border on August 17. A second would have joined the 19. According to military sources, the Americans, who do not want to put troops on the Syrian soil or arming rebels in part controlled by radical Islamists form quietly for several months in a training camp set up at the border Jordanian- Syrian fighters ASL, the Free Syrian Army, handpicked.

    #10 The U.S. military moved a significant number of F-16 fighter jets to Jordan earlier this year for military exercises, and kept them there afterward “at the request of the Jordanian government“.

    #11 According to a government document that Wikileaks released back in March 2012, NATO personnel have been on the ground inside Syria preparing for regime change since 2011.

    #12 The Times of Israel is reporting that an internal military assessment has concluded that “Washington is seriously considering a limited yet effective attack that will make it clear to the regime in Damascus that the international community will not tolerate the use of weapons of mass destruction against Syrian civilians or any other elements”.

    #13 U.S. Senator John McCain recently said that if the U.S. military does not hit Syria, it will be like “writing a blank check to other brutal dictators around the world if they want to use chemical weapons”.

    #14 According to the New York Times, “the NATO air war in Kosovo” is being studied “as a possible blueprint for acting without a mandate from the United Nations”.

    #15 The White House has released a statement that says that the Obama administration has no plans to put “boots on the ground“, but it did not rule out any other types of military action.

    This is not a conflict that the U.S. military should be involved in.

    And we should especially not be on the side of the rabidly anti-Christian, rabidly anti-Israel and rabidly anti-western forces that are attempting to take control of Syria.

    The terrorists that the Obama administration is backing are absolutely psychotic.  Just check out the following example from a recent article posted on the Blaze

    New video posted on YouTube purports to show the graphic murder – execution style – of three Syrian truck drivers who did nothing more than belong  to a minority faith the local Al Qaeda affiliate does not like.

    In the video, a small band of Islamist radicals with the Al Qaeda-linked ISIS (Islamic State in Iraq and Syria) group is seen waving the tractor trailers off the side of an Iraqi road and then proceeds to interrogate the unsuspecting drivers about their prayer habits, trying to discover if they are Sunnis or members of the Alawite minority in Syria.

    When they “fail” the Sunni jihadis’ pop roadside quiz, the truck drivers are seated in a line in the median of the road and shot in the back of their heads firing squad style by the self-appointed law enforcers, jury, judge and executioner.

    Why in the world would the United States want to arm such people?

    Why in the world would the United States want to go to war to help such people take power?

    It is utter insanity.

    And as I mentioned earlier, most Americans are totally against getting involved.  According to a stunning new poll, 60 percent of all Americans are against U.S. military intervention in Syria, and only 9 percent are in favor of it.

    So in light of all that you have just read, why is the Obama administration so determined to help the rebels in Syria?

    UN experts to hunt for chemical shell shrapnel – as West poised to strike Syria this week

    DEBKAfile Special Report August 26, 2013, 9:51 AM (IDT)

    Tags:  chemical weapons, Syrian war, UN inspectors, US military action, Saudi, Israel,

    Chemical shell shrapnel

    Chemical shell shrapnel

    Five days after the event, a United Nations team of experts Monday, Aug. 26, start scouring a site in eastern Damascus for shrapnel left over from the poison gas shells or rockets fired by the Syrian army’s 155th Brigade last Wednesday.

    Given the low prospects of finding evidence at this late date, DEBKAfile’s sources report that the UN Secretariat and the White House in Washington agreed Sunday night that the only chance of the chemical weapons experts finding evidence of their use was to examine one of the targeted sites or injured victims. The Assad regime has only offered to open one site to the UN team, not grant them access to the approximately 2,000 victims under treatment at the three hospitals. Therefore, the inspectors’ best bet was to go for shell shrapnel first.

    Even after the alleged Syrian army’s exhaustive cleanup operation after its poison chemical attack, the UN experts still hope to turn up overlooked fragments, however microscopic.

    The US and UN also agreed that the experts would submit their initial findings as soon as Tuesday or Wednesday morning, Aug. 28. The Obama administration made clear that it was not prepared to hang around and wait for the results of more extensive tests. The assumption in Washington is that the initial UN findings would suffice as the starting signal for the US and its allies, Britain, France, Canada, Turkey, and Germany, to go forward and launch planned targeted strikes on Syria.

    Notwithstanding the official statements coming out of Washington that President Barack Obama has still not decided on his military options against Syria’s chemical attack, DEBKAfile’s sources confirm that limited, targeted Western military action is scheduled for the coming week.

    The position of the Gulf emirates and Saudi Arabia is less cut and dried. Riyadh doesn’t want a targeted strike but an early all-out offensive for overthrowing the Assad regime once and for all.

    This opens up the possibility of a separate Saudi-Qatari-UAE assault in Syria, coordinated with Washington, but conducted in different regions from those targeted by the US-led lineup.
    The result is potentially the pursuit of a broad-based pan-Arab offensive on the Syrian regime, alongside a surgical Western strike.
    As the moment of reckoning for his regime approaches, Bashar Assad said Monday, Aug. 26 in an interview with the Russian Izvestia that a US attack on his country would end in “failure.”
    Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said he was deeply concerned over possible US action in Syria.

    Sunday, Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu commented that what is happening in Syria simply demonstrates what will happen if Iran gets even deadlier weapons. He told the weekly cabinet meeting that Israel’s “finger is on the pulse” of the situation in Syria and – if need be – its finger would move to the trigger.

    Navy ready to launch first strike on Syria

    Britain is planning to join forces with America and launch military action against Syria within days in response to the gas attack believed to have been carried out by President Bashar al-Assad’s forces against his own people.

    HMS Illustrious

    The Royal Navy’s helicopter carrier HMS Illustrious is currently deployed in the Mediterranean Photo: REUTERS

    By Tim Ross and Ben Farmer

    10:00PM BST 25 Aug 2013

    Royal Navy vessels are being readied to take part in a possible series of cruise missile strikes, alongside the United States, as military commanders finalise a list of potential targets.

    Government sources said talks between the Prime Minister and international leaders, including Barack Obama, would continue, but that any military action that was agreed could begin within the next week.

    As the preparations gathered pace, William Hague, the Foreign Secretary, warned that the world could not stand by and allow the Assad regime to use chemical weapons against the Syrian people “with impunity”.

    Britain, the US and their allies must show Mr Assad that to perpetrate such an atrocity “is to cross a line and that the world will respond when that line is crossed”, he said.

    British forces now look likely to be drawn into an intervention in the Syrian crisis after months of deliberation and international disagreement over how to respond to the bloody two-year civil war.

    The possibility of such intervention will provoke demands for Parliament to be recalled this week.

    The escalation comes as a direct response to what the Government is convinced was a gas attack perpetrated by Syrian forces on a civilian district of Damascus last Wednesday.

    The Assad regime has been under mounting pressure to allow United Nations inspectors on to the site to establish who was to blame for the atrocity. One international agency said it had counted at least 355 people dead and 3,600 injured following the attack, while reports suggested the true death toll could be as high as 1,300.

    Syrian state media accused rebel forces of using chemical agents, saying some government soldiers had suffocated as a result during fighting.

    After days of delay, the Syrian government finally offered yesterday to allow a team of UN inspectors access to the area. However, Mr Hague suggested that this offer of access four days after the attack had come too late.

    “We cannot in the 21st century allow the idea that chemical weapons can be used with impunity, that people can be killed in this way and that there are no consequences for it,” he said.

    The Foreign Secretary said all the evidence “points in one direction”, to the use of illegal chemical agents by Assad regime forces.

    A Government source added that even if UN inspectors visited the site of the attack, “we would need convincing by the UN team that this was not the regime’s attack because we believe everything points to the fact that it was”.

    Officials said the Assad regime has continued bombarding the area in the days since the attack, making it likely that any evidence which could establish who was responsible will have been destroyed.

    Mr Cameron interrupted his holiday in Cornwall for talks with Mr Obama, François Hollande, the French president, and Angela Merkel, the German chancellor. After discussions via a secure telephone line over the weekend, all the leaders agreed on the need for a “serious response”. Government sources confirmed that military action was among the options “on the table” but said no decisions had been taken.

    The Prime Minister, however, is believed to have abandoned hope of securing any further meaningful response from the UN amid opposition from Russia.

    Labour said Parliament must be recalled if Mr Cameron was considering a military response, but Downing Street sources said this may not be necessary as the Prime Minister retained the right to act urgently if required.

    Mr Cameron will face criticism for any British military involvement from many MPs, who believe the Armed Forces are already overstretched and must not be committed to another distant conflict.

    Any retaliatory attack would be likely to be launched from the sea as the Syrian air force is judged to be strong enough to shoot down enemy jets.

    A Royal Navy nuclear-powered submarine is said to be in the region while a number of warships recently left Britain for exercises in the Mediterranean.

    Commanders may also need to make use of the RAF base at Akrotiri, Cyprus for air support.

    If military action is approved, the first wave of missiles could start within a week.

    Military sources suggested the early hours of the 2011 campaign against Col Muammar Gaddafi could form a template for any operation. The Libya campaign began with a blitz of Tomahawk cruise missiles from US warships and from a British Trafalgar Class submarine.

    The Royal Navy declined to comment on the current positions of its submarines, but they regularly pass through the area on their way to the Suez Canal.

    America’s Sixth Fleet currently has four guided missile destroyers in the area, each of which could join the attack.

    The Royal Navy also has its rapid response task force in the Mediterranean. The group includes two frigates and the helicopter carrier HMS Illustrious.

    Navy sources said there were no plans to change the exercises, but the group provided “strategic contingency” if needed.

History Repeats: CIA Docs Reveal US Aided Saddam’s Chemical Attacks

Anthony Gucciardi
Storyleak
August 26, 2013

As Obama continues to shove the blame on Syria’s Assad over the chemical attacks that were admitted by mainstream media months ago to be planned by the Obama administration to initiate military activity in Syria, declassified CIA files reveal that the US government has a history of assisting and facilitating chemical attacks against innocents.

saddam-hussein

Specifically, the declassified files expose the deeply nefarious relationship between the Reagan-led United States government and Iraq’s Saddam Hussein. And just as Obama decries the chemical attacks within Syria that were actually launched by his administration as a pretext to military action, it is now revealed that Reagan played the same card back in 1988.

In both scenarios, we see that the administrations had no problem gassing women and children if it meant furthering their agenda.

For Obama, it means turning Syria into another Libya scenario, requiring the chemical attack in order to unleash the full military force of the United States in a ‘humane’ way through the response to the attacks. For Reagan back in 1988, it was essential to secure an Iraq victory first and foremost. And if it meant chemical attacks on Iran, then so be it. After all, the US government would simply deny it.

As Air Force Col. Rick Francona put it when speaking to Foreign Policy on the declassified documents,

“The Iraqis never told us that they intended to use nerve gas. They didn’t have to. We already knew.”

You see at this time, when the attacks started in 1983, Iran could not properly pinpoint Saddam’s Iraq in the attacks. Ultimately, it came down to the United States protecting Saddam despite knowledge of the entire event. This is history repeating once more as well, since we now see the Obama-backed Syrian rebels actually carrying out the attacks for Obama as the US government plays ignorant

Take a look at the description within the Foreign Policy report on the play of events:

“In contrast to today’s wrenching debate over whether the United States should intervene to stop alleged chemical weapons attacks by the Syrian government, the United States applied a cold calculus three decades ago to Hussein’s widespread use of chemical weapons against his enemies and his own people. The Reagan administration decided that it was better to let the attacks continueif they might turn the tide of the war. And even if they were discovered, the CIA wagered that international outrage and condemnation would be muted.”

Sound familiar? As we now see the world call for attacks on Syria over the recent chemical attacks, it’s essential to look back at history. Even with Yahoo News reporting on the January 2013 plan for Obama to launch chemical attacks on Syria in order to launch a war campaign, it’s not enough for some people. History, however, tells us what’s truly going on today.

New poll: Syria intervention even less popular than Congress

By Max Fisher, Published: August 26 at 2:37 pmE-mail the writer

A Syrian woman stands amid the ruins of her house, which was destroyed in an airstrike by government warplanes a few days earlier. (AP Photo/Abdullah al-Yassin, File)

A Syrian woman stands amid the ruins of her house, which was destroyed in an airstrike by government warplanes a few days earlier. (AP Photo/Abdullah al-Yassin, File)

A new Reuters/Ipsos poll has finally found something that Americans like even less than Congress: the possibility of U.S. military intervention in Syria. Only 9 percent of respondents said that the Obama administration should intervene militarily in Syria; aRealClearPolitics poll average finds Congress has a 15 percent approval rating, making the country’s most hated political body almost twice as popular.

The Reuters/Ipsos poll was taken Aug.19-23, the very same week that horrific reports emerged strongly suggesting that Syrian leader Bashar al-Assad has used chemical weapons against his own people, potentially killing hundreds or even thousands of civilians. If there were ever a time that Americans would support some sort of action, you’d think this would be it. But this is the lowest support for intervention since the poll began tracking opinion on the issue. The survey also found that 60 percent oppose intervention outright, with the rest, perhaps sagely, saying that they don’t know.

Strangely, 25 percent said that they support intervention if Assad uses chemical weapons. I say strangely because the United States announced way back in June that it believed Assad had done exactly this. A large share of people who answered that the United States should intervene if Assad uses chemical weapons are apparently unaware that this line has already been crossed. Presumably, some number of these people would drop their support if they realized the question was no longer hypothetical.

The United States certainly appears to beconsidering limited strikes on Syria in response to last week’s suspected chemical weapons attack. The calculus for and against is complicated enough in foreign policy terms. But the White House is also a political institution, and it will surely keep the domestic politics, which appear to oppose any intervention very strongly, well in mind.

The one video from Syria’s alleged chemical weapons attack that everyone should watch

By Max Fisher, Published: August 21 at 2:49 pmE-mail the writer

A video purportedly shows a young Syrian girl who'd survived a chemical weapons attack on Damascus. (YouTube)

A video purportedly shows a young Syrian girl who’d survived a chemical weapons attack on Damascus. (YouTube)

The alleged Syrian chemical weapons attack on a Damascus suburb, where opposition activists say that more than 1,000 civilians have died from exposure to an unknown toxic gas, would be the deadliest but far from the first such incident in the country’s civil war. Still, there’s something different about this one.

The many, many photos and videos showing the attack’s apparent toll, including rooms full of dead children, can be overwhelming, of a scale and horror difficult to fully comprehend. You may have watched, or tried to watch, the video of a health worker helplessly applying a respirator to a child’s gasping mouth, or of young men sprawled across the floor of a makeshift hospital. But if you can bring yourself to see only one such video, you may wish to make it this footage, posted by Syrian activists late Tuesday:

The video, allegedly taken just a few hours after the chemical weapons incident, shows a health worker attempting to comfort a young girl who’d purportedly survived the attack and is clearly in hysterics. It’s not clear whether her behavior is a result of chemical exposure, as some speculate, or of simple terror. She says only, over and over, “I’m alive, I’m alive.”

There’s no blood or death here; this girl’s experience does not reveal the extent of Tuesday’s loss of life or necessarily show us the symptoms of chemical weapons exposure. What it does show is an experience much more common in Syria, of surviving. For all the people who are killing and dying in the country, it’s easy to forget that most Syrians are doing neither but, like both the little girl and the health worker in this video, trying to endure the suffering around them.

Images of dead bodies and convulsing chemical weapons victims represent an important part of what’s happening in Syria, but for many outside observers , they can be so shocking as to alienate. Anyone can recognize and understand a frightened child.

Update: A longer version of the video, embedded below, shows the girl identifying herself as Younma. The health worker says she’s been psychologically traumatized by the death of her parents. Younma, who begs for her parents, appears at one point to be attempting to convince the health worker that she is still alive.

The U.S. does have nonmilitary options in Syria. Here are four of them.

By Max Fisher, Published: August 23 at 9:43 amE-mail the writer

A Free Syrian Army fighter mourns at the grave of his father who was killed by what activists said was shelling by forces loyal to Syria's President Bashar al-Assad. (REUTERS/Khalil Ashawi)

A Free Syrian Army fighter mourns at the grave of his father, who was killed by what activists said was shelling by forces loyal to Syria’s President Bashar al-Assad. (Khalil Ashawi/Reuters)

This week’s suspected chemical weapons attack in a Damascus suburb, which Syrian activists believe was launched by the Bashar al-Assad regime and may have killed hundreds of civilians, has re-energized debate over whether there’s anything that the United States can do. Those often-painful questions are apparently now being asked even in the Oval Office, with President Obama telling CNN that his administration isconsidering a response.

Obama hinted at a struggling conversation within the White House that sounds an awful lot like the one outside it, which now, as for the last two years, has gotten stuck in the same deadlock. Some are calling for some form of military escalation while others argue that this would be counterproductive, worsening an already bad situation and sucking in the United States.

But there are a few possible options in the middle ground, between military escalation and the status quo, that could potentially improve things, if only marginally, in a conflict that’s believed to have claimed more than 100,000 lives.

The middle-ground options begin with two premises: first, that the crisis has gotten too awful for the United States to continue doing so little, and second, that military escalation would probably have more costs than benefits.

Shipping in arms would likely empower extremists and worsen long-term instability. A no-fly zone would likely change little on the ground but commit the United States to a costly, open-ended engagement. And after Afghanistan and Iraq, the prospect of full military intervention is just not on the table. But with so much suffering and instability, with things getting worse every day for Syria’s civilians and for its neighbors, the U.S. strategy of occasionally prodding the United Nations Security Council for a toothless resolution no longer looks sufficient.

You wouldn’t always know it from hearing a conversation divided between “arm the rebels” and “don’t arm the rebels,” but there are middle-ground options between military escalation and the status quo. They’re not terribly inspiring, and they’re not going to end the killing or resolve the war. But they can help make things a little bit less terrible, according to Century Foundation scholar Michael Wahid Hanna, who laid them out most recently in a May Boston Globe column.

Here are three of Hanna’s ideas for what the United States can do in Syria, followed by a fourth that I’ve added to make the list a touch more current. I e-mailed Hanna to ask whether these were still applicable; he wrote back and said they were, but that, as time goes on, “this continues to get harder.” He stressed, as he did in the Globe column, that these suggestions “can only be ameliorative in the sense that it might result in a 10 to 20 percent improvement in the overall situation.” And even then, he said, they “would still require an important shift in rhetoric that acknowledges all the ways in which the war has changed.”

Here they are:

1. More humanitarian aid, within Syria and in refugee camps

There are more than 1.5 million Syrian refugees who’ve fled the country, into camps where conditions can be awful. They’re also worsening instability in neighboring Lebanon, Jordan and Iraq. They’re easier to reach than the suffering civilians within Syria, but there’s just not enough money.

The United Nations announced in June that it needs $5 billion just to cover the most basic Syrian humanitarian needs until the end of the year. The United States announced in August that it would contribute an additional $195 million to humanitarian aid, a big step but far short of what’s needed.

Of course, it’s about more than just dollars. As Hanna notes, support for local governance within rebel-controlled areas of Syria, many of which have seen local institutions completely shattered, could go a long way to helping civilians. It might also make these areas more resilient against extremist influence.

2. Intelligence-sharing with rebels

This has the benefit of bringing U.S. technology and military know-how to bear against the Assad regime, whose forces have been making recent gains, without the long-term dangers that come with arming the rebels. The United States did some of this in Libya and it seemed to help, not insignificantly.

Hanna explains: “Intelligence sharing and coordination could focus on creative targeting aimed at regime logistical networks, fuel farms, radars and air crews.” That would help erode the Assad regime’s military edge. Intelligence-sharing could also help, he writes, to “test the trustworthiness and effectiveness of fighting groups, potentially leading the way to more robust support if reliable partners are found or cultivated.”

3. Covert antiaircraft action

Hanna suggests that slipping in teams of Special Operations Forces to “employ antiaircraft missile systems to harass and deter Syrian air power” could slow Assad’s march into rebel-held areas without risking costly U.S. involvement. My caveat here would be that, after the costly political backlash in Washington against the deaths of U.S. officials in Benghazi in September 2012, it’s hard to imagine that the Obama administration is eager to risk cable news coverage of Navy SEALS killed in Syria. (To be clear, Hanna specifically suggests sanctioning covert action by regional allies, not U.S. forces.)

4. Make up with Russia (or even Iran!)

It’s no secret that U.S.-Russian relations are in dire straits, partly for lack of much mutual interest and partly due to big disagreements, such as over NSA leaker Edward Snowden. But Russia plays a big role in Syria, where it opposes any Western intervention and supports the Assad regime, and on the crucial U.N. Security Council. Swallowing hard and reaching out to Moscow might be distasteful, but a bit of U.S.-Russian goodwill could certainly help to bring around Moscow’s support, or at least chip away at its opposition.

Assad’s other major ally, of course, is Iran. But even peace-minded Iranian President Hassan Rouhani has signaled that he’s content with the status quo on Tehran’s Syria policy of backing Assad. So there’s not much promise of Iran significantly changing policy. Still, Rouhani has made it clear that he wants to try for peace with the West, which gives the United States a bit more leverage than usual — if not to reverse Tehran’s pro-Assad policy in Syria, then perhaps at least to soften it a bit.

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