Syrian Situation Remains Fluid
A convoy of United Nations inspectors attempting to confirm or refute allegations Syria used chemical weapons were fired upon by Syrian snipers, but they were able to reach victims of gas attacks nonetheless. A day earlier, the UN had agreed to terms for the teams to visit several sites.
As the UN focuses on verifying whether chemical weapons were used and by whom, talks about Syria were ongoing as Iran’s Ambassador to Russia Mahmoud Reza Sajjadi stressed the importance of his country’s participation in any negotiations, particularly at the International Geneva II Conference on Syria. A UN envoy was set to visit Iran on Monday to discuss Syria.
Saudi Arabia Playing Behind-The-Scenes Role
Meanwhile, The Wall Street Journal reports, Saudi Arabia’s Prince Bandar bin Sultan al-Saud, who served as ambassador to the US, has been selected to lead the campaign and reflects the seriousness with which the Gulf nation is pushing to remove Assad.
“The conflict there has become a proxy war for Middle East factions, and Saudi Arabia’s efforts in Syria are just one sign of its broader effort to expand its regional influence. The Saudis also have been outspoken supporters of the Egyptian military in its drive to squelch the Muslim Brotherhood, backing that up with big chunks of cash.
The Saudi lobbying is part of the calculus as the U.S. weighs its options in the wake of a suspected chemical attack last week,” the paper adds.
Few Options On Syria Remain
But US and Western options on action concerning Syria are becoming more limited with each passing day, some analysts say.
Eliot Cohen of the Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies, contends that a few missile attacks would not strengthen the Western position. In fact, he writes, “we would look weaker yet if we chose to act ineffectively. A bout of therapeutic bombing is an even more feckless course of action than a principled refusal to act altogether.”
Cohen adds that the Obama administration would have to recognize that any action taken would require congressional authority because attacking Syria would be considered by the international community as an act of war.
He also cautions Obama to remember the following:
“When the president proclaimed the impending conclusion of the war with al-Qaeda, he disregarded the cardinal fact of strategy: It is (at least) a two-sided game. The other side, not we, gets to decide when it ends. And in this case neither the Syrian government nor its Iranian patrons, nor its Hezbollah, Russian and Chinese allies, may choose to shrug off a bombing campaign,”
In Egypt, Conspiracies Abound
Rod Nordland of The New York Times writes from Egypt about the latest conspiracy – that the US is working with the Muslim Brotherhood to destroy it.
“A strong anti-American undercurrent has always existed in Egypt, but such views are more normally associated with radicals and Islamists, and in reaction to American support for Israel,” Nordland says after interviews with Egyptians at a local café.
“The origin of the idea of a terrorist-friendly America is opaque. Many cite money given to the Brotherhood, but what they are referring to is the $1.5 billion in American aid to the government of Egypt, which flowed to Mr. Morsi’s government as it did to the government before it, and as it continues to do since the military takeover. Most of that, $1.2 billion, goes to the Egyptian military, and none of it goes to the Brotherhood,” he continues.