Has Syria’s Position Strengthened?
Is Syria Stronger Today Than Before The Chemical Weapons Agreement?
Reuters columnist David Rohde considers whether the situation in Syria has worsened to a degree that it now presents a direct threat to the US following remarks made last week by intelligence officials. In particular, he addresses testimony offered by intelligence official James Clapper that individuals were being trained to engage in terror attacks in their home countries.
He notes that Clapper has “has been accused of exaggerating terrorist threats” but adds that he “is not the only senior official expressing concern” about the rising militant presence in Syria.
“At a private meeting with members of Congress at the Munich Security Conference last week, Secretary of State John Kerry said that ‘the al-Qaeda threat is real, it is getting out of hand,’ Republican U.S. Senator Lindsey Graham later told reporters. ‘He openly talked about supporting arming the rebels. He openly talked about forming a coalition against al-Qaeda because it’s a direct threat,'” he reports.
It is estimated that as many as 50 Americans have been trained by extremist groups in the Middle East.
While not offering specifics, Clapper also testified to Congress that the chemical weapons agreement with Syria may actually have strengthened the position of dictator Bashir al-Assad.
“The prospects are right now that (Assad) is actually in a strengthened position than when we discussed this last year, by virtue of his agreement to remove the chemical weapons, as slow as that process has been,” said James Clapper, director of national intelligence.
Aryn Baker of Time magazine con
curs with Clapper’s central point that Syria is now stronger noting that the regime faced no consequences from the international community when it missed a second chemical weapons deadline last week.
“With no real punishment for missing deadlines, the regime has little incentive to rush. The more Assad drags his feet, the longer he has a chance of staying in power,” she writes.
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Germans Urged To Rethink Their Attitudes Toward International Affairs
President Joachim Gauck last week urged Germans to become more engaged in international affairs in a speech at the Munich Security Conference.
Postwar generations had good reason to be mistrustful of the German state and Germany,” said Gauck, adding that “people who trust in themselves gain strength to open themselves to the world . . . and is a reliable partner.”
Alison Smale writes in The New York Times that the German elite have, in part, been spurred to take a larger role in response to disclosures that the US has engaged in spying on their ally.
Disillusionment with the United States, which taught postwar Germany the value of individual freedom and privacy, has been acute across the spectrum of the German political elite.
“Particularly among Germans who have long embraced the United States, ‘the disappointment sits deep,’ said Georg Mascolo, a prominent German journalist, voicing a view expressed in conversations with other experts and policy makers at the Munich conference. The idea that Germany’s greatest ally would spy on its most eager pupil has shaken the elite into action, several experts said, convincing Germany that it needs to set its own, more robust foreign policy,” she reports