Live Blog: The President’s Case for SyriaPosted: September 10, 2013
The issue of what to do with Syria, its civil war, and its brutal dictator’s gas attacks on its innocent citizens is on the US agenda tonight as President Obama takes the case for “narrow” attacks on specific Syrian targets. Can he persuade a war weary nation who has heard this type of case once before? The speech will be carried on TV and the internet live tonight at 9 pm EST.
Some suggested before Speech Reads:
President Obama’s big national address on Syria tonight isn’t aimed just at a deeply skeptical American public. It’s also targeted to the members of Congress who could decide the fate of the Obama administration’s actions on Syria, including the request for an authorization of force, if that route is still open.
What those actions could look like is totally in flux as of Tuesday afternoon, with a new report fromThe Wall Street Journal that Syria is not only acknowledging it has chemical weapons for the first time, but also saying it would tell the “United Nations, Russia, and others” where they are located. This development comes a day after Syrian President Bashar al-Assad declared to an American audience that his country has never used such weapons and refused to comment on whether Syria had a stockpile.
With the White House privately starting to believe it may not have the votes for an authorization of force, the administration has spent some of the last day trying to win Republican Senate support for getting a new agreement through Congress, reports National Review‘s Robert Costa. That agreement could be pegged to the diplomatic progress made over the last day, and it could be something we all hear more about tonight.
So far, Obama has given many of his usual staunch opponents a good deal of face time to discuss the possibilities on Syria. Obama and Vice President Joe Biden hosted a group of Republican senators—including Lindsey Graham, Kelly Ayotte, and Saxby Chambliss—for dinner (Italian was served) at the Naval Observatory on Sunday. And a half-dozen Republican lawmakers were granted the attention of White House Chief of Staff Denis McDonough this week.
Obama’s speech will likely be about more than just missiles—specifically, the whirlwind of diplomacy that we’ve seen over the past 24 hours. But how members of Congress take tonight’s speech will go a long way toward deciding just how much room the administration will have to act.
Russian Times: Russian President Vladimir Putin said that Syria’s chemical arms handover will only work if the US and its allies renounce the use of force against Damascus.
“Of course, all of this will only mean anything if the United States and other nations supporting it tell us that they’re giving up their plan to use force against Syria. You can’t really ask Syria, or any other country, to disarm unilaterally while military action against it is being contemplated,” President Putin said on Tuesday.
President Putin said that the matter of bringing Syria’s chemical weapons under international control has long been a subject of discussion by experts and politicians.
Putin confirmed that he and President Barack Obama had “indeed discussed” such a possibility on the sidelines of the G20 summit in St. Petersburg last week.
It was agreed, Putin said, “to instruct Secretary of State [John Kerry] and Foreign Minister [Sergey Lavrov]to work together and see if they can achieve some progress in this regard.”
President Putin’s comments came shortly after the Syrian government said it would agree to place its chemical weapons arsenal under international control.
Think about what will happen if the Russian initiative starts to fly.
Chemical weapons are relatively easy to make and store (and fire), but much harder to dismantle safely. The chemicals themselves are fiendishly dangerous and need to be destroyed with specialist equipment without creating environmental hazards. Plus the explosive part of the delivery shell needs careful handling. Destroying CW stocks is therefore a complex and expensive operation, even under calm conditions. Both the United States and Russia have both heavily failed to meet internationally agreed deadlines for destroying their massive Cold War legacy chemical weapons stocks.
There is no precedent for attempting anything like this in a country wracked by civil war. It just can’t happen. No Syrian chemical weapons will be destroyed or “handed over” quickly.
Meanwhile any new process of setting up an international monitoring and destruction regime will require painstaking UN and wider negotiation with the Assad regime, thereby giving Assad and his state apparatus a massive boost of renewed confidence and legitimacy. Before long Washington may find itself locked on to implicitly or even explicitly supporting Assad in his civil war as the best chance to get some sort of internationally agreed CW destruction programme delivered in Syria.
1. Is Kerry a national-security genius, or a guy who says whatever half-baked idea comes to mind, or both?
2. Why are the Russians seemingly so ready to aid Kerry and President Barack Obama by helping relieve Syria of its chemical weapons? Since when is Russia interested in helping the U.S. out of a jam, even if it burnishes its own reputation in the process?
3. Do these early signs that Russia might be interested in making a deal to avert an attack prove that threatening to attack was the right thing to do?
4. Who is making American policy on Syria? Kerry or Obama?
5. Why would Assad give up his chemical weapons? He saw what happened when Libya’s late dictator Muammar Qaddafi gave up his weapons of mass destruction program, which is to say, he lost some of his deterrent power.
6. How do you possibly verify that Assad has given up all of his chemical weapons? The Syrian regime possesses hundreds of tons of these munitions.
7. Does Syria get to keep its biological weapons under this still nonexistent deal?
8. If the U.S. gives up the idea of an attack, would the remaining moderate rebels, so dispirited, start moving toward the al-Qaeda column?
9. How do you secure and transport all of these chemical-weapons components in the midst of a horrifically violent civil war?
10. Even if the theoretical strike was intended to be “unbelievably small,” why would the U.S. tell Syria this?
11. A related question: Who goes to war not to win?
12. Let’s just say that Assad gives up his chemical weapons. Does that mean he gets to kill civilians in more prosaic ways indefinitely? Is that it?
13. If Assad’s behavior is even somewhat analogous to Hitler’s, as administration officials (and surrogates like Senator Harry Reid) are suggesting, then how is it possible to argue for anything other than Assad’s total defeat?
14. At a certain point in this drama, will any of the various Arab countries that want the U.S. to bomb Syria then go do it themselves?
15. How did the U.S. get so bollixed-up by the tin-pot dictator of a second-tier Middle East country?
Tonight at 9:00 PM ET, President Obama will address the nation from the East Room of the White House.
The President will be speaking about the United States’ response to the Syrian regime’s use of chemical weapons that killed more than 1,400 civilians — including more than 400 children.
You can watch the President’s speech live on WhiteHouse.gov/Syria.
I have to believe that we’re all going to have some different thoughts on all of this. I am still torn.