While stating for the record that he has not made a final decision regarding military intervention in the domestic warfare in Syria, American President Barack Obama said on Thursday, “…we do have to make sure that when countries break international norms on weapons like chemical weapons that could threaten us, that they are held accountable. …We cannot see a breach of the non-proliferation norm that allows potentially chemical weapons to fall into the hands of all kinds of folks.”
The U.S. Naval Sixth Fleet is currently in position to launch a “surgical” strike for the purpose of halting nerve gas deployment now and in the future. It is speculated that when (or if) a Presidential call to attack materializes, the targets will be of a military nature. They would focus on gas storage and utilization facilities, the Syrian air force, and the Syrian capacity to monitor future attacks. It now seems only a remote possibility — unlikely — that government high-ups, including Assad himself will be targeted.
The U.S. Sixth Fleet includes four destroyers, 500-foot integrated propulsion warships: the USS Mahan, USS Gravely, USS Barry, and USS Ramage. These ships carry 90 surface-to-air missiles each, as well as Tomahawk and Harpoon cruise missiles. They are equipped with 5 inch guns, and autocannons, as well as torpedoes and anti-submarine missiles. The Sixth Fleet includes two modern submarines, The USS Florida and USS Georgia. These submarines are able to carry and deploy as many as 100 cruise missiles.
These statements and placements indicate a strong likelihood of a coming attack by the U.S. on Syria. Some months ago, Obama held that the U.S. would not tolerate the use of chemical agents – in this case, nerve gas — by Syria against her civilian population. Last week’s alleged gas attack near Damascus, which killed hundreds of men, women, and children. Now Obama seems mandated to make good the earlier threats. Although the Congress is currently on a summer break, the president has spoken by phone to many congressional leaders. A strike seems inevitable.
Some may find it strange to consider that some of our allies have shown hesitation to follow America in her preparation to attack the Assad forces. The British Parliament on Thursday voted against military action against Syria. The United Kingdom Prime Minister David Cameron clearly has stated that such action will not take place without parliamentary approval. British Defense Secretary Philip Hammond made clear his belief that the vote against action in Syria would “place some strain” on the special relationship with the United States. American Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel is quoted as having said, “The British have been very strong in condemning the Syrian regime’s use of chemical weapons, and that vote in the Parliament doesn’t change that. That is a very significant position for any nation to take publicly. We’ll continue to work with Britain and consult with Britain as we are with all our allies.”
Russia has consistently supported the Assad regime in Syria, and has financial involvement is supplying the regime with weapons. Russia is, however, sending several ships to the region, a move that authorities see as merely symbolic. Sources suggest that Assad has been making payment owed to Russia lately in an effort to keep some favor with the Russians on the matter of global intervention. Assad has a billion dollar contract involving anti-aircraft missiles and fighter planes.
Similarly China has used veto power to reduce pressure on Damascus, and had given financial support to the Assad regime. Iran has a number of reasons for supporting the Assad regime, and condemning any military intervention from the United States.
Iran is a Shiite Muslim nation, and the Syrian ruling family Alawites are in fact linked historically to the Shiites. The rebels in Syria, on the other hand, are Sunni dominated. Iran needs Shiite (Alawite) domination in Syria to assure passage for Hezbollah in Lebanon.
We find then that our strongest ally in support of intervention in Syria is France. French president Francois Hollande said a British parliamentary vote against taking military action in Syria would not affect France’s will to act to punish Bashar al-Assad’s government for an apparent chemical weapons attack on civilians. France supports firm punitive action and Hollande feels that nerve gas attacks on civilians have caused irreparable harm to the Syrian people. He says France will “work closely with France’s allies.”
A proposed American strike in Syria may be comparable to the “preemptive” strike by the U.S. on Iraq which resulted in 100,000 deaths, and the hanging of Saddam Hussein. Such a strike may be compared additionally to the U.S. intervention in Viet-Nam which resulted in a long drawn out and deadly war in that region. Prior to our war in Viet-Nam, American warfare was mainly limited to responses to threats at our borders.
The coming days may be long remembered, or may contain only a short and swift response. There was a time — remember Libya and Muammar Gaddafi in 1986 — when a simple missile attack through a bedroom window was sufficient to halt condemned behavior and bring change to a troubled region.