Posts Tagged ‘John Kerry’

Kerry flogs a dead horse in Israel after his fiasco in Syria

December 28, 2016

I listened to John Kerry’s speech today and if you think a two state solution for Israel and Palestine will work, it seemed eminently reasonable. But the fundamental problem with the 2-state solution is that Palestine consists of 2 factions which will never see eye to eye – Fatah and Hamas. A 2-state solution would be self-destructive and would not accept Israel’s right to exist. A 3-state solution would only give two non-viable Palestinian states. Kerry’s speech was very defensive and his attempts to deny that the failure of the US to veto the UN resolution was anti-Israel were unconvincing, and sounded like rationalisation. It was not difficult to discern the personal vindictiveness (against Netanyahu) that Obama/Kerry were giving voice to.

Kerry warned that the 2-state solution is in jeopardy – and so it has always been since it is based on wishful thinking rather than the realities on the ground.


US Secretary of State John Kerry has said the prospect of an Israeli-Palestinian peace deal based on a two-state solution is in grave jeopardy.

And he insisted UN condemnation of illegal Jewish settlements on occupied land was in line with American values.

Earlier, US President-elect Donald Trump tweeted in support of Israel, saying he would not allow it to be treated with “disdain and disrespect”.

He urged Israel to “stay strong” until he assumed office next month.

On Friday, the US chose not to veto a UN Security Council resolution calling for an end to Israeli settlement construction, leading to an angry response from Israel.

The 2-state solution is going nowhere and alternatives have to be found. But Obama and Kerry have no capability of thinking outside the rut.

John Kerry and Barack Obama have a habit of choosing the wrong horse to back. After years of futile attempts to broker peace in Syria (after having first initiated and then encouraged the opposition to Assad), Turkey and Russia have managed to plan talks aimed at a nationwide cease-fire. That is something Obama/Kerry and the UN have not yet managed because they backed the wrong horse running in the wrong race. The new talks maybe have a chance because the US, the EU and the UN have been excluded.


Turkey and Russia have prepared an agreement for a ceasefire in Syria, Turkey’s foreign minister said on Wednesday, adding that Ankara would not give up its opposition to President Bashar al-Assad staying on as leader. ….. Turkish minister Mevlut Cavusoglu’s comments appeared to signal tentative progress in talks aimed at reaching a truce. While the insistence on Assad’s departure could complicate negotiations with his biggest backer, Russia, another Turkish official did not rule out a transitional role for the Syrian president.

Russia, Iran and Turkey said last week they were ready to help broker a peace deal after adopting a declaration in Moscow setting out principles that any agreement should adhere to. Russia has said the next talks are set for Astana, the Kazakh capital.

 …….. Last week, Russia’s foreign minister said Russia, Iran and Turkey had agreed the priority in Syria was to fight terrorism and not to remove Assad’s government – comments that suggested a shift by Turkey, which has long pushed for Assad to go.

…… Russian officials have said invitations to participants for the Astana talks have not been sent out and the time has yet to be decided. The talks would not include the United States and would be distinct from separate, intermittent U.N.-brokered negotiations.

Russia’s Foreign Ministry said on Wednesday that U.N. Special Envoy Staffan de Mistura had spoken by phone with Lavrov and supported the efforts to establish a ceasefire and new peace talks.

Obama and Kerry have based too much of their foreign policy on wishful thinking – and wishful thinking supported by intelligence agencies producing reports, therefore, with a confirmation bias. They have given the administration just what they wanted to hear. In almost every instance (Iraq, Libya, Egypt, Syria, Yemen ….) they have provided what the US government wanted to hear and ignored the realities that actually existed.


Putin/Lavrov are running rings around Obama/Kerry in the the Middle East

October 5, 2016

Putin takes risks but Obama does not. But whereas Russia’s risk taking is based on some hard calculation of the probability of success, Obama and Kerry are obsessed with risk avoidance. So much so that US policy in Syria and against ISIS could be said to be “paralysis by analysis”. But the Russian risk-taking seems to be paying off.



  1. The Russian intervention started the decline of ISIS
  2. Putin has allied with Iran and Shi’ite interests while remaining on good terms with Netanyahu and Israel,
  3. Putin’s support of Assad, has forced the US supported rebel groups to ally themselves with terroris groups (Al-Nusra front),
  4. While the West has been criticising Erdogan’s purge of his opposition, a remarkable detente has developed between Russia and Turkey (which after the downing of the Russian fighter plane hardly seemed feasible),
  5. Sunni Arab states are so disillusioned with Washington and Russian influence has grown so much in the region, that they are now making overtures to Putin in spite of his support for the Shi’ites.
  6. Saudi Arabia has paused its oil war against Iran and Russia.

An insightful commentary in Reuters:

Putin’s Middle East gamble is paying dividends

Vladimir Putin has made an art of turning weakness into strength.  As Russian and Syrian forces pound Aleppo in the biggest assault of Syria’s five-year civil war, the Russian president clearly has emerged as a dominant force in the Middle East. ……..

…….. Over the last year, Putin has inserted Russia into the Syrian conflict and shored up the regime of President Bashar al-Assad as it was on the verge of collapse. The Russian leader has forged a quasi-military alliance with Iran that has allowed him to project power in the Persian Gulf – something that has evaded Moscow since the end of World War Two.

If that wasn’t enough, Putin’s relationship with Turkey, which seemed to be on a collision course after Ankara downed a Russian fighter jet last year, has now warmed to the point where Putin and Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan are about to restore full diplomatic relations. All the while Putin has maintained a close and productive relationship with Israeli Prime Minister Benyamin Netanyahu.


Since the 1979 Islamic Revolution in Iran, the United States has aligned its interest in the Persian Gulf with Sunni monarchies such as Saudi Arabia, Kuwait and Qatar. In turn, these countries have invested heavily in the United States – from buying U.S. debt, to investing in real estate and buying billions of dollars in American military hardware.

Arab states have also invested heavily in Washington, buying influence in the corridors of power, funding think tanks and hiring public relations firms to help spread a narrative about why their countries are essential to America’s interest in the Middle East. The relationship between Riyadh and Washington remains particularly strong even as the American public questions the logic behind an alliance with a country whose actions often run counter to Washington’s interests. 

These countries feel that Washington is obligated to share their view of the Middle East, which means backing them regardless of whether any conflict they engage in is against the interest of the United States. They have no such influence in Moscow. Even as Moscow backs Shi’ite powerhouse Iran and the Assad regime in Syria, Sunni Arab leaders continue to court Putin and look for ways to collaborate with him. Saudi Arabia, for example is currently trying to coordinate with Moscow on how best to stabilize oil markets and want Putin to pressure Iran to do the same.

Russia’s partnerships are based on cold, hard realism. Putin’s sole aim is to further Moscow’s interest. He’s unburdened by a legacy of alliances that do not serve Russia’s strategic aims. He supports Damascus, Tehran and the Shi’ite government of Iraq because he views Sunni extremism as a long-term threat that has destabilized countries in the Middle East, and which he fears could wreak havoc in countries close to Russia’s borders. Yet this coordination and collaboration with Shi’ite Iran doesn’t preclude him from working with Sunni Arab states to promote trade for Russian industry and its atomic energy program. 

Putin is doing all of this while remaining close to Netanyahu. Even though Putin is working with Syria and Iran – Israel’s mortal enemies – he has convinced Netanyahu that these alliances are not meant to threaten Israel’s existence, but rather serve a larger purpose of defeating Sunni extremism. Russia continues to cooperate with Israel in diverse fields such as energy, agriculture and arms. Russia and Israel also maintain close military contacts and Putin is careful not to transfer offensive weapons to Israel’s foes.

Juxtapose this with how Netanyahu treated Obama and interferes in U.S. domestic politics. In the run-up to the Iran deal, Netanyahu used the influence of AIPAC and other pro-Israel lobbying organizations to try and undermine a sitting president and scuttle his signature foreign policy achievement.

If Israel or another U.S. ally tried to interfere or challenge Putin in such a manner, it’s difficult to imagine that he would reward them with $38 billion in aid for ten years, as Obama has done with Israel, or continue to support them militarily with advanced weapons and intelligence – as Washington has done with Saudi Arabia. …….



India objects to, and chastises Kerry for, his climate bullying

November 23, 2015

It is -12ºC outside my window right now on a bright winter’s day, but it is -29ºC in the North of Sweden and I am not complaining. There has been no “global” warming for 19 years while fossil fuel utilisation has almost doubled. If “climate change” is about global warming, then why the panic? And if “climate change” is not about global warming, then why the panic?

We have had a couple of months of concentrated, strident, alarmist propaganda in the media and from the global warming mafia as preparation for the Paris climate conference beginning at the end of this week. It is reaching a crescendo this week. That the mainstream media led by The Guardian, and followed slavishly by Swedish media, have been particularly alarmist is not so surprising. Today the Guardian runs an article claiming that the “Paris climate change conference can save the planet”. It happens to be by Ed Miliband which is less than convincing since his judgements are more than a little suspect. The rich and the famous have been “harnessed”, like so many talking puppets, to parrot “the cause”. (Childhood memories of “Francis, the talking mule” come to mind). Yesterday it was first the Swedish King calling on people to stop bathing and then Prince Charles stated that global warming (euphemistically “climate change”) was one of the causes of the Syrian conflict. He could just as well claim that the terrorist attacks in Paris were due to “climate change”. (In fact someone has already done that). John Kerry wanders around the globe intimating that his foreign policy problems would disappear if only governments would do as he says.

(I have to admit that for almost any proposed action in any field, having Prince Charles’ support, is proof positive for me that that the action is going to be counterproductive. John Kerry with his blunders in Syria and in the Ukraine is approaching the same class).

I don’t pay too much attention to the hype. Ultimately, after 2 or 3 decades of global cooling, the pointlessness and futility of the fight against “carbon emissions” will become obvious. Of course vast sums of money would have been wasted. Global growth and the elimination of poverty would have been hampered for a time – but so what? Coal, oil and gas production and utilisation by the developing world will only continue, and continue to spread.

I don’t much care about Paris either. It has almost become irrelevant. Especially since “success” at the Paris conference will actually mean that the doubling of carbon dioxide emissions over the next 15 years will have been assured and sanctioned. China and India have already won. The “success” of Paris would provide them with official sanction to increase their use of fossil fuel under the cloak of reducing emissions per unit of gdp growth. The developed world will effectively commit itself to increased costs and reduced growth to no purpose. While this will depress global growth (mainly Europe) it should make the developing world even more competitive and that will be some mitigation. The US is somewhat immune since it can just ramp up the use of gas.

But the constant nagging by the global warming brigade is getting irritating and coercive. The sanctimonious preaching by John Kerry has finally crossed the line. So much so that India has had to resort to formally chastising him,

The Hindu:

India has reacted strongly to U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry’s statement that the country will be a “challenge” in the coming climate change talks in Paris.

“It is in a way unfair to say that India will be a challenge. It is actually not doing justice to India,” Union Environment Minister Prakash Javadekar told PTI. “The U.S. is our great friend and strategic partner. His [Kerry’s] comment is unwarranted and unfair. The attitude of some of the developed countries is the challenge for the Paris conclusion,” the Minister said.

Mr. Javadekar said there was no question of compromising on India’s stand on climate change. He blamed the “attitude” of the developed countries for the problem. India was trying to “proactively” forge a consensus on the issue. ……..

…… While the developed world has been looking at increased emission cuts from developing countries, the latter — including India — have sought common but differentiated responsibility. Shorn of jargon, it means that the developed world has been the prime polluter since its early lead in industrialisation and stays way ahead in emissions per capita to this day, meaning that it cannot expect nations now industrialising to forget this skew.

I really do dislike those who know best what others should do.

Kerry to lead the charge of the G-7 light brigade

March 3, 2014

Washington (AFP)US Secretary of State John Kerry will travel to Kiev this week in a show of support for the embattled leadership, as Washington and its allies slammed Moscow for violating Ukraine’s sovereignty.

kerry to lead the charge on kiev

kerry to lead the charge on kiev

The Crimea has seen its full share of wars, progroms, forced displacements and ethnic cleansing. It has been “ceded” to Ukraine since 1954. And now, as the Ottomans once allied with France and the UK  against Russia,  the Neo-Nazis of Ukraine are finding allies among the US, NATO and the EU  (G-7).

But Crimea contains 60% Russians!

With apologies to Alfred, Lord Tennyson:

Half a step, half a brain,
 Half a plan given,
All into the valley of Fools
 Rode the G-seven.
“Forward, the Light Brigade!
“It’s for Democracy” he said:
Into the valley of Fools
 Rode the G-seven!

“Forward, the Light Brigade!”
Was there no one  dismayed?
Tho’ every single member knew
 He had no discretion:
Barack Obama had made reply
Kerry had his own fish to fry
Theirs not to question why,
As into the valley of Fools
 Rode the G-seven!

Kerry’s “messianic fervour” – Israeli Defence Minister doesn’t quite apologise

January 15, 2014

The John Kerry – Moshe Yaalon spat has become a US – Israeli spat and provides some light amusement.

Israeli Defence Minister Moshe Yaalon had criticised John Kerry for acting out of “misplaced obsession and messianic fervour”.

The instant backlash from the US and Israel was fairly predictable but the Israeli concern was more about not upsetting the US rather than not upsetting Kerry.

And this shows in the apology that Moshe Yaalon has now issued.  “The defence minister… apologises if the secretary was offended by words attributed to the minister.” It is a classic case of apologising for the result but not for the cause. It is saying, “I am sorry that you took offense but definitely not for my actions which caused you to take offense”.

But I have some sympathy for Moshe Yaalon. Messianic fervour, especially from a do-gooder who always knows best – is profoundly irritating. It arouses opposition for the sake of opposing the fervour. It shifts the focus from the message to the messenger. It arouses resentment first of the messenger and then of the message. It is generally counter-productive. It is only effective when applied to an unsophisticated crowd especially if they are lacking in knowledge or intelligence.

John Kerry seems to believe that showing such fervour is helpful to his cause whether in winning nomination, in relations between nations or his delusions about global warming. Messianic fervour may be admirable in a messiah (though even that is doubtful) but it is not an attribute of much value to a Secretary of State. Messianic fervour is the consequence of delusion – a delusion of moral superiority or of nobility or of divinity or of grandeur or of noblesse oblige. It goes far beyond passion and always indicates two obsessions; first that the opinion being proposed is fact and second that the all-knowing messiah knows best what the unwashed masses must do.

Messianic fervour should have no place in determining human behaviour whether in politics or in science. It is the stuff of false priests and charlatans.

Putin’s Nobel among other things

September 10, 2013

Vladimir Putin is arranging to be nominated for the 2013 Nobel Peace Prize by a “neutral” 3rd party. The nomination will be on the grounds that since he is demonstrably more “peaceful” than a previous laureate (Obama) then his “case” stands proven beyond all reasonable doubt. 

(It has also been suggested that since Global Warming is now over, Al Gore could be asked to return his prize – voluntarily).

Senator John Kerry has been nominated to the Vatican as a “miracle worker” and for consideration for Sainthood. His miracle being that his offhand remark was seized upon by Divine Forces and Vladimir Putin to create the Syrian miracle. A Devil’s Advocate is being sought by the Vatican even though his canonisation can only be carried out posthumously. 

(It has been noted by Kerry’s team that Nobel Prizes are only awarded to the living while Catholic canonisation only applies to the departed and therefore Kerry could be eligible for both).

Bashar-al-Assad is now considering how under the pretext of protecting UN weapons inspectors and “verifiers”, the US could be inveigled into carrying out drone attacks on Al Qaida (and other rebel groups).

Barrack Obama is putting out the story that it was all his very devious idea and that it was he who had first suggested the solution to Putin during their frosty 20 minutes alone at the G20 meeting in Saint Petersburg.

David Cameron is competing with Francois Hollande to see who can produce the toughest draft resolution for the United Nations.

Cameron also claims that it was he who suggested the diplomatic route to Barrack Obama when he lost the vote in the UK House of Commons.

Al Qaida and The Arab League have gone into mourning.

Obama hits pause button and Senate delays Syria vote

September 10, 2013

As I speculated yesterday, putting Syrian chemical weapons under International control has taken off as a potential “negotiated” solution which could avoid a US strike.

The speed with which the suggestion of international control has been taken on by so many of the parties including Syria (but excluding Al Qaida and the various opposition groups) is – I think – encouraging. But the message from the Obama administration is now incredibly mixed. Instead of giving the impression of an iron fist in a velvet glove the prevailing impression is of Obama having gone too far and now scrambling to avoid implementing a strike.

Even the Senate majority leader felt it necessary to delay any vote in the Senate. Members of Congress were also highly irritated by Kerry’s statement yesterday that the strike would be “unbelievably small”. This must have stung their egos — since of course nothing the Congress votes for can be for anything “unbelievably small”!

Support for President Obama’s call for military airstrikes in Syria is sliding on Capitol HIll.

President Obama’s push for congressional approval for military airstrikes in Syria ran aground Monday, forcing Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., to delay a procedural vote as opposition builds among senators in both parties.

Six senators, including five Republicans and one Democrat, announced Monday they would vote against a resolution authorizing the use of force — a strong indication that the administration’s efforts to build bipartisan support have been ineffective.

The Senate was scheduled to vote Wednesday on a procedural motion to begin formal debate on the resolution, but Reid announced late Monday the vote would be delayed in order to buy the president more time to make his case to senators and the public.

“What we need to do is make sure the president has the opportunity to speak to all 100 senators and all 300 million American people before we do this,” Reid said.

The delay also came amid reports that Russia was seeking a deal with Syria to dismantle its chemical weapons program. Obama said in television interviews Monday such a deal could circumvent the need for U.S. military intervention, but senators had not been briefed on the development and expressed skepticism.

“I have no idea what’s going on. It’d be great if the Russians could convince Assad to turn over his chemical weapons to the international community. That’d be a terrific outcome. I just am very dubious and skeptical,” said Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C.

Comments made Monday in London by Secretary of State John Kerry describing the military effort as “unbelievably small” also rankled lawmakers. Graham said Kerry “undercut everything the president has been doing for the last couple of days” to build support.

That there was strong opposition to Obama’s war in the House was known but this has now spread to the Senate.

The rapid clip of senators announcing their opposition on Monday raised serious doubts that the president would be able to muster the necessary support in either the House or Senate. The GOP-led House is not likely to take up a resolution unless the Senate can pass it first. A final Senate vote was expected this weekend, but Reid’s decision to delay the formal debate puts the schedule in flux.

Five GOP Sens. Lamar Alexander of Tennessee, Roy Blunt of Missouri, Johnny Isakson of Georgia, Roger Wicker of Mississippi, and Mike Enzi of Wyoming all announced opposition Monday, as did Democratic Sen. Heidi Heitkamp of North Dakota.

Briefings by top administration officials and a weekend conversation with Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel were not enough to sway Alexander. “I see too much risk that the strike will do more harm than good by setting off a chain of consequences that could involve American fighting men and women in another long-term Middle East conflict,” he said.

If a US strike does not take place the losers will be Obama (for being so strident so quickly) and Al Qaida.


Abe wins and Rudd loses while Kerry lobbies for Obama’s war

September 8, 2013

It is a misty Autumn morning this Sunday and the last week has had its mix of stories. But a few small encouraging events are over-shadowed by the darkness of Obama’s determination to go to war. Abe won for Tokyo while Rudd lost for Abbott and Kerry lobbies the world for money and support for Obama’s war.

Shinzo Abe made a personal commitment to the IOC that the Fukushima radiation leaks were and would be under control. Tokyo was awarded the 2020 summer Olympic Games yesterday in Buenos Aires beating Istanbul by 60 votes to 36. Madrid had crept up to be perceived as a front runner with their low key, “low cost” games but the mood was not for “restraint”. Delegates were getting tired of financial crises. Moreover they were tired of doping scandals and these could not be ruled out in Madrid or Istanbul. And once Madrid lost to Istanbul in a run-off for second place, the Madrid support – especially from Europe and the Americas – was not ready to let the Games go to an Islamist country for the first time ever. Of Madrid’s initial 26 votes in the first round, only 10 went to Istanbul in the final voting. And that left Tokyo which is a good thing

In Australia, the bookies and the national polls turned out to be pretty well right. Kevin Rudd lost and Tony Abbott won as a consequence. But the Labour loss could have been much worse.  A clear majority in the Lower House for the Coalition but not in the Senate where they only secured the avoidance of a Red/Green majority. The Carbon Tax is toast but it will take a bit of horse trading in the Senate to finally bury it.  The peculiar nature of preference votes means that the Senate composition will not be firm for a few days and there will be some new Senators which could lead to some unusual alliances. The Greens will actually have an extra Senator but thier alliance with Labour may not be as clear-cut. The overbearing self-righteousness of Australian bureaucracy may begin to be curbed. Tony Abbott has already asked his bureaucrats to prepare to stop the Carbon Tax and to stop the asylum boats. The Carbon Tax may well go in 2014 and that is a good thing.

And in the meantime President Obama pursues his war with no objectives. He flew back to the US to shore up domestic support for his war on Syria. He is scheduled to make his weekly address on Tuesday and to have six interviews with leading news anchors broadcast on Monday. Remarkably it is the hawks and neo-cons in the US who are the strongest supporters of his war.. A “coalition of mutual contempt” according to the Atlantic.  John Kerry is travelling around Europe lobbying the European countries. His list of countries supporting the US is “now into double figures”. Even self-appointed policemen have to be paid and Kerry is also meeting with the Arab League in Paris today and its members have offered to pay for the entire cost of Obama’s war! A strike on Syria by the US seems inevitable and that is a bad thing.

Are Kerry and Obama dancing to an Israeli tune?

September 2, 2013

There are a number of inconsistencies between the various  “intelligence” reports concerning the alleged Syrian use of chemical weapons which give rise to convoluted stories about “who knew what”, “who made up what” and “why”? That Israeli intelligence is heavily involved in presenting the “right” story is only to be expected. That Turkish sources slant everything in favour of what may help get rid of Assad is also to be expected. That Al Qaida ( and I would not put it past them to be behind the chemical attack even if only through a renegade Syrian Army general) would like Assad to be attacked and the hostilities prolonged is equally obvious. That the various Syrian opposition groups (including Al Qaida) each has its own corner to protect is apparent every day.

Perhaps everybody involved is trying to orchestrate the “intelligence” and the “evidence” –  and the result will then be something that nobody has actually designed. It is US Foreign Policy happening by accident and not by design – at least not by US design.

Admittedly many of the stories are from sources who themselves have some vested interest and nothing emanating from Syria can be taken without a major dose of salt. Nevertheless some of the stories may well have some kernel of truth. And it does seem strange that one of the first to hear about Obama’s intention to delay the expected strike and defer to Congress – before he announced it – was the Israeli Prime Minister!

Haaretz reports:

U.S. President Barack Obama called Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Saturday and informed him that he planned to delay what seemed like an imminent attack on Syria, ahead of his speech at the White House to that regard.

Obama also told Netanyahu that he would relegate the matter to Congress, and ask for a congressional vote on any military action.

Craig Murray:  

It is therefore very strange, to say the least, that John Kerry claims to have access to communications intercepts of Syrian military and officials organising chemical weapons attacks, which intercepts were not available to the British Joint Intelligence Committee.

On one level the explanation is simple.  The intercept evidence was provided to the USA by Mossad, according to my own well  placed source in the Washington intelligence community.  Intelligence provided by a third party is not automatically shared with the UK, and indeed Israel specifies it should not be.

But the inescapable question is this.  Mossad have nothing comparable to the Troodos operation.  The reported content of the conversations fits exactly with key tasking for Troodos, and would have tripped all the triggers.  How can Troodos have missed this if Mossad got it?  The only remote possibility is that all the conversations went on a purely landline route, on which Mossad have a physical wire tap, but that is very unlikely in a number of ways – not least nowadays the purely landline route. … The answer to the Troodos Conundrum is simple.  Troodos did not pick up the intercepts because they do not exist.  Mossad fabricated them.  John Kerry’s “evidence” is the shabbiest of tricks.  More children may now be blown to pieces by massive American missile blasts.  It is nothing to do with humanitarian intervention.  It is, yet again, the USA acting at the behest of Israel

Moon of Alabama

During next weeks discussions it will be important to point out that the U.S. “intelligence” about the chemical incident in Syria is full of holes. The paper by the British Joint Intelligence Organisation used by Cameron to ask for war speaks of 350 people killed in the incident. On Friday Secretary of State Kerry spoke of 1,429 people killed. The draft war resolution speaks of “more then thousand” killed. 350, 1,429, 1,000 – which is it?

Jack Goldsmith, the Henry L. Shattuck Professor at Harvard Law School writes at Lawfare:

The administration’s proposed Authorization for the Use of Military Force (AUMF) for Syria provides:

(a) Authorization. — The President is authorized to use the Armed Forces of the United States as he determines to be necessary and appropriate in connection with the use of chemical weapons or other weapons of mass destruction in the conflict in Syria in order to –

(1) prevent or deter the use or proliferation (including the transfer to terrorist groups or other state or non-state actors), within, to or from Syria, of any weapons of mass destruction, including chemical or biological weapons or components of or materials used in such weapons; or

(2) protect the United States and its allies and partners against the threat posed by such weapons.

There is much more here than at first meets the eye.  The proposed AUMF focuses on Syrian WMD but is otherwise very broad.  It authorizes the President to use any element of the U.S. Armed Forces and any method of force.  It does not contain specific limits on targets – either in terms of the identity of the targets (e.g. the Syrian government, Syrian rebels, Hezbollah, Iran) or the geography of the targets.  Its main limit comes on the purposes for which force can be used.  Four points are worth making about these purposes.  First, the proposed AUMF authorizes the President to use force “in connection with” the use of WMD in the Syrian civil war. (It does not limit the President’s use force to the territory of Syria, but rather says that the use of force must have a connection to the use of WMD in the Syrian conflict.  Activities outside Syria can and certainly do have a connection to the use of WMD in the Syrian civil war.).  Second, the use of force must be designed to “prevent or deter the use or proliferation” of WMDs “within, to or from Syria” or (broader yet) to “protect the United States and its allies and partners against the threat posed by such weapons.”  Third, the proposed AUMF gives the President final interpretive authority to determine when these criteria are satisfied (“as he determines to be necessary and appropriate”).  Fourth, the proposed AUMF contemplates no procedural restrictions on the President’s powers (such as a time limit). 

…….. Does the proposed AUMF authorize the President to use force against Iran or Hezbollah, in Iran or Lebanon?  Again, yes, as long as the President determines that Iran or Hezbollah has a (mere) a connection to the use of WMD in the Syrian civil war, and the use of force against Iran or Hezbollah would prevent or deter the use or proliferation of WMD within, or to and from, Syria, or protect the U.S. or its allies (e.g. Israel) against the (mere) threat posed by those weapons.  Again, very easy to imagine.

Obama blinks, passes the buck to Congress and Kerry looks like a war-monger

August 31, 2013

Well, I thought that Kerry’s speech yesterday had effectively closed off all options for retreat.

But I had not reckoned with Obama’s risk aversion and his distaste for making decisions.

He blinked, passed the buck to Congress and Kerry now looks like a war-monger! 

He found his exit from the “red-line box” he was in. And Cameron’s slap-in-the-face from his own Parliament probably provided Obama not only with the inspiration to find his own exit policy but also convinced him not to go it alone. Having French support (and the Turkish support does not really count) was clearly not sufficient for Obama to stick his neck out. The “special relationship” with the UK still has meaning – even if Cameron is smarting.

I suspect this deferment to Congress is more due to Obama’s reluctance to take risky decisions rather than his desire to support the role of Congress. Congress will not be recalled especially for this and will resume normally on Monday 9th September. If Congress approves a strike his back is covered – even if a strike achieves nothing. And if Congress rejects any strike he has an “out” and a Congress to berate for lack of moral “spine”. 

Quite clever really. A win-win for him at the cost only of enhancing perceptions of his risk aversion and his indecision. And he has no elections to face any more.

 So probably no strikes for the next 10 days but 10 days is a very long time for anything to happen.


UPDATE! Someone pointed out to me that a delay of 10 days could also be very useful in the collection or manufacture of “evidence”. That may be unduly cynical but I note also that Putin’s call for the evidence to be shown and his statement that evidence which could not be seen could not be considered evidence came before Obama decided to pass the buck.


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