Friday, August 30, 2013

Representative Adam Smith: Simply lashing out with military force under the banner of 'doing something' will not secure our interests in Syria

    Friday, August 30, 2013   No comments

What seemed inevitable just 48 hours ago – an imminent U.S. missile attack on Syrian targets in response to an alleged chemical attack that reportedly killed hundreds of Syrian citizens – stalled Thursday as the justification for military action faced increasing questioning both here and abroad.

Growing calls by both Republican and Democratic lawmakers for consultations with, if not formal authorisation by, Congress before Obama takes any military action have raised the potential political costs on Capitol Hill if Obama proceeds on his own.

While the administration continues to express certainty that the Syrian government was responsible for the alleged Aug. 21 attack, the Associated Press, quoting U.S. intelligence officials, reported Thursday that such a case fell short of a “slam dunk” – a reference to then-CIA director George Tenet’s mistaken declaration that President Saddam Hussein had weapons of mass destruction (WMD) in the run-up to the Iraq War.

Some officials cited in the story said they could not entirely rule out the possibility that rebels were responsible for the attack on a Damascus suburb – as alleged by the government of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.

According to AP, officials could not tie Assad or his inner circle to any directive ordering the use of chemical weapons or even to foreknowledge of the attack, suggesting that the decision may have made by lower-ranking military officers or a rogue commander.

The administration has scheduled a telephone conference call with members of Congress for Thursday evening, but officials said the briefing would not include classified information that could confirm the nature of the attack or who was responsible. A White House spokesman said the administration still hopes to release an unclassified intelligence assessment by the weekend.

Meanwhile, the administration faced other problems overseas, not least of which was the refusal earlier this week of the Arab League to explicitly endorse a military attack and the appeals by U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon and his special envoy for Syria, Lakhdar Brahimi, to await the findings of U.N. inspectors who have been in Syria this week investigating the site of the alleged attack, taking testimony and blood samples from its victims. Ban said Thursday the inspectors would not leave Syria until Saturday.

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