The past several weeks have been surreal for Russia-watchers as the benighted country they follow has enjoyed more media exposure than at almost any other time over the past 20 years. The Russians, often caricatured in the American media as blundering, blustering, and ignorant bullies, have been running diplomatic circles around a disinterested and discombobulated Obama administration. Through skill, persistence, and a fair amount of good luck, Sergei Lavrov and Vladimir Putin managed to get the United States to sign on to a deal that would (with an absolutely enormous “if” around the willingness of the Syrian government to cooperate) peacefully take control of and eventually destroy the Assad regime’s store of chemical weapons. It’s been awhile since the Russians had a moment in the sun that was comparable. Read More
The following is the United Nation’s chemical weapons report on the Aug. 21, 2013 chemical weapons incident in Syria. From the report:
On the basis of the evidence obtained during our investigation of the Ghouta incident, the conclusion is that, on 21 August 2013, chemical weapons have been used in the ongoing conflict between the parties in the Syrian Arab Republic, also against civilians, including children, on a relatively large scale. Read More
The Department of Defense will leave four destroyers in the eastern Mediterranean and the Nimitz carrier strike group (CSG) in the Red Sea while the U.S. continues negotiations over Syria’s chemical weapons stockpile, a Pentagon spokesman told reporters on Thursday.
“We have no plans at this time to change our military posture in the Mediterranean,” Pentagon spokesman George Little told reporters. “We’re prepared for any potential military contingencies that might involve Syria.” Read More
On Friday a group of Russian warships passed from the Black Sea through the Bosphorus and Dardanelles. The group included destroyers, landing ships, frigates and supply ships from the Baltic, Black Sea, and Pacific fleets. It was scheduled to replace the current deployment of landing and surveillance ships already in the area, with Russian naval officials carefully noting that it was a “planned rotation” and not a “new” group. Read More
If the ongoing standoff between Syria and U.S. navy ships extends into October, the Navy may have to reshuffle funds to support the massed ships in the Eastern Mediterranean, Chief of Naval Operations Adm. Jonathan Greenert said Thursday at an event at the American Enterprise Institute. Read More
From the Sept. 3, 2013 Congressional Research Service Report, Possible U.S. Intervention in Syria: Issues for Congress:
Members of Congress have expressed a broad range of views on the question of an immediate U.S. military response, with some expressing support for military action and others expressing opposition or questioning how a military response would advance U.S. policy goals in Syria and beyond. For more than two years, many Members of Congress have debated the potential rewards and unintended consequences of deeper U.S. involvement in Syria. Some Members have expressed concern that the Administration’s policy of providing support to the fractured Syrian opposition could empower anti-American extremist groups, while others have warned that failure to back moderate forces in Syria could prolong the conflict and create opportunity for extremists. Read More
When looking for insights and answers to the complex problem the United States confronts in Syria, there is no shortage of examples of punitive military operations against bad actors from which to draw lessons. In the past 30 years the United States and its allies have launched punitive airstrikes against, to name a few: Lebanon, Iraq, Iran, Libya, Bosnia, Kosovo, Sudan and Afghanistan. Clearly the “measured military response” is a favored approach for American leaders when dealing with rogue actors. What is interesting this time around is the unprecedented public debate about whether or not such tactical measures actually work. Read More
The guided missile destroyer USS Mahan (DDG-72) has left the Eastern Mediterranean en route to its homeport at Naval Station Norfolk, Va., according to several press reports.
Mahan’s departure leaves four destroyers left to undertake an anticipated limited strike on Syria.
The aircraft carrier USS Nimitz (CVN-68), its escort of three Arleigh Burke guided missile destroyers and one Ticonderoga guided missile cruiser have been tasked to the Red Sea ahead of an expected U.S. strike on Syria, several news services reported on Monday. Read More
Even after shocking details emerged about Bashar al-Assad’s likely use of chemical weapons against his opponents in Syria, public opinion in the United States is decidedly unenthusiastic about a potential intervention. In opinion polls, large majorities say they want nothing to do with the worsening situation in Syria and express no desire to help the anti-Assad opposition. There is, however, a significant popular-elite split: While the populace as a whole is firmly against an intervention, foreign-policy elites are overwhelmingly in favor. Read More