Obama, Syria, and the long game

Shorter Question Everything

The threat of war, not the war itself, may be enough.

Did Obama bring the Syria debate to Congress knowing that it would be stalled by a Republican house precisely to buy time – and the promise of a military threat – to talk to Putin at the G20? The US could have struck Syria, and those weapons would still be there, but with Russia forcing Assad to hand those weapons over, it’s a win for everyone. The US wins without a war, the weapons are under international control, and Russia? Russia gets to walk back from supporting Assad when it’s starting to look like a bad idea to support him. Obama has always played a long game; in a way, I suppose that’s the “Obama Doctrine”.

Obama has thought through actions on Syria:

Chris Wallace: “The fact is, you don’t know what happens after you order a strike.”

Obama: Actually we know what Assad’s capabilities are, and Mr. Assad’s military capabilities are significant compared to a bunch of opposition leaders, many of whom are not professional fighters. They’re significant relative to over 400 children that were gassed. They’re not significant relative to the US military.

Some of their allies, Iran, Hezbollah, do have the capacity to carry out asymmetrical strikes, but keep in mind that even Assad’s allies recognize that he crossed the line in using chemical weapons. Iran, itself, was subjected to chemical weapons use by Saddam Hussein. Their populations remember what terrible weapons these are. There is a reason why almost the entire international community has signed a ban on chemical weapons even during hot wars, and it’s because they’re indiscriminate, and so my narrow concern right now is making sure that Assad does not use those chemical weapons again

…We’ve seen some indications from the Russians as well as the Syrians today that they may be willing to look at the prospect of getting those weapons under control, perhaps even international control, and getting them out of there where they could be vulnerable to use by anybody.

…I think it’s fair to say that we would not be at this point without a credible threat of a military strike, but I welcome the possibility of the development, and John Kerry will be talking to his Russian counterparts. I think we should explore and exhaust all avenues of diplomatic resolution of this.”

Wallace: …“Had you discussed this when you were in St. Petersburg with President Putin – the idea of Russia intervening to try to get them to turn over their chemical weapons or do you worry that this could be the Russians …trying to throw a monkey wrench into this whole process?”

Obama: “I did discuss this with President Putin. This is something that is not new. I’ve been discussing this with President Putin for some time now. The last time we were at a G20 meeting in Los Cabos last year, I suggested the need for the United States and Russia to work together to deal with this particular problem.”

Obama is Outsmarting Everyone and Winning on Syria Without Firing a Shot: It turns out that all of the people on the left and right who were fooled by the pundits and hosts on cable news into believing that war was just around the corner were absolutely, completely, totally, utterly wrong. War is not around the corner. In fact, President Obama had a strategy to get Syria to the table. That strategy was to get the United States talking about striking Syria by asking Congress for authorization. If President Obama wanted to strike Syria, he could have done so at any time. He didn’t, because military action in Syria was not what he wanted. The president wanted Syria to surrender their chemical weapons to the international community, and the best way to get Russia to listen was to turn up the heat by letting Congress debate a potential military strike on Syria. Barack Obama came up with a brilliant strategy. He may end up outsmarting everyone without risking a single American life, or another dollar on military action.

Kurt Eichenwald @kurteichenwald: If Obama Admin orchestrated the Kerry-Putin-Assad two step, brilliant move. If not, Obama is the luckiest guy in the world today.

Kerry’s ‘gaffe’ wasn’t a gaffe at all: He [Kerry] said: “Sure, he could turn over every single bit of his chemical weapons to the international community in the next week – turn it over, all of it without delay and allow the full and total accounting (of it) but he isn’t about to do it and it can’t be done.”

The big stick: Gaffe or no gaffe, the underlying Obama strategy created the possibility of a positive outcome. The Syrians (and the Russians) still think Obama might strike even if he loses in Congress. They still seem as if they’d like to avoid that outcome. Maybe the threat of force actually worked.

Obama Credits Military Threat For Russia’s Move On Syrian Chemical Weapons: President Obama said on Monday that a Russian proposal for Syria to relinquish control of its chemical weapons stockpiles to international monitors in order to avoid a U.S.-led military attack “is a potentially positive development,” but one that, if credible, would not have come about without the threat of military action.

White House to ‘take hard look’ at Russian chemical weapons proposal: Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov is pushing a proposal that the Syrian government cede its chemical weapons stockpiles to international control–an option the White House said it would “take a hard look at” while not removing the threat of a military strike.

Rush Limbaugh Calls Obama Syria Plan ‘Operation Shuck-and-Jive’

Rush Limbaugh: “Have you ever heard Obama talk about regime change as an objective? You have not,” Limbaugh opined on his Monday radio show. “This operation, Bush had ‘Shock and Awe,’ we’re looking at ‘Shuck and Jive’ here.”


George Zimmerman: Florida police are investigating a dispute between George Zimmerman and his wife Shellie — who called 911 and said her husband threatened her with a handgun and attacked her father, an official said. Lake Mary Police public information officer Zach Hudson said police were at the home, investigating a “possible domestic battery.” George Zimmerman was detained without being arrested and was released Monday afternoon, Hudson said.

George Zimmerman’s de Facto Spokesman Launches a White-Power Podcast: Yesterday, after George Zimmerman was taken into custody for allegedly threatening his estranged wife with a gun, HLN turned to a familiar source for commentary: Zimmerman’s neighbor and de facto media emissary, Frank Taaffe.

911 Call: George Zimmerman Tried To Use Stand Your Ground While Threatening His Wife: According to the 911 call, George Zimmerman kept telling his wife to move closer while he was holding a gun. It sounds like George was trying to set up another case of stand your ground. She told the dispatcher, “He’s here continually trying to shut the garage door on me. He’s in his car and he continually has his hand on his gun, and he keeps saying ‘step closer’ and he’s just threatening all of us with his firearm.” The dispatcher asked, “Step closer and what?” Shellie explained, “And he’s gonna shoot us. He punched my dad in the nose, my dad has a mark on his face, I saw his glasses on the floor. He then accosted my father then took my iPad out of my hands. He then smashed it and cut it with a pocketknife, and there is a Lake Mary city worker across the street that I believe saw all of it.” “He just showed up here but my phone died so I had to call you back… I don’t know what he’s capable of. I’m really, really scared.”

Update: Police says Zimmerman denied having a gun and they did not find a gun at the scene. Earlier in the day, Zimmerman’s lawyer said that he did have a gun.

In other news

Rob Ford Crack Allegations Land Newspapers At Ontario Press Council: Canada’s two largest newspapers defended their reporting of drug allegations against Toronto Mayor Rob Ford and his councillor brother Monday, saying they took every step possible to ensure the stories were accurate and fair. The Toronto Star and the Globe and Mail were called before the Ontario Press Council after dozens of readers complained about their coverage of the Fords in two specific stories published in May. The council is looking into a Star story on an alleged video of the mayor smoking what appears to be crack cocaine, as well as a Globe story on his brother Doug’s alleged drug dealings. It is weighing whether the two newspapers ”engaged in irresponsible, unethical investigative reporting.” In two separate hearings Monday, each outlet argued it went to extraordinary lengths to verify the information obtained through anonymous sources, and repeatedly sought out the Fords to hear their side of the story. Star reporters made at least 14 attempts to reach the mayor the night before the story was published, the Star’s editor-in-chief told the three-member panel.

Quebec: After more than a year of speculation and increasingly heated debate, the Quebec government will release its proposals Tuesday for a “values charter” that would restrict religious clothing. The Parti Quebecois government will roll out its suggestions at a morning news conference in the provincial legislature, 13 months after making an election pledge to introduce such a plan.

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