US President Barack Obama has made a compelling case that Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s regime has used nerve agents to kill hundreds of Syrians. A decision to use military force against the Assad regime is now rightly being debated in Congress. The United States wants to find some way to strike Assad that does not benefit the most dangerous elements of the Syrian opposition — the al-Qaeda franchises that have become increasingly important in the Syrian civil war. One way is to better use information warfare against the al-Qaeda menace.
The intelligence case presented by Obama demonstrates clearly that the Syrian regime used the nerve agent sarin in August. The Centre d’Etudes et de Recherches Scientifiques, the agency that created Syria’s chemical warfare arsenal and reports to Assad, has been directly implicated in the attack.
Obama argues that the United States should use military force to respond to the chemical attack, but must avoid being sucked into the civil war that has raged since 2011. He makes a compelling case that a large-scale intervention in Syria would bog down the United States in another Middle Eastern quagmire, as happened in Iraq, and that Washington’s ability to positively influence the violent sectarian struggle is severely limited. Therefore, he promises there will be no American boots on the ground in Syria.
[The resignation of assistant secretary of state for European and Eurasian affairs Wess Mitchell] is surprising news, which seems to have caught everyone off guard. He doesn’t appear to have shared this news with his ambassadors, who were in Washington last week for a global chiefs of mission conference. His deputy is also slated to retire soon, which raises question of near term leadership on European policy at a time of challenges there.
[Wess] Mitchell was a strong supporter of NATO, particularly in Eastern Europe where he will be sorely missed. His departure comes follows the resignation of senior Pentagon officials – Robert Karem and Tom Goffus – working on NATO along with Secretary Mattis. Without this pro-alliance caucus, NATO is now more vulnerable than at any time since the beginning of the Trump administration.