By: Ibrahim al-Amin
It was the British House of Commons that first opened the way for what became a retreat from the brink of war. Suddenly, public opinion entered the calculations of Western governments, which quickly led to a search for an exit for the White House. As soon as Barack Obama put the matter up before Congress, it was clear that he was looking for some sort of compromise.
All that was left was to find something that Washington can go to its Arab and European allies with and tell them, “See, this is what I got for not waging a war on Syria.”
The Russians saw their opportunity to make a move. They needed to come up with something that would not look like a defeat for the US, while at the same time wouldn’t make Damascus look like it is backing down completely. So they came up with the idea of neutralizing Syria’s chemical arsenal by placing it under international supervision.
The Russian initiative will likely usher in what appears to be only a temporary settlement, postponing the attack, rather than canceling it altogether. But even this requires quite a bit of discussion in order to see the light of day, and as the saying goes, the devil is in the details.
The Israeli plan in effect seeks a replay of the Iraq scenario, in which weapons inspectors were asked to look in every nook and cranny, including Saddam Hussein’s private palaces, until the US was ready to attack. And what was leaked by the Israeli media about a Tel Aviv plan, advising Obama to drag out the negotiations, suggests that this will be nothing more than a short respite, until the opportunity presents itself at a later date to strike. By then perhaps, the right conditions will be in place to wage a war under more favorable circumstances.
The Israeli plan in effect seeks a replay of the Iraq scenario, in which weapons inspectors were asked to look in every nook and cranny, including Saddam Hussein’s private palaces, until the US was ready to attack. In Syria’s case, the Americans could use the excuse of having failed to reach a final agreement based on the Russian initiative as an excuse to wage a far broader assault on Damascus than what was planned this time around.
But what about the other side? How does it appraise the situation? And what is it planning for any future confrontation?
No one needs to tell Syria’s allies that Washington no longer possesses complete freedom to do as it pleases, particularly compared to a decade or so ago, before getting bogged down in Iraq and Afghanistan. They also know that America’s recent setbacks have produced a regional and international opposition alliance that brings together powerful forces that continue to grow by the day.
This opposition alliance operates on a number of levels: Russia playing a diplomatic role, while Iran is prepared to take the lead militarily, if it comes to a regional confrontation with the US. Tehran is not only capable of facing down Washington in Syria and the surrounding area, but it has the ability to cause them serious harm.
In two short weeks, this alliance succeeded in mobilizing a broad military front that is prepared to engage in an extended war that could last for months or more, opening up many new opportunities that were not previously available and making it possible for this alliance to confront any Western attack, without submitting to the aggressors’ timeframe, geography or scale.