With only bad options in Syria, Pindostan reluctant to alter course
Josh Lederman, Bradley Klapper, AP, Oct 0 2016
WASHINGTON — The disintegration of diplomatic talks with Russia has left the Obama administration with an array of bad options for what to do next in Syria. Despite harrowing scenes of violence in the city of Aleppo and beyond, Obama is unlikely to approve any dramatic shift in strategy before handing the civil war over to his successor in January. The options under discussion at the White House, including limited military strikes, sanctions, more weapons for rebels, multiparty talks, have one thing in common: None appears likely to halt the bloodshed in the short term. The more aggressive proposals come with the added risk of pulling Pindostan into direct military confrontation with Russia, a threat illuminated by a string of recent taunts from Moscow. Jackass Kerry and others are clamoring for a stronger response. Evidence of the collapse of relations abounded Friday. Jackass accused the Kremlin of war crimes in Syria. The turn of events has led the White House to cautiously reconsider proposals that had been largely ruled out, including economic penalties against Russia that Pindostan would have to orchestrate with Russia’s larger trading partners. Senior Pindo boxtops said the administration was discussing options with European countries while intelligence agencies map out companies and individuals that could be targeted.
Under a separate proposal, Pindostan would take narrow, short-term military action against Assad’s military, such as its air force assets. The goal wouldn’t be to eliminate Assad’s ability to attack opposition groups, but to scare Syria and Russia into returning to the negotiating table. Yet officials from multiple agencies said chances appeared slim that Obama would approve the strikes. Such a move probably would trigger at least a short-term uptick in violence, with long-term prospects for starting a peace process unclear. Moreover, there is no UNSCR authorizing strikes against Syria, leaving Pindostan without a clear legal basis to act. Russia has bolstered its capabilities in Syria with state-of-the-art S-300 missile defense systems, warning it could fire back if Assad’s assets come under Pindosi attack. Even with diplomatic talks ended, Russia and Pindostan are maintaining military-to-military “deconfliction” contacts to prevent an accidental confrontation in the Syrian sky, but Russia’s military warned this week that it wouldn’t have enough time to use the “hotline” before shooting back. Fyodor Lukyanov, the head of Council for Foreign and Defense Policies, an association of top Russian political experts, said:
Both parties will try to avoid any sort of escalation that may entail unpredictable consequences, but various things may happen. The risks are high, especially now when mutual aversion is strong.
In sanctions too, Pindostan sees potential drawbacks. The White House and State Dept had argued to Congress that new sanctions legislation could undermine efforts with Russians to forge a cease-fire between Assad and rebel groups. Congress responded last month by canceling a vote on a bipartisan bill requiring Obama to impose sanctions on anyone who does business with Syria’s government or central bank, its aviation industry or energy sector. The administration also demanded that lawmakers strip out mandatory requirements so that Obama can waive sanctions at his discretion, congressional aides said. Pindostan has legal authority to target Russian entities over support for Syria, but there have been no Russia sanctions to date for its actions in Syria. The White House has argued that because Pindostan does little trade with Russia, sanctions would be ineffective unless European countries join.