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Friday, September 6, 2013

Obama set for showdown at G20 over Syria Host Putin Poses Major Challenge To Attack Plan



St Petersburg: President Barack Obama faced growing pressure from world leaders not to launch military strikes in Syria on Thursday at a summit on the global economy that was eclipsed by the conflict. 
    The Group of 20 (G20) developed and developing economies met in St Petersburg to try forge a united front on economic growth, trade, banking transparency and fighting tax evasion. 
    But the club that accounts for two thirds of the world's population and 90% of its output is divided over issues ranging from the US Federal Reserve's decision to end its programme of stimulus forthe economy to the Syrian crisis. 

    Russian President Vladimir Putin wants to use the meeting in a seafront tsarist palace to talk Obama out of military action against Syrian President Bashar al-Assad over a chemical weapons attack which Washington blames on government forces. 
    Obama wore a stiff smile as he approached Putin on arrival at the summit and grasped his hand. Putin also maintained a businesslike expression. It was only when they turned to pose for the cameras that Obama broke into a broader grin. The first round at the summit went to Putin as China,the EU and Pope Francis — in a letter for G20 leaders — aligned themselves more closely with him than with Obama over the possibility and legitimacy of armed intervention. 

    Putin, Assad's most important ally, was isolated on Syria at a G8 meeting in June, the last big meeting of world powers. 
    He could now turn the tables on Obama, who recently likened him to a "bored kid in the back of the classroom." Only France, which is preparing to join US military action, rallied behind Obama. 
    "We are convinced that if there is no punishment for Assad, there will be no negotiation,"French foreign minister Laurent Fabius said. Putin has no one-on-one talks scheduled with Obama but hopes to discuss Syria at a dinner with all the leaders. REUTERS 

GOING AFTER ASSAD 

THE STRIKE WHAT ARE THE TARGETS IN SYRIA? 
Not chemical weapon sites, which could set them off and create a bigger disaster 
INSTEAD THEY ARE TARGETING: 
    
Military units that carry out these strikes 
    Operational headquarters 
    Rockets and artillery that are used to launch the attacks 
    Air bases for the attack helicopters 
    Command and control centres 
The main attack is expected to be carried out by 
Tomahawk cruise missiles 
from the four Arleigh Burkeclass destroyers currently in the Mediterranean — the Mahan, the Barry, the Gravely and the Ramage 

WHO PAYS WHAT FOR THE MILITARY OPERATION? 
Chuck Hagel told Congress they would be asking for 'tens of millions of dollars' which makes it surprisingly cheap. The Libya operation cost $1 billion. John Kerry said Gulf's Arab states have offered to foot the entire bill for the operation
SCENARIOS FOR MILITARY STRIKES 
Scenario 1 
Tomahawk cruise missiles hit chemical delivery targets, military units, artillery and rocket bases 
Deterrent, limited tactical effect Would not affect war or Assad's future Signal of no tolerance for chemical attacks, Obama's self-imposed 'red line' Cruise missiles cannot penetrate underground bunkers or mobile targets which means some of Assad's arsenal would survive Possible civilian casualties 

Scenario 2 
Wider attack to hit communication nodes, infrastructure, impose a 'no-fly' zone, crater airfields used to ship in conventional weaponry from Russia and China 
    This would imply a deeper intervention, including suppression of air defences. Involve hundreds of sorties 
    Would hurt Assad's military capability 

Scenario 3 Big sustained attack, going over a few weeks, target leadership, degrade and possibly lead to the removal of Assad. This would need more expensive involvement 

THE DAY AFTER 
    
Strikes against Syria would open US to charges that it is trigger-happy when it comes to attacking Muslim countries, deepening divide between Islamic societies and the West 
    If Assad is removed as a result, the world could see cocktail of Sunni jihadi groups in charge 
    Military strikes in Syria could bring US & Russia on confrontational path 
    Iran, Syria's biggest supporter, could retaliate, either through terrorist 
attacks by Hezbollah or through other means like attacking Turkey or Jordan SYRIA FIRE, WEST ASIA INFERNO 
Syrian civil conflict has turned into a sectarian strife Sunni and Shia communities seizing on religious symbols, sowing sectarian passions Saudis and Iran support rebel groups for regional supremacy Religious fighters, radicals making a beeline to the region Within Syria, 1,200 rebel groups split along sectarian lines Sunni vs Alawite civil war in 
Syria merging and growing into Sunni vs Shia tensions in Gulf, re-igniting other violent intra-faith strifes 
    The Sunni-Shia strife has spiked violence in Iraq and Lebanon 
    Spreading violence can destabilize not just Lebanon and Jordan, but also Turkey, Bahrain, Kuwait and even Pakistan 
    Sunnis expect Washington to back them 

OBAMA'S TIGHTROPE WALK 
THE RED LINE TALK 
    
First mentioned by Obama last year for Iran's drive for nukes. Red lines include any development by Iran seen as decision to make nukes or enrich uranium 
    In Syria, initial talk of strike alluded to red line of 'no 
chemical weapon use' 
On way to G 20 meet, Obama said, "I didn't set a red line. The 
world set a red line" On Syria, the US not first to call for military intervention France, Turkey, UK for action UK MPs vetoed military strike Obama got Republican support No decision till Congressional debates and votes next week PRO-STRIKE ARGUMENT | Disregard for red lines may embolden Iran to make nukes, Syria to use chemical weapons 
WHY THEY DON'T WANT TO STRIKE 
RUSSIA 
    
Anti-strike, hasn't ruled out support to UNSC resolution authorizing force 

CHINA 
    
One of Syria's main arms suppliers, warned strike will hurt world economy 

IRAN 
    
Strong support to Assad regime. Looking to cement its role as regional superpower

Rebels of Free Syrian Army atop a tank that belonged to forces loyal to Syria's President Assad


Placard with altered image of Obama at a rally in Kiev


AYATOLLAH ALI KHAMENEI | IRAN'S SUPREME LEADER




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