Ce (très long) texte prend pour acquis que le régime syrien a utilisé des armes chimiques.
In May, the senior American official who is involved in Syria policy met me at his office in Washington. When I asked him to predict Syria’s future, he got up from his desk and walked over to a large map of the country which was tacked to his wall. (...)
“What does that sound like? Lebanon. But it’s Lebanon on steroids.” He walked back to his desk and sat down. “The Syria I have just drawn for you—I call it the Sinkhole,’’ he said. “I think there is an appreciation, even at the highest levels, of how this is getting steadily worse. This is the discomfort you see with the President, and it’s not just the President. It’s everybody.” No matter how well intentioned the advocates of military intervention are, he suggested, getting involved in a situation as complex and dynamic as the Syrian civil war could be a foolish risk. The cost of saving lives may simply be too high. “Whereas we had a crisis in Iraq that was contained—it was very awful for us and the Iraqis—this time it will be harder to contain,” he said. “Four million refugees going into Lebanon and Jordan is not the kind of problem we had going into Iraq.” In a year, he estimated, Lebanon alone could have four million refugees, doubling the population of the country. “Jordan will close its borders, and then you will have tens of thousands of refugees huddling down close to that border for safety.”
The rapid growth of Al Qaeda in Syria is deeply troubling, he said. “In February, 2012, they were tiny. No more than a few dozen. Now, fast-forward fourteen months. They are in Aleppo. They are in Damascus. They are in Homs.” In Iraq, he said, “They didn’t grow so fast and they didn’t cover all the big cities. In Syria, they do.” Also, he pointed out, there were no chemical weapons in Iraq, as there are in Syria. “We will have a greater risk, the longer this goes on, that the bad guys—they are all bad guys, but I mean terrorist groups like Hezbollah and Islamist extremist groups—will acquire some of these weapons. How do you plan for that? The longer the war goes on, the more the extremists will gain.” Indeed, the longer the war goes on, the greater the threat that it will engulf the entire region.
The official said that the United States’ quandary was clear enough: “...I know there is a debate on military intervention. I cannot recommend it to the President unless there is a very clearly defined political way back out. People on the Hill ask me, ‘Why can’t we do a no-fly zone? Why can’t we do military strikes?’ Of course we can do these things. The issue is, where does it stop?” ♦
Israel’s reported airstrikes in Syria — and the threat of a retaliatory strike by the Syrian government — are likely to accelerate the decision-making of the Obama administration, which was already moving toward a sharp escalation of U.S. involvement in the two-year-old crisis.
Senior officials said the deployment of U.S. troops to Syria remains unlikely, but they have indicated that a decision will come within weeks on options ranging from the supply of weapons to the Syrian rebels to the use of U.S. aircraft and missiles to ground President Bashar al-Assad’s air power by destroying planes, runways and missile sites inside Syria.
Neither Israeli nor U.S. officials confirmed an attack Sunday morning that reportedly hit a weapons shipment in Syria — including sophisticated missiles and air defense equipment — about to be transferred to Lebanon-based Hezbollah.
But President Obama, in an interview broadcast just hours later Sunday, said Israel is justified in preventing the provision of weapons to Hezbollah.
“We coordinate very closely with the Israelis, recognizing that . . . they are very close to Syria, they’re very close to Lebanon,” Obama said in the interview, recorded Saturday with the Spanish-language Telemundo, after an earlier Israeli attack reported late Friday.
Throughout the Syrian crisis, the administration has repeatedly voiced the belief that Syria is already awash in weapons and that sending more will not tip the balance in favor of the rebels.
Now, in part because of growing confidence in the rebel Free Syrian Army, “the national security team and the diplomatic team around the president” favor increased involvement, and their views are gaining momentum despite the caution expressed by Obama’s political advisers, according to a senior Western official whose government has closely coordinated its Syria policy with Washington and who spoke before the reported Israeli strikes. The official discussed sensitive diplomatic assessments on the condition of anonymity.
Even U.S. lawmakers who have expressed reservations about stepped-up U.S. involvement appeared to now see it as inevitable.
The impunity with which the Israelis apparently struck targets in Damascus, McCain said on “Fox News Sunday,” undercut the argument of the U.S. military that Syrian air defenses would pose a formidable impediment to imposition of a no-fly zone over rebel-held areas of Syria.
“The Israelis seem to be able to penetrate it rather easily,” McCain said. The “red line” Obama drew, promising consequences for Assad if he used chemical weapons, “was apparently written in disappearing ink,” he said.
The administration has long exercised caution out of fears that U.S. involvement could worsen the situation. But Obama’s reservations have been challenged by U.S. allies and partners who have urged the United States to take more of a leadership role over their disparate efforts to help the Syrian opposition. At the same time, U.S. confidence has been growing in the cohesiveness of the Free Syrian Army led by Gen. Salim Idris.
Idris, who met with Secretary of State John F. Kerry in Istanbul two weeks ago, pledged that no U.S.-supplied arms would go to Islamist extremist groups fighting for the same cause as the U.S.-backed rebels and said that all weapons would be carefully supervised and returned to donors at the end of the conflict.