Barack Obama gave a quickie presser this morning that covered a wide range of issues including Syria, GTMO, Benghazi, and gun control. But the Syria story led the questioning, and the president did little to erase perceptions that he has little intention of escalating US involvement in the ongoing war. Hiding behind a firm use of adjectives and a determinedly technocratic approach to Assad and co’s possible use of chemical weapons, he allowed he was troubled by questions relating to “chain of custody” in the use of weapons, agreed that, following a determination that someone related to Assad had indeed used chemical weapons, he would “rethink the range of options,” bemoaned the death of tens of thousands of Syrians, and moved on. Twitterati from the region read the president as confirming he didn’t care to involve the US.
Who in the region, other than the beleaguered Syrian people, cares? The Jordanians, with about 400,000 refugees? The Iraqis, with al Qaeda back on the rise, inspired by their buds in Syria? Turkey, with its own massive refugee load? Lebanon, with its own Hezbollah fighting for Assad? Israel? But most of all, Iran. What have they seen? A red line that isn’t a red line. A president that will avoid action even if it makes him look the fool. A world indifferent to the plight of the Syrian people. Who are the decisive powers in the Middle East now? Qatar, of all places, which supports the Salafis wherever found; and Iran, which is stoking sectarian violence wherever possible.
Short answer to the question of what will follow Obama’s CSI-like examination of the forensics? Nothing. We’re going to have to wait for the EU arms embargo on Syria to end this summer, when France and the UK will step in and do their best to help the better guys beat both Assad and al Qaeda in Syria. It will be too little, very late.