Thursday, September 5, 2013 at 5:05 AM

Putin Blinks on Syria … as I Knew He Would

Posted by Anthony L. Hall

In an interview with the Associated Press and his state TV on Tuesday, Russian President Vladimir Putin indicated for the first time that he is not averse to backing U.S. strikes to punish Syrian President Bashar al-Assad for using chemical weapons. Although, perhaps this was just his way of trying to soften up Obama before their meeting today at the G20 Summit in St. Petersburg, the way he claimed Obama tried  to soften him up before their meeting three months ago at the G8 Summit in Northern Ireland.  It’s complicated….

hi-obama-putinIn any case, here’s how the Associated Press reported yesterday on what is arguably Putin blinking (i.e., hedging his bets) on Syria:

He said he ‘doesn’t exclude’ backing the use of force against Syria at the United Nations if there is objective evidence proving that Assad’s regime used chemical weapons against its people.

Mind you, Putin is bedfellows with right-wing nuts in America who would like nothing more than to see the U.S. Congress humble and humiliate Obama the way the UK Parliament humbled and humiliated PM Cameron by voting against military action. And he would be positively orgasmic if Obama reacts to such a vote by deciding not to strike — especially after reserving his right to do so even if Congress voted no. Putin was merely reserving his right in this interview to be on the winning side if Obama strikes and Assad falls.

But, taking him at his word about objective evidence, all Obama has to do is present NSA surveillance intercepts, which he claims capture members of Assad’s regime discussing not only preparations to use chemical weapons but also ways to cover their tracks when international outrage ensues. After all, as a former KGB spy, Putin would be denying everything that made him the leader he is today if he denies the credibility and persuasiveness of these intercepts.

In fact, anyone who doubts Assad’s guilt is just as naïve (or disingenuous) as jurors who doubted O.J. Simpson’s. In which case, not even a videotape of Assad giving the order to use chemical weapons would overcome those doubts. Of course, requiring such a standard of proof, in any case, is “utter nonsense.”

For the sake of complete clarity, though, I do not believe even Putin would countenance Assad claiming at the eleventh hour that, if there is proof his regime used chemical weapons, he did not authorize it. After all, Adolf Hitler actually wrote in Mein Kampf that millions of Germans would have been spared in WWI “if twelve or fifteen thousand of these Hebrew corrupters of the people had been held under poison gas.” Yet there is no documentary evidence of him ever ordering the SS to gas six million Jews during WWII. But does anybody dare absolve him of blame for the Holocaust…?

Which brings me to the brazen absurdity of U.S. congressmen who voted for all-out war against Saddam Hussein, based solely on the suspicion that he possessed chemical weapons, now expressing grave misgivings about voting for “targeted, limited strikes” against Assad, despite demonstrable and irrefutable facts that he used chemical weapons. But I’m loath to dignify this with any further comment….

As for Putin turning on Assad, well:

Everybody knows that when his inevitable fall becomes imminent Putin will not hesitate to drop him like a hot potato … just as Obama did with Mubarak.

(‘Now Houla: Assad Continues to Massacre with Impunity,” The iPINIONS Journal, May 29, 2012)

120204054932-syria-russia-vote-story-top-e1328408753596As it happened, though, Putin reeked of even more disingenuousness in that interview when he insisted that the United States should seek approval from the UN Security Council before taking any military action. After all, Russia has become notorious at the UN for using its veto to block any U.S.-drafted resolution, no matter how tame or salutary, where its puppet state Syria is concerned.

Not to mention the glaring hypocrisy of Putin declaiming that:

Only the UN Security Council can give approval for the use of force against another state.  Any other ways to justify the use of force against another sovereign and independent state are unacceptable and cannot be qualified as anything other than aggression.

(London Telegraph, September 4, 2013)

Frankly, all Obama has to say is: “Remember Georgia, Vlad?” Because Putin himself did not seek approval from the UN Security Council in 2008 before launching what an independent EU Report found was an “invasion of Georgia by Russian armed forces reaching far beyond the administrative boundary of South Ossetia [which was] not justified under international law.” (See, “Independent International Fact-Finding Mission on the Conflict in Georgia,” Official Journal of the European Union, September 2009.)

That said, let me hasten to restate my objection to any foreign intervention in Syria. As my previous commentaries will attest, this is not because, like Putin, I’m proffering the patently absurd argument that Assad’s hands are clean. Instead, it’s because any intervention would be demonstrably arbitrary and capricious – given the deafening silence in the international community in the face of far worse atrocities being committed in places like Sudan.

imagesApropos of which, I remember all too well President Bill Clinton and UN Secretary General Kofi Annan vowing in the 1990s that never again will the international community turn a blind eye to genocide raging in Africa.

Yet today the international community is pretending to be deaf, dumb, and blind while genocide rages in the DR Congo. What, one must wonder, is the chemical-weapons trigger for intervention in this context? Perpetrators eating their victims…? The movie Hotel DR Congo…?

Related commentaries:
Assad massacre
Obama takes finger off trigger

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