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Sun Aug 24, 2014, 05:24 AM

Obama’s budding Cambodia Policy in Syria

http://www.juancole.com/2014/08/budding-cambodia-policy.html

Obama’s budding Cambodia Policy in Syria
By Juan Cole | Aug. 23, 2014

Former British ambassador to the United States Sir Christoher Meyer is advocating that the US and Western Europe stop advocating the overthrow of the Baath regime of Syrian dictator Bashar al-Assad and instead coordinate with it to move against the so-called “Islamic State,” which controls some predominantly Sunni Muslim desert towns on both the Syrian and Iraqi sides of the border.

The Obama administration is also talking about hitting IS in Syria. Gen. Martin Dempsey, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, says that the IS cannot be defeated without taking it on in Syria. For US fighter jets to fly over Syrian air space and avoid being shot down by Russian-supplied anti-aircraft batteries of the Baath government, the US would have to in some way coordinate with Damascus in this aerial bombing campaign. Typically this arrangement is made by sharing “Identify Friend or Foe” signal codes that the jets send out so that they can be seen as friendlies. Since the stated US position is that al-Assad should resign or be overthrown ASAP, such an arrangement would be, as Meyer says, “the mother of all U-turns.”

Meyer, however, is advocating not just a tacit recognition of strategic and tactical common interests with the Syrian Baath but an actual military alliance, which is unlikely.

British Foreign Minister Philip Hammond pushed back against Meyer’s amoral Realism. Hammond challenged the notion that you needed to coordinate with Damascus to do bombing runs on eastern Syria on IS positions. The foreign minister, however, is wrong about that. There would be a danger of setting off Baath Army anti-aircraft batteries unless there was at least minimal behind the scenes coordination.

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