Edited and translated by Liang Jun
Just last weekend, the United States took a cautious stance on the issue of the alleged use of chemical weapons in Syria, but this week the Obama administration appears to be gearing itself up to take military action against embattled Syria. This shift is surprising, but it also reflects the changes to Obama's strategy in Syria.
For some time now, the Middle East has been in a state of chaos. Conflict in Egypt is escalating, and the United States has been embarrassed by its financial and material support for the military forces that have overthrown an elected government; the planned peace talks between Israel and Palestine have been called off after Israeli security forces shot dead three Palestinians during clashes in the West Bank; there are daily bombings in Iraq and terrorism attacks has become commonplace. Obama's Middle East policy has hardly been a resounding success.
Furthermore, the Unites States was embarrassed by Russia only this month, after the latter granted American fugitive Edward Snowden a years' asylum. For years, the two have been competing on the Syria. With old and recent scores to settle, Obama will be looking at options to change his course of action. Meanwhile, eager to push for a military intervention in Syria, France too is brandishing the great banner of morality. A combination of such factors can only make U.S. intervention more likely.
But one thing is sure. Washington will hesitate to repeat past mistakes made in Iraq and Afghanistan. Analysts therefore conclude that the most likely option is limited air strikes in Syria.
According to the U.S. media, the military strikes under consideration, involving sea-launched cruise missiles or possibly long-range bombers, will be directed at specific targets. The U.S. will be hoping to kill two birds with one stone: to deter and degrade the military capacity of the Syrian government, while minimizing civilian casualties.
However, the United States still faces an unavoidable question: In the absence of a UN mandate, or any clear proof of guilt, what gives America the right to attack a sovereign state?
Nor can a growing crescendo of anti-war voices simply be ignored. UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon has called for an opportunity to find a diplomatic solution to the Syrian crisis. Iran, Lebanon and Jordan have said no to military intervention in different forms.
Even among the U.S. allies, there is discord. "Regarding the use of chemical weapons in Syria, we ask, along with 36 other States, for a report of UN experts from the Secretary General of the United Nations," Belgian Deputy Prime Minister and Foreign Minister Didier Reynders said in a statement on Wednesday.
Last night, in a move that finally recognized huge public opposition to military intervention in Syria, the British Parliament voted against its own government's proposal supporting the principle. Prime Minister David Cameron has been forced to acknowledge in public that the UK will not now take part in any such action. This represents a devastating blow to western military hawks .
Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov has said that foreign intervention will not lead to peace, but as has been proved by the wars in Iraq, Afghanistan and Libya, it will achieve nothing other than to undermine regional stability. The current situation in Syria is at a tipping point. The choice lies between military intervention or peaceful resolution. President Obama must weigh his options carefully.
Read the Chinese version: 奥巴马的“不甘”与“不敢”