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Thu Dec 6, 2012, 04:38 AM

US, Russia set for surprise Syria meeting

Source: Associated Press

DUBLIN (AP) -- The top U.S. and Russian diplomats will hold a surprise meeting Thursday with the United Nations' peace envoy for Syria, signaling fresh hopes of an international breakthrough to end the Arab country's 21-month civil war.

U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov and mediator Lakhdar Brahimi will gather in Dublin on the sidelines of a human rights conference, a senior U.S. official said. The official spoke on condition of anonymity because she wasn't authorized to speak publicly on the matter. She provided few details about the unscheduled get-together.

The former Cold War foes have fought bitterly over how to address Syria's conflict, with Washington harshly criticizing Moscow of shielding its Arab ally. The Russians respond by accusing the U.S. of meddling by demanding the downfall of President Bashar Assad's regime and ultimately seeking an armed intervention such as the one last year against the late Libyan strongman Moammar Gadhafi.

But the gathering of the three key international figures suggests possible compromise in the offing. At the least, it confirms what officials describe as an easing of some of the acrimony that has raged between Moscow and Washington over the future of an ethnically diverse nation whose stability is seen as critical given its geographic position in between powder kegs Iraq, Lebanon and Israel.

Read more: http://hosted.ap.org/dynamic/stories/E/EU_US_SYRIA?SITE=AP&SECTION=HOME&TEMPLATE=DEFAULT&CTIME=2012-12-06-04-37-16

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Response to dipsydoodle (Original post)

Thu Dec 6, 2012, 04:52 AM

1. "The threat of Syria's government using some of its vast stockpiles of chemical weapons is also

adding urgency to diplomatic efforts. Western governments have cited the rising danger of such a scenario this week, and officials say Russia, too, shares great concern on this point."

I suppose that one risk Assad would run if he decided to use chemical weapons would be that of losing the support of Russia. Such use would be a big gamble on his part but he may feel that at some point he has nothing to lose.

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Response to pampango (Reply #1)

Thu Dec 6, 2012, 05:14 AM

2. Our only knowledge of that subject from the media

is universally "a US official said"

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Response to dipsydoodle (Reply #2)

Thu Dec 6, 2012, 05:35 AM

3. Agreed. If it goes no further than "reports from a US official" and no one uses such weapons,

Assad runs little risk of losing Russian support.

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Response to pampango (Reply #3)

Thu Dec 6, 2012, 06:19 AM

4. Chemical weapons have long been Syria's strategic deterrent. Maybe, it will deter, maybe it will

destroy. The outcome is largely up to how adversaries deal with it. Treat it as a deterrent, negotiate some sort of mutually agreeable settlement, or else. That's the way the game works. That's why you don't try to regime change countries with WMD - they might use them, if you push too hard.

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Response to leveymg (Reply #4)

Thu Dec 6, 2012, 07:17 AM

5. Agree as far as the value of WMD to dictators. It gives them a lot more job (and life) security,

particularly from outside pressure. North Korea's rulers are much safer than Burma's were, though even NK's regime seems to understand that actually using their WMD might be detrimental in a way that threatening to use them is not.

How well WMD and the threat of their use protect rulers from their own people (rather than from foreign pressure) is a little harder to figure out. A limited use of such weapons against their own people might enrage the survivors rather than scaring them into submission. And a massive use of them might leave a ruler with little in the way of subjects left for them to rule.

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Response to pampango (Reply #5)

Thu Dec 6, 2012, 07:43 AM

6. WMD are not an effective counterinsurgency weapon, but a highly rational deterrent to outside

attack (at least they have been treated that way, until now). We're seeing a new western doctrine emerging that seems more willing to take risks that WMD will be used. Perhaps, the US and the Europeans with the current generation of anti-missile systems now believe they are largely immune to counterattacks.

The calculation of acceptable risk depends how much damage and loss of life is acceptable to planners today.

It would be interesting to know if the level of acceptable risks and losses have, indeed, gone up. I'm afraid we are about to find out the answer to some of these questions.

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Response to leveymg (Reply #6)

Thu Dec 6, 2012, 09:19 AM

7. That is


what happens when you gamble, everyone will capitulate under force. What other option does Assad has? The U.S. is just making a mess. Apparently President Obama believes in this strategy of nation building in the Middle East. Now he has a General actually advocating spreading this in Africa after getting out of Afghanistan. The whole strategy was stupid from the beginning. Just because you hand over power to another Islamist group doesn't necessarily mean you will solve the problem if you think it will gain Israel's security. I got a feeling, that is what's behind the U.S. entire Policy in the Middle East. Some of the same people advising this Policy, also chose to go into Iraq. The people who were oppressed, was again advocating overthrowing the Syrian Government to our Congress, years ago. They all hate Israel though. Now the U.S. has given them more arms, like the Muhahjadeen in Afghanistan. It will come back to bite them. So karzai is blaming the U.S. in Afghanistan. And Obama is talking about keeping 14-20,000 troops there.

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Response to John2 (Reply #7)

Thu Dec 6, 2012, 09:45 AM

8. In addition to the Israel lobby there is also the powerful Saudi/GCC, and oil and arms lobbies

Last edited Thu Dec 6, 2012, 10:24 AM - Edit history (1)

at work in Washington, London and Paris that are collectively driving this confrontation with Syria and Iran. The combination of political and economic power wielded by Israel and the Sunni Arab states, along with their western allies, proprietaries and clients (US and EU defense/intel contractors, multinational energy companies, global banks, major corporate media) particularly where the two share an overlapping strategic agenda, is almost irresistible. In addition, there are US, UK and French national concerns and hegemonic agenda that drive NATO policy.

It's really impossible to clearly separate out the various influences within this coalition of forces. Those who claim that the problem is all Israel/AIPAC/WINAP are grossly oversimplifying the situation. While extremely influential, particularly in devising strategy, the necons are just one faction among several that need to considered in trying to understand these events.

The last time that US national interests "pushed-back" was after the collateral damage of the 2003 WMD deceptions was fully realized at the Pentagon and CIA. There was some effort to pull US policy away from the Israelis and Saudis, who are still regarded with well-justified suspicion after 9/11. The JCS and some elements of the IC may still be exercising some restraining institutional conservatism, but there are a lot of sharpened axes out for Assad at the Pentagon, given that he is viewed as having provided tacit support for elements of the Iraqi resistance.

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