After meeting with President Obama, Republican House Speaker John Boehner spoke to reporters outside the White House to publicly voice his support for the administration’s case for bombing Syria.
We must bomb Syria “to warn others around the world that this type of behavior is not to be tolerated,” Boehner claimed, repeating administration talking points.
“We have enemies around the world that need to understand that we’re not going to tolerate this type of behavior,” he added. “We also have allies around the world and allies in the region who also need to know that America will be there and stand up when it’s necessary.”
Is there anyone with even the most superficial understanding of U.S. foreign policy that doesn’t know who Mr. Boehner is referring to?
Yesterday, another Syria hawk urging war spoke to the press outside the White House immediately following a meeting with the President. “If we don’t get Syria right,” Lindsey Graham warned, “Iran is surely going to take the signals that we don’t care about their nuclear program, and it weighs on the President’s mind strongly about the signals we send.”
“Iran will read importantly what we decide to do with regard to the [chemical weapons] convention,” Secretary of State John Kerry said on Sunday. “Likewise, Israel: Israel is at risk.”
The Los Angeles Times reported yesterday:
President Obama’s strategy for winning congressional support for military strikes on Syria relies on two of lawmakers’ most powerful impulses: to challenge Iran and to protect Israel.
Although Congress is deeply divided on the wisdom of Obama’s planned cruise missile campaign, members are generally united in not wanting to send a signal to Iran that the United States won’t stop it from building a nuclear bomb. And they understand that Israel, while silent on the issue of the strikes, is looking to Washington to help shield it from regional spillover from the Syrian civil war.
The media and Americans more generally are framing the imminent attack on Syria as part of a humanitarian effort to save the Syrian people from the Assad regime. That narrative is conspicuously absent from the administration’s rhetoric, with a few exceptions. This is because the “limited” strike on a selection of Assad’s chemical weapons delivery systems has nothing to do with humanitarian intervention and everything to do with making America’s threat to Iran as real as possible.
It is strange how this can simultaneously be the reason for war and yet not at all. There is nothing in the text of the Obama administration’s draft legislation seeking authorization for the use of force against Syria that mentions Iran. There, it’s all about chemical weapons use – a justification rejected by the UN Security Council, NATO, the American people, and quite possibly Congress. If there was even a minimal level of honesty in Washington, the AUMF would say what Kerry, Graham, Boenher, the Los Angeles Times and others say openly.
But again, I guess it’s harder to sell a war in the following formulation: We must bomb Syria to frighten Iran.
By the way, the case for war on Iran is about as weak as the one for Syria. The best U.S. intelligence estimate available concludes Iran hasn’t decided to pursue a nuclear weapon and the military and strategic consequences of a preventive (read: offensive) war on Iran would be orders of magnitude more catastrophic than those we face with Syria.
Some might say we’ve done enough to Iranians. First we overthrew their democratically elected government and imposed a brutal dictatorship. Then we helped Saddam Hussein conduct chemical warfare on them in the 1980s, and now we’re imposing comprehensive economic sanctions on them, blocking – ironically – the medical treatment that survivors of U.S.-aided Iraqi chemical warfare desperately need.