“If this excuse does not work, it will look for another excuse,” he said in Moscow, where the Russian government was hosting a delegation of Syrian officials, including the head of the Assad government’s newly established Ministry for National Reconciliation.
Jamil added: “Regarding Obama’s threats, they are media threats to be used in the media campaign in readiness for the coming elections.”
In Syria, Assad’s forces evacuated two security installations along the Iraqi border Tuesday as rebels made gains in the strategically important area after a week of heavy fighting, opposition sources told the Reuters news agency. Most of the day’s fighting appeared centered in the suburbs of Damascus, which have witnessed a dramatic uptick in violence over the past month.
A Turkish official said that about 2,500 people fleeing the bloodshed in Syria have entered Turkey over the past 24 hours, one of the highest daily refugee flows in recent weeks.
Rebels have seized a large stretch of territory in northern Syria near Turkey, forcing a new international debate about the value of intervention in the conflict. U.S. officials have discussed a number of possible options, including a safe zone for refugees and a protected corridor to supply the rebels inside Syria.
Beyond any foreign policy calculations, the Obama administration thinks there is little to be gained in an intervention whose length and outcome would be impossible to predict, and it sees no public appetite for U.S. involvement in yet another foreign war.
The chemical weapons warning was clearly intended as a “deterrent, more than any signal that the United States is going to interfere militarily at this stage,” said Marwan Muasher of the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace.
In the Middle East itself, suspicion of U.S. motives prevails. Obama’s popularity is at a low ebb despite his efforts at outreach. Negative memories of the invasion and occupation of Iraq far outweigh the positive results of the more recent intervention in Libya. Other than the Persian Gulf states, said Muasher, a former foreign minister of Jordan, “the images of Iraq are stronger” than concern about the brutal crackdown in Syria and possible spillover into neighboring states.
Although Obama’s comments provided new clarity about the administration’s calculations on Syria, its public pronouncements on Iran have been more vague.
The president has said that “all options” are on the table, but he has never set an explicit trigger for military action against Iran.
Critics have accused Obama of miscalculating by not explicitly drawing a red line beyond which Iran would guarantee a strike on its facilities. Obama’s defenders say those red lines are already well understood by Iran and would only limit his bargaining power in the talks, now stalled, to get the Islamic republic to back off the nuclear brink.