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Transcontinental whiplash as Syria debate see-saws Comment on this post ↓
September 10th, 2013 by Warren Swil

As events develop at warp speed,

threads become harder to follow

A pinkish hue bathes West Jerusalem on Tuesday as the sun rises in the east. Click image to enlarge. © SGE, Inc. All rights reserved.

JERUSALEM – If you are feeling whiplashed over the developments Monday in the Syria crisis, be comforted: you are not alone.
The attack has not even begun yet, but the debate about it seems to be spiraling out of control.
New developments came so thick and fast from both sides of the Atlantic, it was only the most ardent followers of the issue – many of them here in Israel – who had a chance of keeping up.
It reminds me of the labyrinthine alleys and cross-alleys that form the maze of thoroughfares in the Old City of Jerusalem, which I explored on Monday.
The media coverage Tuesday cannot be viewed with any measure of equanimity from the Oval Office. It is all over the map, as is the administration, but the tone is distinctly unfriendly to President Obama.
Meanwhile, in Jerusalem, a beautiful sunrise greeted the new day.

PERHAPS THE MOST UNKIND description of events (from the president’s perspective) comes in The Guardian in the U.K.
In White House’s Syria gaffe offers Obama a chance to climb back from war Spencer Ackerman and Dan Roberts Write:

The labyrinthine thoroughfares of the Old City in Jerusalem are just like the debate swirling around the crisis in Syria: difficult to navigate, almost impenetrable. Click image to enlarge. © SGE, Inc. All rights reserved.

“Washington’s crisis over Syria started with a gaffe. Another gaffe may very well end it.”
That word “gaffe” is, I suppose, not quite as severe as “blunder.” But it gets worse.
“If the Obama administration’s response to Bashar Assad’s alleged use of chemical weapons appears erratic, improvised and incoherent, that’s because it has been, ever since the president declared the use of chemical weapons to constitute a ‘red line’ that apparently prompted US action.
“A different improvisation, from his secretary of state on Monday, offered the Obama administration an opportunity to climb back from the brink of a war Obama initially wanted to avoid.”
But there was even more disturbing news for the president on the American side of the Atlantic in the New York Times.
Megan Thee Brenan reports in Poll Finds Most Americans Oppose Military Strike that “more than three-quarters of Americans (including 7 in 10 Democrats and about 9 in 10 Republicans) say his administration has not clearly explained what the country’s goals would be in Syria.”
The result of this confusion:
“Over all, 56 percent disapprove of the president’s handling of the Syrian crisis so far, and 33 percent approve.”
When Americans don’t understand, they say “no.” Tested and true.

The Jerusalem Post this morning, where the U.S. response to Syria plays second fiddle to the Israeli angle on the story. Click image to enlarge.

It’s a great pity, because there is a vital argument the president has not pressed with sufficient vigor that might, indeed, have persuaded more people of the righteousness of his cause.
We wrote about on Sept. 6 in “Syria strike aimed at IRAN
The true aim of the Syria strike is to put Iran on notice that if the mullahs go forward with their nuclear bomb-making plans, there will be real consequences.
It is the most convincing argument in the president’s arsenal. But he has allowed the issue to become unfocused to the point that he is in deep political trouble at home and abroad.

THE JERUSALEM POST this morning is calling the new developments a “breakthrough” and this is the kindest description I can find anywhere.
Adrift in a sea of non-comprehension, I sought out – and found – some clarification Monday evening at the historic American Colony Hotel, just a few hundred yards from the Old City and Arab East Jerusalem.
There, around the open-air bar in the gardens, I met three CNN employees – two reporters and a cameraman – who brought me up to date on the previous four hours of developments.
All three were based in London but on assignment in Jerusalem to cover the impending U.S. strike on Syria.
Over a couple of beers we exchanged insights. Their first reaction was frustration: everyone was expecting action (breaking news) to begin within days. Now, it seems, it might take weeks.
How are they going to help fill the 24-hour news cycle with no missiles flying across the Mediterranean?
On more sober reflection (getting increasingly less sober as time went by) the subject changed to more mundane matters … like how boring Rupert Murdoch’s British newspapers had become since they were forced to stop hacking the voicemails of the royal family and other celebrities.
If these media types are any indication, the rest of America might possibly be doing just the same thing: turning off the spigot of “news” about Syria, letting the politicians wrestle each other to their own demise, getting on with their lives.
Here in the Middle East, however, daily lives are so intertwined with what’s happening in Washington, Moscow and Damascus, it is far more difficult to tune it out. It’s a matter of life and death.
Whose life and whose death remain to be seen.

 

Your raconteur is seen outside the Jaffa Gate to the Old City in Jerusalem on Monday. Click image to enlarge. © SGE, Inc. All rights reserved.

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