by Matthew Rusling
WASHINGTON, Aug. 29 (Xinhua) -- As the United States is poised to strike Syria, experts warned Thursday that any direct intervention in the war-torn country could pose the risk of dragging Washington into a broader conflict it has so far tried to avoid.
Following the release of a video that allegedly shows the after-effects of a chemical weapons attack in Syria on Aug. 21, the U.S. has been gearing up to conduct a limited strike on the Syrian government forces.
The question remains what Obama aims to accomplish by attacking the embattled country, and what the administration plans to do once the smoke clears.
Experts said a major concern is the aftermath of a U.S. strike on Syria. What are Obama's goals? Does the U.S. have an exit plan? Will U.S. forces get sucked into a quagmire?
"It is unlikely the operation will achieve any of the overall strategic objectives such as limiting civilian casualties, containing the conflict, and for some, tipping the military balance in favor of the opposition," Jeffrey Martini, a Middle East analyst with policy research group Rand Corp., told Xinhua.
The U.S. remains in Afghanistan after more than a decade, and the war in Iraq continued far longer than expected, sucking the U.S. into a protracted and brutal counter-insurgency operation. By now, a war-weary U.S. public has no appetite for another lengthy military conflict, experts noted.
Independent U.S. foreign policy expert Erica Borghard told Xinhua that the Bashar al-Assad government could easily absorb the damage from a limited strike.
Moreover, a more ambitious goal beyond deterring Assad from using chemical weapons, such as changing the tide in favor of the rebels, would be difficult to achieve with a limited strike, said Borghard.
Some experts warned that such a move could backfire. Indeed, in 1998, two weeks after the al-Qaida attack on two U.S. embassies in Africa, former U.S. President Bill Clinton lobbed cruise missiles at a factory in Sudan and an al-Qaida training camp in Afghanistan.
But the attacks did very little damage and critics said the move emboldened terror mastermind Osama bin Laden to launch the Sept. 11 attacks on New York and Washington -- the most deadly terror strike in U.S. history.
Ramping up U.S. involvement in the chaotic country could also be messy, and there is no guarantee that U.S. forces will locate the alleged chemical weapons, experts said.
As in any war, civilians will be caught in the crossfire, especially if weapons are stockpiled near densely populated areas. And despite U.S. intentions to minimize collateral damage, any civilian deaths caused by U.S. intervention will grab worldwide headlines and spark anti-U.S. criticism.
Other experts said the U.S. is in no position to conduct a third major war in 12 years, adding that an attack on Syria would be a far cry from the 2011 ouster of former Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi.
Libya had virtually no military and was internationally isolated. By sharp contrast, Syria is backed by Hezbollah, Iran and Russia.
U.S. lawmakers demand Obama wait for Congress' approval prior attacking Syria
WASHINGTON, Aug. 29 (Xinhua) -- Amid signs the U.S. is ready to attack Syria, 140 members of the U.S. House of Representatives have signed onto a letter, demanding President Barack Obama get authorization of Congress before going ahead with the military strike.
"We strongly urge you to consult and receive authorization from Congress before ordering the use of U.S. military force in Syria. Your responsibility to do so is prescribed in the Constitution and the War Powers Resolution of 1973," said the letter, which is published on the website of the Capitol Hill newspaper The Hill. Full story
Syria to "decisively" respond to foreign military action
DAMASCUS, Aug. 29 (Xinhua) -- Syrian Defense Minister Fahed al- Fraij said Thursday that the army will "decisively" respond to any form of foreign military action, the state-TV reported.
The minister's remarks were made on a phone call with his Iranian counterpart Hasan Dahqan, during which he accused " terrorists" of using chemical weapons on innocent civilians to obtain support from the superpowers and to cover their defeats. Full story