Cameron and Obama's endless Syria conundrum

 
Barack Obama and David Cameron eat hot dogs at a basketball match - 13 March 2012 There will be no time for hot dogs on Mr Cameron's latest visit to Washington

David Cameron's meeting with President Obama at the White House is likely to be dominated by Syria. Don't hold your breath for any great new announcements.

The UK prime minister is in the US partly for a big meeting at the UN on global development and partly for an event with Prince Harry, also in New York.

So his meeting with the president is something added on, rather than the centrepiece of his trip. That means it will be strictly business - no playing of ping pong or sampling of BBQ. As well as Syria, they will talk about Iran, transatlantic trade (the proposed deal with the EU is now known in the trade as "tee tip") and probably North Korea.

Doubtless the president will want to know the latest about the prime minister's proposed referendum on membership of the European Union and his troublesome colleagues' willingness to turn a political face-saver into a real choice. While some in Britain dream of leaving the EU and strengthening the transatlantic relationship it its place, America values what the president calls the "essential relationship" in part as a bridge to Europe. If it turns into a bridge to nowhere, it will trouble them.

But Syria is the hard case. Both Europe and the US are slowly inching towards arming the rebels. But that commonplace phrase disguises the fact that the "arms" will be well short of anything the rebels actually want to finish this protracted business.

For months now, the noises from Western capitals have vacillated between the cry "Something must be done!" and the forlorn reply "But what?"

One rather lame answer is the idea of a peace conference dangled by Russia.

But there's not much diplomatic chatter about the proposal, which seems more like a passing thought than a hard plan. I get the impression that the US and Europe will go along with what they privately regard as a bit of a charade only because they have no better ideas.

Which brings us back to "arming the rebels" and allied concepts like a no-fly zone.

Enthusiasts insist it isn't that difficult - find the right sort of rebels and give them the weapons they need. But as one insider put it to me: "What if we give the minority we trust the good stuff and five miles down the road they run into a road block and Islamist nutters take it off them? How does that help?"

No-one has any particularly good answers to this conundrum. We'll see today if the two leaders can come up with anything that squares the circle.

 
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  • rate this
    +2

    Comment number 84.

    sieuarlu
    Russian S-300 missiles delivered to Syria would escalate the war

    --

    Russia is currently trying to get its hands on Israeli contracts for gas exploration.

    I doubt they would risk that in order to sell a few S-300's.

  • rate this
    0

    Comment number 83.

    It's great that we are kept informed of all these important international meetings between our leaders, especially when key decisions are made.

    Will the BBC also be running any news updates on the coming Bilderberg meeting on the 6th - 9th of June being held at the Grove Hotel in Watford?

  • rate this
    0

    Comment number 82.

    Russia is not a reliable arm for peace. Russia is a country controlled by a super-gang. Its face is Putin for the time being. Russia operates as a gang, and not as a government. Governments are usually obliged to certain standards of morals. Russia is willing to kill through any nation to grab the prize. Syria is impossible to live in, all dissent is intolerable. Too many people have disappeared.

  • rate this
    0

    Comment number 81.

    Russian S-300 missiles delivered to Syria would escalate the war rapidly and steeply.Israel would have no choice but to take them out before they could be deployed. That would probably mean killing Russian technicians sent there to help install them and train Syrians or operate them themselves.Most believe Israel is a major nuclear power that will take care of itself any way it has to.

  • rate this
    0

    Comment number 80.

    Why arm the "Rebels" when you (USA & Britain) preach about World's peace Every Second of UN Meeting. The best approach is, find a party that has a mutual understanding with both parties involved and settle the problems/issues amicably. Remember You (USA & Britain) supposedly armed the rebels of Libya, and West Africa are suffering form your ill-logical Tactics. Think like a Leader (USA & Britain)

  • rate this
    0

    Comment number 79.

    Russia is involved because the port of Tartus in Syria is Russia's last foreign naval base. They might take an unprecedented step of supplying Syria with missiles that could intercept aircraft anywhere over Israel.
    If they do so this can turn the conflict into a regional war, just as Saddam Hussein chose to fire SCUD's at Israel when things were going bad for him.

  • rate this
    0

    Comment number 78.

    logosmundi @ 75:

    "Israel warned about this 20 years ago"
    About what?

    "Now we have a terrible situation of a state killing its own."
    Not intentionally. Terrorist embed themselves in residential areas and use innocent civilians as human shields.

    "Russia has been trying to prove that she is morally renewed."
    And she's being proved right.

  • Comment number 77.

    All this user's posts have been removed.Why?

  • rate this
    -6

    Comment number 76.

    ref #65
    I suggest that a very large percentage of the UK population would NOT consider Israel & Turkey to be 'our chief allies'.
    ___
    I suggest you are wrong for both countries in the Middle East region. Only intolerant people like Hawking and Lennox and the islamists are anti-Israel in either country. Who do you support Lebanon or Iran?

  • rate this
    -4

    Comment number 75.

    Israel warned about this 20 years ago and nobody listened because they are supposed to be the big bad boys.Came September 11 and suddenly people woke up. Now we have a terrible situation of a state killing its own. But still Israel is the big bad boy. Funny that. Russia has been trying to prove that she is moraly renewed. She offered to help peace during the first Gulf war. Remember? No? Funny.

  • rate this
    0

    Comment number 74.

    There was talk of Russia supplying Syria with the S-300 long range anti-air missiles. These would cover all of Israel's airspace. Now there are planned Russian naval exercises in the Mediterranean and as a part of it Russian amphibious landing ships with some equipment on board are heading towards Syria.
    If S-300 batteries would roll out of them, that would be a serious challenge.

  • Comment number 73.

    All this user's posts have been removed.Why?

  • rate this
    +2

    Comment number 72.

    Mr Cameron,

    ACTIVELY SUPPORTING REGIME CHANGE IS ILLEGAL

    We, the people, have been here before with Mr Blair

    Two million marched on Downing Street to no avail

    But the mood this time is different.

    Do not treat us with contempt.

    You are responsible to the UK electorate not the US and Israel.

  • rate this
    0

    Comment number 71.

    There's always time for a hot dog. As one chews and swallows the other can do the talking taking turns. What will come of this meeting. Nothing of substance is my guess. What does Cameron want? Is this just a feel good don't forget we exist reminder or does he have something specific in mind a phone call couldn't have taken care of?

  • Comment number 70.

    All this user's posts have been removed.Why?

  • rate this
    -3

    Comment number 69.

    "I suggest that a very large percentage of the UK population would NOT consider Israel & Turkey to be 'our chief allies'.
    ++++

    Except that US does. Especially with Turkey being a staunch ally of the United States since the Korean War (in which it actively participated), and a bastion of NATO on its critically important south-eastern flank through all the years of the Cold War.

  • rate this
    -4

    Comment number 68.

    MM: "One rather lame answer is the idea of a peace conference dangled by Russia."

    The country which continues to supply Assad's homicidal regime with deadly weapons can hardly call for a peace conference.

  • rate this
    0

    Comment number 67.

    When will our political class realise as our representitives we the majority would probably vote for trade only relationships with countries like Syria, Pakistan etc.
    We see the constant tinkering and proping up of regimes pointless, the dead horse of democracy/islam died along time ago.
    Why risk our security and waste our aid lets wash our hands of the lot of them now.

  • Comment number 66.

    All this user's posts have been removed.Why?

  • rate this
    +1

    Comment number 65.

    55.MagicKirin:
    You say that "... our two chief allies in the region Israel and Turkey."

    That's a bit of a bold statement.

    I suggest that a very large percentage of the UK population would NOT consider Israel & Turkey to be 'our chief allies'.

    In fact whyme44 @ 56 is closer to the truth.
    "Both lie and orchestrate covert operations in Syria."
    and both have hidden agendas.

 

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