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.

 
Mark Mardell Article written by Mark Mardell Mark Mardell Presenter, The World This Weekend

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  • rate this
    0

    Comment number 284.

    280. SASmule
    "To a 1960s British soldier, this document absolutely beggars belief."
    :-)
    You weren't here or there to experience the damning conditions outlined in this synopsis, which was created by the ineptness an self-indulgence of politicians and the communist party's ability to stimulate fringe groups.
    You also are a product of a different culture, don't worry your time will come!

  • rate this
    0

    Comment number 283.

    Another non-event at the Obama White House. The 'essential relationship' for a bridge to Europe is really the same old alibi for continued US hegemony in the western world. NATO is just an excuse for permanent disguised US occupation of the continent just as it wants 14 bases in Afghanistan. As for Syria Israel prefers Assad to the rebels ergo so does the US. Pity the Syrian people in the middle.

  • rate this
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    Comment number 282.

    281. sieuarlu

    No, things haven't improved. The US continues to lose - yes, lose - its wars because it KILLS CIVILIANS - in thousands. Do that and by definition, you fail. It is also racist: gooks in Vietnam; skinnies in Somalia; hajis & sand-niggers in Iraq. We Brits talk about 'the enemy' which refers to armed MEN. Gooks etc includes women & kids, as in "a snake with tits" in Afghanistan.

    Yuk!

  • rate this
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    Comment number 281.

    277That was 42 years ago.Things improved a little bit since then.I still feel that if you are going to war, you should fight only for total victory, no halfway one hand tied behind your back proportionate responses. Fight to win no matter what or don't fight at all.Anything less is a betrayal of our troops who risk their lives to defend our democracy.Best of all our new robot armies like the X47B

  • rate this
    0

    Comment number 280.

    278. USSilentMajority

    Congratulations on finding that link - particularly as I inadvertently gave the wrong month for the report! However, I'm not quite clear why you think my 400 character précis was 'partial'. The full text is such a devastating indictment of the entire US military that my quotes were actually extremely mild. To a 1960s British soldier, this document absolutely beggars belief.

  • rate this
    -1

    Comment number 279.

    Obama is too busy fire-fighting domestic scandals (the alleged Benghazi cover-up; the politicization of the IRS; the abortion doctor in Philly convicted of murdering children after they were born) to deal with Syria, or anything else for that matter.

    Let's just wait and hope the GOP provides the next President, hopefully of much higher political and moral quality.

  • rate this
    0

    Comment number 278.

    277. SASmule

    Interesting post. But like so many partial postings, one should read the whole synopsis!

    http://msuweb.montclair.edu/~furrg/Vietnam/heinl.html

  • rate this
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    Comment number 277.

    sieuarlu 269

    Armed Forces Journal 7-7-71. "Battleworthiness of US Armed Forces is worse than anytime this century & possibly in history of the US. By every indicator, our army in Vietnam is approaching collapse ..." The report concludes that the state of revolt was just shy of "the French Army's Nivelle mutinies of 1917 & the collapse of the Tsarist armies in 1916 & 1917."

    You must be SO proud!

  • Comment number 276.

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

  • rate this
    0

    Comment number 275.

    Is the above picture of cameron and Obama taking bites out of some food have anything to do with the latest terrorist/rebel brutatlity video where one of the terrorist/rebels we are supporting, eats a syrians heart?? This is tastless.

  • rate this
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    Comment number 274.

    Sorry for posting the wrong link @273
    What I meant to say was.....

    See also the discussion (forum) that's just been opened here:
    http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-middle-east-22519770

  • rate this
    0

    Comment number 273.

    See also the discussion (forum) that's been going on for over 24 hours:
    http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-us-canada-22504652

  • Comment number 272.

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

  • rate this
    -1

    Comment number 271.

    251 The era of manned aircraft and even manned combat is drawing to a close. If you don't like America's drones, you'll loathe America's new superdrones which will perform missions where no manned aircraft can becaue no pilot would survive the acceleration or length of time. Here's just one of them

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?NR=1&v=dyfjCgTUpq0&feature=endscreen

  • rate this
    0

    Comment number 270.

    on a positive note, Syrian issue has got the UK and Russia talking again. I side with Russia - keep Assad in power, the alternative is chaos for everyone. So what if Russia has a military interest in Syria, the UK and US sells arms to everyone else..

  • rate this
    -1

    Comment number 269.

    260"coming from a citizen of a country that has run from almost every conflict and military adventure post WW2 with its scabby tail between its bombastic, incompetent legs."

    Really?Why not ask the Serbs, the Iraqi Baathists, or leaders of the USSR if that's true?The US showed restraint in NKorea and Vietnam to avoid thermonuclear war with the USSR but it almost happened anyway over Cuba in 1962

  • rate this
    -1

    Comment number 268.

    I simply do not understand why any foreign Government would support arming a group of people to overthrow another Sovereign Leader. Have we not learned anything from history?
    Would we like a Middle Eastern Ruler arming a group of Hardline Muslims to overthrow a Government in France or UK?

    Have you seen what the rebels do in Syria ? They are barbaric killers.

  • rate this
    0

    Comment number 267.

    For the UK we are going bankrupt and cannot afford giving handouts to rebels. (Appropriate word) Why are we not arming Assad I have never seen any real evidence demostrating he is a monster. The rebel Jihad is a monster that will bite us in the future. I think the UK should simply KEEP OUT of it.

  • Comment number 266.

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

  • rate this
    -1

    Comment number 265.

    SASmule@244
    "truth?
    400ch
    kidding"

    @206 soldier's view: 'thousands of lives for our mistake'

    On the ground may 'have to act' or 'have to lie low'. Commanders have to weigh more, prospects for overall outcome, from victory to defeat. In retrospect, look for context rather than simple blame

    Absence of effective UN Treaty, for The Individual, wherever whenever Equal LIberty neglected or threatened

 

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