In 2012, President Barack Obama set a rather infamous red line for the regime of Bashar al-Assad in Syria.
“We have been very clear to the Assad regime, but also to other players on the ground, that a red line for us is we start seeing a whole bunch of chemical weapons moving around or being utilized,” the then-president said that August. “That would change my calculus.”
So, when Assad’s regime crossed that line a year later, what happened? A whole lot of nothing. And yet, Obama said he was “very proud” of his decision to do nothing, in spite of the fact that it clearly emboldened Assad and his Russian patrons.
For obvious reasons, Assad tried gassing his own people again in 2017. That got a volley of Tomahawk missiles aimed at an air base by the Trump administration. OK, he said, maybe that was just a fluke. So he tried gassing his people again — and ended up having three targets hit by three different nations, including the United States.
In the aftermath of the event, the Russian diplomatic apparatus tried to warn that there would be “consequences” — likely of the military variety. We had apparently crossed their red line, and we were going to pay.
Indeed, both the Russian ambassador to the United States and the United Nations had threats for the United States. It began with Anatoly Antonov, Moscow’s emissary to America.
“The worst apprehensions have come true,” Antonov wrote in an online statement. “Our warnings have been left unheard.”
“A pre-designed scenario is being implemented. Again, we are being threatened. We warned that such actions will not be left without consequences,” he continued. “All responsibility for them rests with Washington, London and Paris.”
That’s pretty close to red line stuff. Up next was U.N. Ambassador Vassily Nebenzia, who floated a draft resolution condemning the attacks before the United Nations Security Council. Out of 15 members, Nebenzia could only get two votes — socialist Bolivia and America’s diplomatic bête noire, China.
“Why didn’t you wait for the outcome of the investigation you called for?” an exasperated Nebenzia told the Security Council, saying that the United States, France and the United Kingdom were “demonstrating a blatant disregard for international law” by launching the strikes.
“I hope hot heads will cool down and that will be it,” Nebenzia told journalists. But, wait — wasn’t Russia the one with the hot head at the moment? They were, after all, warning of consequences. It almost sounded like World War III was immanent.
Still nothing from Putin, however. His insight would come Sunday, and it sounded very … well, Obama-esque.
In a statement released after a phone call with Iranian President Hassan Rouhani, the Kremlin released a statement essentially saying that the “consequences” would come at a later date, if it happened again.
“Vladimir Putin, in particular, stressed that if such actions committed in violation of the UN Charter continue, then it will inevitably lead to chaos in international relations,” a Kremlin statement released after the call said, according to NewsHub New Zealand.
So, Russia drew a very vague red line, then decided to do almost nothing to enforce it.
How very Obama of them.
It seems round two, like round one, went to the United States and its allies. If Assad tries chemical weapons again, round three will look remarkably the same.
Talk about humiliating yourself.
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