THE ROVING EYE Operation Tomahawk with cheese
By Pepe Escobar
This deafeningly hysterical show of Syria as Iraq 2.0 is only happening because a president of the United States (POTUS) created a ''credibility'' problem when, recklessly, he pronounced the use of chemical weapons in Syria a ''red line''.
Thus the US government urgently needs to punish the transgressor - to hell with evidence - to maintain its ''credibility''. But this time it will be ''limited''. ''Tailored''. Only ''a few days''. A ''shot across the bow'' - as POTUS qualified it. Still, some - but not all - ''high-value targets'', including command and control facilities and delivery systems, in Syria will have to welcome a barrage of Tomahawk cruise missiles (384 are already positioned in the eastern Mediterranean).
We all know how the Pentagon loves to christen its assorted
humanitarian liberations across the globe with names like Desert Fox, Invincible Vulture or some other product of brainstorming idiocy. So now it's time to call Operation Tomahawk With Cheese.
It's like ordering a pizza delivery. ''Hello, I'd like a Tomahawk with cheese.'' ''Of course, it will be ready in 20 minutes.'' ''Hold on, wait! I need to fool the UN first. Can I pick it up next week? With extra cheese?''
In 1998, Operation Desert Fox - launched by Bill ''I did not have sex with that woman'' Clinton - was designed to ''degrade'', but not destroy, Saddam Hussein's capacity to manufacture non-existent weapons of mass destruction. Now, the deployment of those deeply moral Tomahawks is also designed to ''degrade'' the Bashar al-Assad's government capacity to unleash unproven chemical weapons attacks.
Yet there's always that pesky problem of perennially ungrateful Arabs who, according to the New York Times, ''are emotionally opposed to any Western military action in the region no matter how humanitarian the cause''.
The deeply humanitarian Operation Tomahawk With Cheese is running into all sorts of problems with the calendar. POTUS leaves next Tuesday to Sweden - and from there he will go to St Petersburg for the Group of 20 summit, on Thursday and Friday next week. The proverbial horde of ''unnamed White House officials'' has been spinning like mad centrifuges, emphasizing that POTUS must wrap up Tomahawk With Cheese before he musters the courage to face Russian President Vladimir Putin and other leaders of emerging powers.
Surveying his impossibilities - with one eye to the calendar and another to the resistance to enlarge his mini-coalition of the willing - now POTUS seems to be looking for an exit strategy that in fact would all but abandon Operation Tomahawk With Cheese.
Others are way more resilient. A predictable bunch of 66 former ''government officials'' and ''foreign policy experts'' - all of them Ziocons under the umbrella of the Foreign Policy Initiative - has published a letter urging POTUS to go way beyond Operation Tomahawk With Cheese, arguing for a pizza sparing no lethal ingredients. This would be a true humanitarian mission, able to support ''moderate'' Syrian ''rebels'' and on top of it ''dissuade Iran from developing nuclear weapons''.
A rebel, but not a jerk
Let's see what a ''moderate'' Syrian ''rebel'' thinks about all this. Haytahm Manna, in exile for 35 years, is a key member of the non-armed Syrian opposition (yes, they do exist). But he's not following the script; he's resolutely against Operation Tomahawk, with cheese or with extra cheese. (See here (in French).
Worse; he debunks the US government's ''evidence'' of a chemical weapons attack as ''propaganda'' and ''psychological war''. He stresses the chemicals were launched with ''artisanal weapons''; that ties up with Russian intelligence, which is sure gas that it was delivered by a homemade missile fired from a base under opposition control (extensive details compiled here; scroll down to ''Qaboun rocket launches'').
Manna also points to ''videos and photos on the Internet before the attacks''; to al-Qaeda's previous use of chemical weapons; and to the Russians as ''seriously working for the Geneva II negotiations'', unlike the Americans.
Ooops. This is not exactly what the designers of Operation Tomahawk With Cheese were expecting. If a Syrian exile draws these conclusions, the same applies to Syria civilians who are about to be greeted by those deeply moral Tomahawks.
The Pentagon could always go for Plan B. A single Tomahawk costs at least US$1.5 million. Multiply that for 384. That's not a great bang for your buck - because even if they all go humanitarian, the Bashar al-Assad government would still remain in place.
So why not drop planeloads of sexy, Pininfarina-designed Ferrari Californias? They retail for around $200.000. Imagine the frenzy among Assad elite forces struggling to seize the Big Prize, one among 2,000 Californias. With their eyes off the ball, the ''rebels'' could easily sneak in everywhere and take over Damascus. And perhaps even stage the victory parade on a fleet of photogenic Ferraris. Call that an improvement over Libya.
Operation Tomahawk With Cheese may still happen; even with the calendar pressing; even bypassing the UN; even with a mini-coalition of the willing; even making a total mockery of international law. The White House has made it clear that ''diplomatic paralysis'' cannot infringe on its ''credibility''.
As for what is happening 10 years after the invasion and occupation of Iraq, it's about the US government, parts of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (Britain and France) and parts of the Gulf Cooperation Council (Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates) burying the previous, much-lauded Euro-Arab ''dialogue'' and turning into a shady Atlanticist-Islamist cabal bent on smashing yet another secular Arab republic. Talk about rotten cheese.