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Reprinted from Consortium News
Three years ago, when a reluctant President Barack Obama was about to launch an attack on Syria, supposedly in retaliation for President Bashar al-Assad crossing a "red line" against using chemical weapons, Obama smelled a rat -- or rather he sensed a mousetrap.
Advised by some of his intelligence advisers that the evidence blaming the Syrian government for the lethal sarin attack was weak, Obama disappointed many of Washington's neocons and liberal war hawks, including those in his own administration, by deferring action. He tossed the issue to Congress, thus guaranteeing a delay.
Precisely at that key juncture, Russian President Vladimir Putin took the pressure off Obama by persuading the Syrian government to destroy its chemical weapons, which Assad did -- while still denying any role in the attack at Ghouta, just outside Damascus, on Aug. 21, 2013.
Washington's hardliners were left aching for their lost opportunity to attack Syria by citing the Ghouta attack as a casus belli. But the evidence suggested, instead, a well-orchestrated Syrian rebel false-flag operation aimed at fabricating a pretext for direct U.S. intervention in the war on Syria.
With Putin's assistance in getting Assad to surrender the chemical weapons, Obama was able to extricate himself from the corner that he had rather clumsily painted himself into with his earlier bravado talk about a "red line."
But Washington's irate neocons and many of their liberal-interventionist chums felt cheated out of their almost-war. After all, Syria had been on the neocon "regime change" list as long as Iraq and was supposed to follow the 2003 Iraq invasion if that neocon-driven adventure had not turned out so disastrously.
Still, the neocons would make Putin pay for his interference six months later by promoting an anti-Russian putsch in Ukraine, followed by U.S. and European Union sanctions to punish Russia for its "aggression." [See Consortiumnews.com's "What Neocons Want from Ukraine Crisis."]
According to Jeffrey Goldberg who conducted a series of interviews with Obama for a lengthy article in The Atlantic, the President boasted about his decision on Aug. 30, 2013, to resist pressure for military action from many of his advisers and instead step outside what he called "the Washington playbook."
Goldberg described the day as Obama's "liberation day." For Secretary of State John Kerry, however, Aug. 30 ended in disappointment after earlier that day he had shaken the rafters at the State Department bellowing for a U.S. attack on Syria.
Goldberg explained that having already caved in under hardline pressure to double down on sending more troops to Afghanistan for a feckless "counterinsurgency" operation in 2009, Obama was not in the mood for "seeking new dragons to slay" merely to preserve his "credibility."
According to Goldberg, within the White House, Obama would argue that "dropping bombs on someone to prove that you're willing to drop bombs on someone is just about the worst reason to use force."
Nevertheless, Washington's neocons and liberal hawks -- along with the Saudis, Israelis and French -- argued strenuously that Obama was obliged to "retaliate" for Syria's alleged violation of the "red line" he had set a year earlier against Syria's using -- or merely moving -- chemical weapons.
Goldberg wrote that Kerry told Obama that he was expecting the President to give the final order for a military strike on Syria on Aug. 31 -- the day after Kerry's afternoon cri de guerre and Obama's evening volte-face.
Obama: Sensing a Trap