Rapid Fire August 29, 2013: Western Parliaments Want A Say in Syrian Decisions

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* While President Obama had not reached a decision yesterday about the way to proceed with Syria, 116 members of the US House of Representatives, most of them Republicans, signed a letter [PDF] urging him to consult Congress before launching strikes. Like many, House Armed Services Committee Ranking Member Adam Smith [D-WA] is circumspect about the effectiveness and ultimate consequences of such an intervention. * Meanwhile UK Prime Minister David Cameron’s earlier forceful posture was reined in by Parliament. The Chairman of the cabinet’s Joint Intelligence Committee released an assessment [PDF] stating that it is “highly likely that the regime was responsible for the [chemical weapons] attacks on 21 August” and the UK suggested a UN resolution. But doing so gives Russia the opportunity to support Assad’s regime by delaying international action. France’s lower chamber will hold [PDF, in French] a special session to debate the situation in Syria. * The fact that chemical attacks happened is not much in dispute at this point. However the intelligence on the origin of these attacks does not seem entirely definitive, but deputy spokeswoman Marie Harf from the US State Department stated that details about the exact chain of command leading to the […]

* While President Obama had not reached a decision yesterday about the way to proceed with Syria, 116 members of the US House of Representatives, most of them Republicans, signed a letter [PDF] urging him to consult Congress before launching strikes. Like many, House Armed Services Committee Ranking Member Adam Smith [D-WA] is circumspect about the effectiveness and ultimate consequences of such an intervention.

* Meanwhile UK Prime Minister David Cameron’s earlier forceful posture was reined in by Parliament. The Chairman of the cabinet’s Joint Intelligence Committee released an assessment [PDF] stating that it is “highly likely that the regime was responsible for the [chemical weapons] attacks on 21 August” and the UK suggested a UN resolution. But doing so gives Russia the opportunity to support Assad’s regime by delaying international action. France’s lower chamber will hold [PDF, in French] a special session to debate the situation in Syria.

* The fact that chemical attacks happened is not much in dispute at this point. However the intelligence on the origin of these attacks does not seem entirely definitive, but deputy spokeswoman Marie Harf from the US State Department stated that details about the exact chain of command leading to the use of chemical weapons were irrelevant, regardless of Assad’s past PR efforts to distance himself from his own military:

“[W]e ultimately, of course, hold President Assad responsible for the use of chemical weapons by his regime against his own people, regardless of where the command and control lies.”

* The WSJ looks into the likely tactical reasons and calculations that may have led Bashar al-Assad to use such weapons.

* Loren Thompson of the Lexington Institute explains why weapon exports may help at the edges, but won’t replace what’s being lost in home markets. Macro factors should be added to his long list. First there’s purchasing power loss, from India to Indonesia to Brasil, because of the unintended consequences on exchange rates of the unconventional policies used by central banks in the US and abroad. This is further compounded with the start of a significant and likely protracted slump in many emerging economies. In the absence of high commodity prices and easy money flooding financial systems, emerging countries will be hard-pressed to execute their lofty armament goals while their growing middle classes clamor for education, health or transportation services.

* Jeffrey Lewis argues at Arms Control Wonk that claims of imminent “contagion” in the cruise missile realm may have been overstated during the last two decades, but the proliferation of these technologies is now happening, while US policymakers seem fixated on ballistic missiles.

* Northrop Grumman Australia agreed to acquire Qantas Group’s defence services business (QDS), without disclosing terms of the transaction.

* Russian firms are working to create airships big enough for industrial and military use, just like the Russian emigres at Aeros in California. They don’t have a key military contract yet like the USA’s LEMV surveillance airship, but the huge Siberian oil and gas industry offers lots of niches if they can improve flight limits in windy conditions.

* As expected Sukhoi T-50s were one of the highlights at Moscow airshow. Too bad the video below rarely includes the horizon as a point of reference to better assess the plane’s impressive agility:

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