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The Obama Redline Dilemma and Threat

Updated on April 27, 2013

In the past, President Obama has made two public threats towards Syria and Iran. One redliner or game changer was if Assad used chemical weapons against his own people it would invoke a U.S. or NATO response. Then, there was the redline that could not be crossed by Iran by obtaining enough nuclear material to build their nuclear bombs. If that occurred, as Obama publically said, that would invoke a U.S. and or Israeli response to prevent it.

Redlines or just lines in the sand are meaningless to others, whether its a bully down the street, or directed to bully nations, if the redline is crossed and nothing is done. In this manner, the bully is "calling the other's bluff". Animals in the wild do this all the time. So do humans or leaders of nations.

In Syria, the UK, France and Israel, all have stated Assad did use sarin gas in the Aleppo area in small amounts. Evidence smuggled out proves it. Yet, Obama is foot-dragging and appears weak and timid to stick his toe into Syria, even though a redline was crossed in a small way. This tells Assad that the USA will do nothing. Assad is thinking that he can get away with using occasional small use of chemical weapons to stay in power.

In Iran, the leader is boasting that the redline set by the US and Israel has been crossed with regards to their nuclear enrichment, achieving enough to make a few nukes. Obama seems to be overly cautious and naive about what Iran has achieved. I guess he will wake up when Iran actually does use one. Israel instinctively knows Iran is very close to the redline both countries have set long ago. They know the Summer of 2013 is the last chance to stop it. The US thinks there is much more time.

In both cases, inaction promotes the leaders of both countries to dismiss the US threats. It promotes more belligerence. The US could take small steps to show either country that crossing the redline is not a hollow threat. Using the United Nations usually means nothing on the world stage. Both Russia and China would veto any action the US wants done. That leaves NATO. Both the UK and France seem to be willing to conduct some military action against Syria but only with the US, which is still too cautious to do so. A more viable action is creating an Arab coalition consisting of Saudi Arabia, Jordan, Turkey, Qatar to do the dirty work with the US in the background. The quickest way is for the US to enter unilaterally, using no-fly zones and limited cruise missile strikes on Assad.

Even sending over a few cruise missiles, targeted at key installations or bases that Assad controls would send a real signal to him. It would be his "wake-up" call. Then, it would be his move how to steer the war. This method would be America's safest method with no loss of life.

Iran is entirely different. Distance plays a huge role. Iran is now a "player" in the Middle East and being so close in terms of missile range to oil producing countries that the world depends on, makes any move critical for both sides. If the summer passes with no action from anyone, most likely we will have to live with Iran as a new nuclear power.

The redlines for Syria and Iran are different. Both threaten the Middle East now and in the future. But, the President of the USA should not make a redline unless he is prepared to act on it when it is crossed.


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    • perrya profile image

      perrya 4 years ago

      I favor the cruise missile attack, just a few on special targets. Its sends the message needed and it will show Obama is not just talk.

    • one2get2no profile image

      Philip Cooper 4 years ago from Olney

      This is a difficult one. Cameron has stated that the red line was crossed as far as the evidence suggests however his military advisors tell him that a limited response (no fly zone) is not possible as Syria has over 100 transportable rocket launchers. We (NATO) could knock out the fixed rocket launchers but not all the transportable ones. That leaves a full scale ground invasion...would the public agree to that? Tough call. What do you think?

    • profile image

      Carl 4 years ago

      I agree with you that redlines are meaningless is they are not enforced. Inaction by the U.S. is only going to encourage our enemies. Obama should not set redlines he will not enforce.

      I disagree with you on how to get the attention of those who cross these redlines. A tit-for-tat retaliation is not the way to go. If we want our adversaries to take us seriously they must be slapped hard when they ignore our warnings.