I'm probably not the only one who is trying to make sense of what seem to be the opening moves of a possible confrontation with Syria. As you all know, former prime minister Rafik Hariri was murdered on Monday. Subsequently, the USA have withdrawn their ambassador from Syria 'for consultation'. It seems that the time for silent diplomacy is now well and truly over.
Of course, the USA have a number of reasons to be displeased with Syria, as its Ba'ath party does not exactly have a healthy influence on the state of affairs in the Sunni Triangle in Iraq. But up until now, the USA never bothered to bring the conflict out in the open, which makes me wonder what changed.
As I see it, there are a number of possibilities:
a.) The USA is hoping to capitalize upon anti-Syrian anger currently rife amongst the Lebanese (and perhaps Syrian) opposition. The current momentum of anger, fueled by the moral support of the USA (and the French, see below), may very well provide the Lebanese opposition with enough of an incentive to rise up against the Syrians themselves.
b.) By withdrawing their ambassador, the USA are trying to scare the Syrians into cooperation. This would be corroborated by implicit French support of American policy. Yesterday, during the Hariri funeral, France once again reiterated its position that Syria should remove its troops from Lebanon. France previously supported a Security Council resolution demanding just that.
c.) It's not a bluff; the whole Hersh/New Yorker story about a possible attack on Iran as well as the unmanned drones story were all diversions. In reality, Syria is the next target. This would make strategic sense, as Syria is costing the USA, the Lebanese, the Israeli's and the Palestinians. I can't imagine any sort of peace between the latter two without Syria moving out of the way and stopping to fund the Lebanon-based Hezbollah. The downside is that American forces seem so overstretched I can't imagine them occupying a third country (besides Iraq and Afghanistan). (Of course, a pending Syrian invasion may be the precise reason the USA hasn't been willing to greatly increase its troop numbers in Iraq.). Nevertheless, I also find it hard to imagine the French going along with this.
There probably are other scenarios which I haven't thought of. Considering the current weirdness - Syria and Iran joining up 'against common threats'; a strange explosion in Iran - I'd like to hear them all. Also, does anyone know if there are any websites tracking American troop deployments?