The Realist Prism: At G-20, Obama Finds No Political Cover for U.S. Strikes in Syria

By Nikolas Gvosdev, on , Column

President Barack Obama apparently failed to change any minds on Syria when the leaders attending the G-20 summit in St. Petersburg, Russia, met for a working dinner Thursday night. Instead, according to Italian Prime Minister Enrico Letta, the divisions over Syria “were confirmed” at the dinner.

One of the problems facing the Obama team is that there remains widespread skepticism about the veracity of U.S. intelligence claims. Even as lab results from Britain's Porton Down laboratory seem to confirm that sarin gas was used in the attack on three Damascus suburbs on Aug. 21, Russia, along with some other countries, continues to insist that chemical weapons might have been used by the Syrian opposition. So far, the president has not been able to convince Russian President Vladimir Putin or other skeptics that there is solid proof to back up U.S. assertions, in part because Obama did not present his fellow world leaders with clear and convincing evidence, such as satellite imagery or transcripts of intercepted communications. While members of Congress have received more classified briefings, Secretary of State John Kerry has argued that what has been released publicly, and what serves as the basis of the American case at the G-20, is “unprecedented” and “sufficient” to support the U.S. claims. ...

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