During his Rose Garden announcement Saturday that he was asking Congress to authorize a military strike on Syria, President Barack Obama made the case that the timing of any attack is not that important.
“The Chairman [of the Joint Chiefs] has indicated to me that our capacity to execute this mission is not time-sensitive; it will be effective tomorrow, or next week, or one month from now. And I’m prepared to give that order,” Obama said, suggesting the one week delay or more until Congress meets will make no difference.
Immediately following the president’s address, veteran Israeli Channel 2 Arab Affairs Analyst Ehud Ya’ari said he disagreed with Obama that timing is irrelevant, explaining there is a difference between attacking military installations that have been emptied versus those that are full.
Is it accurate to say that the timing of any attack is “not time-sensitive?” TheBlaze reached out to military analysts to examine that question.
Efraim Inbar, Director of the Begin-Sadat Center for Strategic Studies, tells TheBlaze that while the extra week allows President Bashar Assad to move more strategic assets into bunkers, the signal Obama’s delay sends is even more crucial. “By delaying, it signals weakness, American weakness. This is a pathetic demonstration of impotence of an American president,” he says.
“This is probably how most of the Middle East sees it, be it friends of America or its foes. The American president has become a laughing stock, because he doesn’t exercise his priorities to use force,” Inbar says.
The additional week before Congress returns to Washington gives the forces of President Bashar Assad “more time to prepare,” says Inbar, adding, “It gives them more time to slaughter the opposition. It gives them time to coordinate moves with Russia and Iran. And it gives them a good feeling.”
Columnist Charles Krauthammer also addressed the importance of timing, saying on Fox News, “The most astonishing thing is the lack of any urgency.”
“Congress will be back in a week. He [Obama] says, ‘I can strike in a day or a week or a month,’ as if he is a judge handing down a sentence and the execution can be any time in the future. There’s a war going on! Do you think everybody is going to hold their breath, hold their arms? Step aside until Obama decides when he wants to go to Congress?”
“I mean, this is sort of amateur hour,” Krauthammer added.
It’s not only President Bashar Assad’s forces who are moving their equipment and personnel away from the anticipated targets, jihadi rebels are also on alert worried they too are in the Pentagon’s crosshairs.
Quoting sources close to Al Qaeda-linked rebels in Syria, Reuters reports that rebels have “cleared many of their bases of fighters, vehicles and weaponry.”
The Nusra Front and the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) are reportedly taking elaborate evasion measures.
“ISIL has evacuated many of its centers, mainly in northern and eastern Syria. They’ve increased security for the emirs (leaders), changing their locations and their cars – they fear homing chips could have been placed in the cars,” a source in Lebanon who is close Al Qaeda-linked groups in Syria told Reuters.
Veteran military analyst Ron Ben-Yishai of the Israeli newspaper Yedioth Aharonot writes, “From a Syrian military perspective, the delay in the American operation, even if it is eventually approved, is good news.”
“The regime in Damascus will be able to better prepare in order to mitigate the damage of a potential strike. In any case, the Americans will try to avoid causing casualties while destroying assets that are important to the Assad regime in order to weaken it and threaten its survival – but not to topple it,” Ben-Yishai writes.
Retired Brigadier-General Shlomo Brom who served as the head of planning and strategy for the Israel Defense Forces tells TheBlaze that he thinks Obama is “basically right” in suggesting timing is not all that important.
“Time in most of the cases is a neutral element. The question is what each of the involved parties does with the time. My assumption is that what the Syrians could do to prepare for the coming attack was already done,” that is, they have already left the targets they believe will be struck by incoming cruise missiles, says Brom who is a Senior Fellow at the Tel Aviv-based Institute for National Security Studies.
Since the administration has been so public about its military planning, “We all know for a number of days that an attack is coming,” Brom says. “So additional time will not help them in this sense.”
Brom believes the extra time could help the Pentagon. “When you look at the U.S., they can use the time more effectively to concentrate more forces.”
Brom however is concerned the debate could drag on so long after the suspected chemical attack in Damascus that he’s concerned “that if the attack will be too distant from the actual reason then people will forget what are the reasons so the legitimization of the attack will be hurt.”