6 Sep 2013

G20: Obama late to the table

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Why did President Barack Obama turn up 30 minutes late for dinner at the G20 last night?

A snub to President Vladimir Putin‘s decision to put Syria on the menu for discussion for dinner?

Or might the president have been actually hitting the phones to congressional waverers ahead of next week’s vote, lobbying from the camp of the world’s biggest critic of US bombing plans?

The US president’s spokesman said opinion at last night’s dinner was “split down the middle” on Syria.

That fraction depends whether you put the “doubtfuls”/”delayers” in the same camp as the “nevers” over bombing. Put together, those two camps massively outweigh the US’s supporters.

The New York Times reckons the US is expanding its military targets in Syria from the original 30 or so and doing so, in part, to answer hardline congress critics who think the existing bombing plans won’t achieve much.

Read more: G20: Merkel yawns, Cameron shrugs off Syria defeat

It’s not full-blown regime change, the paper’s Washington sources say, but it is an expansion of what was originally planned.

When I interviewed him yesterday, David Cameron looked unsure of what President Obama’s latest intentions were and referenced phone conversations that suggested the US president remains entirely fixed on the original “deter and degrade chemical weapons” objective.

I understand that his senior military and intelligence figures simply don’t know the latest detail on US targeting.

Read more: G20 discord on Syria guaranteed

The New York Times talks of the original targets being drawn up in consultation with the French military, appearing to wipe all memory of the fact that the UK worked on original targets before the commons defeat a week ago saw Mr Cameron withdraw from the alliance.

British military figures have been disinvited from key military meetings in the US on Syria since then.

The NYT also says Obama is looking for other NAT0 allies to boost his depleted alliance.

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