Syria; So What?

Camera's in Westminster; Press Are On The Start Line Then

"UK Politicians . People who don't hesitate to bomb other countries on the flimsiest of evidence but spend years worrying over whether to implement a badger cull . " Army Rumour Web Site

Our Nobel Peace Prize winning President used to think in 2007; Obama:  "The President does not have power under the Constitution to unilaterally authorize a military attack in a situation that does not involve stopping an actual or imminent threat to the nation."  With Boehner tearing off a letter signed by 118 Congressmen, (18 Democrats), making it clear that keeping the legislature in the dark is not going to cut it - the UN Sec Gen throwing up obstacles - and now his chief ally Britain having difficulties in going straight to war..... then Barry is taking his time for good reason.  And we should be thankful for his reticence in foreign matters, even if it is indecision.  When Russia and China start sounding reasonable it is time to think again.

We are now in a phase where all involved, on all sides, will seek to confuse, confound and mislead. This is all part of the disinformation and deception campaign which of course, makes perfect tactical sense. This will inevitably create a lot of market noise and markets will ebb and flow with each wave of news, regardless of its veracity. That is, right up until we wake up to hear on the news that Tomahawks are jinking down downtown Damascus.

Surprisingly, Milliband has for once caught the national mood and suddenly become the hate figure in Westminster as a government source tells the Times, 

“No 10 and the Foreign Office think Miliband is a f****** c*** and a copper-bottomed s***. The French hate him now and he’s got no chance of building an alliance with the US Democratic Party”

Why? Here is where things stand this morning. Miliband’s threat to oppose the government means the PM doesn’t have the numbers for military action. Today’s vote will now not authorise intervention, there will have to be a second vote next week if Cameron wants war.” Guido

 

UKIP Says No To War In Syria

As one chum put it "I never like to see that snivelling millipede score a point but someone had to stop Cameron".  Labour were very close to forcing a major defeat on the Govt which resulted in the motion being moved to one of principle today; but we should expect the Mother of all Parliaments to put on a fine display of calm reason.  Open goal for UKIP as well as Nigel Farage echoes the fine words of Lord Tebbit. (Does Cameron really want to lose his summer of easy victories over Labour and the virtual disappearance of UKIP all in one fell swoop?).

" It was not the Assad government which declared war on the Syrian people. Over the years the Assads, father and son, had been authoritarians but by the standards of the Middle East they had respected minorities, not least the Christians. It would be a gross oversimplification of the very complex religious and tribal and ethnic divisions within Syria to blame the Islamists alone, but it was the more extreme Islamists who became increasingly restive at the deviant tolerance of the Assads and they who incited an undeclared war against it and Assad.

What the British and American governments have to ask themselves is who would be strengthened most by any proposed warlike action. If it were to be designed to weaken Assad, would it be a coalition of the moderates of all shades who might find a peaceful way forward, or the extremists who would more likely want to impose a far harsher regime than that of Assad before the uprising? And if despite the first wave of military action the Assad govt survived but became more & not less intransigent towards the rebels of all shades, what then?"

Of course, Sarin itself has a short shelf life once the precursor chemicals are mixed, and so Saddam theories are discountable. Production of Sarin has been a schedule 1 war crime offence since 1993....so by forensic thought, we need to find a supplier with a chemical industry that produces organophosphates...such as sheep dip. That opens out the suspects......"

 

Syrian and US Assets (Bloomberg)

For the moment the Middle East Peace Envoy Tony Bliar (oh the irony -stop it), his press spokesman of old Alistair Campbell and it seems Sam Cam are the main proponents of the school of bomb them back into the middle ages. They might want to just check the above out as this will not be a Libyan style push over.

So who does this crisis help?  Apart from the obvious Sunni/Shia  push and shove; 

1. Obama as he may get his budget/debt ceiling through as Republicans may have to back down in all decency, (ok unlikely but may help if we are being really cynical) 

2. He gets to rig the FOMC again and wave Summers through (again bit of a stretch).

3. Israel as they won't have to be quite so nice to Palestinians in upcoming talks (though I think Netanyahu is right on everyone's case regarding Iran and setting easy precedents)

4. New boy in Iran can't play the peace card to western media and look all normal and nice - which by the way they have in condemning use of chemical weapons.  Unfortunately, they went on to warn Iran will attack and "burn" Israel if Syria is attacked - expect Iran to retaliate via unconventional methods e.g kidnappings via Hezbollah etc

 5.  Erdogan, Hollande and several others with "local difficulties" can divert attention.  As Rahm Emanuel allegedly said never let a good crisis go to waste - always an opportunity.

Meanwhile the US government  are leaking news of impending action on high value targets. The message being delivered to the media and to a public fatigued by war, is that strikes will be limited to high value targets. The last thing Washington wants is regime change because that would create the need for massive resources for a nation building clean-up, involvement in another civil war, another $1tr, probably 5,000 casualties etc etc etc

Obama is due in Sweden on Sep 3rd and then Russia for the G20 on the 5th-6th, the suggestion being that he’d like it all tied up by then, ie limited strike, (Stratfor).

However, other countries are quickly putting the brakes on incl the UK, (above), who at the moment, will struggle to get a vote through parliament without the report from the UN inspectors producing verification, (its not even finished). An attack without clear legal authority would be politically damming both here and in the US and that is thus far, also subject to the UN report. As time passes, domestic opposition here is growing and coalescing across an unlikely collective across the political spectrum.

There is an outside chance that the Russians might cooperate and help remove Assad. Russia still has a large presence in Syria and removing the head but leaving the body in place, (Army, security, intelligence & government), would avoid creating a power vacuum that would allow extremists to flourish. On current form, Putin is unlikely to acquiesce but you never know. For the moment, Russia has announced it is “adjusting” its Naval group in the Med, with Interfax reporting that  they’re sending an additional anti-submarine ship and missile cruiser. Putin and Iranian president, Hassan Rouhani, announced they had a telephone conversation yesterday in which they stressed the need to settle the conflict by political and diplomatic means. Meanwhile, the French have dispatched the anti aircraft frigate Chevalier Paul “in the direction of Syria,” which probably means to Corsica for lunch given their parliamentary debate isn’t until next Wednesday. We meanwhile are sending six Tornadoes to Cyprus. Getting crowded down there though and accidents do, unfortunately happen.

Conspiracy theorists may wish to consider this disturbing article.

With regard to markets, an enormously complex geopolitical, religious and civil conflict is not going to be easier to understand over coming days. Markets will continue to trade in an erratic fashion with obvious sensitivity to headlines. Markets will however, want to believe in the “clean and limited,” strike and I tend to the feeling that shares will want to rally short term from here. Having recalibrated down in a somewhat disorderly way they now need to find their levels and re-establish their value based relationships with one another.

However, any rally would have to be quite powerful indeed to overcome the new intermediate downtrend which has taken hold. Much technical damage has been done. In S&P terms, be very cautious if we break down through 1627; above 1640-1643 would probably ignite a short bull run but the dizzy heights of the 1670-80 zone would make me very cautious again. I believe rallies will be sold and the debt ceiling talks, Asian contagion and Europe will all contribute to headwinds for equities. (Europe is the bad boy no one is pricing and crude will impact us all; crude especially is a tax on producers and consumers and spikes in the crude px have usually preceded shares being hammered, (1987, 1999-00, 2005, 2007,).

War lust antidote here.

In summary, the hopes of a clean and limited strike to deliver a bloody nose to the school ground bully but with no fall-out remains possible but is getting ever so more complicated with each day that passes. When I was a young officer cadet we were taught to ask the question “So what?” to every potential action, and then “So what?” to each outcome until we exhausted the process to come to a conclusion. So what? There are an awful lot of “So what?” strands to this wee planning and political challenge.