Can the U.S. Attack Syria Without its British Ally?


Politicians on both sides of the Atlantic, starting with Winston Churchill, have long spoken about the “special relationship” that exists between the United States and Britain when it comes to international affairs. They’ve been side by side in World War I, World War II, the Korean War, the Cold War, the Gulf War, and the invasions of Iraq and Afghanistan.

But Thursday’s rejection by the British House of Commons of Prime Minister David Cameron’s plea that the British join with the Americans in punishing Syria for its alleged use of chemical weapons leaves the U.S.—at least at this moment—without its most steadfast ally.

Can the U.S. attack Syria without the Brits standing shoulder-to-shoulder with the Americans? Of course, it can. But more importantly, should it?

British politicians made clear they felt the U.S. had dragged them into the war in Iraq a decade ago under false…

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Bin Laden Raid Had Help From Space, Secret Budget Documents Show


A fleet of satellites played a vital role in the U.S. raid that killed Osama bin Laden, according to intelligence documents obtained by the Washington Post from whistleblower Edward Snowden.

The so-called “black budget” documents, which detail spending on spying, revealed the role of satellites in collecting masses of electronic and communications intelligence from Pakistan during the daring raid. Satellites were also used to collect hundreds of images of bin Laden’s Abbottabad compound beforehand.

The same budget documents show that after bin Laden had been killed, U.S. intelligence agencies spent $2.5 million analyzing computer files and other evidence seized at bin Laden’s compound.

[Washington Post]

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The Ghost of Iraq Haunts Obama’s Syria Attack Plan


When he first ran for President, Barack Obama cast himself as the man to support if you thought the Iraq war was a stupid mistake. “We must not repeat the mistakes of Iraq,” he said in August 2007, lamenting what he called a war of “undetermined length, at undetermined cost, with undetermined consequences.”

But in a stinging irony, Obama now finds his plans for a military strike on Syria hamstrung by memories of George W. Bush’s war. And many of the same objections that Obama once voiced are being hurled back at him by opponents of an intervention in Syria.

“All of this [talk of striking Syria] makes one recall the events that happened 10 years ago, when, using false information about Iraqis having weapons of mass destruction, the U.S. bypassed the United Nations and started a scheme whose consequences are well known to everyone,” Russia’s Foreign Ministry said in…

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U.K.’s Syria Vote Could Lead to Different Kind of Regime Change


As the U.S. administration rushes to assess the damage and disruption caused by Britain’s unexpected punitive strike on its plans for Syria, officials might consider the fate of the man who yesterday failed to deliver parliamentary backing for U.K. involvement in a U.S. military intervention. Britain’s Prime Minister David Cameron had been careful ahead of last night’s House of Commons vote to make clear that the ambitions of any such intervention would be limited. Neither Britain nor the U.S. sought regime change. Regime change may yet result from his botched maneuver, however, as Britons question his leadership.

In the hours since Cameron’s 285-272 defeat on a motion calling for “a strong humanitarian response … [that] may, if necessary, require military action,” his critics have queued up to excoriate his lax party and coalition management (39 of his Conservative colleagues and Liberal Democrat partners voted against the motion). There are…

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Morning Must Reads: August 30


  • “The Obama administration laid the groundwork for unilateral military action, a shift officials said reflected the U.K.’s abrupt decision not to participate and concerns Bashar al-Assad was using the delays to disperse military assets.” [WSJ]
    • “Can the U.S. attack Syria without the Brits standing shoulder-to-shoulder with the Americans? Of course, it can. But more importantly, should it?” [TIME]
    • “The Iraq effect…has dramatically raised skepticism about the U.S. government’s rationale for applying military force in the name of American security.” [TIME]
    • “President François Hollande of France on Friday offered strong support for international military action against the Syrian government…” [NYT]
    • Senate Select Committee on Intelligence Chairman Diane Feinstein tells TIME a congressional vote is not necessary for Syria intervention. The New York Times reports “nearly 200 House members from both parties have signed letters calling on the president to seek formal congressional approval…

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Regulatory “issues” lead Bitcoin exchange Tradehill to suspend operations (again)


Tradehill, the U.S.-based Bitcoin exchange, has temporarily suspended trading due to “banking and regulatory issues” that appear to be linked to the service’s credit union partner.

Tradehill has suspended operations before. The company’s original incarnation, partly-based in Chile, shut up shop in 2012, also citing regulatory reasons, and blaming a processing partner who pulled the rug out from under the Bitcoin operation.

This time, according to Tradehill’s homepage:

“We have recently made the decision to temporarily suspend trading on the Tradehill platform, due to banking and regulatory issues. This decision has not been made lightly and we regret having to take such action. However, we embrace the silver lining of our situation and plan to take this opportunity to upgrade, improve, and polish our trading platform.”

Tradehill added that it had registered with the U.S. financial crimes authority FinCEN earlier this month and was “actively engaging with banks…

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