Monday, November 17, 2014

Obama in retreat on MH17

by Alexander Mercouris

Amidst all the hysteria about what western leaders said to Putin during the Brisbane G20 summit (answer: nothing new or important), the media has entirely ignored certain very interesting comments about MH17 that Obama made in his speech at the University of Queensland. His precise words (taken from the White House website) were as follows:

"We’re leading the international community in the fight to destroy the terrorist group ISIL. We're leading in dealing with Ebola in West Africa and in opposing Russia’s aggression against Ukraine -- which is a threat to the world, as we saw in the appalling shoot-down of MH17, a tragedy that took so many innocent lives, among them your fellow citizens. As your ally and friend, America shares the grief of these Australian families, and we share the determination of your nation for justice and accountability. So, yes, we have a range of responsibilities. That's the deal. It's a burden we gladly shoulder."

Obama played his usually sly trick of talking about the MH17 tragedy in conjunction with his condemnation of Russian policy ("Russia's aggression") towards the Ukraine. That way he continues to give the impression that Russia shot MH17 down.

This should not confuse. What is striking is that in this speech, delivered in Australia where the MH17 tragedy is a very hot issue, Obama did not say that Russia shot MH17 down and did not say that the NAF shot MH17 down. He did not even say (as he has said in the past) that MH17 was shot down by a surface to air missile launched from NAF controlled territory. Rather what Obama is now saying is that Russia is responsible for MH17 being shot down because by its supposed "aggression" against Ukraine it has supposedly created the conditions that led to MH17 being shot down.

This actually leaves open the possibility (for the first time coming from Obama or from anyone in the US administration) that it might have been the Ukrainians who shot MH17 down.

With a character as slippery as Obama it is never possible to be completely sure but this looks to me frankly like a retreat to a fall back position. Certainly it is a long way from the categorical claims made by Obama and Kerry in the immediate aftermath of the tragedy.

All this makes me wonder what Obama is been told in private by his intelligence chiefs as more information about the shoot down comes trickling in.