Libya but Not Syria?

April 28, 2011

Libya but Not Syria?

Why Libya and not Syria? Making plans to keep troops in Iraq and Geithner gets a new financial adviser.

Calls for action against Syria are getting louder and louder. Yesterday, Senator Jon Kyl offered some stinging criticism of the Obama administration: the White House “has done little to aid the Syrian people who are being brutalized by the Assad regime — reportedly over 400 people have been killed by the regime in recent protests.” He urged the administration to, “at a minimum,” freeze assets and impose sanctions on “any entity involved in cooperation between the Iranian leadership and the Assad regime.” Lawmakers have questioned both Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and Defense Secretary Robert Gates about why Washington acted in Libya but isn’t moving on Syria.

Despite protests in Iraq against an American presence and President Obama’s statements to the contrary, Washington is making contingency plans in case it has to keep troops in Iraq beyond the end-of-the-year withdrawal deadline. As Defense Secretary Gates has said in the past, and Admiral Mike Mullen , the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, noted last week, the administration is urging the government in Baghdad to make a decision on whether to extend the U.S. presence. The clock is ticking.

Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner has a new financial adviser— Richard Berner , a former top economist at Morgan Stanley . As the administration still works to clean up the economic crisis, Berner is set to work on a host of touchy subjects, from Wall Street reform and banking to financial regulation and institutions.

Just a short time after Washington’s financial prospects began to look grimmer as the S&P said America’s AAA rating was in danger, the World Bank said China’s economy is booming ahead. Today, the organization bumped its GDP forecast for Beijing up to a “healthy” 9.3% (from 9%) and knocked it’s current-account-surplus projection down to 3.6% of GDP.

And an administration official said that CIA Director Leon Panetta , should he be confirmed by the Senate, would take over the defense secretary position on July 1 . Gates is expected to depart at the end of June.