Could Norway be key to a future Syria strike?
September 26th, 2013
11:49 AM ET

Could Norway be key to a future Syria strike?

By Christopher S. Chivvis, Special to CNN

Editor’s note: Christopher Chivvis is a senior political scientist at the nonprofit, nonpartisan RAND Corporation and author of the book, Toppling Qaddafi. The views expressed are his own.

The White House has faced an increasingly uphill battle to gain domestic and international support for possible strikes against Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, yet there may be a glimmer of hope on the horizon in the land of Fjords.

Earlier this month, Norway, traditionally one of America’s strongest NATO allies, elected a conservative new prime minister, Erna Solberg. Solberg comes to power as the Obama administration has struggled to win backing for strikes against the al-Assad regime in Syria – a struggle that has been complicated further by Syria’s acceptance of a Russia-backed plan that is supposed to see it give up its chemical weapons.

But if Syrian acceptance turns out to be a stalling tactic – as many believe it is – support for strikes from allies like Norway will be all the more important to the White House. Indeed, in the wake of the British parliament’s vote against intervention, smaller NATO countries like Norway could eventually play a significant role in helping the president make his case to the world.

Norway made a major contribution to the NATO operations that brought down Muammar Gadhafi in 2011, and was one of the few countries that actually flew strike missions over Libya.  At the time, then Defense Secretary Robert Gates praised Norway’s contribution to toppling Gadhafi, noting in a 2011 address that, unlike several other members of the alliance who opted out of operations altogether, Norway was “punching above its weight.”

Norway contributed six F-16s to strike missions in Libya. Importantly, it placed very few restrictions on their use and often took on difficult missions other allies were hesitant to carry out. Norwegian aircraft dropped close to 400 bombs in their operations.

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Back then, however, the United States could count on the government of former Prime Minster Jens Stoltenberg to support the NATO operation because the anti-Gadhafi forces had U.N. Security Council backing. Like most smaller European Nordic states, Norway takes the imprimatur of the United Nations very seriously. Indeed, the stated position of the now departing center-left government was that Norway could not participate without U.N. backing.

But the new government may have a different view. Solberg has hinted that she believes Norway could back strikes against al-Assad, even without a U.N. mandate. In an interview before the election, she told a leading Norwegian newspaper that it was “not 100 percent certain that you must have a U.N. mandate in order for intervention to be grounded in the rule of law,” while noting that a U.N. mandate was obviously preferable.

To be sure, Norwegian support for strikes would be far from certain – Solberg is still forming a government. And she does not enjoy an absolute majority in parliament – far from it. For strikes, she will need the support of several other parties – and that support could run aground just as British support did. Also, public support for military action in Norway is meager, as in other NATO countries.

Nevertheless, if the latest diplomatic initiative falls short, the White House will need to decide whether or not to go ahead with strikes. In this event, even the possibility of Norwegian support could play a role. Norway will not on its own shift the political calculus in favor of strikes, but it could certainly make a difference if it wanted to.

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Topics: Syria • United States

soundoff (26 Responses)
  1. Allan Kinsman

    Whatever we do about Syria the critical point should be a concenses with other world governments. The United States cannot afford another Iraq under it's belt. And, another foreign war would certainly mean ignoring a unprecedented financial problems at home. If America does not solve our problems at home with how we deal with finances there will be no America to express it's opinion to the world. We compromise our security more through mismanagement of our monies than any other action we can take.

    September 26, 2013 at 12:08 pm |
    • Polar Bear

      Kind of agree. We should let the Middle East countries duke it out. Islam dictates that they continue to kill each other. As long as Islam is the main religion – the supposed religion of peace – this story is going to be told for the foreseeable future. Violence is what they do. Let's stay out of it.

      September 26, 2013 at 6:45 pm |
      • ajinla

        correction! the Middle East never had borders prior to WWI it was the fat terrorist Churchil that drew the map to his liking. As for duking it out, it was the terrorist organization known as the Crusades, that introduced the culture of death to the Middle East. All three of Gods faiths are Middler Eastern, and the West hijaked them. Fast forward to today, the people of that part of the world have risen and reality is changing, These latest skirmishes are a sign of the begining of the end to the former colonial powers, like the french, english and now the usof a.

        September 27, 2013 at 4:39 pm |
      • Joseph McCarthy

        Well said, ajinla. I fully agree. The only difference between us and the medieval Crusaders is the motivation. They went there to spread Catholicism whereas today, we along with Great Britain and France are doing for sheer greed and gain.

        September 27, 2013 at 4:58 pm |
      • Bang

        Um – what happened to the Ottoman Empire and Egypt? I could have sworn that both where around for a few thousand years... In terms of the current boundaries – yeah Britain and France drew a lot of them after the Ottoman empire fell.

        September 28, 2013 at 3:08 pm |
      • aurelius

        Crusaders? Gee if that was so bad, why are Islamic countries of today acting like the Christians of yesterday?

        September 30, 2013 at 8:04 am |
  2. 100 % ETHIO

    There are Jewish extremists, who operates various known/unknown terrorist Organizations around the World.
    Some of them aligned with Muslim extremists.
    Just look at their histories of crimes. Both Jew/Muslims committed many crimes against Christians.
    Let history repeat itself.

    September 26, 2013 at 12:17 pm |
    • Polar Bear

      Where are the Jewish extremists that are now doing what the Islamic terrorists are doing? Or, are you reaching way back and trying to make it seem like "now?"

      September 26, 2013 at 6:43 pm |
    • nitetrain

      boy you sound like one paranoid christian!

      September 26, 2013 at 7:08 pm |
    • vonrock

      It's called their 'government.

      September 26, 2013 at 11:27 pm |
  3. Joseph McCarthy

    Thank you, Mr. Chivvis. According to your article above, it appears that simple morality is fast becoming a thing of the past in Norway as well as other NATO countries. I always considered Norway a Christian country but according to you, that is changing fast. It seems that Christianity is on the decline in Europe just like the right-wing thugs in Washington are endeavoring to eliminate Islam in the Middle East. Atheism seems to be the wave of the future although many right-wing politicians still pretend to be the Christians that they're not!

    September 26, 2013 at 4:05 pm |
    • Polar Bear

      Wow! You've got it all wrong. Right-wing thugs in Washington? Last time I looked, Dear Leader Obama – a Democrat – was the President of this country with the Democrats controlling the Senate. Sounds like you have a God problem that you are erroneously assigning to others.

      September 26, 2013 at 6:41 pm |
      • ✠RZ✠

        Never mind left or right, or wrong. I need a war and I need it now! Don't care by whom , against whom, and especially don't care who pays for it or gets killed by it (except for me of course). As long as I get to sell lots and lots of weapons for billions and trillions of dollars, we're good. Look that Canadian terrorist Inuit group Al Tuktoyuktuk are surly moving their WWDs all over the north, just look at all those little white domes up there, somebody please attack before it's too late.

        September 27, 2013 at 8:22 am |
  4. Polar Bear

    Russia, Germany, and now Norway running away from socialist-left policies and some might say China too. Yet America is running toward it trying to give it a big, wet kiss. What's wrong with us. Good to see some of that Norwegian Viking spirit resurface!

    September 26, 2013 at 6:39 pm |
  5. j. von hettlingen

    Norway is known for going its own way. It's in its history as a seafaring power. Compared to its neighbour Sweden, Norway is more likely to surprise the world with unexpected policies or actions.
    Norway is a Nato member and maintains troops in Afghanistan. But the voters had rejected membership of the then European Economic Community in 1972, and of the European Union in 1994, despite being urged by their governments to vote "yes". The US might be able to count on Norway, if Assad used c-weapons again to gas his own citizens.

    September 27, 2013 at 6:58 am |
  6. rightospeak

    Another article by a " foundation" to push the state propaganda. Norway will not support another Iraq. The other colonies of the US in the EU may, but I doubt if Norway would. The article is a wish by the war profiteers , who financed it.

    September 27, 2013 at 8:58 am |
  7. Maja

    Don't be absurd. This is not a school yard where all the "innocent" kids are pushing each other to be out front to stand up to a bully.

    There will be NO military strike on Syria. Get it through your thick head.

    Meting out violence to punish violence is always a catastrophic failure. Grow up!

    This article is a press release/advertisement for the armaments industry.

    Guns, ammo, materiel ought to be taxed out of existence just like cigarettes.

    You can't smoke cigarettes and expect to be healthy and you can't drop bombs and expect peace.

    September 27, 2013 at 8:37 pm |
  8. Muin

    Strike or No strike is not really the issue. Think of what we saw in Syria from the beginning of Syria conflict. U.S president wanted to first normalize relations with Syria by opening up an embassy but his saudi allies,israelis, u,s intelligent agencies and neo cons inside U.S were dragging U.S to a war but ultimately failed because of President's reluctance. So, it's hard to understand U.S foreign policy sometimes and who's really in charge.

    September 27, 2013 at 11:37 pm |
  9. Kiev500

    Did you ever wonder why President Obama (the supposed agent of progressive change in America) needs and seeks help from conservative governments to continue Bush's regime change policy in the mid east? Yea, that smells rotten, right? I mean, where's the change if Obama is continuing to do what Bush was doing, only more of it? Folks, Obama is a neocon poser who only pretends to be a democrat. Everything he told progressives was a lie designed to fool us and get this poser elected so he could use the power of the office to betray his own base and complete the unfinished agenda of the prior conservative administration. We are all suckers and fools. Worst of all, after Obama topples every Arab state in the region surrounding Israel, NOTHING will prevent Israel from driving Palestinians (either economically or militarily) out of occupied territory and into these weakened states. This will be one of the largest instances of ethnic cleansing since WWII.

    September 28, 2013 at 4:31 am |
  10. nirm

    Sure why not. They are the ones giving out those Nobel Peace Prices. Quite fitting.

    September 29, 2013 at 1:01 am |
  11. lela

    Boy, Mr. President: reaching for straws instead of reaching for the stars?

    September 29, 2013 at 11:57 am |
  12. mimi jacques

    Every country -belonging to NATO or not- will seriously question United States reliability/trustworthiness. August 31,2013 French Forces were ready to start as partners with US the promised punishment on Syria for crossing Pres.Obama's Red Line on CWs. France was ready to start at 3 am- but Pres.Obama aborted any punishment on Syria's Bashar al-Assad. Pres.Obama made France's President Francois Hollande look like a fool trusting US. Read,html It is the most regrettable thing that the actions- let alone words- by the US administration – have left everyone to come to a very sad conclusion, untrustworthy.

    September 30, 2013 at 10:00 am |
  13. Williams

    Thanks for just about any other great post. %KW%

    November 8, 2013 at 9:23 pm |
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