Category Archives: Syria

Syrian Chemical Repeat

Ops, can’t bring that up…
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WSJ 4/5/2017

Just when Western leaders think they can forget about the Syrian civil war, Bashar Assad drags them back in. A suspected poison gas attack widely blamed on the Syrian regime killed at least 58 people in opposition-held territory Tuesday, including 11 children.

Syria’s army denied using chemical weapons, but then that’s what the regime said in 2013 when it used them against civilians in opposition territory in a Damascus suburb. This time bombs dropped by warplanes hit the town of Khan Sheikhoun in northwestern Syria, spreading an unknown gas that caused people to faint, foam at the mouth and suffocate, according to doctors and rescue workers.

“All pieces of evidence indicate that the raid was carried out by the regime,” said Raed Saleh, director of the White Helmets civil-defense organization that operates in rebel-controlled Syria. As far as we know, the Syrian opposition doesn’t have warplanes.

Such an attack isn’t supposed to be possible now because President Obama, John Kerry and Vladimir Putin claimed to have rid Syria of its chemical-weapons stockpiles. Mr. Obama took up the Russian strongman’s arms-control offer in 2013 after Mr. Obama flinched on a military strike to enforce his famous “red line” against Mr. Assad’s use of chemical weapons.

The two nations and the United Nations then made a great show of destroying the stockpiles that Mr. Assad claimed not to have. But U.S. intelligence believed the regime was holding some weapons in reserve, and the use of chlorine gas has become almost routine. Tuesday’s attack seems to have been a deadlier gas, perhaps sarin that was used in 2013. The Russian defense ministry, which is Mr. Assad’s military patron, dismissed reports of the attack as “absolutely fake,” but the victims on video from Syria look real enough. The attack again shows the folly of relying on arms-control promises from men like Messrs. Assad or Putin. The Russian is violating the 1988 INF treaty by introducing new missiles in Europe, so why would he fret about more poison gas in Syria?

A State Department official said the facts suggest the attack is a war crime, and White House spokesman Sean Spicer said “these heinous actions by the Bashar al-Assad regime are a consequence” of the Obama Administration’s “weakness and irresolution.” He’s right, but Donald Trump is now the President. The attack comes after the Administration has been publicly signaling that deposing Mr. Assad is no longer a goal of U.S. policy. It’s possible the regime took those comments as license to unleash more hell.

Mr. Trump inherited a mess in Syria, but if he doesn’t want to preside over endless civil war and more war crimes, he’ll need a better strategy than Mr. Obama’s default of moral denunciation and trusting Russia.

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Obama’s Foreign Policy Is Forming Alliances We Never Thought Possible – Yahoo Finance

Almost exclusively reactive, never proactive or leading. And this is what it has gotten the USA. I’m surprised that this article was published by the AP. The press has been oh so slow to ‘analyze’ impacts of Obama’s actions (hard to call it a ‘policy’) overseas.
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AP

Here’s how quickly things can change in the volatile Middle East: Less than one year ago, President Barack Obama considered airstrikes against military targets held by the regime of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad after a chemical weapons attack killed as many as 1,400 people in the capital.

Now, the Obama administration is reportedly considering entering a de facto alliance with the Assad regime amid another pressing crisis in the region. [

The Daily Beast’s Josh Rogin reported last week that some in the Obama administration are pushing to move it away from its stated goal of regime change in Syria. The administration would do this in favor of working with the Assad regime in the Middle East to fight the Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham (ISIS) and other Sunni extremists, who have caused the crisis in Iraq to bubble over in recent weeks.

“Anyone calling for regime change in Syria is frankly blind to the past decade; and the collapse of eastern Syria, and growth of Jihadistan, leading to 30 to 50 suicide attacks a month in Iraq,” one senior Obama administration official who works on Iraq policy told Rogin.

In fact, in Iraq, the United States could soon find itself working on the same side as four normally unfriendly foes: the Assad regime; Iran, Assad’s primary backer and the world’s most active state sponsor of terrorism; Hezbollah, Iran’s Lebanese proxy group; and Russia, with whom the U.S. is sparring over its continued stirring of unrest in Ukraine.

Basically, nine months after a Russian-brokered chemical weapons deal in September re-legitimized Assad as an international partner, the Iraq crisis is building an Iran-Assad-Russia-U.S. alignment that no one would have thought possible.

“In Iraq, that’s certainly true,” Eurasia Group President Ian Bremmer told Business Insider. “But it doesn’t change the Obama administration’s position on Syria. There’s great skepticism of working broadly with Iran, and nobody wants to distract from the nuclear deal on that front.”

The current situation is especially complicated as U.S. and other world powers are negotiating a deal aimed at controlling Iran’s nuclear program by a July 20 deadline ; the Syrian civil war, now more than three and half years old, is still getting worse; and Moscow continues to facilitate Russian fighters and weapons entering East Ukraine.

The complexity is personified by Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki, a sectarian-minded Shiite who the U.S. blames for much of the deterioration in the country. Nevertheless, Washington is currently helping Maliki, who is backed by Iran, by sending at least 500 U.S. armed forces and through other methods like intelligence gathering .

In short, everything in the region is blending together. And the new, awkward alignments may be a reflection of the Obama administration’s pursuit of relative non-involvement in Middle East affairs. “The more important driver of policy is the general opposition to taking a leadership role on these crises — the risk aversion,” Bremmer noted.

‘Obama supports Iran’
Other experts believe that the U.S. has not only stepped back from the region, but has also actively sided with Iran in the process.

Mike Doran, a senior fellow of the Saban Center for Middle East Policy at the Brookings Institution, describes the mayhem engulfing the Middle East as “a struggle over the regional order” among three sides: ” Shiite Iran and its proxies; ISIS and likeminded Sunni extremists; and the traditional allies of the United States: Turkey, Saudi Arabia, Jordan, the United Arab Emirates, and Israel.”

The key question is where the White House stands in regards to the conflict. And the answer is startling to America’s old friends. “Obama supports Iran,” Doran wrote. “One can argue about whether this pro-Iran tilt is accidental or intentional, but one cannot deny its existence.”

Tony Badran, a research fellow at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies, has been calling Washington’s alignment with Iran and Hezbollah “an open secret” since January. Fast forward to June, and the Obama administration finds itself trying to sell a policy that seemingly disregards the concerns of Sunni regional powers.

The result is that Washington appears to be acting on the Shite side of an increasingly sectarian war that will continue for the foreseeable future.

“This outcome bodes ill for the United States,” Doran concluded. “But it will be especially dangerous for those countries that the U.S. used to call allies: Jordan, Saudi Arabia, and Israel, to name just three. Israel is in particular peril. American policy is partitioning Syria between Iran and the global jihadis—the two worst enemies of the Jewish state, now digging in right across its northern border. There can be no happy ending to this story.”

Obama’s Foreign Policy Is Forming Alliances We Never Thought Possible – Yahoo Finance.

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Putin Snookers Obama

Snookered… How’s that “Change has come…” working for you?
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Putin’s deft timing on a Syria chemical arms surrender plan snookered Obama
Simon Tisdall
The Guardian, Wednesday 11 September 2013 10.22 EDT

It is no consolation at all to Syria’s suffering people, stuck with Bashar al-Assad’s brutal regime. But for Vladimir Putin, Russia’s president and long-standing anti-western bogeyman, the decision to put military action on hold represents a signal diplomatic triumph with possible long-term strategic implications for Moscow’s role in the Middle East and beyond.

Putin’s unexpected proposal that Syria surrender its chemical weapons to the international community comprehensively snookered a politically cornered Barack Obama. The White House, not Assad, was disarmed; it simply did not see it coming.

Despite belated claims that the idea was under discussion for a year or more, the fact is Putin, with impeccable timing, made it his own – and won instant backing from Syria, Iran, the UN and relieved European allies.

Faced with overwhelming opposition to military intervention from the American public and a near certain defeat in Congress, Obama seized on the Russian démarche with almost embarrassing eagerness. That former UN inspectors say collecting chemical weapons in the midst of Syria’s civil war may be unworkable, apparently mattered little to the US president at this moment of high angst – and even less in Putin’s cynical world of great power gamesmanship.

“Putin’s goal is to play for time, to push off the talk of strikes for as long as possible, because the longer he pushes them off the less likely they are,” Philippe Moreau Defarges, of the French Institute of International Relations, in Paris, told Henry Meyer, of Bloomberg. “Hats off to the Russians, those guys are master diplomats. Putin and Assad have totally won this round.” . . .

More….

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How Not to Persuade Congress on Syria

More reasons why not to support Obama’s “ask permission of Congress” schtick.  (Mind you, I hate what Assad is doing, but where has Obama been the past two years???? )
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By KARL ROVE

Resolute leadership, clear goals and as much unity in Washington as possible are required when America contemplates military action. Someone should let the White House know.

Two years ago President Obama said that “the time has come” for Syrian President Bashar Assad “to step aside.” Apparently he was just thinking out loud. He offered no way to make that happen.

A year ago, Mr. Obama said any Syrian use of chemical weapons would be “a red line” leading to “enormous consequences.” Assad crossed the red line earlier this year. Nothing happened. He used chemical weapons again late last month, killing an estimated 1,400 men, women and children.

On Wednesday, Mr. Obama insisted, “I didn’t set a red line.” Instead, he claimed, “the world set a red line.” He also said: “My credibility isn’t on the line. The whole international community’s credibility is on the line.”  Yet the international community shows little inclination to act. In part, that’s because Mr. Obama has taken “leading from behind” to the extreme by letting British Prime Minister David Cameron go first in asking for parliamentary approval for a strike on Syria. When the British Parliament refused, Mr. Obama’s aides let the New York Times know that “Mr. Cameron had mishandled the situation.”

A week ago, Mr. Obama was ready to bypass lawmakers and order a military strike. Then he suddenly reversed his position, announcing that he would ask Congress for authorization to use force.

Meanwhile, some of his closest advisers are treating the legislative branch as a collection of nitwits. Mr. Obama’s former senior adviser, David Axelrod, tweeted that “Congress is now the dog that caught the car.” An unnamed White House aide told the Washington Post, “We don’t want them [Congress] to have their cake and eat it, too.”

This is a peculiar way to obtain congressional backing for a strike in Syria. Mocking senators and congressmen won’t convince them that America’s credibility will be badly damaged—with potentially grave consequences for U.S. allies and interests—if they withhold approval.

To win over understandably skeptical lawmakers, the president must convince them that America has vital national security interests in Syria. If Assad stays in power, it will be a victory for Hezbollah, Iran and Russia, tilting the balance in the Middle East.  He must also reassure members that things are likely to get better, not worse, if the Syrian dictator falls. While Mr. Obama cannot guarantee the outcome, he must argue it is unlikely that al Qaeda Islamists will replace Assad. That case can be made.

Most in the Syrian opposition aren’t jihadists. It’s true that the al Qaeda element is better trained and armed than the moderates, but the Syrian people will not tolerate a government led by a terrorist movement dominated by foreign fighters. More significantly, if the U.S., Saudi Arabia, Turkey and others strengthen the non-Islamist rebels, a better outcome is possible.

Opposition in Congress to an authorization for the use of force will be fierce among Democratic and Republican anti-interventionists. Mr. Obama must move some Democrats in this camp by personal suasion and appeals to party loyalty. There is no chance that GOP neo-isolationalists will support him. Other Republicans will be tempted to oppose Mr. Obama out of a sense of the public’s war weariness and a belief that the president’s approval ratings will suffer if he strikes Syria. The GOP should reject this political calculus.

It’s true that when asked in an NBC poll late last month if the U.S. should take military action, provide weapons to the Syrian opposition or give humanitarian assistance, only 26% of respondents chose the military option. But 42% of Americans said they believe the U.S. should take military action in response to the use of chemical weapons, while 50% don’t.

If told such a response would be “limited to using cruise missiles” in order “to destroy military units and infrastructure” used in the chemical attacks, the numbers shift to 50% support and 44% opposed. Framed as a general principle—that “the use of chemical weapons is a ‘red line’ ” that “would require a significant U.S. response, including the possibility of military action,” 58% agree while 35% disagree.

The bottom line is that Americans are not eager for military action in Syria. Presidential ambivalence won’t convince the public they should care what happens there. But it isn’t too late. Mr. Obama can bend opinion and the will of Congress his way. It won’t be easy. For the sake of America’s national security, I hope he succeeds.

Mr. Rove, a former deputy chief of staff to President George W. Bush, helped organize the political action committee American Crossroads.

Karl Rove: How Not to Persuade Congress on Syria – WSJ.com.

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