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On Syria, Has the Obama Doctrine Been Revealed?

It's not "lead from behind." It's "inaction, by any means."

by
Rick Richman

Bio

June 4, 2013 - 12:00 am
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Two people — identified only as “Senior Administration Official One” (SAO I) and “Senior Administration Official Two” (SAO II) — held a background briefing at the State Department on Friday to address Iran and Hezbollah’s worldwide terrorism. SAO I called Hezbollah a “criminal organization” that has “made an all-in commitment to defend and support the Assad regime,” “throwing whatever resources are required.” SAO II called Hezbollah a terrorist organization “morally bankrupt to its very core,” financed primarily by Iran, part of Iran’s strategy to commit “a significant amount of resources, both financial and otherwise, to the conflict within Syria.”

This produced a three-part question to the SAOs from Ilhan Tanir of BBC Turkish, worth reading in its entirety since it reflects what Tanir calls a “common theme now in the Middle East”:

First question is: Two days ago, State Department and the White House condemned in strongest terms Hezbollah duties in Syria and demand immediate withdrawal. Do you have any kind of news that they are heeding your demand?

Second question is: As far as we can see, they are still fighting fiercely. If they are not heeding your demands, what is your Plan B?

And the third: The common theme now in Middle East that Russia is taking care of its allies in Middle East, but U.S. is just basically talking the talk. But when it comes to supporting its allies and Syrian rebels, forces like Syrian rebels, it’s just giving advice and watching the situation unfolding. Syrian military — head of Syrian Military Council Salim Idris has been giving interviews for the last two days and basically begging for some help. There are 30 to 40,000 people, according to different estimates, that if the town Qusayr falls to regime, they might be in danger of imminent massacre. What are you doing besides giving condemnation and talk? (Emphasis added)

SAO I responded that (1) he would defer to others “on the broader Syria questions”; (2) the U.S. condemned the escalation in Syria by both sides; and (3) Hezbollah’s involvement has turned the conflict in “a new, more dangerous direction.”

He could have shortened his answer to Tanir’s three questions to: “no, none, and nothing.”

President Obama reportedly regrets having set a red line for Assad, now that Assad has crossed it. At his May 16 press conference, after it was clear the red line had been crossed, Obama was asked whether the U.S. would now take “more initiative” to effectuate his policy that “Assad must go.” Obama made it clear Assad need not worry about any U.S. action:

With respect to what I’ve said in the past around red lines — what I’ve said is that the use of chemical weapons are something that the civilized world has recognized should be out of bounds. And as we gather more evidence and work together, my intention is to make sure that we’re presenting everything that we know to the international community … for the international community to put all the pressure that they can on the Assad regime, and to work with the opposition to bring about that political transition. … But it’s not going to be something that the United States does by itself.

So the U.S. is basically a red line information-gathering service for the international community, hoping the international community will use the information to cause a political transition. The U.S. is not actually going to do anything on its own. Obama ended his answer by asserting he didn’t think anyone in the region “would think that U.S. unilateral actions in and of themselves would bring about a better outcome inside of Syria.”

In other words, asked to comment on his red line, Obama effectively provided a green light to those who might have been worried the U.S. might act. In the two weeks following the May 16 press conference, Iran and Hezbollah have dramatically escalated their involvement in Syria on behalf of Assad.

The Obama administration has responded with a background briefing.

Perhaps Obama now regrets not only having set a red line, but having adopted an “Assad must go” policy in the first place. The Wall Street Journal and Max Boot suggest he has decided an Assad victory is a safer choice than backing rebels who may be aligned with al-Qaeda. But the key to Obama’s foreign policy may be simpler than that: he favors whatever policy will require no action on his part.

It is not simply that he is risk-averse, or that his evaluation of the risks has changed. As Aaron David Miller noted on ABC’s This Week on Sunday, Obama is interested in transforming America, not the world; he views anything that diverts American attention from domestic matters as a threat to his agenda. Inaction abroad is a feature, not a bug. So his overriding goal is to stay out of foreign matters and let the “international community” take care of them.

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Top Rated Comments   
Ever since the Obama Regime began meddling in Syria I have been saying the intervention was a mistake. The choice in Syria is either Assad or Al Qaida. Rather than viewing the conflict as an opportunity to make historic gains- emasculate Hezbola, weaken Iran, contain Soviet influence and reduce friction on The Golan Heights - Obama has made things worse in each of those areas.
He is like a child playing with matches who loves to see things burn.
45 weeks ago
45 weeks ago Link To Comment
Sorry, but we have no national interests in Syria. Let them fight it out. Whoever wins is not our friend.
45 weeks ago
45 weeks ago Link To Comment
"Likewise in Libya, Obama’s only response to the Benghazi terrorist attack in which an al-Qaeda affiliate participated has been an investigation."

And McCain, and some others, wants to follow up on supporting al-Qaeda affiliates in Libya by supporting al-Qaeda affiliates in Syria. McCain and his supporters should be heavily sedated and put in padded cells.
45 weeks ago
45 weeks ago Link To Comment
All Comments   (26)
All Comments   (26)
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The world views O as impotent and impotent and incompetent he appears to be. Appeasement only infuriates our enemies and appeasing is what O does best. Trying to play nice-nice with the Muslim world is insanity. The only thing they understand and grudgingly respect is walking softly and carrying a BIG stick. O doesn't have a big stick and walking softly definitely does not become him. He just can't carry it off.
45 weeks ago
45 weeks ago Link To Comment
From essentially 1947 to date, the U.S. and its 'principle' allies strategy for the Middle East has failed with NO instances of "sustained" intended outcomes -- except for the energy component. Our strategies have done nothing to aid in bringing sustainable peace to Israel. Our strategies has done nothing to bring sustainable westernised democracy, individual freedoms and increased education and diversified economic outcomes. Our strategies has done nothing to bring about 'friendly opposition' successes anywhere in the region. After all these many decades ouur strategies have cost us billions/trillions in monetary assests and lost lives without any sustainable return on the investment.

How many more decades do we want to continue with political and miltary intervention policies in a region that the majority of nations reject our efforts?

Time to let that region be what it will be without our continued "nation-building" strategies. If they try to politically manipulat the strait or mess with our homeland then that country will suffer the full extent of military reprisal with zero reconstruction at the conclusion. Tough!

45 weeks ago
45 weeks ago Link To Comment
The Muslim Brotherhood is the most organized of any opposition group in the Syrian conflict. Seems no matter what goes on in the World today, they stand to gain power. Even here in the US........
45 weeks ago
45 weeks ago Link To Comment
At Divine-Way.com take peaceful, powerful action.
"Terrorism News_Action Required_Victory Assured"
US and UN violate their own laws against freedom of religion and cause violence around the world. A prime agency is looking for 6th budget increase and that is to interfere more unlawfully in other nation. America can stop funding.
45 weeks ago
45 weeks ago Link To Comment
Obama has a far worse problem brewing that'll probably hit the fan before he leaves office. Egypt is in big trouble due to a dam being built in Ethiopia. Simply put, Egypt cannot allow it that water diversion without wrecking itself.

Egypt will fight back in a variety of ways, including a closer alliance with S. Arabia and Yemen. They will seek to have Eritrea, Djibouti and Somalia turn away land-locked Ethiopian exports, including Egypt itself closing the Suez Canal to any Ethiopian shipping. Egypt might ally itself with Sudan to destabilize S. Sudan and hope to send refugees and civil war into Ethiopia around the area of the dam.

With an American equipped Army, Morsi more than ever realizes it is an army he can't ever actually use, but has no money to replace.

Watch this one folks: in the next 3 years you'll see war, civil war, shifting alliances, espionage, acts of sabotage, terrorism, boycotts and counter-boycotts. Ethiopia will not back down on this project for the simple reason it is not meant to. What it is meant to do is give Morsi something to think about other than Israel at the same time it is drawn to his attention to stop with the nonsense.

Egypt will be forced to shift further into Islamic alliances it cannot domestically survive. But if put to the Egyptian people a certain way and if America doesn't help, Egypt's voters may turn their back on secularism entirely in the name of national and economic survival.

I've been predicting this for 2 years, simply because of the overt hostile rhetoric against Israel emanating from those most likely to gain power in Egypt after Mubarak. Big mistake by the MB. Any fool can read a map - not Morsi.

Now the Israeli railroad to Eliat set to partially bypass the Suez makes sense as a commercial loss but strategic gain. Look for Israel to develop close but quiet ties with Ethiopia. Did Morsi really think he could bluster about Israel and Israel would sit around and hope? Did those morons in the Egyptian parliament think before they decided to declare Israel Egypt's No.1 enemy to the tune of 100%? Be careful what you wish for and learn to shut your mouths.

The chess game is well under way.
45 weeks ago
45 weeks ago Link To Comment
I'm with the hands-off crowd, I think. There was never a credible alternative in Syria that would have won the revolution, then governed as a partner of the US in the region. The few voices in the rebellion that we would call moderate will be overwhelmed regardless of who wins and puts a new set of chains on Syria's people.
45 weeks ago
45 weeks ago Link To Comment
We need to become energy independent (drill baby drill) and let the Middle East consume itself.
Every drop of American blood that falls to the ground over there is wasted. Our soldiers have been betrayed and they need to be out of the ME.
45 weeks ago
45 weeks ago Link To Comment
This is an unusual case of the Obama administration doing the RIGHT thing - staying OUT of the Syrian conflict.

I'm sure they are doing it for all the wrong reasons, and of course everything they say just makes us look bad, but at least this one time WHAT they are doing is the right thing.
45 weeks ago
45 weeks ago Link To Comment
Starting with the Iraq war, our involvement in the Middle East became a trap.
We have no vision, no strategy, and no solution. With regard to Syria, the Obama administration follows Russia's demands.
Honestly, I don't believe that the US should support the so-called opposition in Syria, which is, perhaps, 75% Al-Qaeda affiliates. It would make much more sense to support Assad, but on the certain conditions that could guarantee peace for Israel.
45 weeks ago
45 weeks ago Link To Comment
History does not repeat itself. Humans make the same mistakes over and over again because they do not take counsel from the past. The Spanish Civil War is not an apt parallel here.

We should stay out of the Syrian imbroglio, and let the natives fight it out.
45 weeks ago
45 weeks ago Link To Comment
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