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U.S. Policy on Syria Changes For the Better, Sort Of

Yet if one looks at various struggles--say that between the Fatah-dominated Palestinian Authority (PA) and Hamas, or within Lebanon or in Egypt--the Islam card is going to be dominated by radicals. There is no organized body of moderate Islam; though some relatively moderate Islamic groups are evolving they are quite weak and probably likely to ally with the Islamists in the end.

And as for Turkey, it is run by an Islamist regime that is aligned with Iran, Hamas, and Hizballah. Why partner with a government that opposes all of your interests? Well, most of them anyway since there is some parallelism in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Many people have asked me why Turkey is now opposed to the Syrian regime, often assuming it is out of a love of democracy on the part of those running things in Ankara. But that's not it at all. Rather, as a Sunni Islamist movement, the Turkish regime has decided to back the Muslim Brotherhood and other forces in Syria. It dreams of having a sphere of influence in Syria.

In other words, the Obama administration has turned to the worst possible partner in Syria whose interests are diametrically opposed to those of the United States on this issue. Thus, it has now chosen a strategy most likely to bring about that bad result.

Another mistake of the Obama administration thus appears here: supporting one's enemies rather than one's friends. I don't mean to suggest that "Turkey" is an enemy of the United States. But on a number of issues (Israel-Palestinian, Lebanon, Syria, Iran), the Turkish regime is on the opposite side of where the United States should be.

For now, Clinton's statement marks an improvement in U.S. policy. But in the long run, Obama administration's policy on Syria may have taken, to quote Lenin, one step forward, two steps back.