Belmont Club

The Final Victim of Bengazi

The penultimate casualty of Benghazi may be the effort to unseat Assad from Damascus. The BBC ran a story that could have come from the pages of the Belmont Club. “Could Syria conflict become regional war” involving Israel via Lebanon? Ya think?

Not far behind in belated realizations was the Guardian which described the “ugly choice” in Syria. It approvingly says “it is right for Barack Obama to resist pressure from Britain and France to arm the rebels”. Dollars to donuts the idea occurred to Obama independently. The message was spelled “Benghazi”.

Speaking of which, David Cameron is now warming to Putin’s position on Syria. Another Guardian piece says their talks are proving “purposeful”. That means somebody threw in the towel.

The prime minister emphasised the common goals of each side: “Stop Syria from fragmenting, let the Syrian people choose who governs them, and prevent the growth of violent extremism.”

Translation: Britain is now more than a little afraid that the witches’ brew in Syria will prove unmanageable and they want to work with Assad’s principal patron, Putin, to get the horses back into the corral. You could say Cameron came to Jesus, if he still believes in Jesus.

Good luck to him on that. Maybe its not coincidental that the last US ambassador to the court of Assad — back in the day when Hillary regarded him as a reformer and Vogue thought Mrs. Assad was cool — crossed the border from Turkey to deliver a message to the rebels. The message, though still secret, was likely more than a little influenced by what Ambassador Ford heard from Kerry in Moscow.

Ford arrived in Turkey on Wednesday after having been in Moscow with Secretary of State John Kerry for meetings with Russian officials to get their support for a renewed effort towards a political solution for ending the civil war in Syria. Russia supports diplomatic initiatives for a transition but continues to provide support to the Assad regime.

And what instructions did he get from hapless man? Here’s a guess. He told the Syrian rebels they would have settle for less than a country. That they would have to be content with the title of “minister” in a post-Assad government not President for Life or Supreme Commander of the Faith. ABC News almost gratuitously adds: “the Obama administration is currently rethinking whether the U.S. should provide lethal assistance to Syrian rebels.”

Maybe the rebels were expecting to get something they may not get any more. The Russian outlet RT spells out what changed. What changed is Assad and Russia are turning the tide because Obama is frozen in his tracks.

Writer John Wight, who’s been extensively covering the situation in Syria, told RT that the West’s efforts to step up the peace process in the country are explained by the recent military success of the Assad’s army.

“It’s going to be a major problem [bringing the government and rebels behind the negotiations table] given that the opposition is now made of an Al Qaeda affiliate, Jabhat Al-Nusra, almost exclusively,” he said. “This gang of cutthroats has waged savage war on the country against the largely civilian population. It’ll be hard to consider that the Syrian people would be happy with their government talking to these people. Many of them are foreign fighters. They’ve come across the border from Jordan, Turkey and Iraq. It’ll be very difficult to see how that would fit with the Syrian people, given the nature of the struggle on the ground. We’ve now seen the Syrian national army enjoying some significant success in the last few weeks in taking back rebel-held areas of the country. I think this has produced panic, actually, in Washington, London and Paris, which is why David Cameron has been so keen to fly to Russia to meet with Vladimir Putin.”

What gave Obama cold feet in Syria was almost certainly Benghazi. You know, the scandal that didn’t happen. The disaster that was caused by video produced in LA which Susan Rice explained to everybody. That attack on the consulate completely and fully revealed the lunacy of “leading from behind”. It showed the administration, in terms even it could feel, what it was like to be shot with the gun you gave away.

The Russians remembered what Obama never learned. Always control the man to whom you give the gun. Whatever Assad’s moral defects may be he knows where his orders come from.

The problem for the administration is what now? First of all it is by no means certain that the President can throw the Titanic into reverse. Syria, like Humpty Dumpty, is never going to be put together like it was again. It lies shattered into pieces. Although Cameron and Obama will likely seek promises from Putin that Hezbollah will be kept in check, any post-Assad settlement that doesn’t destroy the Hezbollah will drag Israel into a war.

Nor will the Syrian rebels give up. ABC News says al-Qaeda and Hezbollah are now squaring off for the control of the Syrian carcass. Maybe they didn’t care for Kerry’s message.

While that is a spectacle that would be worth watching the fact remains that whoever wins will be only marginally less hostile to the West and Israel. Israel is in the position of viewing a fight between Freddy and Jason struggling for the disposition of its  eternal soul. Whoever wins doesn’t change the fact that it’s a horror movie either way.

Such are the choices facing Barack Obama. How did it come to this? In part because the administration was too clever by half. They thought that spinning the talking points was equivalent to controlling reality. In Washington maybe, but not in the real world. And it blew up in their face.

So while the penultimate victim of Benghazi was the crusade against the monstrous Assad regime the final victims of the tragedy might be the administration itself. Though perhaps that is wrong;  in the end the last accounting always comes the common taxpayer and man. The bill for the farce always come to them. The statesmen — get book contracts and the talk show invitations.  But as Putin may have told Kerry, who said life was fair?

The Three Conjectures at Amazon Kindle for $1.99
Storming the Castle at Amazon Kindle for $3.99
No Way In at Amazon Kindle $8.95, print $9.99
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