As shown in the introduction we have a great tragedy occurring on a daily basis in Syria. Not only are there millions of refugees outside the country who need help but many more millions are nearing starvation who live within it.
The civil war there goes on. One side, mostly Sunni Muslims are supported by the rich Arab Muslim states like Saudi Arabia; the other part mostly Shia or Alawite Muslims who have held power in Syria for decades. They are supported by Iran and Russia and other Shia groups. The war may soon involve much of the Islamic world.
The present civil war in Syria is President Obama’s baby. It started on his watch about three years ago in March 2011. Decisions about it can’t be sloughed off onto another president. It was part of all the unrest that came about in Northern Africa as a result of what’s known as the Arab Spring The spring came about because in the Arab countries in that area the people had wearied of living under oppressive dictators and sought a new way. It began with the self-immolation of Mohammed Bouazzi. Part of the groundwork for the uprisings was laid by Chelsea (Bradley) Manning.
Assad has given notice that he intends to stay in power. He is backed by his ally Russia which has a naval base in his country. Last year Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov was asked whether Russia would seek his removal. He replied: “I can only say it is not for us to decide who should lead Syria. It is for the Syrians to decide,” He was then asked: “if there was any chance of Russia urging President Assad to stand aside, he said: “Absolutely not. You know that we are not in the regime-change game. We are against interference in domestic conflicts.”
Obama’s approach to Syria has been phlegmatic and feckless. He at one point drew a red line on the use of chemical weapons. Then, when Assad strode over it, he responded with a half-brain plan to send 300 cruise missiles into Syria. The only effect of that move would have been for the maker of those missiles to get an order for another 300 at 1.4 million each and a nice profit. Doing that would have been a stunt rather than anything of merit.
Fortunately at the penultimate moment it seems his aide McDonough, who may be a distant cousin of mine, talked some sense into him Secretary Kerry stumbled into a trap laid by the Russian Lavrov who came up with a scheme to help his buddy Assad. “Hold firing your missiles and we’ll have Assad move his chemical weapons out of Syria.” Kerry agreed and Obama, who I figured really never wanted to do this in the first place, had an escape hatch through which he quickly climbed through. Then Kerry and Lavrov worked out an agreement for which Kerry could not have been more effusive in his thanks to Lavrov. Syria is behind schedule in complying with the agreement.
The result of the Russian coopting of Obama made me reflecting somewhat ironically that perhaps Putin should get the peace prize. (Much to my surprise he did make the cut off for the prize this year. I guess however he blew it when Crimea appeared too tasty a dish to ignore.)
As you know, the situation in Syria continues much to Russia’s delight and the U.S.’s embarrassment. We and our allies pour money into the country to alleviate the suffering of the Syrian people while Russia pours arms in to ensure their suffering continues. We appeared to be hogtied by Russia at every turn yet we somehow act that the solution to the Syrian crisis must involve the Russians.
How long can we go on not seeing that the Russians are the problem and the sooner we cut them out of any involvement in our decisions the better we will be? I’d think both President Obama and Secretary Kerry would have figured this out by now especially after being deceived with all the double-talk on the Ukraine/Crimea matter. I’d like to think they were double-crossed by the Russians but they’re not acting like that happened since they continue to talk to them as if they are on the level.
Bill Clinton who let upwards of a million people die in Rwanda has hypocritically criticized Obama for his passivity. But how can it be that the U.S. is in this predicament where it is afraid to do something about a horror. Clinton regrets his inaction; but that does little for the many people who could have been saved.
Why Obama, the commander-in-chief of the world’s one super power, feels hamstrung on Syria boggles my mind. That’s why in my next post I will make some humble suggestions to him about the course he should follow.