Syria is Obama’s shame

Pakistan Observer - - INTERNATIONAL - [Hisham Melhem is a colum­nist and an­a­lyst for Al Ara­biya News Channel in Wash­ing­ton, DC. Melhem has in­ter­viewed many Amer­i­can and in­ter­na­tional pub­lic fig­ures, in­clud­ing Pres­i­dents Barack Obama and Ge­orge W. Bush, Sec­re­taries of State Hil­lary Clin­ton and

in­cre­men­tal, ten­ta­tive and very cau­tious ap­proach to the war, par­tic­u­larly the lack of re­solve of the Clin­ton ad­min­is­tra­tion to com­pel the Serbs to end their atroc­i­ties against the Mus­lim Bos­ni­ans. The Clin­ton ad­min­is­tra­tion con­tin­ued its mud­dling through un­til Serb forces in the sum­mer of 1995 mas­sa­cred me­thod­i­cally and in cold blood more than 7000 Bos­nian men of all ages at the vil­lage of Sre­brenica. The guilt gen­er­ated by the shame of Sre­brenica, the worst mass killing on Euro­pean soil since WWII, which tar­nished Amer­ica’s cred­i­bil­ity as the leader of the NATO al­liance fi­nally forced Pres­i­dent Clin­ton, be­fore the on­set of his cam­paign for re­elec­tion to de­ci­sively use mil­i­tary power to force the Serbs to ac­cept a po­lit­i­cal out­come. or be­cause they can find other ca­reers. Se­nior of­fi­cials rarely resign over moral and po­lit­i­cal ob­jec­tions to a pres­i­dent’s poli­cies.

The last se­nior of­fi­cial to resign over a prin­ci­pled dis­agree­ment was Cyrus R. Vance, who quit in 1980 to protest Pres­i­dent Jimmy Carter’s de­ci­sion to at­tempt to res­cue Amer­i­can hostages held in Iran. The Syria cri­sis led two am­bas­sadors, Fred Hof and Robert Ford in 2012 and 1214 to resign out of frus­tra­tion with Pres­i­dent Obama’s han­dling of the Syr­ian tragedy. For­mer se­nior of­fi­cials who served in Obama’s first term in­clud­ing Sec­re­tary of State Hil­lary Clin­ton, Sec­re­tary of De­fense Leon Panetta, and Di­rec­tor of the Cen­tral In­tel­li­gence Agency David Pe­traeus have dis­agreed with as­pects of Pres­i­dent Obama’s Syria poli­cies, but none of them re­signed in protest. Sec­re­tary of State John Kerry has called on oc­ca­sions for a more ro­bust ap­proach to Syria, and he is be­lieved to share some of the views ex­pressed in the dis­sent mes­sage, but he is the mud­dling through type of a se­nior of­fi­cial who would never con­tem­plate res­ig­na­tion.

A slow, rolling geno­cide: Pres­i­dent As­sad has avoided com­mit­ting large scale mas­sacres like Sre­brenica; he prefers the non-stop grind­ing me­thod­i­cal killings that pro­duce many a Sre­brenica over weeks and months, for Syria has been noth­ing if not a slow, rolling geno­cide. Af­ter stat­ing that As­sad’s “sys­tem­atic vi­o­la­tions against the Syr­ian peo­ple are the root cause of the in­sta­bil­ity that con­tin­ues to grip Syria and the broader re­gion”, the draft calls for “a ju­di­cious use of stand-off and air weapons, which would un­der­gird and drive a more fo­cused and hard­nosed U.S.-led diplo­matic process”. With­out ini­ti­at­ing tar­geted mil­i­tary strikes to stop the regime’s re­peated vi­o­la­tions of the Ces­sa­tion of Hos­til­i­ties there will be no real ceasefire and no se­ri­ous ne­go­ti­a­tions. The draft says the cur­rent poli­cies are lead­ing nowhere.

“With the re­peated diplo­matic set­backs of the past five years, to­gether with the Rus­sian and Ira­nian gov­ern­ments’ cyn­i­cal and desta­bi­liz­ing de­ploy­ment of sig­nif­i­cant mil­i­tary power to bol­ster the As­sad regime, we be­lieve that the foun­da­tion are not cur­rently in place for an en­dur­ing ceasefire and con­se­quen­tial ne­go­ti­a­tions”. The draft cor­rectly states that “an un­de­terred As­sad will re­sist com­pro­mises sought by al­most all op­po­si­tion fac­tions and re­gional ac­tors. Shift­ing the tide of the con­flict against the regime will in­crease the chances for peace by send­ing a clear sig­nal to the regime and its back­ers that there will not be a mil­i­tary so­lu­tion to the con­flict”.

The draft sees that“a more as­sertive U.S. role to pro­tect and pre­serve op­po­si­tion-held com­mu­ni­ties, by de­fend­ing them from As­sad’s air force and ar­tillery, pre­sents the best chance for de­feat­ing Daesh (ISIS) in Syria.” Why? Be­cause “the prospects for rolling back Daesh’s hold on ter­ri­tory are bleak with­out the Sunni Arabs, who the regime con­tin­ues to bomb and starve”. The draft warns that, “a de facto al­liance with the regime against Daesh would not guar­an­tee suc­cess: As­sad’s mil­i­tary in un­der­manned and ex­hausted.

Kur­dish YPG fight­ers can­not-and should not- be ex­pected to project power and hold ter­rain deep into non-Kur­dish ar­eas. And, cru­cially, Syria’s Sunni pop­u­la­tion con­tin­ues to view the As­sad regime as the pri­mary en­emy in the con­flict”. The draft cor­rectly states that stop­ping the regime’s atroc­i­ties would have a mit­i­gat­ing impact on the refugee and in­ter­nally dis­placed Syr­i­ans whose plight “has deeply af­fected Syria’s neigh­bors for years and is now im­pact­ing our Euro­pean part­ners in far-reach­ing ways that may ul­ti­mately jeop­ar­dize their very char­ac­ter as open, uni­fied and demo­cratic so­ci­eties”.

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