It’s truly amazing that literally every day the Obama administration finds a new way to mess up the Middle East. July 14-15, 2011, is a new record since it damaged Western interests and any hope for a stable future in three countries almost simultaneously!

I noted a few days ago that the Obama government finally seemed to call for the end to Syria’s current regime, but within hours it backtracked. Now the administration favors conciliation talks between the opposition and the Assad dictatorship. They’re still urging the regime to make reforms, they’re just urging it more loudly.

And with whom is the U.S. government coordinating this effort? With the Turkish regime, an ally of Iran and Syria, and specifically with its foreign minister who wrote a book in Turkish calling for all the Muslim-majority states to ally against the West (and now has written a book in English saying that all countries should be good buddies). True, Clinton did urge the Turkish government to allow more free speech.

Generally, though, she praised the regime and its growing role in the region. (Does that include its unbending hostility toward Israel and support for Hamas and Hizballah?) She also said:

“Stability inside Syria is important for Turkey. But the right kind of stability — a transition to democracy — is what would be best for Turkey and even more importantly what would be best for the Syrian people.”

Now let me ask you a question: What kind of stable regime in Syria would a Turkey governed by a stealth Islamist regime allied with Iran like to see? How about either a radical anti-Western regime or, even better, an Islamist regime?

On the same day that Clinton was urging the opposition to conciliate with the Syrian government, reliable opposition sources (though that doesn’t mean their numbers are accurate) reported 41 protesters killed by government forces, many of them in Damascus.

Regarding Libya, the Obama administration recognized the opposition Transitional National Council “as the legitimate governing authority.” Funny, it’s never thought of doing that in Syria!

This is a big step and the next step is to hand over huge amounts of Libyan financial assets frozen in the United States to this opposition group, whose control of the revolution is totally insecure, whose own political composition is unclear, and whose behavior in the field is not so great.

Let’s be clear: Muammar Gaddafi was and is a terrible tyrant. But now that NATO is supporting the “good guys,” we should keep posted on their doings. Remember that Obama era foreign policy is run by people who villify the United States for supporting “bad guys” in the past. But I wonder how the behavior of the Libyan rebels would stack up compared to the Nicaraguan “Contras.” At best the same, or possibly worse?

Here’s what New York Times reporter Brian Denton, on the scene when the rebels took the town of Qawalish, wrote:

“A short while later rebels were shooting padlocks off the metal doors to shops…and shops were being aggressively looted by armed men in rebel attire. Every few minutes, a truck would pass by on the road, headed back toward Zintan loaded with what seemed to be stolen goods. …

“By Sunday evening … all of the shops in the town had been ransacked. … In building after building, furniture was flipped over, dishes and mirrors shattered, and everything torn apart. … The town was … a shattered, emptied ghost town decorated with broken glass.

“No one could reasonably dispute that when the Qaddafi forces … crushed the demonstrations in Tripoli, besieged Misurata, stormed Ajdabiya, shelled Benghazi—that all of these resulted in more damage to civilian property and loss of civilian life than what happened when the rebels captured tiny Qawalish. But … if [the rebels] think that the smaller scale of their crimes excuses or justifies them, then they risk embarrassing their backers, losing international support and fueling exactly the kind of war they have insisted they and NATO would prevent.”

So much for protecting civilians. Remember, the Obama administration has turned over the fate of U.S. policy in Libya and handed over the services of the U.S. (and NATO, along with European governments) armed forces to an unknown group of rebels who, if they succeed, will probably massacre those from tribes and regions they don’t like. Ironically, in an age obsessed with racism, the opposition has been killing blacks because Gaddafi imported sub-Saharan Africans to work and fight for the regime.

Oh, but the opposition has hired an American public relations firm, one that has experience in making dictatorial regimes look good in Washington.

If Libya is Obama’s Iraq, he is going to have to compare the rationales for intervention and the results some day.

Barry Rubin is director of the Global Research in International Affairs (GLORIA) Center, editor of the Middle East Review of International Affairs (MERIA) Journal, and a featured columnist at PajamasMedia His latest books are The Israel-Arab Reader (seventh edition), The Long War for Freedom: The Arab Struggle for Democracy in the Middle East (Wiley), and The Truth About Syria (Palgrave-Macmillan). The website of the GLORIA Center is His articles published originally in places other than PajamasMedia can be found at     

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