monitoring mission, another set of people from all over the world
making excuses, trying to explain the unexplainable and getting
frustrated and fired upon to boot. When will the world follow a plan that makes sense. To the world we say: Give
us what we need to get the mission accomplished, not what you need to
feel good about yourselves.” –Syrian Revolution Digest, April 21, 2012
By Barry Rubin
U.S. policy toward Syria is turning into a scandal on both strategic and
humanitarian grounds. The next three months will be wasted in a
toothless observer effort during which time the Syrian regime will go on
massacring people and mopping up the rebellion. In addition, U.S.
policymakers admit that they have no real back-up policy and what they
should do next.
Should Congress Remove Biden from Office?
And then to show how ridiculous the whole thing is, Syrian troops opened fire at
oppositionists trying to talk to the UN monitors, forcing the observers
to flee for their lives and injuring eight demonstrators. The UN
responds by proposing a few dozen more, equally helpless, observers.
This is the same UN that in 2006 promised Israel that it would intercept
Syrian weapons being smuggled to Hizballah in Lebanon and stop that
radical group from reoccupying its pre-war positions in the south of the
country. In six years, not a single weapon has been intercepted and not
a single Hizballah terrorist stopped. On the contrary, with Syrian
backing, Hizballah has terrorized the thousands of soldiers in the UN
forces in Lebanon.
There should be no question as to what should be done. Along with Iran,
North Korea, and Cuba, the Syrian regime is the most anti-American
government in the world. It has done everything possible to sabotage
U.S. interests, to sponsor terrorism, and to block peace. That regime is
also Iran’s main ally.
Any conceivable president who cared about or understood U.S. interests
would make the overthrow of the Syrian regime a top priority for the
United States. I’m not talking about sending troops or going to war but
about every conceivable other means. This should be blindingly obvious.
In addition, any competent president would work hard to help the
moderate pro-democratic forces in the Syrian opposition so that they can
gain power in the country. Instead, the Obama Administration that
subcontracted dealing with the Syrian regime to the UN has subcontracted
dealing with the Syrian opposition to the Islamist regime in Turkey.
Not surprisingly, the Turkish regime has pushed Muslim Brothers and
other Islamists and their clients into the “official” leadership of the
Syrian opposition, the Syrian National Council. This has led to a fracturing of opposition leadership.
And the Syrian regime is being rewarded with no more pressure and being
given the ability to stall for time even though it has already violated
the ceasefire. This is not merely a bad U.S. and Western policy; it is
the worst possible policy, lacking any strategy to undermine the
radicals and help the moderates.
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After 2.5 years of the Obama Administration treating this enemy as a
friend we have seen almost a year of dithering over the opportunity to
get rid of that regime. It is like when the administration ignored the
stealing of the election in Iran and the opposition movement there, as
if it wanted to coddle, not confound, the Tehran regime. It also came to
the rescue of the Hamas regime in the Gaza Strip, pressing Israel to
In contrast, the administration has not hesitated to overthrow an ally in Egypt and come close to doing that in Bahrain.
The pattern is that the radical side breaks every agreement, rejects
compromise, and escalates aggression and the Obama Administration takes
it all with a smile on its face and a song in its heart.
But back to Syria. Even the pro-Obama CNN network is
amazed by U.S. policy. It admits the UN mission will fail, agrees that
the Syrian government is the aggressor in shredding the ceasefire–using
heavy weapons aimed at civilian targets, and adds:
“Monitoring missions can only work when the parties to a conflict have
had enough of fighting or can be coerced into negotiation by outside
powers. The Arab League mission members in Syria earlier this year were
little more than bystanders, unable or unwilling to operate amid the
government crackdown….The [Syrian] government has made it clear that the
observers won’t have free rein.”
Ahmad Fawzi, spokesman for the UN envoy Kofi Annan, whose past record
hardly inspires confidence, says two truly shocking things;
“The United States is leaving it in the hands of Kofi Annan, as is the
rest of the world.…We’re the only path in town. There is no
But why should the United States turn over its policy to the UN,
especially since a number of members are pro-Syrian regime and blocking
any serious action? And have we really reached a point in time when the
UN can present itself as the only channel for international action?
In other words it is assumed that the United States can have no
independent policy. CNN accepts that view, adding, “That in itself
illustrates how few options there are for the West to influence events
That’s nonsense. There are many other options. But how can there be hope for any alternative when a U.S. official actually admits:
“Our allies were coming back to us and saying, ‘What’s your next move?,’ and we were forced to admit we didn’t have one.'”
The U.S. economy is merely hopelessly in debt, but U.S. foreign policy, especially in the Middle East, is hopelessly bankrupt.
For a brilliant and devastating critique of U.S. policy, see Tony Badran’s analysis.
Rubin is director of the Global Research in International Affairs
(GLORIA) Center and editor of the Middle East Review of International
Affairs (MERIA) Journal. His book, Israel: An Introduction, has just been published by Yale University Press. Other recent books include 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 and of his blog, Rubin Reports. His original articles are published at PJMedia.