President Obama’s Syria policy, to the extent that such a thing ever existed, collapsed some time ago. That collapse was made manifest yesterday by reports that the U.S. has suspended non-lethal aid to the rebel groups we have previously (albeit fitfully) supported.
The decision to suspend even non-lethal aid stemmed from the capture by Islamist rebel forces of warehouses belonging to the Supreme Military Council, the group we have been supporting. It was also informed by the fact that the Council’s military head, General Salim Idris, has fled the country.
Naturally, the Obama administration does not want to supply groups that are too weak to protect their supplies from radical forces. But it was the administration’s unwillingness to arm the non-radical groups early on that ensured their weakness. The American-backed rebels have been on life support since Obama pulled the rug out from under them by negotiating with Assad over his chemical weapons instead of punishing him for using them.
As Max Boot says:
That the non-Islamist opposition is collapsing is utterly predictable given the administration’s hesitancy to provide it with more backing. The Islamic radicals are the obvious winners on the rebel side, while Hezbollah and the Iranian Quds Force grow stronger on the other end.
Where do Obama and John Kerry go from here? They would like to go to, you guessed it, Geneva for “peace talks.” But the Islamist rebel forces have no interest in making peace with Assad. And the more moderate forces are now too marginalized to be partners in a meaningful peace agreement.
An agreement between those forces and Assad, in the unlikely event one were reached, would essentially ratify Assad’s triumph over them. It would thus help consolidate the power of the regime and its partners Hezbollah and Iran.
This may well be what Obama and Kerry want. But it would not sit well with our (former?) allies in the region, would not serve any legitimate interest of the United States, and would not end the fighting or the bloodshed.