In a recap of “significant success[es]” in 2015, State Department spokesman John Kirby lists “Bringing Peace, Security to Syria.” Talk about a whopper. Even the obnoxious team of Jen Psaki and Marie Harf might have shied away from a claim this preposterous.
Here is how Kirby tries to depict our Syrian success story:
The conflict in Syria has continued to unfold in tragic ways over the course of 2015. From the humanitarian crisis endured by refugees fleeing violence, to the reprehensible human rights violations and violence carried out by the Asad regime, the Syrian people have borne a heavy load. The United States and many members of the international community have stepped up to aid the Syrian people during their time of need – the United States has led the world in humanitarian aid contributions since the crisis began in 2011.
Led by Secretary Kerry, the United States also continues to push for a political transition in Syria, and under his stewardship, in December, the UN Security Council passed a U.S.-sponsored resolution that puts forward a roadmap that will facilitate a transition within Syria to a credible, inclusive, nonsectarian government that is responsive to the needs of the Syrian people.
But supplying humanitarian aid doesn’t bring peace and security to Syria. Nor does a roadmap. Indeed, the only roadmap Syrians are interested in is the one that shows them the way out of the hellhole their fractured, bloody country has become.
[I]t’s hard to argue that the United States brought any significant “peace” or “security” to the Syrian people. According to the United Nations, as of October 2015 some 250,000 people have been killed in more than four years of civil war (casualty figures for 2015 alone are not yet available). More than 11 million refugees have left the region, many of whom swelled onto European shores in the fall of 2015; it’s not clear how many will ever get asylum in Europe, or elsewhere around the world, including in the United States. A March 2015 UN report also noted that four in five Syrians are now living in poverty.
The Barack Obama administration, meanwhile, has struggled to keep pace with the rapidly deteriorating situation there. After spending years prioritizing Assad’s departure, Washington has now hinted that he could stay in power longer to aid in the fight against the Islamic State. The White House has also reluctantly found itself battling the Islamic State alongside Russia and Iran, staunch Assad supporters whose ultimate goals in Syria are unlikely to match those of the United States.
After long promising there would be no American boots on the ground in Syria, meanwhile, President Obama signed off on the deployment of dozens of U.S. Special Operations personnel there. Earlier this month, Defense Secretary Ash Carter said the commandos are active in northern Syria, and are focused on building an anti-Islamic State partnership with Syrian Arab rebels.
Diplomats are ever careful in the language they use to describe international affairs. When it comes to Syria, “peace” and “security” might not be the best choice to describe what the United States delivered there in 2015. With Russia now complicating U.S. war plans for the region, it might be a long time coming until those two things can be established in a nation destroyed by years of war.
Actually, the United States, through proxies it assists, made a small amount of progress against ISIS in Syria this year. If Team Obama wanted to tout something Syrian, it could point to that (though not by claiming it’s bringing peace and stability).
Instead, Kirby talks about aid to the victims of mass instability and insecurity, and to a “roadmap.” Not only does this administration consistently fail to succeed abroad, it doesn’t seem to understand the concept of success.