Syria may become a “no-fly zone” yet, for the U.S.

Featured image For years, many have advocated that the U.S. enforce a no-fly zone in Syria. Doing so would have prevented the slaughter of thousands of innocent civilians by Bashar al-Assad’s air force. Would a no-fly zone have led to Assad’s ouster? It’s not clear. Would Assad’s ouster have been, on balance, a positive development for America? That’s not clear either. The answers may depend on when, during this long and sickening »

Clearing my spindle, Syria edition

Featured image The withdrawal of the United States from Iraq and points elsewhere around the Middle East has created a vacuum that has been filled by forces hostile to the United States. Syria is representative. ISIS has moved into Syria from Iraq. Iran and Hezbollah have both moved into Syria to defend the Assad regime from ISIS. The Obama administration has taken a sort of Stalinist tack. Obama has concentrated on building »

Report: Obama ignored Russian offer to have Assad step down

Featured image More than three years ago, Russia proposed that Syria’s president, Bashar al-Assad, step down as part of a peace deal, according to Martti Ahtisaari, a senior negotiator involved in back-channel discussions at the time. Ahtisaari is the former president of Finland and a Nobel peace prize laureate. He says the Russian offer, which sounds more like a framework, came in 2012 from Vitaly Churkin, Russia’s ambassador to the U.N. It »

What To Do About Middle Eastern Refugees?

Featured image Millions of people are streaming out of Syria, Iraq and Turkey. Many are fleeing (or have fled, making an intermediate stop in Turkey) from ISIS, others from Assad. This refugee crisis has already roiled European politics, and some are advocating that the United States take in even more Middle Eastern refugees than we already are. What is missing from this picture? Michael Ramirez weighs in with his usual insight; click »

Doomed to failure

Featured image As part of his observance of the 9/11 anniversary yesterday President Obama held “a live, worldwide televised Troop Talk Talk town hall at Fort Meade.” That’s how the White House described it in the preview posted here. If you remember Elvis’s Aloha from Hawaii via Satellite extravaganza of 1973, the preview might have seemed an allusion. By contrast with Elvis’s worldwide audience, however, we (and I believe many in Obama’s »

Russia ignores Kerry

Featured image This past Saturday Secretary Kerry called Russian Foreign Minister Lavrov to express ever so politely “U.S. concerns about reports suggesting an imminent enhanced Russian military build-up there.” Kerry went so far as to “ma[k]e clear that if such reports were accurate, these actions could further escalate the conflict, lead to greater loss of innocent life, increase refugee flows and risk confrontation with the anti-ISIL Coalition operating in Syria.” Strong stuff. »

The Syrian crisis and Obama’s post-American presidency

Featured image Fred Hiatt of the Washington Post delivers a devastating critique of President Obama’s Middle East policy. The op-ed is called “Obama’s Syria achievement.” That achievement consists not just in Obama “presid[ing] over a humanitarian and cultural disaster of epochal proportions,” but also in “sooth[ing] the American people into feeling no responsibility for the tragedy.” I recommend the entire article, but this passage really caught my eye: [Obama] has implied that »

The refugee crisis Europe helped bring on itself [With Comment By John]

Featured image Europe is paying the second installment on the debt for its indifference to the slow-motion disaster in Syria. The first installment was (and will continue to be) an increase in the threat of domestic terrorism. The second installment is the mass migration of Syrians and other Middle Easterners into Europe. According to Johannes Hahn, the EU Commissioner for European Neighbourhood Policy and Enlargement Negotiation (we’ll know the U.S. has hit »

If we’re not going to put boots on the ground, how about a serious air campaign?

Featured image The conventional wisdom among hawkish conservatives is that ISIS cannot be defeated by U.S. air power unless we also put “boots on the ground.” This may well be true. But it’s also true that the U.S. air campaign against ISIS has not been serious. David Deptula, a retired air force general, provides the evidence: In the campaign against the Islamic State, we are averaging 12 strike sorties per day. During »

Is ISIS crazy?

Featured image ISIS’s capture of Palmyra has aroused fears that the terrorists will smash the archaeological treasures of this ancient Semitic city. The fears are justified, given ISIS’s conduct in places like Nimrud, Khorsabad, and Mosul. But according to Nicolas Pelham, writing in the New York Review of Books, even as ISIS forces made a great show of destroying some antiquities on display in the museum in Mosul, the leadership was planning »

ISIS loses a bigwig, gains Ramadi

Featured image There are two big stories about ISIS this weekend. U.S. forces have killed an ISIS leader in Syria and ISIS has taken control of Ramadi, just 80 miles from Baghdad. The first story seems to be getting most of the press; it’s the headline story in today’s Washington Post. But the second strikes me as more significant. In my view, the most notable thing about the killing of Abu Sayyaf, »

The other side of vanity

Featured image I wrote about President Obama’s press conference following his meeting with representatives of the Gulf Cooperation Council at Camp David this week in “An uncertain kazoo, cont’d” and John followed up in “Obama’s revisionist history on Syria.” The White House transcript of the entire press conference is posted here. I want to pause briefly over the question Obama took on Syria and the preface to his substantive, extremely misleading response. »

Obama’s Revisionist History on Syria

Featured image Scott wrote earlier this morning on President Obama’s just-concluded summit with members of the Gulf Cooperation Council and his press conference yesterday. One topic that came up in the press conference deserves special mention. President Obama’s “red line” on Syria is one of his administration’s historic failures. In 2012, Obama said that “a red line for us is” if Assad’s regime starts using chemical weapons; that “would change my calculus” »

Tide turns against Assad in Syria

Featured image The Assad regime has suffered a series of setbacks in its fight against rebel forces to the point that its ability to retain power appears to be in jeopardy, the Washington Post reports. Walter Russell Mead concurs. Both the Post and Mead cite Robert Ford, the former U.S. ambassador to Syria. He says “we may be seeing signs of the beginning of the end.” The most important signs are on »

The red line revisited (or not)

Featured image Four years ago President Obama declared that Syrian dictator Bashar al-Assad had to go. As Assad held on, Obama elaborated on his thinking at a 2012 press conference in Stockholm, drawing his infamous red line: I have, at this point, not ordered military engagement in the situation. But the point that you made about chemical and biological weapons is critical. That’s an issue that doesn’t just concern Syria; it concerns »

Not bashing Bashar

Featured image Charlie Rose interviewed Bashar al-Assad last week. 60 Minutes broadcast a portion of the interview last night (video below, transcript here). Rose reported that the interview was conducted “under the conditions that we use Syrian TV technicians and cameras.” Assad inherited the Syrian regime from his father, who took it over via a coup in 1971. Syria is of course engaged in a bloody civil war that has become a »

Assad crosses Obama’s imaginary red line

Featured image Don’t look now, but the Assad regime is once again using chemical weapons in the Syrian civil war. Reports are that it has dropped chlorine gas on civilians in recent days. Readers will recall that President Obama, working with Vladimir Putin, negotiated a deal to strip Assad of his chemical weapons. Unfortunately, chlorine was not part of the deal. This is odd because, as Max Boot reminds us, chlorine is »