Syria

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 »

Obama-Kerry magical thinking, then and now

Featured image Secretary of State John Kerry says he’s willing to talk with Syrian president Assad in the hope of reaching an agreement to end Syria’s civil war. “We have to negotiate in the end,” said Kerry. “What we’re pushing for is to get him to come and do that, and it may require that there be increased pressure on him of various kinds.” Kerry is always in favor of negotiating, and »

Israel: more alone than ever

Featured image President Obama’s decision, now essentially official*, to appease Iran by doing nothing to help thwart the Assad regime has dire consequences for Syria. Tens of thousands of Syrians will continue to be slaughtered, many of them by barrel bombs dropped by planes the U.S. could have stopped from flying. Samatha ( “A Problem From Hell”) Power, call your office. On second thought, don’t waste your time. Israel also faces serious »

The Kobane victory and the hard work Obama is unwilling to do

Featured image ISIS apparently has been defeated in the town of Kobane, Syria to which it laid siege months ago. The Obama administration hopes that this defeat will discourage potential recruits from joining ISIS. According to a senior State Department spokesman, the lesson for those considering enlistment is: You’re not going to be a part of something great, you’re not going to have a house, you’re not going to have a female »

Turkey takes a dim view of Obama’s Syria policy

Featured image In an interview with Lally Weymouth of the Washington Post, Turkish Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu offers a devastating critique of President Obama’s Syria policy. Turkey, of course, has its own interests, and on some matters they diverge sharply from America’s. However, Turkey has a strong interest in (1) a stable Syria, or at least a Syria whose refugees don’t pour into Turkey by the tens of thousands, (2) a Syria »

Obama whispers “bang-bang” to terrorists

Featured image According to the Washington Post, weapons and ammunition are in such short supply at the centers where Iraqi army units receive training to fight ISIS that the trainees are yelling “bang-bang” instead of shooting. Last August, when President Obama announced that the U.S. would undertake a mostly proxy war against ISIS, I would have said that yelling “bang-bang” is the perfect metaphor for his anti-terrorism campaign. Today, whispering “bang-bang” is »

Assad and ISIS are 2014′s biggest winners, thanks in part to Obama

Featured image During the next few days, pundits will be designating their “winners and losers” of 2014. There can be little doubt about the year’s two biggest winners. Clearly, they are Bashar al-Assad and ISIS. Third place goes to Iran, which finds itself in greatly improved economic shape and within striking distance of becoming a nuclear power. But that’s nothing compared to Assad’s remarkable, turnaround year. As Seth Mandel, quoting NPR, reminds »

What’s the common thread in Obama’s anti-ISIS campaign? Acquiescence to Iran

Featured image How goes the Obama administration’s campaign to “degrade and destroy” ISIS? Badly, according to Max Boot. In Iraq, there have been a few modest successes. But Obama refuses to provide direct support to Sunnis in Anbar and Nineveh provinces, and the Iraqi government, still strongly influenced by Iran, will not supply arms and equipment either. The folly of Obama’s policy in Iraq is self-evident. He relies on proxy forces to »

Obama brings second knife to gunfight

Featured image Yesterday, President Obama authorized the dispatch of 1,500 more troops to Iraq. They will join the 1,400 already there. U.S. troops will be authorized to go beyond Baghdad and Erbil, but they still will not be allowed to go into combat. Notwithstanding the dispatch of the additional troops, Obama’s response to ISIS remains woefully inadequate. Max Boot explains: Most credible estimates suggest that [Obama] will need to dispatch at least »

Obama’s syrian proxies routed

Featured image The Free Syrian Army and Harakat Hazm were formed with the intention of fighting the Assad regime. President Obama hoped to convert them into forces that could help degrade ISIS. But over the weekend, both groups found themselves in combat against neither Assad nor ISIS. Instead, they fought Jabhat al-Nusra, al Qaeda’s affiliate in Syria. It did not go well. Both groups were routed. Many fighters surrendered. Many more scattered. »

The Kobani conundrum

Featured image Turkey has finally agreed to allow Iraqi Kurdish forces to cross its border with Syria to help fight ISIS and thereby relieve the besieged town of Kobani. For weeks, Turkey had refused to allow Iraqi Kurdish fighters or weapons to cross its border in support of the Kurdish fighters defending Kobani. Why the change? The New York Times cites “international pressure.” But the pressure has been there all along. More »

Good news from Kobani

Featured image I’ve offered mostly criticism, and only very occasional praise, for President Obama’s campaign against ISIS. I just haven’t been able to see how the president’s campaign is likely to destroy or seriously degrade the Islamist barbarians. I’m happy to report, however, that the campaign may have prevented the fall of beleaguered Kobani, at least for now. Local officials say that ISIS has been forced to withdraw from several neighborhoods, due »

Turkey finally takes military action; unfortunately, it’s against the Kurds

Featured image President Obama’s ace diplomats have been working hard to bring Turkey into the alleged coalition with which he hopes to counter ISIS. Susan Rice claimed that the U.S. at least had secured permission to use Turkish bases to launch strikes against ISIS. That claim is false, according to Turkey (which should know). Now comes word that Turkey has taken military action. Unfortunately, it has done so not against ISIS, but »

Susan Rice’s Sunday trifecta of dissembling

Featured image Sir Henry Winton once defined a diplomat as “an honest gentleman sent to lie abroad for the good of his country.” Susan Rice, by contrast, has earned the reputation of a dishonest operative sent to lie on Sunday talk shows for the good of her president. She undertook that mission in the first instance when she appeared on the Sunday shows to claim that the Benghazi attacks were a spontaneous »

A problem with “boots on the ground”

Featured image It seems likely that air strikes alone aren’t going to accomplish President Obama’s alleged goal of degrading and destroying ISIS, and almost certain that an air campaign of the low intensity we’ve witnessed so far is inadequate. It also appears that the Iraqi Army and the rebels we support in Syria are not up to the task. Accordingly, if we truly want to degrade/destroy ISIS, or even set it back »