Max Boot, writing for the Financial Times:

A minor kerfuffle has broken out over whether, in a closed-door meeting with an American congressional delegation attending the Munich Security Conference during the first weekend of February, US secretary of state John Kerry acknowledged that the administration’s Syria policy was failing. Senators John McCain and Lindsey Graham claim that he did; Mr Kerry’s spokeswoman, who was also present, denies it. Whatever the case, the underlying reality is undeniable – President Barack Obama’s Syria policy has failed.

At least 130,000 Syrian civilians have been killed and 9m more have been forced from their homes, making this arguably the worst human rights disaster since Rwanda. The regime of Bashar al-Assad is dropping barrel bombs on civilians in Aleppo and committing other war crimes to remain in power. International investigators recently released photos indicating that at least 11,000 people have been by the regime – more than died at Srebrenica in 1995.

Both Shia and Sunni extremists are exploiting the chaos to make significant inroads while more moderate opposition groups are sidelined. Two leading jihadist groups – the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria and the Nusra Front – are operating freely in northern and eastern Syria. Isis is so extreme that it has been disowned by al-Qaeda leader Ayman al-Zawahiri, but it is unlikely to be slowed by this censure from faraway Pakistan.

Jim Clapper, the US director of national intelligence, believes there are an estimated 26,000 jihadist fighters in Syria. Some of them are . On the other side, Hizbollah and the Iranian Quds Force, two of the world’s most effective terrorist organisations, have committed hundreds and possibly thousands of fighters to keep Mr Assad in power. Neighbouring states, in particular Lebanon, Jordan and Turkey, have been flooded with refugees. Isis fighters now control significant parts of Iraq’s Anbar Province. In Lebanon, Sunni militants are attacking Hizbollah, which is hitting back in a battle of car bombs that threatens to unravel that country’s tenuous peace.

Whole thing here.

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