Even now with the Russians on the verge of combat operations in Syria, the White House still says it believes that they’re there to fight ISIS. John Kerry says that his Russian counterpart told him that the Russians are “only interested in fighting” the Islamic State. Other administration officials hold out hope for a grand U.S.-Russia coalition against ISIS. But that’s nonsense: Vladimir Putin landed troops in order to protect his investment in Syrian strongman Bashar al-Assad.Read more
The photo of 3-year old Aylan Kurdi, drowned on a Turkish beach, elicited declarations of concern from media around the world. Aylan’s brother Galip, 5, and their mother Rehanna died in the same incident. After four years of civil war in Syria, we were told, the horrific photograph would awaken the world’s powers to the ongoing humanitarian catastrophe in Syria and Iraq.Read more
In the wake of President Obama’s speech yesterday at the U.N. General Assembly, there were reports of another chemical weapons attack near Damascus launched by Bashar al-Assad’s regime. If true, Assad is just drawing the logical conclusion from the president’s speech and the administration’s actions over the last several weeks. The policy of the Obama White House is to target Sunni extremism.Read more
In an interview on Wednesday, CNN's Jake Tapper questioned Secretary of State John Kerry about Iran, the security of the Sochi Olympics, and Syria. On the latter issue, Tapper asked the secretary point blank if the Obama administration's Syria policy had failed:TAPPER: The director of National Intelligence, James Clapper, said that Bashar al-Assad in Syria has been strengthened since the chemical weapons deal. The United Nations says that Assad's regime is torturing children. Read more
When President Obama abruptly called off the bombing strike on Syria and decided to seek the approval of Congress, he surprised no one more than French president François Hollande. France, the only country set to join the United States in the raid, was left in the lurch. Hollande was humiliated and isolated. Now, if an assault on Syria occurs, France is unlikely to participate.Read more
Americans watch our tragedy-of-errors Syria policy from the safety of houses and apartments in suburbs and cities 5,000 miles from the conflict. Israelis are next door, and two weeks ago—when an American strike and possible Syrian counterstrike at Israel seemed imminent—they were lining up for gas masks.
There are no such lines in Tel Aviv today. But what can Israelis make of the Syria crisis now, after the Obama speech and with action moving to Geneva and to the United Nations? What are the lessons they may learn?Read more
The statesmanlike case for voting Yes on the congressional resolution to use force against the Assad regime has been made widely and well by conservative foreign policy thinkers. At the end, the case boils down to this: As a policy matter, a Yes vote may be problematic in all kinds of ways. But a No vote would likely be disastrous for the nation in very clear ways. Statesmanship requires choosing the problematic over the disastrous.Read more
American interests in Syria are clear: preventing terrorists from acquiring chemical weapons; depriving Iran of its most important ally and staging-base in the Middle East; and preventing al Qaeda from establishing an uncontested safe haven in the Levant. Reasonable people can disagree about the extent to which President Obama’s proposed “limited strike” will secure these interests, but not about whether the interests are real or vital. Bashar al-Assad has one of the largest chemical weapons arsenals in the world.Read more
Get up to speed on the latest developments in Syria with senior editor Lee Smith in this edition of THE WEEKLY STANDARD podcast.Read more
The timing was probably not a coincidence, falling as it did on two anniversaries. August 18, 2011, was when President Obama first demanded Syrian president Bashar al-Assad step aside, and August 20 last year was when Obama warned that the use of chemical weapons would “change my calculus.” It was a year to the day after Obama’s warning that Assad launched what is to date the regime’s largest chemical weapons attack. At least a thousand people are dead, likely more, in several Damascus suburbs and outlying towns.Read more
Barack Obama's former defense secretary, Leon Panetta, says the president has a "responsibility" to act in Syria.Read more
Mugged by Middle East reality, President Obama and Secretary Kerry seem finally to have awakened to the necessity to act—unilaterally and un-apologetically. That's heartening. Still, do they understand that the American action has to be decisive? After all, as the late Mike Scully put it, liberals sometimes get mugged by reality—but then fail to press charges. Will Obama press charges? And pressing the appropriate charges in this case means removing Assad.Read more
The week started with the White House seemingly determined to punish Syrian president Bashar al-Assad for his use of chemical weapons, but on Wednesday Obama let the air out of the ball. Last night on the PBS Newshour he explained he may yet choose not to pull the trigger. “I’ve not made a decision,” said Obama. “I have gotten options from our military, had extensive discussions with my national security team.”Read more
For decades during the Cold War, U.S. policy sought to minimize the role of Moscow in the Middle East. As the Soviet Union weakened dramatically in the late 1980s and early 1990s, so too did its capacity to influence events there (and many other places besides). So matters have stood since. A pretty good question, then, is why on earth the Obama administration seems to be inviting a Russian resurgence in the Middle East.Read more
Two weeks ago, the Obama administration seemed to announce a major reversal of policy: In light of the American intelligence community’s finding, with a high level of confidence, that Syrian president Bashar al-Assad had used chemical weapons against the opposition, the White House was going to arm the Syrian rebels.Read more
Al Qaeda’s presence inside Syria is now so significant that the terrorist organization has decided it is no longer worthwhile to pretend otherwise. Previously, al Qaeda operated under a thinly veiled alternative identity – the Al Nusrah Front.Read more
The flurry of excitement over Syria’s “moving” of chemical weapons highlights yet again the paralysis gripping U.S. Middle East strategy. “We’re kind of boxed in,” an administration official confessed to the New York Times. “There’s an issue of presidential credibility here, but our options are quite limited.”Read more
Congratulations to President Obama for finally calling on Syrian president Bashar al-Assad to step down. It was past time for the White House to break decisively with a regime that has been slaughtering its people for almost six months, with a death toll conservatively estimated at 2,000 and climbing. But we applaud the president’s statement as well as the administration’s capable diplomacy that brought the major Anglo-European democracies on board.Read more
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