Obama hasn’t Shied away to Call his Abject Failed Policies “Victories”
For those who remember, a two-step solution for its nuclear program was Iran’s idea. President Obama instead sought a “Grand Bargain.” But fearing such a deal might shake the regime, Tehran opted for half-measures that would save its economy without having to normalize relations with Washington. Adopting the half-deal that will cause the economic sanctions to crack, the Obama team boasted about its diplomatic “breakthrough.”
Nor was the Geneva Conference on Syria an American idea. It was Russia’s. Secretary of State John Kerry had initially insisted that changing the military status quo was required to force Bashar al-Assad to “read the writing on the wall.”
Today Washington calls Assad a dictator and says that no solution will take shape with him in power. But the United States is talking from two sides of its mouth. William Burns, Deputy Secretary of State, for instance, is saying that Geneva II is the “beginning of a process.”
But the Geneva process will be a rather slow and long affair. And if the Obama administration plans to cooperate with Assad, then it might as well endorse a solution for Syria like the one Moscow envisages.
Local ceasefires? Easy. Let rebels hand over their heavy weapons and replace their flag with that of the regime. Assad militias will stop shooting and allow the flow of humanitarian aid to resume. Prisoner exchanges? That’s easy, too. Those who managed to survive Assad’s mass murdering inside the regime’s prisons will all be released.
Finally, and most importantly, the West will “coordinate” with Assad over counterterrorism to make sure that the conflict does not spill over further into neighboring countries.
All of these steps will create, according to Burns, a positive atmosphere for “political transition,” which Assad and Moscow will certainly take to mean the formation of an extended cabinet to include most factions, under Assad’s presidency.
Given the American curve and impotence, it might not be long before Kerry endorses all of the statements of his Russian counterpart Sergei Lavrov, whose position on Syria has not shifted one inch since March 2011. Then, American diplomats will hold background briefings to boast about their “Syria achievement.”
But in fairness to America’s top diplomats, we know that it’s not their fault. It’s Obama who has sent them out there with only weak statements in their hands. No military threat and no arming of allies or training them. Only talk.
Yet as the dead-on-arrival Geneva talks unfold, diplomats should know by now that Assad will not concede or relinquish power. If he ever does, his security agencies will transform into militias hell-bent on haunting whatever nascent state the opposition manages to set up. If Washington wants to avoid a repeat of Iraq, it better study the composition of autocratic states. There is no Syrian state, not even an Alawite regime. There is only Assad. With or without him, there will be war, and one winner. Iran plans to win. America plans to talk.
Iraq is a similar Obama failure. The withdrawal of troops, which Obama prides himself for, was only possible thanks to the surge of troops that the very same Obama once opposed in Iraq and messed up in Afghanistan.
Withdrawal was necessary in Iraq, and still is in Afghanistan. But there are many foreign policy tools short of using troops. And if Obama can’t figure out what they are, he shouldn’t be consulting the Russians or Iranians who, with a military budget that is a fraction of the US’, have still managed to teach Obama a lesson or two. (Russia and Iran have won friends, allies, and influence in the Middle East, whereas the US has spent trillions of dollars and thousands of lives to little or no avail.)
Obama needs to wake up and look around him. The United States, in just another example of bungled foreign policy, has granted the Egyptian military billions over the years. And though it gets access to airspace and navigation rights through the Suez, Iran too uses the canal to ship arms to Assad and Hezbollah at zero cost.
Since 2009, Obama’s foreign policy has moved from one failure to the next. The only thing that Obama and his team have perfected is the art of giving their do-nothing policies names: “Reset” with Russia, “Engagement” with Assad, “Grand Bargain” with Iran, “Pivot” toward Asia, and now “Political Process” in Geneva.
All of these are mere synonyms for failure.
Hussain Abdul-Hussain is the Washington Bureau Chief of Kuwaiti newspaper Alrai.
January 24, 2014
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