Posted tagged ‘Obama and Middle East’

What Obama Owes Putin—and Why Donald Trump Is Left Holding the Bag

January 17, 2017

What Obama Owes Putin—and Why Donald Trump Is Left Holding the Bag, Tablet MagazineLee Smith, January 17, 2017

(A long but fascinating analysis of Obamas’ Middle East policy, of which a strong Iran was the centerpiece and in which Putin was his tool, ally and master. — DM)

The Obama administration’s dual-track diplomacy was different because the public track was intended to cover for the real show going on behind the scenes. For instance, if it looked like Obama was at odds with Putin over Russia’s destructive escalation in Syria and its role in crushing the rebels and killing civilians, nothing could have been further from the truth. Yet Obama needed Putin to rescue Iran and save its regional position. So while Obama was denouncing Putin in public, his White House errand boys were actually meeting in private with Putin’s errand boys, helping the Russians to accomplish the very things that the administration—especially the State Department—then publicly denounced. On bad days, it could look like there were actually two U.S. governments, pursuing policies that were diametrically opposed to each other. In fact, there was only one government, led by Obama—and the policy of that government was entirely coherent, although not necessarily wise.

For what mattered most to Obama wasn’t Syria, nor even was it the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, which is typically referred to as Obama’s signature foreign-policy initiative. Even that was a feint, cover for a larger strategy that entailed a realignment of interests in the Middle East and a new form of foreign-policy “realism” that would get American troops out of the Middle East—and put America in the same column as Iran and its allies, including Vladimir Putin.

How could Obama cover America’s retreat, yet ensure a certain amount of stability in the Middle East? Israel was too small for the role of regional policeman, and besides, its policies toward the Palestinians pointed toward instability. The Sunni Arab states were fractious and incapable of working together, and their own internal problems gave rise to extremism. That left Iran.

Trump’s nominee for defense secretary, Gen. James Mattis, . . . thought crushing Assad would be a huge strategic setback for Iran. And that’s just what worried Obama, who hardly needed the Iranians to warn him that realignment would collapse if America targeted the Syrian regime. After all, realignment was predicated on the idea of a strong Iran with a can-do Quds Force that could act as the region’s new policeman. An Iran knocked back down to size, and where the country’s internal opposition would be emboldened, would be of no use to a White House keen to hand over the keys to the Middle East and get out. Obama needed a big Iran, a “successful regional power,” as he’s put it.

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Is Donald Trump a Russian secret agent? Did he pay FSB hookers to pee on the bed the Obamas slept in at the Ritz in Moscow, overlooking the Kremlin? It’s silly season, so any drunk on a fat oppo-research expense account can write down any crazy foolishness they want and Buzzfeed will let you decide if it’s true because that, as Buzzfeed’s editor, Ben Smith, solemnly explained to The New York Times, is where American journalism is at in 2017. Duly noted, Buzzfeed. Enjoy the golden showers.

What’s being obscured by this grotesquerie is the origin and the actual substance of U.S. foreign policy toward Russia, which in turn affects the lives of hundreds of millions of people living in Syria, Iraq, Ukraine, and elsewhere. Or, to put it another way: Is Donald Trump likely to continue the policies of his predecessor, which set the Middle East on fire and led to 500,000 deaths in Syria, and to Putin biting off large chunks of the sovereign nation of Ukraine? Or is he likely to reverse those policies? Or can he, even if he wanted to?

The single-mindedness with which the White House and the remnants of the Clinton campaign have pursued the idea that Donald Trump is a pawn of Vladimir Putin is not based on silly stories about peeing prostitutes or secret computer servers that connect the Trump organization to the Kremlin. Rather, it’s an attempt to manufacture more smoke to obscure the reality of Obama’s own determination to collaborate with a hostile Russian leader in Syria, and elsewhere in the Middle East.

Sure, Obama recently sent 35 Russian diplomats packing and shuttered Russian diplomatic facilities in Maryland and New York, but this was after seven years of looking the other way while Russia seized Crimea, then Donbass; waged cyberattacks on the Baltic countries; brought down a passenger jet over Ukraine; sheltered Edward Snowden; and bombed schools and hospitals in Syria. All of these actions threatened global stability and American interests, yet Obama only puffed his chest after the cyberattacks on the Democratic National Committee and Clinton Campaign Chairman John Podesta’s emails—long after it mattered, and after the moving vans have already started to haul his stuff out of the White House.

The reason top national-security journalists, policy mandarins, and much of the Washington establishment can’t fathom Obama’s relationship with Putin is only partly due to partisanship. The real reason it’s so hard to see how much room the outgoing president gave Putin is because misdirection has been Obama’s guiding principle for seven years.

The president made it look like he was at odds with Putin for much of his two terms—for instance, loudly poo-pooing the Russian campaign in Syria and warning of Vietnam-style “quagmires,” dismissing Russia as a weak country, sending an LGBT delegation to the Sochi Olympics to underscore his differences with Russia’s treatment of the LGBT community. All this helped obscure the fact that when it really counted, Obama took special care to signal the Russian strongman that their interests were aligned. That wasn’t because he has a man-crush on Putin, but because he had a larger purpose in view—securing the Iran nuclear deal.

The point isn’t that Obama lied. Sure, he lied. All politicians lie all the time, right and left, Republican and Democrat. All governments lie, perhaps especially liberal democracies, which don’t have the luxury afforded authoritarian regimes to do whatever they want at no cost to their approval ratings, which hardly matter. Liberal democracies lie especially when they’re crafting policies that would make many of their constituents queasy.

For two terms the Obama White House staged a foreign-policy puppet show, while the real drama took place far from the spotlight—a mutant variation of dual-track diplomacy. Policy is often conducted along two tracks—maybe military and diplomatic, or hard power and soft power, like development assistance or cultural-exchange programs. Diplomacy is almost always conducted on two tracks. Track-two diplomacy is a term of art that refers to the nonofficial meetings held by private individuals or groups that give the official parties the nonofficials represent enough room to disclaim ownership if or when it blows up. The Oslo peace process began as track-two diplomacy, for example, as have plenty of other major diplomatic initiatives. The point is that whether we’re talking about foreign aid or political pressure, military force or moral suasion, the two tracks of dual-track diplomacy are almost always pointed in the same general direction, with the aim of securing the same outcome.

The Obama administration’s dual-track diplomacy was different because the public track was intended to cover for the real show going on behind the scenes. For instance, if it looked like Obama was at odds with Putin over Russia’s destructive escalation in Syria and its role in crushing the rebels and killing civilians, nothing could have been further from the truth. Yet Obama needed Putin to rescue Iran and save its regional position. So while Obama was denouncing Putin in public, his White House errand boys were actually meeting in private with Putin’s errand boys, helping the Russians to accomplish the very things that the administration—especially the State Department—then publicly denounced. On bad days, it could look like there were actually two U.S. governments, pursuing policies that were diametrically opposed to each other. In fact, there was only one government, led by Obama—and the policy of that government was entirely coherent, although not necessarily wise.

For what mattered most to Obama wasn’t Syria, nor even was it the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, which is typically referred to as Obama’s signature foreign-policy initiative. Even that was a feint, cover for a larger strategy that entailed a realignment of interests in the Middle East and a new form of foreign-policy “realism” that would get American troops out of the Middle East—and put America in the same column as Iran and its allies, including Vladimir Putin.

Yes, as Obama believed, Americans were sick of the problems and psychoses of the Middle East, and angry that George W. Bush failed to win his two Middle East wars. But neither Congress nor the U.S. foreign-policy establishment was keen to see the United States dismantle a regional security architecture it took 70 years to build, and which Obama and his young aides saw as a guarantee of future friction, and future U.S. military engagement. Someone needed to smash that architecture with a hammer.

So the Obama White House made stuff up. No one wanted to side with Iran and downgrade traditional allies like Israel. And so the Obama administration said that wasn’t happening. And the way it obscured the truth was to stage a dog-and-pony show with familiar Beltway names and faces to keep the Buzzfeed kids busy pondering the complexities of U.S. foreign policy while the adults went about their deadly serious business. What looked like the president of the United States pulling a rabbit out of his hat was actually Obama sawing a woman in half—and drawing blood.

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Is that really what happened? Some former Obama officials, like the administration’s onetime Syria point man, Frederic Hof, argue that the reason the administration’s foreign policy is a mess is because the president and his men in the White House lacked experience in the federal bureaucracy. In this view, the Obama team—namely, National Security Adviser Susan Rice—didn’t know how to manage what people in the know call the “interagency process,” or how the various institutions, like the National Security Council staff, State Department, Pentagon, and intelligence community process policy.

The reality is that Obama and his closest aides were contemptuous of the institutions, staffed by those very same Beltway bureaucrats that collectively make up what Obama deputy Ben Rhodes disparagingly called “The Blob.” As both Obama and Rhodes have explained, the mediocrities worthy of contempt included members of Obama’s cabinet. The reason for tapping figures like Leon Panetta, Robert Gates, David Petraeus, Hillary Clinton, John Kerry, and Samantha Power was to use the establishment as cover, while the real players, like Obama and Rhodes, Rob Malley, and a few select others, maneuvered in the shadows, and spun covering fictions. By 2012, as Gates and Panetta detailed in their memoirs, the Wise Men came to understand they were simply pawns in the president’s larger game, and quit before the real bloodshed started.

Hillary Clinton, with an eye to her presidential campaign, was not about to cross Obama in public, as Gates, Panetta, Chuck Hagel, and others did, but she knew she was window dressing, too. Her State Department was surprised when John Kerry, then head of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, was tasked to open a channel with the Iranians through Oman. The concessions Kerry offered Iran, especially the right to enrich uranium, angered Clinton’s staff. Kerry was screwing up badly, they leaked to reliable press contacts, they’d never have blundered like that.

Was the Clinton team really shocked and outraged? No, it was just cranking up its own fog machine, lest anyone realize the White House had done the worst thing anyone can do to someone else in Washington—make them irrelevant. Hillary Clinton’s job wasn’t to make policy—it was to rack up frequent-flier miles and stay out of the way while the White House handled the big-ticket items like Israel, Iran, China, and every other issue of any major importance. Nor did she particularly want the responsibility for decisions that she and her coterie may have opposed, and which certainly were likely to anger many of her prominent traditional liberal supporters. “The president,” as one official from a pro-Israel organization in Washington told me, “leapfrogged the State Department.”

Clinton’s successor, John Kerry, was either less ambitious or more vain than Clinton, or maybe both. He was the electronic rabbit while the real work of shaping the world was done by much younger men who represented the will of the president of the United States. What Kerry did in public, all those marathon negotiating sessions, all those windy speeches, was a sideshow. The fact that his tremendous vanity made him think that it was real only added conviction to his performance—all the better to generate buzz among 27-year-old reporters at Buzzfeed and their instant-foreign-policy-expert buddies at the newly-minted Washington “think tanks” led by Democratic political operatives like Neera Tanden, whose actual experience of any particular part of the world or area of human endeavor—warfare, diplomacy, nuclear engineering, you name it—was nil.

So while Buzzfeed—and the New Yorker—wrote articles about how John Kerry was manfully negotiating cease-fires in Syria with his Russian counterpart, Sergei Lavrov, it was, in fact, Obama’s own Middle East point man, Robert Malley, who conveyed the president’s real policy. Almost as soon as Obama called for Assad to step aside in August 2011, the administration came to regret that bit of grandstanding, and walked it back. As Tony Badran, a research fellow at the Foundation for the Defense of Democracies told me, “The administration went from ‘transitioning away from Assad’ to ‘de-escalating’ the conflict, or stopping the bloodshed. The White House used a veneer of humanitarian concern to elide the fact that removing Assad was no longer a part of the equation. It was now about shutting down the war against Assad.”

It wasn’t long before foreign officials came to understand that Obama was working two seemingly opposing channels—the trick was figuring out which channel was real. As a source close to the Turkish government explained to me, Turkey’s former prime minister, Ahmet Davutoglu, eventually concluded that Obama was using Clinton as a prop. Whatever promises she might make on Syria, for instance, were worthless. They were also often actively misleading, as they were unconnected to what the Americans were actually doing on the ground. The White House had sent its top diplomat out to lie, and without informing her she was lying.

No one saw more of the administration’s shell game than Israel. The White House reassured Jerusalem that it wasn’t going to sell Iran the farm—Israel was their ally, and Iran was the enemy. As one former senior U.S. official told me, “The Bush administration and Israel had developed a pressure track on Iran, primarily through the intelligence community. This was the track that produced Stuxnet. But Obama shut down the pressure track with the opening of the Oman channel since they didn’t believe that pressure and diplomacy work together. But the Obama White House couldn’t tell the Israelis they were shutting down the pressure track. So the president wrapped them up in planning, promising, for instance, a Stuxnet 2.0. So you have emissaries going back and forth, planning and planning and planning, which was actually just stalling.”

Moreover, said the former U.S. official, the Israelis knew that Obama was lying about the Oman channel. He added that the head of the U.S. team negotiating with Iran, Wendy Sherman, “would meet openly with the Iranians as part of the P5+1 talks, then fly to Jerusalem, and tell the Israelis, ‘We got your back.’ But the Israelis knew the Americans were meeting with Iran because they had the tail numbers of planes going to Oman. The Israelis went to Obama’s then national security adviser, Thomas Donilon, and said, ‘We know what’s going on.’ ”

In fact, the Israelis didn’t understand. They thought, like most critics of the Iran deal, that the administration was just flubbing negotiations and needed help. But the White House didn’t care that much about the particulars because the JCPOA was simply a device to allow for a larger, even more historic play—Obama wanted to get America out of the Middle East, and realigning with Iran was America’s exit strategy.

For the big problem with the region, from Obama’s perspective, is the lure of the “Washington playbook,” a set of guiding principles that typically point to the use of force, which was passed down by generations of government grandees—the kind he used as rodeo clowns. The question was: How could Obama cover America’s retreat, yet ensure a certain amount of stability in the Middle East? Israel was too small for the role of regional policeman, and besides, its policies toward the Palestinians pointed toward instability. The Sunni Arab states were fractious and incapable of working together, and their own internal problems gave rise to extremism. That left Iran.

Clearly, there are plenty of Obama administration officials enamored with the Islamic Republic, whether they’re attracted to the vintage patina of late 20th-century Third Worldism or classic Persian culture. What was most appealing to Obama, as he told a meeting of Gulf Arab officials at Camp David in 2015, was simply that the Iranians are capable of getting things done—a sentiment that he expressed in the context of his admiration for the Revolutionary Guards Corps’ expeditionary unit led by Qassem Soleimani. However, he also realized that this conviction and the policy it undergirded would have grossed out a large number, likely a majority, of Americans, and their elected representatives. So he lied, or misled and misdirected—and said the JCPOA was about stopping Iran from getting a nuclear weapon, and nothing more.

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All the major foreign-policy issues of the Obama presidency (the fraying of the bilateral relationship with Israel, the withdrawal from Iraq, Russia, etc.) were subsets of realignment policy—including the administration’s management of the single largest strategic, political, and humanitarian catastrophe of the 21st century, the Syrian conflict. Obama’s cabinet held the mainstream view of the Syrian war—Panetta, Clinton, Kerry, Petraeus, and Power all supported arming the rebels to defeat Assad, or at least compel him to negotiate under harder circumstances. But that was exactly the opposite of what Obama wanted to do.

A more hawkish position was expressed by the U.S. officials like then-head of CENTCOM and now Trump’s nominee for defense secretary, Gen. James Mattis, who thought crushing Assad would be a huge strategic setback for Iran. And that’s just what worried Obama, who hardly needed the Iranians to warn him that realignment would collapse if America targeted the Syrian regime. After all, realignment was predicated on the idea of a strong Iran with a can-do Quds Force that could act as the region’s new policeman. An Iran knocked back down to size, and where the country’s internal opposition would be emboldened, would be of no use to a White House keen to hand over the keys to the Middle East and get out. Obama needed a big Iran, a “successful regional power,” as he’s put it.

A victory for the Syrian opposition—whom the White House could not help but disparage even as the president and his aides honored the victims of Assad’s depredations, i.e., the opposition—would have been a disaster for the Obama administration. It would have not only cashiered Obama’s hopes for a hegemonic Iran capable of managing American regional interests but would have required Washington to manage the varied and often conflicting interests of its regional allies, Israel, Jordan, Saudi Arabia, Turkey, etc. In other words, an opposition victory would have demanded more American involvement in the Middle East—more time, attention, energy, money, and perhaps blood.

The structural problem with Obama’s grand realignment is that Iran simply can’t handle the load. Obama should have understood this every time he had to tip the scales on behalf of the Iranians. When the administration leaked that Israel struck Iranian arms convoys headed to Hezbollah, Obama should’ve understood that he was tipping the scales, but it still wasn’t working. Qassem Suleimani turned out to be less than impressive, for his Quds Force couldn’t even tackle ISIS without the U.S. providing air support in Tikrit. The much-heralded operation to take back Mosul before Obama left office is such a mess that the White House simply doesn’t talk about it anymore.

When the Russians escalated in Syria in September 2015, Obama should have seen it as a clear sign he’d been wrong about Iran: The IRGC couldn’t even put down the farmers and carpenters the American president repeatedly disparaged. They needed the Russians to do it for them.

The White House said Putin’s action caught them by surprise, but that is unlikely to be true. The Russians were moving men and materiel for months through the Bosphorus—under the control of NATO member Turkey—at least since Suleimani’s July 2015 trip to Moscow to ask for Russian intervention.

The reality is that the Russian campaign in Syria served vital Obama interests. There was no point in realigning with Iran if Tehran’s regional position collapsed. Putin saved not only Assad and Iran, but Obama’s realignment policy. It was the second time the Russian president rescued Obama’s realignment policy—the first being when he offered the deal over Assad’s chemical weapons that allowed the commander-in-chief to walk back his red line.

Obama owes Putin, which is why he let the Russians get away with nearly everything it chose to do the last seven years, including its attacks on the American political system. What’s left for Trump is to manage the Russia policy he inherited from Obama—or overturn the table.

Obama’s Enabling of Palestinian Terror

January 11, 2017

Obama’s Enabling of Palestinian Terror, Front Page MagazineJoseph Puder, January 11, 2017

abbasobama

When we consider last month’s United Nations Security Council resolution (UNSC) 2334 that passed with deliberate U.S. abstention and later, justified in a speech by U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry, it makes the adage below come to mind. The Midrash (commentary on part of the Hebrew Scriptures) tells us, “He who becomes compassionate to the cruel will ultimately become cruel to the compassionate.”  Maimonides wrote in The Guide of the Perplexed that “the wicked and calculating person who killed intentionally and was sentenced to death – if he seeks sanctuary among us, we must not provide him with asylum, and not have mercy upon him, because compassion toward the wicked is cruelty to all beings.

In supporting the Palestinian regime that seeks the destruction of the Jewish State as its ultimate goal, the Obama administration is being compassionate toward the wrong party.  The Obama administration is knowingly and deliberately supporting the creation of another unstable Arab authoritarian regime that has failed its people.  Mahmoud Abbas, like Arafat before him, albeit more subtle, seeks the same goal: undermining the Jewish state, and replacing it with an undemocratic Palestinian state.  Abbas wouldn’t return to the negotiating table unless he is heavily bribed, and like Arafat, at the crucial moment when all reasonable concessions had been made, he walked out.

At their September 16, 2008 meeting in Jerusalem, Israeli Prime Minister Olmert agreed to forgo sovereignty over the Temple Mount in Jerusalem, Judaism’s holiest site, and proposed that in the framework of the peace agreement, the area containing the religious sites in Jerusalem would be managed by a special committee consisting of representatives from five nations: Saudi Arabia, Jordan, Palestinians, the U.S. and Israel.  The advisors and Fatah officials heard that Olmert laid out for Abbas not only the details of the agreement but also a large map upon which he outlined the borders of the future Palestinian state.  Abbas, like Arafat in July, 2000, walked out.

Considering Palestinian terrorism incited by Hamas and the Palestinian Authority against Jewish civilians and soldiers alike, it becomes clear that the Obama administration has shown compassion toward Palestinian aspirations and contempt for Jews aspiring to settle in their ancestral regions of Judea and Samaria.  The Administration would be quite content on a “judenrein” West Bank.   In fact, the U.S. and its European allies support the PA with huge grants, portions of which goes to pay salaries to Palestinian terrorists with blood on their hands and their families.  They have likewise funded Palestinian-Arab construction projects, built illegally throughout the West Bank and Jerusalem.

The Obama administration has also shown compassion for the Iranian regime by ending the economic sanctions against the radical Islamic Iranian regime, which hangs gays and lesbians as well as juveniles.  Amnesty International reported on January 26, 2016, that “Iran remains the leading executioner of juvenile offenders.”  The New York Post reported on August 3, 2016 that “The Obama administration quietly shipped $400 million stacked on wooden pallets in an unmarked plane to Iran in January – just as Tehran was releasing four Americans who had been detained there.”  This was done to appease the Islamic Republic, which is the leading state sponsor of terror around the world, and that has taken Americans in Iran as hostages.

U.S. Mideast mediator Dennis Ross pointed out that the Obama administration was so enamored with the so-called “moderate” Iranian President Rouhani, that it “showed readiness to accept an industrial-scale Iranian nuclear program and not to roll it back.”  The Obama administration was willing to bend its principles in order to foster a relationship and perhaps an alliance of sorts (against the Islamic State in Iraq) with the Ayatollahs regime that promised “to wipe Israel off the map.”

In the summer of 2009, the Iranian people voted for freedom and against the choices of the theocratic regime that oppressed them. They demonstrated in the millions with signs that read “Obama, are you with them or with us.”  Obama did not respond. He proved to have little compassion for the oppressed.

In Syria, the Shiite-Iranian Revolutionary Guards and their supported Iraqi-Shiite militias, as well as the Lebanese-Shiite terrorist group Hezbollah, are murdering hundreds of thousands of innocent Syrian Sunni Muslims, Christians, and others civilians with impunity.  They are bolstering the dictatorship of the Alawi (offshoot of Shiite Islam) minority ruler Bashar Assad.  The Russians have also joined in the killing of Syrian civilians in the name of combatting so-called “terrorists.”

The Palestinians of Hamas and the PA raise their children on hate and expound on the destruction of the Jewish state in schools, mosques, in the media, and in their policy directives.  The Palestinian intolerance towards Jews and Christians is deeply embedded, but due to political correctness, it has never been sufficiently reported in the western media, or by western governments.  Under the Palestinian regime, Christian Arabs have been victims of frequent human rights abuse by Muslims. There are many examples of intimidation, beatings, land theft, firebombing of churches and other Christian institutions, denial of employment, economic boycotts, torture, kidnapping, forced marriage, sexual harassment, and extortion. Palestinian Authority (PA) officials are directly responsible for many of the human rights violations. Muslims who have converted to Christianity are in the greatest danger. They are often left defenseless against cruelty by Muslim fundamentalists. Some have been murdered.

There is a clear dichotomy in determining who the compassionate side is, and who is the cruel. It comes together perfectly clear in the Syrian civil war arena.  Thousands of Palestinians are fighting on behalf of the Syrian dictator, and help in slaughtering the Syrian people who are fighting for their freedom.  The Palestinian radical group, the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine-General Command (PFLP-GC) led by Ahmed Jibril, provided the Assad war machine with intelligence and ground support, when he laid siege to the Palestinian populated Yarmouk refugee camp.  The PFLP-GC, once a member of the Palestinian Liberation Organization (PLO) joined the Assad troops in killing fellow Palestinians.

Conversely, Israel has opened its hospital gates to wounded Syrians, both civilians and soldiers.  Prime Minister Netanyahu announced last month “We are prepared to take in wounded women and children, and also men if they are not combatants. Bring them to Israel, we will take care of them in our hospitals as we have done with thousands of Syrian civilians. We are looking into ways of doing this. It is being explored as we speak.”  Netanyahu added, “The suffering is great, and the one initiative we took is to help – as I said – thousands of Syrians who are sometimes mutilated beyond belief. We help them. I offered to do more today. I don’t know if we can resolve [the crisis in] Syria, but we can help mitigate some of the suffering. That is the best that Israel can do.”

Being compassionate toward the Palestinian’s aspirations to destroy the Jewish state in stages by forming a terrorist supporting state, the Obama administration is being cruel toward the Jewish state, which seeks to defend its people from the ongoing Palestinian terror.

What Hath Barack Wrought?

January 8, 2017

What Hath Barack Wrought? PJ Media, Michael Walsh, January 7, 2017

obama-salman-saudi-sized-770x415xtObama and Saudi “king” Salman (Reuters/Jonathan Ernst – RTS77JX

Over at the Weekly Standard, my friend Lee Smith — one of the shrewdest voices in American journalism on the subject of the Middle East and foreign policy — takes the measure of the Obama administration’s foreign policy. It ain’t pretty:

The Obama chapter in American foreign policy ends like the climax of an action movie—with a fireball growing in the distance and filling the screen as a man in silhouette approaches in slow motion and then veers off camera. Barack Obama has set the Middle East on fire, and now it’s spreading.

The Obama administration’s nuclear agreement with Iran has emboldened the world’s leading state sponsor of terror, which now makes war openly in four Arab states (Syria, Iraq, Lebanon, Yemen) and is a growing threat to Israel and Saudi Arabia. The deal with Tehran that Obama boasts of as his signature foreign policy initiative guarantees, as the president himself acknowledged, that Iran will have an industrial-scale nuclear weapons program within 15 years.

After a 40-year absence from the Middle East, Russia has returned to the region, where it bombs Syria’s schools and hospitals as America and Europe watch helplessly. Washington’s traditional regional allies are scrambling to adjust to the new reality, which for the likes of Israel, Jordan, and Turkey means an opportunistic power on their borders that is allied with their existential enemies.

For Europe, the millions seeking refuge from the conflagration are agents of potential instability on the continent in the years to come; some in their midst are terrorists plain and simple. In just four years, or one presidential term, a civil uprising that started in Syria became a great Middle Eastern war over a host of sectarian, religious, and political hostilities dating back centuries.

Naturally, the country’s first affirmative action president doesn’t see it that way; no doubt, by his lights, he’s still every bit the equal of FDR and Abraham Lincoln he’s always thought himself to be. For a chief executive like Barack Hussein Obama, coddled practically from birth by a series of handlers, sycophants, media worshipers, excuse-makers and hagiographers, being an utter failure means never having to say you’re sorry.  The half-black president with the Muslim name was supposed to at least bring some cultural empathy to the thorny, if not to say intractable, problems of the Middle East — not just the eternal Arab-Israeli conflict but the even more eternal Muslim-Muslim conflict, not to mention the collateral damage of the one-sided Muslim-Christian conflict. That he hasn’t solved any of it is not his fault, but that he has exacerbated it most surely is.

Critics and even admirers of the president say that Syria will be a stain on his record. But that’s not how Obama sees it. The death and suffering of so many undoubtedly pains him, as he says. He says he wonders if he could have done anything else. Of course he could have, but he believed he had better reasons not to….

Obama’s foreign policy issued in part from his understanding of global realities but more from his interpretation of the American character. He believed that Americans tend to make a mess of things around the world. Obama is like a narrator in a Graham Greene novel; in our relations with the rest of humanity, as he sees it, we are 300 million naïfs abroad, whose intentions may be good but who lack the tragic sense that the rest of the world feels in its bones.

So who’s the naif now? Obama was less a Graham Green figure than Mark Twain’s Innocent Abroad. The way Smith sees it, Obama’s entire rationale was to wean America from what he saw as its shoot-first second nature; his entire foreign-policy apparatus became Dickens’ Circumlocution Office from Little Dorrit, dedicated to the proposition of How Not to Do It:

The Circumlocution Office was (as everybody knows without being told) the most important Department under Government. No public business of any kind could possibly be done at any time without the acquiescence of the Circumlocution Office. Its finger was in the largest public pie, and in the smallest public tart. It was equally impossible to do the plainest right and to undo the plainest wrong without the express authority of the Circumlocution Office. If another Gunpowder Plot had been discovered half an hour before the lighting of the match, nobody would have been justified in saving the parliament until there had been half a score of boards, half a bushel of minutes, several sacks of official memoranda, and a family-vault full of ungrammatical correspondence, on the part of the Circumlocution Office.

This glorious establishment had been early in the field, when the one sublime principle involving the difficult art of governing a country, was first distinctly revealed to statesmen. It had been foremost to study that bright revelation and to carry its shining influence through the whole of the official proceedings. Whatever was required to be done, the Circumlocution Office was beforehand with all the public departments in the art of perceiving — HOW NOT TO DO IT.

And that’s the Obama foreign policy in a nutshell. Of course in domestic affairs, the Choom Ganger from Punahou has been the exact opposite, baldly lying about such sub-rosa proclivities as same-sex marriage and hairy transvestites in the ladies’ loo until he was well past his final election. In both areas, however, he’s been a disgrace to the office and to the country, and we will be well rid of him when he finally leaves on Jan. 20.

Obama’s foreign policy, in the end, was not primarily about the rest of the world—it was about transforming the character of America. So where are we eight years on? Gelded, as he intended.

And, to coin a phrase, that’s one of the many reasons we now have Donald Trump. America never has been and never will be a neutered metrosexual among nations. As the Obama-ites are about to find out.

How Iran actually lost in Aleppo

December 26, 2016

How Iran actually lost in Aleppo, American ThinkerHeshmat Alavi, December 26, 2016

For 16 years America has failed to adopt a correct policy in the Middle East despite having huge opportunities to make significant changes. The 2003 war literally gift-wrapped Iraq to Iran, parallel to the highly flawed mentality of preferring Shiite fundamentalism to Sunni fundamentalism. This allowed Iran take full advantage of such failures and resulting voids.

Aleppo will be a short-lived success story for Iran. The tides are changing across the globe and Iran will no longer enjoy opportunities from West rapprochement. Understanding this very well, this is exactly why Tehran has resorted to such atrocities and sought to massacre all in Aleppo.

In contrast to how the U.S. handed Iraq in  a silver plate to Iran, Russia never entered the Syria mayhem to hand it over to Iran. The roots of Aleppo remain in the hearts of all Syrians. As world powers, especially the U.S. and Russia review their future objectives, Iran will be the first and ultimate party to suffer.

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Following a historic period of perseverance, Syrian rebels and their families were forced to evacuate eastern Aleppo after its liberation back in 2012. An unjust, intense war was launched upon Aleppo by Iran’s Revolutionary Guards (IRGC) and its proxy forces on the ground: Russia with its indiscriminate air strikes, and a lame-duck Syrian army of less than 20,000 deployable forces.

After more than 15 months continuous air raids and a long-lasting inhumane siege, Syrian rebels and civilians sealed an international agreement to depart Syria’s once economic and cultural hub.

In the past few weeks widespread bombing campaigns continued relentlessly on civilian areas. No Aleppo hospital was spared. The IRGC and its foot-soldiers, numbering at the tens of thousands, spearheaded the military of Syrian dictator Bashar Assad in horrific mass executions of innocent people. The United Nations reported 82 individuals, including women and children, were murdered on the spot in the streets and in their homes. God knows how many more incidents have gone unreported.

The amazing perseverance shown by Aleppo locals for years now in the face of atrocious airstrikes and artillery shelling is unprecedented to say the least. Amidst all this, the silence and inaction seen from the West, especially the United States, will remain forever a source of shame.

Conflict of Interests

In the pro-Assad camp there are three decision-makers. First Russia, second Iran, and third the Syrian regime. The role played by Assad and his military in such scenes is next to nothing.

The West and Turkey became frantic for a ceasefire in Aleppo in the early days of the war due to the negative public opinion resulting from shocking crimes. They sought to have the rebels and remaining civilians transferred to other Syrian opposition controlled areas.

On December 13th, Washington and Moscow reached what can be described a ceasefire agreement. Intense negotiations between Turkey and Russia were started afterwards, resulting in an agreement between the Syrian opposition with Russia and Turkey to evacuate Aleppo. Practically, the parties involved in the talks were Aleppo representatives and Russia, hosted by Turkey. All necessary preparations were made to begin evacuating the city from the morning of Wednesday, December 14th.

However, Iran disrupted this agreement and the IRGC hindered the evacuation process. It was crystal clear Russia and Iran were pursuing different objectives and sets of interests. Iran sought not to have Aleppo evacuated but to exterminate all Syrian rebels and civilians.

Twenty-four hours later, pressure from the international community forced the implementation of the Russia-Syrian rebel agreement on December 15th. On the morning of that day the first convoy carrying the wounded exited Aleppo, only to face roadblocks imposed by Iran-backed forces and the Assad military.

Iran raised certain conditions for the evacuation. Russia later threatened to airstrike any party hindering the evacuation, an obvious warning to Iran. Tehran was forced to wind back under Moscow pressure.

As a result, the last phase of this war and the method chosen to evacuate Aleppo was a defeat for Iran and a victory for the Syrian opposition. Especially since the conflict of interest between Iran/Assad and Russia became crystal clear. Politically speaking, Iran has become a secondary party in Syria.

“For Putin, a political settlement now makes sense. Staying involved in an ongoing insurgency does not. But for that, he needs the opposition — which is fractured — to accept a political outcome, and there is little prospect of that so long as Assad remains in power,” as explained by Dennis Ross, who served as the Director of Policy Planning in the State Department under President George H. W. Bush, the special Middle East coordinator under President Bill Clinton, and was a special adviser for the Persian Gulf and Southwest Asia (which includes Iran) to the former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.

Is this the end?

The turn of events does not spell the end of the Syrian opposition. The opposition controls large swathes of Syria, with areas over ten times larger than Aleppo and millions of residents. Idlib Province has at a three million strong population; the western coast of the Euphrates in the Turkish border, recently liberated by the Free Syrian Army from Daesh (ISIS/ISIL); large portions of Deraa Province neighboring Jordan; a strategically important section in the north in Latakia Province on the Turkish border; large portions of areas in the Damascus vicinity and large portions in the Aleppo vicinity.

In contrast to Western mainstream media reporting, the Syrian opposition enjoys the capability to rise once again.

Despite all its differences, a comparison made to the Iran-Iraq War may help. In 1986, Iran made significant advances taking control over the Faw peninsula in southern Iraq. Western media and think-tanks all forecasted further advances by Iran and a defeat for Iraq. In 1988 Iran was forced into a U.N.-brokered ceasefire agreement.

Deep divisions between the Syrian nation and the Assad regime have reached the point of no return. Nearly 500,000 have been killed and more than half of the Syrian population displaced. The Syrian nation will never accept the continuation of this regime. Despite sporadic military advances, Assad has no place in Syria’s future.

Where Iran stands in Syria

Iran will not be the final victor in Syria.

First — For Iran, it is vital to maintain Assad in power. His fall will mark the end of Iran’s crusades in Syria. Even if the Syrian opposition becomes weaker, the overall crisis will continue while Assad remains in power. Assad is no longer acceptable in the international stage with an international consensus over his resort to war crimes and crimes against humanity.

Second — While Iran is financing and providing the ground forces, in this war, it no longer enjoys the first and final word. Russia calls the shots now with stark differences in interest, as seen in Aleppo.

Trump’s America

U.S. President Barack Obama’s weak foreign policy, especially the failed engagement with Iran, prolonged the Syrian crisis, allowed Tehran to take advantage, Russia to take the helm and America be sidelined.

Where will developments lead with Donald Trump in the White House? What will be the new U.S. foreign policy vis-à-vis Syria, Iran and the Middle East? How can we define Washington’s relationship with Moscow, and what practical measures will Trump take against Daesh (ISIS/ISIL)? Time will tell.

Good relations between the U.S. and Russia will at least not have a negative impact on the region, and this is good news for the Syrian opposition. Russia has weighable interests in Syria. However, what will Trump do with Iran? Considering Trump’s harsh tone on Iran to this day, far more positive outcomes can be forecasted for the Syrian opposition.

Second, Trump and secretary of state nominee Rex Tillerson have the potential of eventually convincing Russia to provide concessions. This is not in Iran’s interests, as Tehran remembers Russia ditching Libyan the dictator Muammar Qaddafi.

Lesson learned in Syria

For 16 years America has failed to adopt a correct policy in the Middle East despite having huge opportunities to make significant changes. The 2003 war literally gift-wrapped Iraq to Iran, parallel to the highly flawed mentality of preferring Shiite fundamentalism to Sunni fundamentalism. This allowed Iran take full advantage of such failures and resulting voids.

Aleppo will be a short-lived success story for Iran. The tides are changing across the globe and Iran will no longer enjoy opportunities from West rapprochement. Understanding this very well, this is exactly why Tehran has resorted to such atrocities and sought to massacre all in Aleppo.

In contrast to how the U.S. handed Iraq in a silver plate to Iran, Russia never entered the Syria mayhem to hand it over to Iran. The roots of Aleppo remain in the hearts of all Syrians. As world powers, especially the U.S. and Russia review their future objectives, Iran will be the first and ultimate party to suffer.

 

ISIS seizes big Russian-Syrian T-4 air base

December 12, 2016

ISIS seizes big Russian-Syrian T-4 air base, DEBKAfile, December 12, 2016

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Islamic State forces pushed their assault forward to retake the central Syrian town of Palmyra Monday, Dec. 12. By evening, they had entered the big Russian-Syrian T-4 air base outside the town, carrying off substantial quantities of Russian armaments. Reporting this, DEBKAfile’s military sources add that the booty they snatched included different types of ground-to-ground missiles as well as anti-tank and anti-air rockets.

Russian forces manning the base were hurriedly evacuated from Palmyra and the T-4 base, after the worst defeat Russian armed forces had ever experienced at ISIS hands in Syria. Military circles in Moscow commented grimly that the Russian army had suffered “a major disgrace” in Palmyra.

According to our sources, long convoys of ISIS fighters backed by tanks taken booty from the Syrian army, first forced the Syrian 11th Tank Division to abandon the strategic Jhar Crossroad. After that, the way was clear for the jihadis’ column to reach the T-4 base.

DEBKAfile reported on the ISIS terrorists’ fresh momentum Sunday.

Judging from the rash of reports claiming US-Iraqi military progress in the Mosul offensive against ISIS and the extra American special operations forces personnel posted to Syria for an impending US-Kurdish operation to capture the ISIS Syrian stronghold of Raqqa, the Islamic State ought to be cowering under siege, finally defeated – or at least on the run.

But the facts tell another story. ISIS is on the offensive – so far in the Middle East. Over the weekend, Islamist terrorists accounted for dozens of deaths and injured hundreds more.

Sunday, Dec. 11, at least 25 people worshipping at the Coptic St. Peter’s and St. Paul’s church adjacent to St, Mark’s cathedral in Cairo were killed and scores injured. The Coptic pope often leads the prayers there. DEBKAfile’s counterterrorism sources reveal that the attack was carried out by Islamist terrorists from Raqqa who bided their time until they struck in the Egyptian capital. Saturday, six Egyptian troops were killed by another Islamist bomb near the Giza pyramids.

On the same day, ISIS fighters pushed back into the ancient Syrian town of Palmyra, nine months after their expulsion.

The Raqqa terrorist stronghold is clearly alive and kicking on more than one front. A number of contributing factors enable the Islamic State to unleash a fresh spate of terror.

1. The US-Iraqi-Kurdish drive has stalled without driving ISIS out of Mosul or choking off the terrorist fighters’ freedom to move between Mosul and Raqqa, their Syrian bastion.

US Defense Secretary Ashton Carter, who arrived in Baghdad Sunday, Dec. 11, was assigned by the Obama administration to make a last effort to reactivate the Mosul campaign. His chances of success are slim. The military coalition which launched the campaign two months ago has lost a vital component, the Kurdish Peshmerga, which backed out three weeks ago. The Iraqi military units which captured some of the city’s outskirts stopped short when they reached the strongest defense lines set up by the Islamic State and have been unable to break through, even with US air support.

The pro-Iranian Iraqi Shiite front which undertook to seize Tal Afar in order to sever the ISIS connecting link between Iraq and Syria are parked outside, having been warned by Turkey not to set foot in the town.

Added to these setbacks, the US CENTCOM which is running the aerial war in Iraq is at loggerheads with the Iraqi Air Force command and has practically grounded all Iraqi warplanes.

Even if Carter can wave a magic wand and resolve all these issues, the momentum and high hopes that actuated the Mosul campaign when it started have been lost and can hardly be recovered before Barack Obama leaves the White House.

At least two of the incoming president Donald Trump’s designated security advisers – Defense Secretary Gen, James Mattis and National security Adviser Gen. Michael Flynn – have criticized the operation in is current form.

2. What is happening in Raqqa doesn’t fit the designation of an offensive. At most, small Kurdish and Syrian rebel groups are mounting sporadic raids against ISIS fighters on the town’s outskirts, with the support of the Obama administration. Our military experts say that Raqqa can’t be captured from the Islamist terrorists by conventional means – mainly because it is spread over a large area of mostly empty desert. ISIS has taken advantage of this terrain to distribute knots of defenders across a vast area ranging hundreds of kilometers from northern to eastern Syria up to the winding, heavily overgrown banks of the Euphrates River.

So when Ash Carter announced Saturday that he would be sending another 200 Special Operations Forces into Syria to join the battle for Raqqa, he had no idea that he, the Russians and the Syrians were about to be caught off guard by a fresh ISIS initiative to reoccupy Palmyra, the ancient Syrian two from which they are thrown out in March.

This was a poke in the eye for Russian President Vladimir Putin who proclaimed Palmyra’s capture from ISIS as a signal coup for the Russian army in its war on Islamist terror.

3.  He might well commiserate with Egyptian President Abdel-Fatteh El-Sisi. For two years, the Egyptian armed forces have been fighting an uphill battle to crush the ISIS groups infesting the Sinai Peninsula. The jihadists constantly elude punishment with the help of supportive Bedouin tribes.

Every few months, they pose a real threat to the stability of the El-Sisi regime by striking inside Cairo, the capital, with some terrorist atrocity, for which they are aided by the Muslim Brotherhood underground and Palestinian Hamas extremists in the Gaza Strip.

The bombing of the Coptic church Saturday was unusually the work of jihadists deployed from Raqqa, Syria.  Egypt has reacted by placing extra guards at Christian sites and declaring three days of national morning for the disastrous bombing attack on Egypt’s largest minority.

The new Islamist drive is looking ominously like the onset of the Christmas-New Year holiday terror onslaught the Islamic State has threatened to unleash in the Middle East and beyond. US and European security services have been placed on high alert in the belief that returning jihadis are programmed to strike at home.

The Consequences of Inaction

November 7, 2016

The Consequences of Inaction, Gatestone InstituteBarry Shaw, November 7, 2016

The reality is that the actors who are replacing a once powerful and influential America are malevolently reshaping both the Middle East and Asia in their own image.

“I announce my separation from the United States… I’ve realigned myself in your ideological flow, and maybe I will also go to Russia to talk to Putin and tell him that there are three of us against the world — China, Philippines and Russia.” — Philippines President Rodrigo Dutere, in a speech to China’s leaders in Beijing, Oct. 20, 2016.<

Statements that relations were “steady and trusted” by US Assistant Secretary of State, David Russel did nothing to hide the fact that America’s self-imposed impotence is being felt in Asia.

Action, including inaction, has consequences. We have seen this in the failure of the US to respond to:

  • Syria’s effective genocide of its own people;
  • Russia’s unhindered aggression in the Ukraine, Crimea, Syria and in the oil-rich Arctic circle;
  • China building military islands in the South China Sea in an apparent attempt to control international maritime routes
  • ISIS’s metastization into 18 countries in three years;
  • Iran, now billions of dollars richer, stepping up its aggression into Yemen, continuing work on its offensive military program, and holding new Americans hostage for ransom;
  • North Korea continuing to develop its nuclear weapons for both itself and Iran;
  • Turkey now threatening adventures in both and Syria and Iraq, where it will probably be thwarted respectively by Russia and Iran.

Most recently, on October 9th, 12th and 15th, missiles were launched against US Navy ships off the coast of Yemen. They were launched by Iranian-backed Houthi rebels and were deliberately fired at American warships.

These attacks followed one aimed at the HSV Swift on October 1. The missiles were all identified by the US Naval Institute as being Chinese-produced C-802 anti-ship missiles, sold to Iran, and now being fired at United States vessels by proxy fighters of Tehran.

Then, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan responded to Iraqi demands that Turkey withdraw its troops from northern Iraq by telling Iraqi Prime Minister, Haider al-Abadi at the Eurasian Islamic Council meeting in Istanbul:

“It’s not important at all how you shout from Iraq. You should know that we will do what we want to do. First, know your place. The army of the Republic of Turkey had not lost its standing so as to take orders from you!”

This is the direct consequence of a deal done between the US State Department and Erdogan whereby the US is allowed to use the Turkish airbase at Incirlik in return for Washington turning a blind eye to Turkish actions against the Kurds. Turkey has been allowed to trespass into Iraq and Syria by the US Administration, under the pretext of adding Istanbul to an Obama coalition of nations fighting ISIS. However, facts on the ground clearly show that Turkey has disproportionately been targeting Kurds rather than Islamic State. Turkish warplanes bombed Kurdish fighters, who were fighting ISIS in northern Syria, on October 20.

Egypt and Russia held a week-long joint military exercise in Egypt at the end of October. That followed renewed Russian supplies of military equipment to Cairo after Obama’s refusal to restock the government of Egypt’s Abdel Fattah el-Sisi with US-made weapons and equipment. The US had apparently been upset when in 2013 el-Sisi overthrew the Morsi-led government, backed by the Muslim Brotherhood, with whom the US would apparently and incomprehensibly like to be allied.

Philippines President Rodrigo Dutere announced his country’s separation from the United States on October 20, by declaring that he has realigned it with China as the two nations agreed to resolved their South China Sea dispute. Dutere made his remarks in Beijing on an official visit to which he brought two hundred business people, saying in his address to China’s leadership: “I announce my separation from the United States… I’ve realigned myself in your ideological flow, and maybe I will also go to Russia to talk to Putin and tell him that there are three of us against the world — China, Philippines and Russia.”

Statements that relations were “steady and trusted” by US Assistant Secretary of State David Russel did nothing to hide the fact that America’s impotence is being felt in Asia.

Back to Iran, where a top admiral, Ali Fadavi, said that the US lacks the power to confront Iran militarily. He backed that up by having four Iranian naval speedboats harass US naval ships in the Persian Gulf.

2026Four armed speedboats of Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps harass the US Navy destroyer USS Nitze, on August 24, 2016. (Image source: Fox News video screenshot)

Alon Ben David, chief military correspondent for Israeli TV Channel 10 News, wrote that American foreign policy is turning Iran into a world power by allowing it free range to act in Syria and Yemen, and even having the Obama Administration allow Iran to supply and support a Shi’ite militia taking part in the battle for Mosul.

The acts of global aggression are all the result of an American policy to do little or nothing to stop other actors from strutting the global stage in a dangerous and shifting world.

Many countries evidently believe that America’s role in recent years has been one of damaging everything it touches — or does not touch — leaving them nervously sitting on the sidelines, criticizing what they perceive as the mistakes of others. The reality is that the actors who are replacing a once powerful and influential America are malevolently reshaping both the Middle East and Asia in their own image.

The result has not been a more peaceful world but one in which the vacuum left by America vacating strategically important areas is rapidly being filled by troublesome power-players that leave countries once dependent on US protection feeling increasingly vulnerable.

The consequences of inaction can only soon be damaging to US interests at home as well as abroad.

Brutal ISIS Executions, Military Weakness, and A New Refugee Crisis

October 4, 2016

Brutal ISIS Executions, Military Weakness, and A New Refugee Crisis, Counter Jihad, October 4, 2016

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 Increasingly Russia and their Iranian allies are looking likely to dominate the northern Middle East from Afghanistan to the Levant.  This President has been badly outmaneuvered.  The next President will have to decide how much he or she is willing to risk in order to try to deal with the feeding of “jihadism… by war and state failure.”

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The Islamic State (ISIS) has delivered a new propaganda video showing another gruesome mass execution of fellow Muslims.  The group proclaims that the video should serve as a warning to any Muslims thinking of coming to join any of the rebel armies fighting against them in the conflict.  Amid Nazi salutes, ISIS soldiers clad in stolen American-made 3 color DCU uniforms promised to fight the “apostates” whom they painted as being on the same side as the Americans.

Yet the Americans have done but little to support any allies in the region.  As the Economist notes, US President Barack Obama has kept American forces largely out of the conflict except in an advisory role.  This is because, they explain, he views an American intervention as likely to cause more harm than good.  His policy has been throughout “cool,” “rational,” and “wrong.”

As America has pulled back, others have stepped in—geopolitics abhors a vacuum. Islamic State (IS) has taken over swathes of Syria and Iraq. A new generation of jihadists has been inspired to fight in Syria or attack the West. Turkey, rocked by Kurdish and jihadist violence (and a failed coup), has joined the fight in Syria. Jordan and Lebanon, bursting with refugees, fear they will be sucked in. The exodus of Syrians strengthens Europe’s xenophobic populists and endangers the European Union. A belligerent Russia feels emboldened….

None of this is in America’s interest. Being cool and calculating is not much use if everybody else thinks you are being weak. Even if America cannot fix Syria, it could have helped limit the damage, alleviate suffering and reduce the appeal of jihadism…. Mr Obama says that Mr Assad eventually must go, but has never willed the means to achieve that end. (Some rebel groups receive CIA weapons, but that is about it.)… [J]ihadism is fed by war and state failure: without a broader power-sharing agreement in Syria and Iraq any victory against IS will be short-lived; other jihadists will take its place.

Russia has been building pressure on the Obama administration in other ways.  Since the suspending of talks between the US and Russia, the Putin administration has announced major nuclear war games that will move tens of millions of people to civil defense shelters on very short notice.  They have suspended nuclear arms deals with the United States involving plutonium cleanup, suggesting that they fear the US will cheat.  The Russians have also deployed one of their advanced missile systems outside of their homeland for the first time.  The deployment was made without comment, but as one American official noted wryly, ““Nusra doesn’t have an air force do they?”  Al Nusra Front is an al Qaeda linked organization that has been sometimes allied with, but more often at war with, the Islamic State.

All of this means that America’s window to take a more aggressive approach may be closing, if it has not already closed.  Increasingly Russia and their Iranian allies are looking likely to dominate the northern Middle East from Afghanistan to the Levant.  This President has been badly outmaneuvered.  The next President will have to decide how much he or she is willing to risk in order to try to deal with the feeding of “jihadism… by war and state failure.”

The threat is very real, as estimates are that the assault on Mosul might produce another million refugees headed for Europe and America, orperhaps half again that many.  The failure to take a more aggressive approach may end up bringing a flood tide of human suffering and terror.