The Obama Administration’s Syria Policy Meltdown

COMMENTARY Global Politics

The Obama Administration’s Syria Policy Meltdown

Feb 5th, 2014 2 min read
COMMENTARY BY
James Phillips

Senior Research Fellow, The Heritage Foundation

James Phillips is a senior research fellow for Middle Eastern affairs at The Heritage Foundation.

Secretary of State John Kerry admitted that the Obama Administration’s policy on Syria was failing and needed to be changed, according to two Republican Senators.

Senators John McCain (R–AZ) and Lindsey Graham (R–SC), who were part of a congressional delegation attending the Munich Security Conference, revealed that Kerry, in a closed-door briefing for a bipartisan congressional delegation, “acknowledged that the chemical weapons [disarmament agreement] is being slow-rolled, the Russians continue to supply arms [and] we are at a point now where we are going to have to change our strategy.”

The two Senators disclosed Kerry’s comments to reporters from Bloomberg NewsThe Daily Beast, and The Washington Post. Graham noted that Kerry concluded that the United States needed a more assertive policy in part because of the growing threat posed by al-Qaeda in Syria.

Last week, Director of National Intelligence James Clapper told the Senate Intelligence Committee that Syria “is becoming a center of radical extremism and a potential threat to the homeland.”

U.S. intelligence officials warned earlier this month that al-Qaeda forces in Syria are actively seeking to recruit Americans who have traveled there to fight or assist opposition forces. At least 70 Americans have joined various rebel groups in Syria, and some could pose a potential terrorist threat when they return home.

The Obama Administration has made a bad situation worse by failing to adequately support secular and nationalist Syrian rebel groups. This has tilted the field in favor of Islamist groups that generally are better-armed, better-equipped, and better-funded by Islamist networks and by Saudi Arabia, Qatar, and other Arab oil kingdoms.

Meanwhile, the Obama Administration has put blind faith in diplomatic negotiations that are doomed to failure without exerting much more intense pressure on Syrian dictator Bashar al-Assad, who continues to get away with murder. Last week, the U.S.-sponsored Geneva II conference failed to produce any progress toward a political solution or even secure the Assad regime’s permission for greater humanitarian food and medical aid.

Moreover, Damascus continues to drag its feet on turning over its chemical weapons for destruction, as Heritage Foundation analysts predicted. Assad has slow-walked the movement of chemical munitions and related materials to prolong the disarmament process, forestall U.S. military action, and buy time to crush the opposition.

As long as Assad remains in power, the situation will continue to deteriorate and enable the rise of Islamist extremists in Syria and nearby states. Assad is the biggest part of the problem, not a realistic part of the solution. The sooner the Obama Administration realizes this, the sooner it can correct its disastrous Syria policy.

This piece originally appeared in The Daily Signal