What to Do in Syria, Mr Obama?

With friends like Turkey and Saudi Arabia the US does not need enemies in its struggle against ISIS

Thu, Oct 15, 2015
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So many good folks in America, Europe, even the world over are wondering what's going on out there in the Middle East, and particularly, in Syria?

The most concise and accurate answer is that it is a mess, semi-officially described as controlled chaos.

There is an obvious catch though. There is chaos all right, but what about control? The 'elephant in the room' question is whether there is any control at all, at least on the USA's behalf? The next obvious question to ask is how some degree of order can be established there, assuming that this is even America's objective?

Washington's canned response to such questions are well known: "Let's help the moderate opposition topple President Assad's secular regime and everything will be fine and dandy. Freedom, democracy, human rights, reform", and more such feel good buzz-phrases without a doubt.

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This may seem to be a reasonable strategy, were it not for America's past record.

We helped Iraq's opposition hang Saddam Hussein. Result: Years of internecine strife and an astounding rise in terrorism, culminating in the emergence of an entire terrorist quasi-state known today as ISIS.

We then helped our moderate Libyan opposition allies to lynch another dictator, Muammar Gaddafi, and what do we have now? Two competing regimes at each other's throats and countless fanatical terrorist hordes spreading terror toward neighboring countries like Egypt.

With such hindsight it can safely be assumed that the victories of armed opposition groups, whether moderate or fanatical, will not bring any semblance of order to the Middle East. America now finds itself in the schizophrenic position of wanting to oust Assad and siding with ISIS, whom we are supposed to eradicate, to achieve this.

It's a shambles, without any doubt.

One of this unholy muddle's most ghastly abominations is the conception of the so-called "moderate opposition". The notion of an armed, moderate opposition is surely an oxymoron. What can be moderate about taking up arms against a legitimately elected president and government? Especially with funding, weaponry and personnel being supplied from outside the country, by states such as Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Turkey and some 80 other countries?

Some wag said that a difference between moderate and immoderate opposition exists - the former cuts throats from right to left whilst the latter does it from left to right. Or vice versa.

Our administration casually denotes terrorist groups it intends (or claims) to want to eradicate as "moderate", simply because these groups temporarily serve its interests by, for example, removing a legitimate foreign leader it dislikes. Would Bin Laden qualify for "moderate" status today? Quite possibly.

Sadly, this "moderate" opposition business is clearly a sham and the conclusion is obvious. Let’s stop racking our brains for ways to dislodge Assad. Fighting ISIS, that fountain-head of a terrorist pandemic, is a far more pressing priority. ISIS are driving hundreds of thousands of refugees toward  Europe and who can tell how many of them are trained terrorists? Who knows how many of them will eventually disembark in America?

To crush ISIS we need allies on the ground, and it looks like our search for them is becoming rather  desperate. Sure, the Kurds could make a staunch and reliable ally for wiping out ISIS, except for one more complication to the already convoluted mess out there, namely: Turkey. Turkey, a NATO member and thus supposedly on our side, is using the fight against ISIS as a pretext for bombing the hell out of the Kurds. Who needs enemies with friends like that?

Turkey can not be much of an ally if we are to be earnest in our desire to defeat ISIS.

However, we do have a strong potential ally - and you know who I mean - an ally who is willing to join forces with us to defeat an obvious, absolute evil. The obvious question is, why not? Why the hell not shake the proffered hand?

There are problems, of course. This ally has a poor democracy record. Their leader has a displeasing tendency to occasionally claim that his own country's interests do not quite mesh with those of the USA. He is definitely not a Washington yes-man.

Within the framework of this cruel world's realpolitik, it would inadvisable to cite democratic values at every turn because, if this were done, fingers will instantly point at US allies and partners such as Saudi Arabia and Qatar, both countries where people are regularly stoned to death or have limbs publicly severed for committing legal transgressions.

Against this backdrop, we would do well to recall that Franklin D. Roosevelt and Winston Churchill (no angels themselves - Ed.) had no hesitation in sitting down at a round table to discuss weighty matters with Stalin, a man with rather imperfect democratic credentials who nevertheless played a prodigious role in crushing Nazism and Japanese imperialism.

Obama has now been afforded an opportunity to salvage his legacy by forging a similar alliance with Russia to destroy ISIS and other Islamist radicals. Pressing issues such as the illicit trade in nuclear materials, drugs, climate change and other similar challenges facing the world today could also be discussed.

Should Obama fail to take this vital step, the only legacy he will be remembered by is this:

For the first time in history a Nobel Peace Prize winner - Obama - has had to apologize for bombing another Peace Prize Laureate - Médecins Sans Frontières. An unenviable distinction to be remembered by.

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