On Syria, Obama Dons His Interventionist Cap – Again

John Glaser, February 19, 2014


The United States met secretly this week with spy chiefs from Britain, France, Saudi Arabia, Turkey, Qatar, and the United Arab Emirates. The subject was the Syrian civil war and how to better support the rebels, which are by and large al-Qaeda-linked jihadists.

David Ignatius at the Washington Post:

Western and Arab intelligence services that support Syria’s struggling opposition gathered for a two-day strategy meeting in Washington last week that appears to signal a stronger effort to back the rebels.

The spymasters’ conclave featured Prince Mohammed bin Nayef, Saudi Arabia’s minister of the interior, who will now supervise the kingdom’s leading role in the covert-action program.

The Nation‘s Bob Dreyfus says this is “a sign that the [Obama] administration’s commitment to diplomacy is fading, and that Obama is prepared to let the covert operators go to work with a freer leash.”

“Sources” told David Ignatius that these Arab countries “agreed to coordinate their aid so that it goes directly to moderate fighters rather than leeching away to extremists of the al-Nusra Front, an al-Qaeda affiliate, and the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS).”

That is not a credible promise. For years now, aid from Arab countries like Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Kuwait, and the UAE has been going to Sunni extremists and most likely contributed significant military and political gains of the al-Qaeda-linked jihadist groups, over the less popular and less numerous “moderate” groups. Even if these regimes were sincere in their efforts to keep lethal aid from al-Qaeda-linked groups (which is dubious) the logistical challenges associated with making sure only “moderate” rebels get the aid are steep enough to doubt such a covert program’s effectiveness.

Ignatius even explains how “aid flows have been disrupted by political infighting between Turkey and Qatar, on the one hand, and Saudi Arabia and Jordan, on the other.” Extremists got their hands on this aid in any case: “The situation has been especially chaotic in northern Syria, south of the Turkish border, where the al-Qaeda affiliates have taken advantage of the confusion.”

In addition to this, Ignatius also notes, the CIA has been covertly training and arming Syrian rebels inside Jordan.

One would have thought we were passed this. After the failed effort in Washington to boost support for Syrian rebels and the bumbling screw up that was the Obama administration’s quickly-aborted plan to bomb Syria, it seemed as if power brokers in the White House and Capitol Hill came to grips with the fact that there were no good options. A no-fly zone would worsen the humanitarian situation and produce a dangerous power vacuum with the end of the Assad regime and boosting arms supplies to the rebels seemed dumber and dumber due to the increasingly extremist make-up of the opposition. The political science literature is pretty clear on this: civil wars in which competing foreign powers support both sides tend to last longer and reach stalemate, making both the humanitarian and the strategic circumstances all the worse.

Given these realities, the Obama administration’s continued efforts to meddle in the Syrian civil war lack common sense. It won’t save lives (as liberal interventionists are wont to claim as their motivation) and it will either produce further stalemate or, although it’s extremely unlikely, generate the collapse of the Assad regime (which would consequently increase the position of jihadist groups). None of these are desirable outcomes.

The New York Times speculated the other day about why the Obama administration was apparently changing its mind on more active support for the rebels: “Mr. Obama’s apparent willingness to drop objections to supplying the rebel groups with heavier weapons may simply be an acknowledgment that Saudi Arabia and gulf states that are frustrated with American policy are now prepared to do so anyway, without Washington’s blessing.”

Ah yes, Saudi Arabia – the tail that wags the dog. Either that or Obama’s ‘do-something’ mindset simply hasn’t yet been exhausted.

27 Responses to “On Syria, Obama Dons His Interventionist Cap – Again”

  1. The problem is that Obama still adheres to a liberal internationalist version of "American exceptionalism." If bad stuff happens, we are supposed to fix it. Thus, the fact that the United States has no vital interests in Syria may be trumped by "humanitarian" concerns–although as in Iraq, the results of intervention are hardly likely to be humane.

    Obama's not as crazy as Bush was in his first term, but he still adheres to a namby-pamby version of Wilsonianism.

  2. Arabia is Hamas on earth and hizbAlla at sea/sky.

  3. Can anyone name a US “intervention” where they got it right ? Iran(53) Vietnam Chile(the first9/11 the CIA sponsored murder of Allende) the former Yugoslavia Iraq Libya Syria anybloodywhere at all Nicaragua El Salvador Granada . USA surely one of the greatest threats to “world peace “.

  4. The Obama's rule is to expend these regime religious territorial by the way of their Islamic terrorism as Salafis, Wahhabis and their affiliated terrorist groups whatever their names. Turkish government doing what they are told by the Saudis and EU-NATO government. Is just an beginning of a militarization-Islamization politics by Obama, the only tool left that can be used against functioning democracy.

  5. May the Assad government fulfill its constitutional duty and vanquish the invaders. The U.S. never had any business intervening and when it finally loses it will find itself shut out of much of Syria's reconstruction. Stupid policies lead to tragic failure. The Syrian people will never, and should never have to forget America's responsibility for the carnage it has suffered. The only question is will the American people realize it and try to make good. Right now Obama is still moving in the wrong direction.

  6. Of course we're not "past this". The only reason Obama backed off from attacking Syria is because Putin out-maneuvered him and Assad agreed to dump his (basically non-existent because not ready for use) chemical weapons.

    Obama is STILL dead-set on degrading Syria's military in order to enable Israel to attack Hizballah in the Bekaa Valley in Lebanon via transit through Syrian territory. The new plans being discussed include putting US troops along the border and aiding the insurgents in attacking Syrian military bases which contain missiles and other weapons that could threaten Israel in an Iran war.

    Nothing has changed.

  7. During Yugoslavia war, Saudis brought in their mercenaries beheading Serbian and every other nationals that were against the rule of the Balkan mafia Hashim Taci, a Sunni Muslim friend of Madeline Albright CIA and Bill Clinton homegrown terrorist, here in Ukraine there is no sign of Saudis mercenaries yet, because Neo fascism, hooliganism, anarchism doing the job of Hitlerism and is approved by EU and USG.

  8. Who are these "Moderate Fighters"?

    Ignatius says, "Sources said these countries agreed to coordinate their aid so that it goes directly to moderate fighters rather than leaching away to extremists of the al-Nusra Front, an al-Qaeda affiliate, and the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS)."

    Seymore Hersh's 2007 article, "The Re-Direction" stated that the Bush administration and Saudi Arabia were re-labeling al-Qaida and other extremist groups as "moderates" to be supported. "[Condolezza Rice] pointed to the Sunni states as centers of moderation, and said that Iran, Syria, and Hezbollah were “on the other side of that divide.”

    So Obama and Saudi Arabia are "aiding" al-Qaida and al-Nusra for the coming spring offensive.

  9. We've seen that Obama is feckless with his helter-skelter approach to international relations. The only reason the EU, for example, continue to listen to him is not because it's Obama talking, but the US.

    The US has no business interfering in the Syrian affair. As we saw earlier when the USG was seriously planning on using the US military to force the issue, the American people want nothing to do with another war. So, with that in mind, the way to shut this whole "intervention" thing down is to initiate a massive public relations campaign around the FACT that the USG is actively supporting al-Qaeda. Now Bubba and Bubbette might not understand the subtleties of " moderate rebels" and "radical rebels" but they do understand "terrorists." If the press screams loud enough and long enough that Obama is "aiding and abetting" the terrorists who brought us 9/11, I believe the ground will move sufficiently to stop Obama's plans in their tracks. The debate that follows will also reveal the true advocates of perpetual war in the ME among the members of Congress and the MSM.

    So, sing loud and sing proud…supporting terrorists is not who the majority of Americans are. We should use the tools we are given to put a stop to this insanity.

  10. […] Read more […]

  11. Seems 2me poster curmudgeonvt –hasn't caught on for the past 12 years–Sept 11/01 was Israel Firster's Job not a Muslim attack.
    ''If the press screams loud enough and long enough that Obama is "aiding and abetting" the terrorists who brought us 9/11,""

    Are Americans this stupid?

  12. Obama, Kerry, and others, have said "there is no military solution" yet continue to pursue that option instead of engaging in genuine negotiations to bring the bloodshed, dislocation, and starvation to an end.

  13. Even assuming the best of intentions (very dubious), this idea that America has the solution to all the strife in the world is incredibly naive at best. And disastrous at worst.

  14. obama is pissed because the southern oil line won out, poor loser, and how OLD does he look? 90?

  15. Shame on you "Antiwar", are you so desperate to support your fanatical, terrorist secular buddy Bashar the Butcher that you are now implying that all the rebels (supported by the Sunni MAJORITY of Syria – upto 80% of the Syrian population) are basically "extremists", "jihadists",etc, i.e. "bad" dudes.
    How on earth does a regime that rapes, tortures to death, fires Scud missiles, drops barrel bombs, uses Russian supplied planes, helicopters and rockets on its own population not come under your scrutiny?? Are you so desperate for Obama/the "International Community" NOT to help the Syrian Sunnis that you will completely overlook the horiffic and barbaric suffering they've undergone especially since the initially peaceful protests started over 3 years ago before your secular extremist/terrorist friends (the Baathists) started the rape, torture and killing of un-armed civilians..who have obviously had to defend themselves and now go on the attack.
    Shame on you…..

  16. "Are you so desperate for Obama/the "International Community" NOT to help the Syrian Sunnis"

    Sure, just like the "international community" helped liberate the Iraqis.

  17. Please tell me that you aren't so naive as to believe it when Obamas and the Clintons say that their war is for 'humanitarian' reasons. This would mean you actually believe that a politician is telling the truth when he tells you he has to take your tax dollars and send your kids off to die.

    Back when the Bushies were making up a list of countries to overthrow, Syria was on the list. Obama is still running the same game plan. It has nothing to do with humanitarianism nor whatever you mean by 'Wilsonianism'. Probably the main reason Syria has been on the target list for some time now is that Israel wants them gone.

    The bigger picture reason that someone like Chomsky would point out is that any government that doesn't kowtow to the US and to western banks is the enemy and must be overthrown or otherwise replaced. The US is now simply unable to tolerate that there might be any place on earth that it doesn't control everything down to whether its legal to copy some music for a friend or which plants are legal to grow.

  18. Even better, we are being told we have to spend more money supplying extra military aid to the Iraqi government that is fighting the exact same fighters in the western areas of Iraq. The same Sunni Al-Qaeda groups are fighting on both sides of the border. On one side of that imaginary line drawn by English and French diplomats we give money and aid to Al-Qaeda calling them moderates. On the other side of that imaginary line we give money and aid to the Iraqi government saying they need it to fight dangerous Sunni terrorists. I guess if you're an arms dealer you gotta love it.

  19. Near the end of world war II, a pair of diplomats named Sykes and Picot drew a line on a map creating a border between Syria and Iraq.

    These Sunni Al-Qaeda forces are fighting on both sides of the line. The Maliki government the US put into place in Iraq at the cost of thousands of American lives and a trillion or so of US tax dollars is currently waging major military operations against the same Sunni Al-Qaeda fighters. We are being told the US needs to send more aid, or possible even send troops, to aid the Iraqi government.

    So, on one side of the line, we call these Sunni fighters 'moderates' and step up our efforts to give them guns and supplies and our support. On the other side of the line that Sykes and Picot drew, we call the same Sunni fighters 'terrorist's and we step up shipments of arms and munitions to the government we put in place to fight them.

  20. PS … sorry, typo at the beginning … Sykes-Picot was at the end of WWI. As anyone who's watched Lawrence of Arabia knows. Sorry for the extra I.

  21. If you poll the American people you will find that a large majority of them believe that 9/11 was perpetrated by al-Qaeda. It's much easier for them to believe what they have been told by the government instead of taking the time to put the pieces together for themselves. Not everyone is blessed with the perceptive insight you obviously display.

    And yes, many Americans are that stupid.

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  25. […] Obama administration continues to meddle in the Syrian civil war, futilely supporting rebel militias that are making the country and the […]

  26. […] Obama administration continues to meddle in the Syrian civil war, futilely supporting rebel militias that are making the country and the […]

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