A Syrian boy carries a toy gun past a destroyed building in the northeastern Syrian city of Qamishli. © AFP/File
By Andrew Beatty
WASHINGTON (AFP) – President Barack Obama defended his refusal to use military force to end Syria’s brutal civil war Wednesday, as diplomatic efforts faltered and a humanitarian crisis of historic proportions unfolded in Aleppo.
With just months left in office, the besiegement and bombardment of Syria’s second city has put Obama’s polices back under the spotlight and exposed deep unease within his administration.
“There hasn’t been probably a week that’s gone by in which I haven’t reexamined some of the underlying premises around how we’re dealing with the situation in Syria,” Obama told a CNN town hall debate.
“I’ll sit in the situation room with my Secretary of Defense, the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, we’ll bring in outside experts — I will bring in critics of my policy to find out, OK, you don’t think this is the right way to go.”
But, Obama insisted, “in Syria, there is not a scenario in which, absent us deploying large numbers of troops, we can stop a civil war in which both sides are deeply dug in.”
“There are going to be some bad things that happen around the world, and we have to be judicious.”
The civil war has dragged on for more than five years and so far killed 300,000 people.
Obama has sent around 300 troops to Syria, focused on the battle against the Islamic State group, but has refused to plunge them into a civil war that is not in America’s strategic interest.
Instead he has instead backed diplomacy as the only way out of the crisis.
But since a US-brokered ceasefire crashed on takeoff last week, Russia and Syria have launched rolling airstrikes on rebel-held eastern Aleppo, where a quarter of a million people are trapped.
Forces loyal to Bashar al-Assad’s regime have simultaneously launched a ground assault, eying a victory that could prove decisive in the five-year war.
On Wednesday, two of the largest hospitals in rebel-held parts of the city were bombed, prompting UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon to describe that attack as a war crime.
Already the situation is being compared to Guernica — a savage bombardment immortalized by Pablo Picasso’s painting.
In response, Obama’s administration has threatened to suspend its engagement with Russia unless the bombing stops.
But Obama again insisted that ultimately there must be a political solution, while saying that the US would try to ameliorate the suffering.
The State Department on Wednesday said it would release a further $364 million to UN aid agencies and NGOs working to help vulnerable Syrian civilians inside and outside the war-torn country.
– Diplomacy, not war –
Obama came to office on a platform of opposition to the war in Iraq and ending the war in Afghanistan.
Throughout his presidency he has been reluctant to deploy combat troops and argued for a more judicious use of American military power and assessment of the national interest.
“Historically, if you look at what happens to great nations, more often than not, they end up having problems because they are overextended, don’t have a clear sense of what is their core interests,” Obama said.
Critics argue that he has defined the national interest too narrowly and that the Syrian conflict has called America’s reputation and commitment to the rule of law into serious question.
It has also created a refugee crisis that has destabilized Europe and has allowed Russia and Iran to assert greater power in the Middle East.
“It is long past time for the United States to reassess its shameful approach to the Syrian crisis,” said Charles Lister of the Middle East Institute.
“US indecision, risk aversion, a total divergence between rhetoric and policy, and a failure to uphold clearly stated ‘red lines’ have all combined into what can best be described as a cold-hearted, hypocritical approach.”
“At worst, Washington has indirectly abetted the wholesale destruction of a nation-state, in direct contradiction to its fundamental national security interests and its most tightly held values.”
We at Peace and Freedom believe that the refugee crisis the world is now engulfed in was caused by the inability of all nations involved to prevent or stop the conditions that caused this mass migration. Before Barack Obama was elected President and Hillary Clinton was the U.S. Secretary of State, there was not the “migration crisis” as the EU likes to call it. For us, when President Obama failed to enforce his “red line” in Syria, everything in the world changed. Putin in Russia and Xi Jinping in China concluded that the U.S. would no longer stand up for international law. Putin charged into Syria, making a very bad mess in the Middle East even worse. China went into the South China Sea and built islands that it now claims as its own. China has ignored what President Obama has called the “binding” nature of the ruling on July 12, 2016 by the Permanent Court of Arbitration in The Hague that said China’s “nine dash line” in the South China Sea was invalid under international law.
Above: Most of Syria is in ruins.
Retired U.S. Military Leaders Say Obama let Al-Qaeda grow ‘fourfold in last 5 years’ — Largely Due to lack of Strategy To Win
Retired military personnel told senators that the lack of White House strategy makes US combat efforts in the Middle East unwinnable. One general added that “failed” policy has allowed Al-Qaeda to grow “fourfold” since President Barack Obama’s election.
Gen. Jack Keane joined retired US Marine Corps Gen. James Mattis and retired Navy Adm. William Fallon on Tuesday to testify before the new members of the Senate Armed Services Committee – which for the first time includes veterans from the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, such as Republican Sen. Joni Ernst of Iowa.
During the testimony, the panel questioned the policy path followed by the Obama administration regarding the battle against the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria, as well as the war in Afghanistan. Gen. Keane told lawmakers that despite efforts to beat back Al-Qaeda, the group has actually grown over the past few years.
“As you can see on the map, Al-Qaeda and its affiliates exceeds Iran and is beginning to dominate multiple countries. In fact, Al-Qaeda has grown fourfold in the last five years,” he said.
“The Islamic State of Iraq, ISIS, is an outgrowth from Al-Qaeda in Iraq, which was defeated in Iraq by 2009. After US troops pulled out of Iraq in 2011, ISIS emerged as a terrorist organization in Iraq, moved into Syria in 2012. Is it possible to look at that map in front of you and claim that the United States policy and strategy is working? Or that Al-Qaeda is on the run? It is unmistakable that our policies have failed.”
Keane, a Vietnam veteran, helped oversee the initial invasion of Iraq. Following his 2003 retirement, he became one of the most vocal advocates for increasing the number of troops deployed to the war. He was instrumental in the policy of a “surge” of ground troops under Gen. David Petraeus. Keane is also a national security advisor for Fox News.
The retired general told the committee that Al-Qaeda declared war on the United States in the early 1990s and desired to drive the US out of the region and dominate all Muslim lands. He said that as the most ambitious Islamic-based movement, it wants to eventually achieve world domination.
“US policy makers refuse to accurately name the movement radical Islam. We fully chose not to define it and its ideology, and most critically we have no comprehensive strategy to stop it and defeat it,” said Keane.
Some of Keane’s sentiments were echoed by others on the panel who agreed the US needs to more clearly and directly lay out its policy goals and define its enemies.
“[We need to] come out from our reactive crouch and take a firm, strategic stance in defense of our values,” Mattis said during his testimony on Tuesday morning.
“America needs a refreshed national security strategy,” he added, saying that it must look beyond the string of crises “currently consuming the executive branch.” Mattis said the US has been in a “strategy-free” stance in Iraq for some time, and that didn’t begin with the Obama administration.
China Legal Scholar Says “No Independence for Hong Kong in Next 1,000 Years” — Discussing independence for Hong Kong is committing “treason” and “sedition” — He Wows Asia-Pacific Law Association in Hong Kong
Iranian Soldiers, War Machines On Display — Parade shows Iran’s growing military strength in the face of growing regional tensions (During the United Nations General Assembly)
At the U.N. General Assembly on September 20, 2016, Mr Obama spoke of advances in tackling climate change and in international development efforts, but also recognised what he called “fault lines in our international order.” Russia’s leader Vladimir Putin and China’s top man Xi Jinping skipped the United Nations meeting this year — ceding the field to the charming Mr. Obama…..
Credit Korean Central News Agency, via Agence France-Presse — Getty Images
Angela Merkel had to skip the U.N. General Assembly in New York as the voters in Germany are in revolt while rejecting her leadership….
Workers dig the foundations of a wall near the Calais migrant “Jungle” camp on Tuesday, September 20, 2016 (during the UN General Assembly) to stop migrants from jumping on lorries bound for Britain. Credit AFP
Obama Legacy: America’s middle class is headed toward extinction (Read the Associated Press)
Putin was too busy for the U.N. General Assembly this year…
Tags: Aleppo, anti-ISIS, Assad, Ban Ki-moon, Bashar al-Assad, cease fire, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Charles Lister, chemical weapons, China, Daesh, destabilized Europe, East China Sea, Hillary Clinton, humanitarian crisis, incremental troops increases, Iran, Iraq, ISIL, ISIS, Islamic state, Jack Keane, James Mattis, Japan, John Kerry, lack of an Obama Administration strategy to win, mass migration, Middle East, Middle East Institute, migrants, North Korea, Obama, Obama's administration, pivot to Asia, President Barack Obama, Radical Islamist terrorists, red line, refugees, Russia, Secretary of Defense, South China Sea, Syria, truce, U. S., U.S. miliatry, United Nations, US-brokered ceasefire, William Fallon