We push Egypt over the brink, but not Iran/Syria....
Our Syria policy may as soon as today become marginally less pathetic, as Fox reports that Team Obama will expressly call for Assad to step down. Rachel Abrams (Mrs. Elliott) impales the administration for its belated, wimpish move, noting that the announcement was not immediate:
REALLY? “A direct response to Assad’s decision to step up the ruthlessness?” On THURSDAY? What the hell are you waiting for? More dead Syrians? Just say the words. Say them TODAY: “Assad must go!” That might have been a direct response in March. Now, two-thousand-plus deaths later, it’s only a whimper, and you are exposed: A hopeless, useless, rotten, cowardly, pathetic, quaking collection of incompetents standing in the wrong place at the wrong time.
The Washington Post joined the growing chorus this morning, calling serial pronouncements on Syria "rhetorical striptease" that must end now with a call for Assad to leave:
This is the sort of situation in which the United States has historically stepped in to exercise leadership. But Mr. Obama has been passive throughout the Syrian crisis. He has spoken about it in public only twice in five months, while the State Department has performed an excruciating rhetorical striptease. It started with describing Mr. Assad as “a reformer”; a month ago the rhetoric finally progressed to calling the dictator “illegitimate.” But the last handkerchief — a demand that he leave office — has yet to drop. The time for those words is long overdue — and Mr. Obama should utter them, in person and in public.
Fouad Ajami writes that recent protests featured a sign reading "Your Silence is Killing Us"--a poignant reminder that the Syrian people are well aware of American and global quietude.
A truly powerful voice, described as the most influential Sunni Islam, has called for an end to the regime's violent crackdown. As reported by Reuters:
A statement from Grand Imam Ahmed el-Tayeb, head of Cairo-based al-Azhar, a university and clerical body that has been a central seat of Sunni scholarship since the Middle Ages, said the body owed it to the Syrian people to "clearly announce matters have gone beyond the limit."
"This is a human tragedy that cannot be accepted," Tayeb said in the statement carried by Egypt's state news agency MENA. "Blood was shed, families were split up ... and unarmed people are being fought with live ammunition, iron and fire."
"Blood only fuels the fires of revolutions," Tayeb said, calling on Syrian authorities to immediately stop the bloodshed and respond to the "legitimate demands of the people."
So what does the UN do? NOT A MISPRINT: UNICEF makes another grant of humanitarian aid to ... Syria. And what does UNICEF think a dictatorship shooting its people by the carload will do with more money? Build orphanages? Tyrants who make orphans by killing protesting parents seem improbable candidates to do so.
TNR editor-in-chief emeritus Martin Peretz has a brilliant 7-page essay--"Obama's Callous, Ineffective Foreign Policy Blunders Onward"-- that shreds Obama's perverse & dilettante foreign policy. It focuses on Turkey's shift away from the West, and the administration's pathetic policy towards Syria. (The first two paragraphs merit special mention, and then I leave to the reader the scorching remainder; I have edited the second to focus on Hillary's serial banalities):
Almost no one in America cares about foreign affairs, especially not for Barack Obama’s foreign affairs. For he has made of almost his entire conduct of peace and war an amateurish mess, crude, provincial, impetuous, peaceably high-minded but stupid—and full of peril to the world, to its democracies, to the United States itself. If only he had the consistency of George McGovern, we would know that Obama is not really interested in other countries and movements friendly to us and our political ideas; actually, he has some sympathies for enemy states, as the 1972 Democratic candidate for president did for both the Soviet Union and North Vietnam. This is not Obama. He believes—or at least believed—that he can change the world by earnest talk with foreign leaders who share not a single philosophical tenet of egalitarian individualism or representative constitutionalism. Of course, it was not only flabby, earnest talk that he brought to the table. It was also a certain haughty sycophancy before alien potentates and despots whom he thought persuadable through blandishments and obsequy about just how central they were to world peace. Or to whatever.
.... As for Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, she travels around the world with all kinds of truisms that have not the semblance of conviction behind them, let alone the threat of force to back them up. So she is mostly talk. Hosni Mubarak was “family.” That was a choice she made. Unlike with her brothers, this family was not. With Bashar al-Assad, it was a little different. Hillary and her boss had the idiot idea that the monstrous president of Syria was a key to Arab-Israeli peace—or, if not a “key to,” a “prerequisite for.” He has now brutalized his own people so ruthlessly that, if ours were a parliamentary system, Obama would long ago have had to resign. He actually grasped nothing about the Syria in which he invested so much of his cachet.
Clfford May, an old foreign policy hand, specifies concrete steps we can take to increase pressure on the Syrian regime. He writes:
To that end, the Foreign Policy Initiative (FPI), whose board of directors includes William Kristol, Robert Kagan, and Dan Senor, last week issued a "fact sheet" of "five steps to hasten Assad's exit."
- The first is for President Obama to "unequivocally" call for Assad to step down, as he did when Egypt's Hosni Mubarak — whose misdeeds never approached those of Assad — became the object of widespread protests.
- The second is for the U.S. to impose much tougher unilateral sanctions and work for serious multilateral sanctions on Assad, his family, and his cronies, and to push for U.N. Security Council condemnation of the regime. As Tony Badran, a Levant expert at FDD, wrote, "The United States, along with Britain and France, is halfheartedly seeking to overcome Chinese and Russian objections to a Security Council resolution condemning Assad. . . . The position of the superpower, after all, matters."
- The third step is to withdraw the U.S. ambassador from Syria and expel Syria's envoy from the United States. Ambassador Robert Ford has done a commendable job — his visit to Hama, where protests were mounting, is what precipitated the assault on the U.S. embassy. But as Elliott Abrams of the Council on Foreign Relations noted, unless Ford is now willing and able to ratchet up his "public displays of disgust with the regime and its behavior . . . there is no point in his remaining in Syria."
- Fourth, the U.S. should energetically support Syria's referral to the U.N. Security Council for stonewalling the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), which has been trying to investigate Assad's nuclear program — revealed only when the Israelis, in 2007, destroyed a plutonium-producing nuclear reactor secretly built with North Korean assistance.
- Fifth, the U.S. could be encouraging Turkey to apply pressure on Assad. As FDD's Gerecht has also pointed out, Turkish public opinion has turned against Assad, making this the moment to challenge the strength and wisdom of Ankara's "nonsectarian, pro-Muslim, 'neo-Ottoman' policy."
- I would add this: The U.S. should directly (though perhaps covertly) assist the liberal opposition movements in Syria. In recent days, Syrian dissidents have received secure communications technology — but from private sources, not the U.S. government.
And there is more. Andrew Tabler, Syria maven at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy, suggests targeting Syria's energy vulnerabilities, which are substantial.
Administration policies re Iran, Egypt, Libya & Israel are no better:
A Washington Post editorial pointedly concludes that Team Obama has no serious strategy to stop Iran's drive to go nuclear. Iran's rulers have concluded much the same, citing US engagements in several wars plus a declining financial position. A New York Times front-pager reports that the scientist heading Iran's uranium enrichment program narrowly escaped assassination eight months ago.
Despite US pro-democracy funding, a broad spectrum of Egyptians are fanning anti-American propaganda, much of it alleging conspiracies against the revolution that Washington supported last winter. John Bolton eviscerates Team Obama's insane asking of Russia that she mediate in Libya, as NATO flounders. This is yet another example of the administration's reckless "re-set" policy towards Russia, in which seeking Mother Russia's affections seemingly tops all. Mother Russia, alas, is sentimental only to ethnic Russians--and then, only those that support the kleptocratic regime.
Team Obama has in precisely the opposite sense "re-set" relations with Israel: Caroline Glick notes that Obama has a coherent Mideast policy only as to Israel: one of hostility. In effect, The One kisses Russia and kicks Israel.
Ralph Peters salutes the unsung hero of the Arab Spring: George W. Bush.
Bottom Line. With Syria tottering, Obama has tried to prop it up, rather than admit the utter error of his failed outreach policy towards a country that has been irremediably hostile to American interests in the forty years of rule by the Assad clan. One can only hope America gets luckier than the present administration deserves to get, and that Syria's odious Iran-allied regime does in fact fall. Climbing on a resignation bandwagon so belatedly will earn us little credit, but better late than never. It would be the one great burst of sunlight into the largely desolate Arab Spring.
Letter from the Capitol, LFTC, National Security, Foreign Policy, Conservative Politics