First Results of Flawed US Policy in Syria
Nikolai BOBKIN | 21.10.2015 | OPINION

First Results of Flawed US Policy in Syria

Three weeks have passed since the Russian Aerospace Forces launched an operation in Syria. It’s unclear what the United States will do next. The recent events have made the administration split on the issue. Some want the President to take more resolute actions, while others share his caution about escalating the situation against the background of joint actions undertaken by Russia and Syria. Top US officials – State Secretary John Kerry, Defense Secretary Ashton Carter and CIA Director John Brennan – are among those who criticize the President.

The White House plans to expand NATO and introduce new sanctions against Russia. It’s trying to make the conflict between Moscow and Kiev linger on for many years. But, although the situation in Syria has gone through drastic changes, the United States appears to have no response plan. 

Washington has not even tried to make the United Nations Security Council condemn Russia’s military operation. Russia is the only country taking part in the hostilities against the Islamic State in accordance with the norms of international law. That’s the major difference between Moscow and all other actors involved in the Syria’s conflict. 

The US leading role in the fight against international terrorism in the Middle East has proven to be a myth. US Air Force pilots fly no more than one-two sorties a day. Sometimes they are joined by Canadians. This effort evidently pales in comparison with the flight intensity of Russian Aerospace Forces. The Pentagon distorts the truth when it says that the Russian aviation does not concentrate its effort on striking Islamic State targets. Russian military is ready to include the targets indicated by the US into the hit list, but Washington refuses to share its intelligence data. 

Perhaps, the United States does not have detailed information. Presumably, this is another weak point adding to the list of negative results produced by the US fight against the Islamic State. The US intelligence has ignored the fact that during the war years the country has turned into a testing ground used not only by Syrian militants but also by foreign armed groups. Opposition groups are simultaneously fighting against the regime of Assad and each other as well. The United States has not made a final decision on whom to support in Syria. The special services had a mission to topple the current Syrian government at any price siding with any force pursuing the same goal. That’s what they have been doing…

The United States has supported the Islamic State (or the Islamic State of Iraq and Levant – ISIS) since the very start of civil war in Syria. Now it has to reject the cooperation with the group while all other terrorist groups and multiple al-Qaeda cells remain to be US allies.

Today the US public opinion does not support the «hawks». For instance, the New York Times, offers its own view on the goals the United States should pursue in Syria. First, bring order to those parts of the country that the Islamic State does not control. Second, strive to build a coalition of forces that can contain the Islamic State. It comes to the conclusion that the Russia’s «intrusion» could offer a chance to achieve both. That is if the US mission is to fight terrorism in Syria, something many Americans have started to doubt.

Rasmussen Reports, a media company specializing in the collection, publication and distribution of public opinion information, conducted a survey of 1000 likely voters on October 4-5. 46% respondents said terrorists are winning over the US and its allies. Only 26% hold the opposite point of view. More voters than ever (during 11 years) think terrorists have the advantage over the United States and its allies.

Ralph Peters, a Fox News’ strategic analyst and an author, writes on the pages of the New York Post, that, «Never before has a US presidential administration combined such naked cowardice, intellectual arrogance and willful blindness. We don’t have a president – we have a scared child covering his eyes at a horror movie.» 

The events in Syria make Americans draw a comparison between the US and Russian leaders. It has become a hot topic in public discourse. Obviously, the comparison does not favor Obama. Republican presidential frontrunner Donald Trump highly appraised personal qualities of President Putin compared to the weakness demonstrated by the US President: «I will tell you that, in terms of leadership, he's getting an "A" and our president is not doing so well», he said. «They did not look good together», Trump added referring to their recent meeting at the United Nations General Assembly in New York.

Another Republican presidential racerunner Jeb Bush called Vladimir Putin an "agile adversary", who is exploiting a vacuum of US leadership in Syria. But it’s not what makes his statement stand out. The Republican candidate Bush said that if elected in 2016 he would seek to build a coalition of European and Arab partners to work for the ouster of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad. The world should wait till Republicans win the presidential election. But the GOP, as well, as the Democratic Party, is deeply split on Syria.

Even the supporters of Senator John McCain, who says «Putin must be stopped» before he «crushes out partners», don’t see eye to eye on the issue. For instance Meghan McCain, who is often called in the United States a rising star of GOP, has her own views on many problems which often do not coincide with the opinion of party leadership. She emphasized the fact that the Russian President acts while the US administration reacts. «When it comes to leadership. If you don't believe that Putin is now the world's leader, the national world reader – excuse me, international leader right now, he is acting, we are reacting», said  he daughter of the leading congressional advocate for confrontational approach toward Russia during the Democratic presidential preview on Fox channel. In a way, McCain shares the views of his daughter. «The administration warned Russia not to send its forces to Syria. Russia did it anyway. The administration then tried to block Russia’s access op airspace en route to Syria. It failed», says the Chairman of the Senate Committee on Armed Services to express his indignation.

McCain wants Washington to continue combat actions in Syria while exerting pressure on Russia. «However this conflict ends, it must not involve Putin shoring up his partners, crushing ours, destroying our remaining credibility in the Middle East, and restoring Russia as a major power in this vital region», he says.

The concern expressed by the US Senator is justified. He and the current US administration do not understand that in Syria Russia strives to do away with terrorism, put an end to bloodshed and reach a peaceful political settlement to the conflict preserving the prerogatives of legal government. Can the United States find arguments to substantiate objections?

Tags: Middle East  Russia  Syria  US 

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