A few bright spots?

With the fall of Qusayr to Hezbollah and Syrian government military forces the tide seems to have turned against the military forces that are allied against the Assad dictatorship in Syria. With Assad solidly allied with Hezbollah, which has one of the best militaries in the Mideast, and with Iran and Russia its appears that the regime will win against its enemies. Syria will remain an enslaved nation.

However there are a few bright spots on the horizon. The appointment by the Obama administration this week of Susan Rice as National Security Advisor and of Samantha Power as US Representative to the United Nations is definitely good news. Samantha Powers has been the foremost spokesperson in the cause of fighting genocides and other crimes against humanity for over a decade now. Both she and Susan Rice were very influential in the decision by the Obama administration to create a no fly zone in Libya in 2011. And Rice herself has been a strong backer of the idea that nation states can not simply be permitted to slaughter their own peoples in a civilized world.

Another promising development has been in the nature of the support that Syrian opposition forces are receiving from the Arab world. Recently Qatar which has been a strong supporter of the Muslim Brotherhood, a major and in the West unacceptable player in the Syrian opposition, has been almost completely replaced by Saudi Arabia which is now the chief supplier of military aid to rebel forces. Given the conservative nature of the Saudi state one would think that they would support the most reactionary of the revolutionary forces in Syria. But on the contrary Saudi Arabia has in general supported the most moderate forces led by General Salim Idriss in opposition to the dictatorship. These forces within the Syrian Free Army are forces that the United States should be able to support if it cares at all.

The significance of President Obama’s recent appointment of Rice and Power and of the fact that moderate forces within the Syrian opposition may now begin to receive at least some of the aid they need from Saudi Arabia makes it quite possible that the Obama team will decide hopefully soon to begin to support the Syrian opposition forces with strong imputes of military aid and training. While this in itself may not be able to turn the tide against Assad, it will at least give the Syrian people some possibility of long term victory against the regime. It may give them at least a fighting chance and perhaps possibly redeem part of American honor which has been lost by its unwillingness to give meaningful support to the Syrian people in this conflict.

Glenn King


The Dangerous Price of Ignoring Syria

“America may think it does not have any interests in Syria, but it has interests everywhere the Syrian conflict touched.”

As regrettable as the Syrian conflict is with its loss of 70,000 Syrian lives, the United States has no national interest in intervening in the conflict. That mantra of “national self interest” is heard repeatedly by the majority of media pundits as represented by such well known figures as Ted Koppel and foreign policy professionals such as Robert E. Hunter who advise the Obama administration to refuse to get involved in the Syrian conflict in any way beyond its  role as a provider of humanitarian aid and of diplomatic posturing. Well Vali Nasr, Dean of the School of Advanced International Studies at John Hopkins University is also able to discuss America’s self interest. And he believes that it is in America’s national self interest to aid the Syrian people in their struggle against the Assad regime. I think he has the more credible position.

Glenn King

The Dangerous Price of Ignoring Syria

By: Vali Nasr

Editor’s note: This article originally appeared in The International Herald Tribune.

President Obama has doggedly resisted American involvement in Syria. The killing of over 70,000 people and the plight of over a million refugees have elicited sympathy from the White House but not much more. That is because Syria challenges a central aim of Obama’s foreign policy: shrinking the U.S. footprint in the Middle East and downplaying the region’s importance to global politics. Doing more on Syria would reverse the U.S. retreat from the region.

Since the beginning of Obama’s first term, the administration’s stance as events unfolded in the Middle East has been wholly reactive. This “lean back and wait” approach has squandered precious opportunity to influence the course of events in the Middle East. Click here to continue.