By Arab News
By Tariq Alhomayed
The blame for the situation in Syria does not lie with Russia alone; one of the biggest problems is also the Obama administration, which has squandered a golden opportunity to get rid of a significant obstacle to security in the region — and by extension US national security, Bashar Al-Assad.
However, it is clear that Obama is not concerned with the security of the region — even though it impacts upon international security as a whole, especially with the chaos in Syria overlooking the Mediterranean — rather Obama is preoccupied with his re-election bid.
The US administration has directed as much blame, if not more, toward the Syrian opposition as it has toward Assad. What is worse, and indeed a major scandal, is that the Obama administration has said that there could be an Al-Qaeda presence (among the opposition) in Syria, even though Al-Qaeda ran wild in Iraq under the auspices of the Al-Assad regime. When I say this is a scandal, this is because the American newspaper The Washington Post — quoting US intelligence agents — reported that the only evidence Washington has of an Al-Qaeda presence in Syria is the style — yes the style — of the bombing that took place in Damascus, and nothing more! The Obama administration is the one calling for the Syrian opposition to unify their ranks, yet Washington knows full well that the unification of the opposition requires international support and hard work, in any situation, not mere statements.
The problem with the current US administration is that it is notorious for misinterpreting events in the region. Here it is suffice to consider Obama’s dealings with the Green Revolution, where instead of supporting it he decided to withdraw from Iraq, leaving it in the hands of Al-Maliki and Tehran. With regard to Syria, the Obama administration says that the Assad regime is still cohesive, but this is something to be expected for several reasons. Washington knows the extent of Iranian support for Assad, in terms of arms, money, men, equipment and all manner of resources, via Iraq. This makes it difficult for any Syrian official to defect. How could they, when they don’t see Obama taking any form of serious stand, and instead opposing the armament of the Syrian opposition and refusing to declare that overthrowing the tyrant of Damascus is an issue of national security? How could a full military division defect when there is no buffer zone to ensure the protection of the defectors and to help them re-organize their ranks? Those who defected in Libya went to Benghazi, but where would the Syrian defectors go? If the Obama administration wants to see significant and rapid divisions, then it must adopt a firm stance. Let us recall the era of George W. Bush, when the US administration brandished the stick toward Assad after the assassination of Rafik Hariri, with an international tribunal just around the corner, at a time when Ghazi Kanaan was rumored to be plotting a coup and was subsequently assassinated! Where is the stick today, and where is the international tribunal?
Furthermore, from reading recent history we would find that no one defected from Saddam Hussein’s regime prior to the US invasion, and even in its early days, because at the time all members were aware that their families would be targeted. The Assad regime is worse than Saddam in that regard. But first and foremost, how can the Syrians mobilize when they don’t see a serious stance coming from Washington?
So the problem is not Russia alone, but also the hesitance of President Barack Obama and his administration. Events have been interpreted in the wrong manner, the Syrians have been left alone to face the crimes of the Assad regime, and the biggest chance to create stability in the region and curtail Iran’s influence has been lost, so who will tell Obama this?
— The author is editor in chief of Asharq Al-Awsat. Write to him at [email protected]