November 21, 2012 | The Morningside Post

Intervention in Syria

November 21, 2012 | The Morningside Post

Intervention in Syria

In the run up to the elections, America’s Middle East allies were convinced that President Obama was too consumed with domestic politics to pursue a more muscular approach to  Syria. Once Obama secured reelection, they figured, he would review his Syria policy. However, now that Obama has won reelection, these regional allies are bound to be disappointed, as the US president is unlikely to change the policy of the last two years.

In fact, on the eve of the elections, Obama administration officials made it clear to US allies such as Turkey and Saudi Arabia that an Obama second term would not alter the  president’s position on Syria.

Even after the formation of the unified opposition front, the National Coalition of Opposition and Revolutionary Forces in Doha earlier this month, there has been no discernible difference in the US posture. The administration’s point man on Syria, Ambassador Robert Ford, told those gathered in Doha not to hope for a change in Washington’s stance. There will be no no-fly zone, and the US would not be providing the rebels with the anti-air systems they have been requesting. President Obama’s all but confirmed this in his comments on Syria during his press conference last week.

Despite this consistent message from the Obama administration, the recent news of a possible deployment of Patriot missile batteries along the Turkey-Syria border spurred speculation that the US and Turkey were working on some form of no-fly zone option after all. The Patriots may well end up being deployed. However, the administration has made clear that they were only to protect Turkey against a possible Syrian chemical weapons attack. In other words, the rules of engagement and command over the batteries are likely to be tightly controlled.

Obama has spent the last 20 months guarding assiduously against being dragged into direct involvement in Syria, even as Turkey and other regional allies have urged him to. It’s unlikely that he will now hand the Turks the means to force his hand.

Barring an extraordinary development, it seems US policy will remain unchanged for the foreseeable future, to the dismay of US allies who hoped the election would make a difference.

Tony Badran (@AcrossTheBay) is a Research Fellow at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies (FDD) in Washington, DC.

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