January 4, 2013 | Quote

Obama Administration’s ‘Failings’ on Syria

It is hard to dispute claims that Syria will be seen as one of the biggest foreign policy failures of the Obama administration, according to analyst Tony Badran.

Speaking to the Guardian, Badran, who is research fellow at the Washington thinktank the Foundation for Defense of Democracies, argued that the administration had missed an opportunity to break Iran’s regional alliance by failing to pursue an aggressive strategy in Syria.

Badran suggested the US was wrong to sign up to the Geneva agreement as it would involve a transitional government that included members of the current regime.

This is a reflection of the lack of strategic clarity on the part of the United States, because if you are keeping these elements, especially security officials from the ancien régime and including them in the new government, then you are preserving the pockets of Iranian influence and that really defeats the purpose as far as US strategy is concerned.

The “only realistic” outcome to end the crisis is an all-out rebel victory, he said.

The purpose of US policy should be to ensure that outcome – the complete collapse of the Assadist system in Syria, because that is the system that Iran has been co-operating with and that is obviously the system tormenting the Syrian people.

The key factor preventing an all-out victory for the rebels is a lack of support and weapons from the international community, Badran argued.

President Obama remains completely opposed to any sort of direct intervention in Syria. I don’t anticipate any change. Even the red lines of chemical weapons use have proven to be quite hollow … The Assad administration knows that the Obama administration will not interfere in any way, which gives him leeway to try to impose this idea of a stalemate – let's negotiate.

In the absence of outside help for the rebels, Assad has a chance of hanging on to power this year, Badran warned.

If Assad can hold on to Damascus, the coastal [Alawite] enclave and at least empty out Homs – make it a buffer that he can control – then he has a chance, with the chemical weapons in hand, to hold off the rebel onslaught for a while.

The Syrian government's talk of political settlements is a “stalling tactic”, Badran said. But he added that the rebels are in no mood to give them room to regroup to fight another day.

As long as they keep making territorial gains, however painful and however incremental, they will keep on tightening the noose. I think in the first two years of the Syrian uprising the gains that have been made by the rebels without any outside assistance have been quite impressive. So if they can keep that up I don’t think they will pay any heed to the regime’s posing on wanting dialogue.

Read the full article here.


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