Aleppo Has Reassured Despots That They Can Get Away with Anything

Dec. 22 2016

Terry Glavin assesses the most recent round of carnage in Syria:

All over the world, every tin-pot tyrant has learned the Syrian lesson. You can get away with it. A United Nations commission of inquiry can declare you guilty of undertaking “a state policy of extermination of the civilian population” of your country, and you can laugh it off, and for any of these “abominable” crimes to be headed off in the dark years to come, the rest of us are going to need to stop telling ourselves comforting lies about “Western intervention.” Entire political careers and the most stellar reputations in journalism have been built around these tawdry, self-exculpating deceptions. They may be ineradicable, but some honest effort should be put into enumerating them and rooting them out. . . .

Oh, but Syria. Fiendishly complicated, [they tell us]. No good guys, and “there’s nothing we could have done” now substitutes for “there’s nothing we can do.” The “we” in that lie is always intended to mean “the Americans.” The record of lost American opportunities and unmade decisions speaks loudly enough for itself.

A no-fly zone before the Russians got involved. Accelerated arming of patriotic and democratic rebel groups instead of letting freelance Gulf-state Islamists fill the blanks. A swift and punishing rain of drone strikes after Assad crossed Obama’s professed “red line” on the use of poison gas. Supplying the early Free Syrian Army units with anti-aircraft weapons to shoot down Assad’s barrel bombers. A green light to the CIA’s proposed long-game overthrow of the Assad regime. No, Obama said. No. I’m smarter than everyone here. . .

It was never about what the United States could have done. It was about what President Obama would not do, and he would not do anything to upset the Khomeinists in Tehran. Hurt their feelings enough and they’d pull Iran out of Obama’s “legacy” foreign policy of nuclear rapprochement. The whole thing has been a failure, from beginning to end.

Read more at Maclean’s

More about: Barack Obama, Iran, Politics & Current Affairs, Syrian civil war, U.S. Foreign policy

 

How the White House Can Bring Mahmoud Abbas to the Negotiating Table

April 28 2017

Next month, the Palestinian Authority president is expected to arrive in Washington to meet with President Trump, perhaps as a prelude to a summit between Abbas and Benjamin Netanyahu under American auspices. A Palestinian delegation is currently in the U.S. to conduct preliminary meetings with administration officials. Eran Lerman discusses what can be accomplished:

The most important aspect [in the present discussions] may remain unspoken. It can be defined as “strategic reassurance”: the realization that after years of uncertainty under Barack Obama, the American administration . . . is once again committed without reservation to its friends in the region, the so-called “camp of stability.”

President Obama’s abandonment of [the former Egyptian president], Hosni Mubarak, regardless of the merits of the case, was catastrophic in terms of the loss of any residual political courage on Abbas’s part. Obama was sympathetic to the Palestinians’ cause, but his policies generated an acute level of uncertainty for the Palestinian leadership in Ramallah, laced with what seemed like a measure of support on Obama’s part for the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt and elsewhere. This was not an environment in which to take fateful decisions.

The Trump team seems to be working to restore confidence and reconstruct [alliances with] both Israel and the pro-Western Arab states. In this new environment, it could be safer for Abbas to take measured risks and enter into an open-ended negotiation with Netanyahu. The effort may still fall apart, if only because the Palestinians have fallen into the habit of posing preconditions. But there seems to be a better chance of drawing them in when they feel that their traditional patrons in the Arab world, Egypt and Saudi Arabia, are once again basking in the sunshine of American strategic support. . . .

At least in theory, it should therefore be easier now for . . . the White House to persuade Abbas to accept a point of entry into negotiations that stays within the two-state paradigm but is no longer predicated on strict adherence to the June 4, 1967 lines.

Read more at BESA Center

More about: Donald Trump, Hosni Mubarak, Israel & Zionism, Mahmoud Abbas, Peace Process, U.S. Foreign policy