Once Again, the U.S. Caves to Vladimir Putin in Syria

At a July 8 meeting of the UN Security Council, Russia vetoed a proposal for sending humanitarian aid to the beleaguered people of Syria—despite months of negotiations aimed at achieving a different result. Linda Thomas-Greenfield, the American ambassador to the UN, roundly condemned the Kremlin’s behavior, but, David Adesnik argues, Washington should have done more to prevent this predictable outcome:

Moscow did not have the support of a single other member of the Security Council—twelve backed the American position and China abstained. But still, Washington folded. Why?

The Biden administration made the critical error of negotiating without leverage. It should have built up the U.S. and allied capability to deliver aid without help from UN agencies so a Russian veto would not shut down the aid pipeline. Instead, the administration let Moscow turn millions of Syrians into hostages—the only choices available to the United States and its allies were to accept Russian demands or let civilians starve.

Moscow provided ample warning that it would pursue this ruthless strategy, but the White House did not rethink its game plan. The Russians have worked for years to choke off the supply of aid to any part of Syria outside of Assad’s control. The last enclave still receiving assistance is in the northwestern part of the country, adjacent to the Turkish border. It has an estimated 4.4 million inhabitants, including one million children. Nearly two-thirds fled their homes to escape the regime’s oppression. Some 800,000 live in tents, even in winter. Many more live in ruins.

Read more at National Interest

More about: Russia, Syrian civil war, U.S. Foreign policy, United Nations


Iran’s Calculations and America’s Mistake

There is little doubt that if Hizballah had participated more intensively in Saturday’s attack, Israeli air defenses would have been pushed past their limits, and far more damage would have been done. Daniel Byman and Kenneth Pollack, trying to look at things from Tehran’s perspective, see this as an important sign of caution—but caution that shouldn’t be exaggerated:

Iran is well aware of the extent and capability of Israel’s air defenses. The scale of the strike was almost certainly designed to enable at least some of the attacking munitions to penetrate those defenses and cause some degree of damage. Their inability to do so was doubtless a disappointment to Tehran, but the Iranians can probably still console themselves that the attack was frightening for the Israeli people and alarming to their government. Iran probably hopes that it was unpleasant enough to give Israeli leaders pause the next time they consider an operation like the embassy strike.

Hizballah is Iran’s ace in the hole. With more than 150,000 rockets and missiles, the Lebanese militant group could overwhelm Israeli air defenses. . . . All of this reinforces the strategic assessment that Iran is not looking to escalate with Israel and is, in fact, working very hard to avoid escalation. . . . Still, Iran has crossed a Rubicon, although it may not recognize it. Iran had never struck Israel directly from its own territory before Saturday.

Byman and Pollack see here an important lesson for America:

What Saturday’s fireworks hopefully also illustrated is the danger of U.S. disengagement from the Middle East. . . . The latest round of violence shows why it is important for the United States to take the lead on pushing back on Iran and its proxies and bolstering U.S. allies.

Read more at Foreign Policy

More about: Iran, Israeli Security, U.S. Foreign policy