Changing the course

February 15, 2014 - 3:19:34 am
Does Barack Obama have a strategy on Syria? If he has one, it’s time for him to explain what it is, because the people in this region still thinks that he is yet to approach the issue with the seriousness it deserves.

The statement the president made on Tuesday shows that he is not sure where he stands. At a news conference with French President Francois Hollande, Mr. Obama described the Syrian conflict as ‘one of our highest national security priorities. He admitted that his diplomatic strategy is far from achieving” its aim of a political solution, while “we still have a horrendous situation on the ground.” The same president had dismissed five months ago Syria as ‘someone else’s civil war’. Obama’s view is also shared by Secretary of State John F Kerry who is reported to have privately acknowledged that the US policy is failing even as the threat to US interests grows. 

The cornerstone of Obama’s policy on Syria has been to avoid getting dragged into another conflict in the Middle East. The US public has no appetite for any military involvements abroad, especially when the operation in Afghanistan is winding down. While this position is certainly understandable, Obama’s policy on Syria has been ad hoc and unwise. Getting involved doesn’t always mean military involvement. What the president had done actually has been watch the war like a spectator watching some games, and even if Washington had made some sincere efforts to resolve the conflict, they can be considered as feeble and half-hearted considering the ferocity of this conflict. It’s this policy which had brought Syria where it is today, and it some US officials are admitting the mistake, it has come too late.

The cruelties being committed by Bashar Al Assad’s forces, even as peace talks faltered in Geneva, could be influencing Obama’s thinking. Secondly, Washington is finding that the jihadists in Syria could pose a threat to its security and interests. Top intelligence officials Director of National Intelligence James R Clapper Jr and CIA Director John Brennan, said that Al Qaeda is developing a refuge in eastern Syria that could be used to launch attacks against the United States.

Obama said: “Right now we don’t think there’s a military solution per se . . . but the situation is fluid and we are continuing to explore every possible avenue to solve this problem.” This is definitely good news. The key to finding a solution to any issue is to first realize that there is an issue. The president needs to consult his allies in this region before deciding on his future course of action. Any delay will have more serious consequences•