Obama’s inaction in Syria paved the way for Aleppo apocalypse
A few years ago, I found myself having lunch with two members of Homeland Security. We discussed Syria and agreed the situation was grim and lamented Washington’s failure to lead. By the end of our meal the discussion moved towards history. We continued the topic as we walked back to their office.
“Isolationism, Washington’s inability to lead during times of world crisis resulted in two world wars,” as I finished my sentence my luncheon companions stopped and looked at me and nodded their heads in agreement. It was a sobering thought and I could tell they missed the connection until I mentioned it. Obama’s inaction would lead to disaster.
Obama’s inability to respond to Bashar Assad’s genocidal tirade in Syria or to Putin’s increasingly bellicose posturing is a characteristic Obama shares with previous administrations. Trepidation in acting to prevent genocide or world war is a hallmark of American foreign policy.
Perhaps like Woodrow Wilson, Obama hoped to hold onto a phantasmal peace that was already shattered leaving the next administration to respond. President Franklin Roosevelt’s failure to address the crisis looming in Europe left the United States open for attack and the bombing of Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941 dragged the U.S. into World War II.
As a result of Obama’s failed Syria policy, the world witnessed the exodus of Syrian refugees, the castration of Obama’s efforts in the region by Russia and Iran, and terrorist attacks in European cities. More recently, Obama ordered an investigation into reports of cyber attacks and foreign intervention into the 2016 U.S. presidential election, which allegedly originated in Russia. Washington and Europe did little to halt the carnage in Syria and now the reverberations of that failure are being felt at home.
However, Obama was not alone. Negligence on the part of the United Nations, Arab League and Western democracies allows Assad to massacre, torture, maim, incarcerate and ethnically cleanse Syria of millions of Sunni Muslims. Anyone who opposes his rule is labeled as terrorist. It is a negligence that is criminal, resulting in a violation of international laws and norms.
Now with the open military assistance of Russia, Assad continues his program of ethnic cleansing in Aleppo. The Sunni Muslim majority of Syria are allowed to perish in order to maintain a false equilibrium in the Middle East by allowing Assad to remain in power.
Russian aggression in Syria is an effort to bolster Assad’s rhetoric that claims opposition fighters in Aleppo are terrorists and by extension that the Sunni majority fans sympathy for ISIS. It is not a stretch of the imagination to think that Putin and Assad will claim fighters from Aleppo escaped to other parts of Syria, clearing the way for similar sieges in Iblib, Hama, Homs and Easter Ghouta.
Assad asserted from the start of the conflict the necessity of his presidency in combating terrorism. Yet Assad is no such figure. Instead, he destabilized the region up to the borders of Western Europe and opened a new territory for terrorists to breed.
Assad created the scenario to fit his rhetoric focusing world attention on the scourge of ISIS, but it is Assad who enables them to exist. Assad and his allies are the real threat. Ray Gutman’s November piece for The Daily Beast accurately describes ISIS as Assad’s henchmen rather than his antagonist.
Assad played his hand well and Western democracies fell in line and are doing his bidding aping the rhetoric he spewed since the start of the Syrian revolution. Hitler’s rhetoric lulled Western democracies into inaction, so it is not surprising that the West is once again lured into impotence against another homicidal maniac.
Today, borders are sealed and Syrians find themselves trapped, much like European Jews during WW II and 250,000 Syrian civilians are caught in Aleppo’s killing fields. Trump is exploring creating a registry of American Muslims as potentially dangerous in a move that echoes Roosevelt’s internment of Japanese Americans during WW II.
The root of associating Syrians with terrorism is not fixed in fact but in propaganda fabricated by the Assad regime. As early as 2011 and in later interviews, Assad claimed terrorists were the cause of civilian deaths.
In 2013, Assad’s UN representative, Bashar al Jaafari made a similar assertion at an event I attended in Los Angeles, California. I posed this question to him: "If it is true that Syria’s borders are porous and Syria is overrun with foreign fighters, then isn’t Assad guilty of a gross dereliction of duty and as such should step down as president?" There was no reply and I escorted myself out with his people hot on my heels.
Terrorist affiliation is a stigma that Syrian refugees carry with them, blocking their ability to seek asylum and preventing aid from reaching Aleppo.
Obama placed the world in danger, not from the scourge of ISIS, but due to an indifference to the growing threat posed by Assad and his allies, Putin and the Iranian Mullahs.
NATO is currently increasing its presence on the Russian border and according to new commercial satellite photos Russia is amassing nuclear-capable missiles along its border with Eastern Europe.
It took catastrophic events to lure the U.S. into acting in World War I and II and by that time Europe was already at war. Despite the devastation caused by two world wars, Washington and Europe refuse to acknowledge the historical parallels now unfolding. When will they act?
The time for altruistic intervention in Syria evaporated when Washington and the European Union failed to mount a robust response to the refugee crisis in the summer of 2015. The West needs to act now in Syria out of self-preservation.
The West’s mandate to call the shots for the rest of the world began to erode when they closed their borders to Syrian and Iraqi refugees seeking asylum, revealing a hypocritical Achille’s heel in their commitment to human rights. International law and human rights are the cornerstone of the West’s mandate to police the world. Will the West relinquish that mandate to Putin and the Mullahs?
Western democracies are facing a crisis created by their inability to see the danger posed by a lackadaisical response to the war in Syria and to Assad’s Iranian and Russian backers. The Trump administration would be prudent to act decisively and recall that European and U.S. administrations’ attempts to appease despots in the run up to both world wars were unsuccessful.
The incoming Trump administration should actively seek the ouster of Assad to end the hemorrhaging in Syria and to stop ISIS which is an organization that flourishes under the cover of Assad’s military rule. It will continue to exist as long as the Assad regime is there. US President-elect Donald Trump should also put in place measures to counter Russian and Iranian aggression in Syria.
Assad is not a partner in the war on terror. Assad must go. The West cannot afford to tolerate dictators. Inaction will only worsen the rapidly deteriorating situation and leaves the U.S. vulnerable to another Pearl Harbor.
Anisa Abeytia is a freelance writer who contributes to a good number of media outlets. Abeytia is actively engaged in advocating for the Syrian cause since 2012 and more recently for refugee rights. She produced/directed three documentaries on Syrian refugees. Abeytia is a graduate of Stanford University with an MA in Post-Colonial and Feminists Theory.