Monday, 29 April 2013

SYRIA: Obama's red line & helping the devil

Ever since August 2012, Obama has held that Syrian use of chemical weapons constituted a "red line" for the United States, and that crossing it would be a "grave mistake" for Assad. But he also said in numerous occasions that the U.S. ''will never support al-Qaida in Syria''.

Barack Obama has a real problem. It's self-inflicted, really -- and it's a cautionary tale against articulating public positions that may seem correct and convenient at the time, but that can pose serious challenges down the road.

Obama has been confronted with evidence from a variety of credible sources -- including from his own intelligence community, with some caveats -- that Assad used sarin gas against the rebels/his people but also the confirmation that Jabhat al-Nusra (the Nusra Front), one of the main armed groups battling to take down the regime of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, is indeed an ''Al Qaeda's branch. These two facts certainly complicate matters for Obama.

Will Obama be pushed into action, based on these facts?

So far, Obama's calculations have been risk-averse, matching the uncertainties of the situation. The rebels are divided and dysfunctional, far too many in the opposition are Islamist extremists, the humanitarian crisis is unmanageable -- and even if President Bashar al-Assad departs, it is uncertain who or what will assume responsibility for the mess that is left behind.

It's a headache for a president whose main mission was to get America out of bad wars, not into new ones. But there's likely no way around it -- sooner or later, Obama will have to make good on enforcing his red line. Failure to do so will undermine his credibility, encourage the Assad regime to deploy additional chemical weapons, and send a powerful signal to America's friends and adversaries that United States don't mean what United States say.

The U.S also breached its own ''red line'' policy''. Supporting Al-Qaeda affiliate in Syria is indeed a departure from the U.S. policy. It is a dangerous game that could backfire with dire consequences. One of the imminent consequence is that : Obama's credibility is undermined.

With help from the C.I.A., Arab governments and Turkey have sharply increased their military aid to Syria’s opposition fighters in recent months, expanding a secret airlift of arms and equipment for the uprising against President Bashar al-Assad, according to air traffic data, interviews with officials in several countries and the accounts of rebel commanders.

While the West attempts to claim these weapons are being sent to “moderates,” the US State Department itself admits that Al Qaeda is operating in every major city in Syria, carrying out hundreds of terrorist attacks, and is by far the most highly organized, most prominent militant front in the conflict.

Indeed, Nusra has, over time, proved to be one of the more effective organizations in the rebel alliance. Because of its longstanding relationship with Sunni resistance groups in Iraq -- notably the main Sunni insurgent group in Iraq, the al-Qaida affiliate known as the Islamic State of Iraq -- Nusra has benefited from a steady flow of weapons, cash and recruits flowing back across the Syria-Iraq border from Gulf's states with the blessing of Washington.

The Obama's administration new policy is benefiting to Al Qaeda affiliate, despite president Obama's rhetoric that U.S ''will never support Al Qaeda''. There are ''security concerns'' over the opacity of U.S. aid to different rebels groups. AFP reports that humanitarian aid is being used as a political weapon to carve out territory for the West’s heavily armed proxies and extort cooperation from the subjugated people who find themselves inside Al Qaeda-occupied territory.

A red line has indeed been crossed -- not only in terms of Syria's use of chemical weapons, but also in the slippery slide toward American military involvement. What Obama needs to decide is whether such military action is designed to deter the use of chemical weapons or topple the Assad regime by giving the rebels the advantages they've long sought -- weapons, a no-fly zone, or direct U.S. military strikes against regime targets.

Whatever Obama does on Syria, he should make sure that he doesn't say anything that he's not prepared to act on. "As president of the United States, I don't bluff," he famously said with regard to U.S. policy toward Tehran. It's just as good advice when it comes to America's approach to Damascus. And whatever he does, he should ensure he has international support and legal grounds on which to act.

By Guylain Gustave Moke
Political Analyst/Writer
Investigative Journalist