My Council on Foreign Relations colleague Elliott Abrams wrote that President Obama’s inaction in Syria “will be a permanent stain on his presidency.” He’s right, and the evidence of the staggering cost of American inaction continues to grow on a daily basis.
The humanitarian cost is the starkest, with perhaps 400,000 people killed and millions more displaced from their homes or forced to flee the country as refugees. The body count continues to pile up as the Assad regime pounds Aleppo into oblivion. The government was reported to have bombed four hospitals on Saturday night with heavy civilian casualties.
The French government has accused the Assad regime of war crimes comparable to those committed in Sarajevo during the wars of Yugoslav succession and has called for an immediate humanitarian halt to the fight. The White House has also condemned the hospital bombings and renewed its call for Assad to step down. Given the president’s unwillingness to do anything to compel Assad, this is more empty verbiage that only further undermines American credibility.
The most effective way for the U.S., France, and others to save Syrian lives would be by declaring no-fly zones and doing more to help moderate rebels fight back. But that, clearly, is not in the cards. Instead, Secretary of State John Kerry is pursuing a fantastical plan to cooperate with Russia to fight ISIS.
Yes, this is the same Russian regime that recently bombed a base in southern Syria being used by moderate rebels and their partners in the British and American Special Operations Forces. And yes, this is the same Russian regime that has clearly indicated time and again that its only priority in Syria is to keep its allies in the murderous Assad regime in power.
Yet Kerry still proposes to share intelligence with the Russians in the naive hope that they will refrain from hitting moderate rebel groups and concentrate on ISIS and the al-Nusra Front. James Clapper, director of national intelligence, publicly warned against this plan, telling the Washington Post’s David Ignatius, “I’ve expressed my reservations about, for example, sharing intelligence with [the Russians] . . . which they desperately want, I think, to exploit — to learn what they can about our sources and methods and tactics and techniques and procedures.”
As long as the Obama administration continues naively pursuing the chimera of cooperation with Moscow, it will not do anything serious to stop the bloodletting in Syria. And that, in turn, means not only more deaths in Syria but also more oxygen for terrorist groups and more impetus for refugees to leave Syria–including dangerous and mentally disturbed individuals such as the man who detonated himself in Ansbach, Germany, and might have killed many more people.