Obama Stands by While Putin Takes the Lead
The Iran deal opened another opportunity for Russia.
For Barack Obama, Syria is the headache that just simply won’t go away. Recall back on Aug. 18, 2011 when Obama stated that it was “time for the Syrian people to determine their own destiny, and we will continue to stand firmly on their side.” Obama’s idea of standing with the rebels against Syrian President Bashar al-Assad amounted to billions of dollars in humanitarian aid and a failed effort to train some of the “moderate” rebels. Then there was his infamous “red line” comment a year later warning Assad not to use chemical weapons. When evidence showed that Assad had indeed used chemical weapons, Obama, unwilling to commit ground troops to aid the rebels, tried to walk back from his “red line” threat. At this critical point, Russian President Vladimir Putin saw an opportunity to help his client state, and stepped in to offer to negotiate the removal of Assad’s chemical weapons. Obama accepted.
With the Syrian civil war continuing to rage and the rising threat of ISIL in the region, Obama has been forced to address a problem that he has largely tried to ignore. It is clear that he would have much rather been playing golf than spending effort developing a genuine U.S.-led solution to the situation. And here is where Putin has once again seized opportunity. Putin has been repairing relations with Turkey after the latter shot down a Russian fighter jet. And just this week, Putin took advantage of the deal Obama struck with Iran and now Russia is launching bombing raids on Syria from Iranian airbases. Even Obama’s former Defense Secretary Robert Gates said, “Putin is one of these leaders who will push forward as long as there’s no significant resistance. He’s a very calculating person who is playing a very poor hand with great skills.” Remember the good old days when the U.S. president understood and took seriously the threats of our geopolitical foes?
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