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Wednesday, September 9, 2015

Thomas Friedman, "Walls, Borders, a Dome and Refugees": Saying No to Syrian Refugees

Did you happen to see the results of the September 8 Pew Research Center poll in the US regarding the Iran nuclear deal?:

"As Congress prepares to vote on the Iran nuclear agreement, public support for the deal has declined. Currently, just 21% approve of the agreement on Iran’s nuclear program reached between the United States, Iran and other nations. Nearly half (49%) disapprove of the agreement, while three-in-ten (30%) offer no opinion."

Yes, I would call that overwhelming disapproval, but why should Democrats in Congress abide by the will of the American people? Obama knows better.

Meanwhile, the chaos in Syria is giving rise to a horrific refugee situation (four million Syrians have fled the country and another six million are internally displaced out of a total population of some 23 million). But why should that weigh on American consciences? After all, the US has granted asylum to some 1,500 refugees, and as observed by Thomas Friedman in his latest New York Times op-ed entitled "Walls, Borders, a Dome and Refugees":

"Your heart aches for the Syrian refugees flocking to Europe. And Germany’s generosity in absorbing so many is amazing. We have a special obligation to Libyan and Iraqi refugees. But, with so many countries melting down, just absorbing more and more refugees is not sustainable."

Got it: The US has no "special obligation" to Syrian refugees, and therefore they need not be allowed into the country. What a relief! But wait a moment! As observed by Fred Hiatt in a Washington Post opinion piece entitled "Obama’s Syria achievement":

"This may be the most surprising of President Obama’s foreign-policy legacies: not just that he presided over a humanitarian and cultural disaster of epochal proportions, but that he soothed the American people into feeling no responsibility for the tragedy.

. . . .

When he announced in August 2011 that 'the time has come for President Assad to step aside,' critics worried the words might prove empty — but few imagined the extent of the catastrophe: not just the savagery of chemical weapons and 'barrel bombs,' but also the Islamic State’s recruitment of thousands of foreign fighters, its spread from Libya to Afghanistan, the danger to the U.S. homeland that has alarmed U.S. intelligence officials, the refugees destabilizing Europe. "

Hiatt, however, does not address the reason for Obama's empty words, which were explicitly explained by Michael Gerson in a Washington Post opinion piece entitled "The horrific results of Obama’s failure in Syria":

"For four years, the Obama administration has engaged in what Frederic Hof, former special adviser for transition in Syria, calls a 'pantomime of outrage.' Four years of strongly worded protests, and urgent meetings and calls for negotiation — the whole drama a sickening substitute for useful action.

. . . .

What explains Obama’s high tolerance for humiliation and mass atrocities in Syria? The Syrian regime is Iran’s proxy, propped up by billions of dollars each year. And Obama wanted nothing to interfere with the prospects for a nuclear deal with Iran. He was, as Hof has said, 'reluctant to offend the Iranians at this critical juncture.' So the effective concession of Syria as an Iranian zone of influence is just one more cost of the president’s legacy nuclear agreement."

Similarly, Lee Smith wrote yesterday in a Weekly Standard opinion piece entitled "Obama Avoided Syria Action to Help Iran Negotiations":

"Obama decided to steer clear of the Syrian conflict not just to avoid doing anything, but just as importantly, to avoid damaging Iranian interests in Syria. As Obama wrote Iranian supreme leader Ali Khamenei, 'the U.S.’s military operations inside Syria aren’t targeted at Mr. Assad or his security forces.' Obama didn’t do anything to bring down Assad because he was afraid it might anger the Syrian president’s patrons in Iran, and getting a nuclear deal with Iran was Obama’s foreign policy priority.

There is plenty that Obama might have done to support Syrian rebels— an opposition he derided as 'former doctors, farmers, pharmacists'—without ever risking putting American forces on the ground in Syria. By 2013, all his national security cabinet officials—Leon Panetta, David Petraeus, Hillary Clinton, Susan Rice, Thomas Donilon, et al.—argued for supporting Syrian rebel units.

Obama however kept his eyes on the prize: the Iran deal. Same when it came to enforcing the red line he drew against Assad’s use of chemical weapons. No one in their right mind believes that firing missiles on Assad regime facilities was likely to compel the White House to land forces in Syria. Obama’s concern rather was that if the United States signaled that it was no longer protecting Assad it might turn the balance of power against the Syrian regime. But that of course would anger the Iranians, and all Obama wanted was an accommodation with the regime—and now he has one in the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action."

Obama bears no responsibility for the Syrian refugee tragedy? The US only has a special obligation to Libyan and Iraqi refugees? Sorry, Tom, but I don't buy it.


  1. It is Iran JCPOA week in the USA. Today: Hillary at Brookings; Trump in D.C.; and to filibuster, or not....

    Yesterday was an hour at the National Press Club with Senator Lindsay Graham, unfiltered:


  2. pre-Debate debate, or the actual debate, started in the U.S. Senate yesterday.

    Sounded like Sen. Jack Reed, D, RI, floated various trial balloons on all sorts of defensive military options for Israel ...

    But no one (yet) mentions the enforcement of UNSC Res 1701 has failed to stop Hezbollah's re-stock of missiles. The only news on 1701:
    "...The Malaysian Armed Forces have been participating in the UNIFIL mission since 2007 to assist peacekeepers from other UN member countries to enforce Resolution 1701 of the United Nations Security Council."

    what's next?, besides Putin coming to the UN