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Wednesday, December 2, 2015

Thomas Friedman, "Putin’s Syrian Misadventure": Obama Was Putin's Travel Agent

No one is more responsible for the rise of the Islamic State than President Obama.

Hungry to justify his Nobel Peace Prize by reaching a legacy-creating nuclear agreement, albeit unsigned, with the Islamic Republic of Iran, Obama watched from the sidelines as Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, an Iranian vassal, used chemical weapons against his own citizens. Moreover, in his willy-nilly pursuit of détente with Iran, Obama disregarded America's longstanding alliance with Sunni Saudi Arabia, which is engaged in a bitter proxy war with Shiite Iran throughout the Muslim Middle East. And although Obama was in no way responsible for George W. Bush's disastrous Second Gulf War which destroyed the Sunni-Shiite equilibrium in the Muslim Middle East by eliminating Iraq as Iran's primary adversary, Obama was guilty of withdrawing American forces far too soon. With American forces gone, the Shiite majority consolidated power over Iraq at the expense of its Sunni minority, thus pushing them into the camp of ISIS. It was then that Iran entered the Iraqi vortex by supporting rogue Shiite militias with military aid and advisors. As reported by Missy Ryan and Loveday Morris in a December 27, 2014 Washington Post article entitled "The U.S. and Iran are aligned in Iraq against the Islamic State — for now":

"Iranian military involvement has dramatically increased in Iraq over the past year as Tehran has delivered desperately needed aid to Baghdad in its fight against Islamic State militants, say U.S., Iraqi and Iranian sources. In the eyes of Obama administration officials, equally concerned about the rise of the brutal Islamist group, that’s an acceptable role — for now.

. . . .

A senior Iranian cleric with close ties to Tehran’s leadership, who spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss security matters, said that since the Islamic State’s capture of much of northern Iraq in June, Iran has sent more than 1,000 military advisers to Iraq, as well as elite units, and has conducted airstrikes and spent more than $1 billion on military aid."

Moreover, as now known to all, Iran's intercession in Iraq was followed by Iran's direct military intercession on behalf of Assad in Syria, together with that of Russia, without objection from Obama, thus further alienating Sunnis throughout the Middle East.

In his latest New York Times op-ed entitled "Putin’s Syrian Misadventure," would-be Middle East expert Thomas Friedman would serve as Obama's defense attorney with respect to his "malign neglect" foreign policy involving the Middle East. Friedman writes (my emphasis in red):

"Whereas Putin’s goals are uncertain, and perhaps limited to protecting a truncated Assad regime, Obama really does want to defeat ISIS. Just as important, he wants to do it without being either Putin or George W. Bush, who just dove into the middle."

Obama really wants to defeat ISIS? And all this while, I thought Obama was content with "containing" the Islamic State. Even Senator Dianne Feinstein stated last week that the Obama administration's approach to defeating ISIS was insufficient to do the job.

Friedman goes on to say in his opinion piece:

"Sorry, but to sustainably defeat ISIS you need a mutually reinforcing coalition. You need Saudi Arabia and the leading Sunni religious powers to aggressively delegitimize ISIS’s Islamist narrative. You need Arab, Kurdish and Turkish ground troops — backed by U.S. and NATO air power and special forces, with Russia’s constructive support — to uproot ISIS door to door.

You need Iran to encourage the Shiite-led government in Baghdad to create a semiautonomous 'Sunnistan' in the areas held by ISIS, giving moderate Iraqi Sunnis the same devolved powers as Kurds in Kurdistan so they have a political alternative to ISIS. And you need Iran to agree to a political transition in Syria that would eventually replace Assad.

. . . .

You can say that when it comes to ISIS and Syria, Obama has done an impossible job badly, and someone else might have done it better. But it is still an impossible job as long as all the key players in that region define their interests as rule or die and as long as most of the real democrats in that region are living abroad."

Arab, Kurdish and Turkish cooperation on the ground with "Russia's constructive support," notwithstanding the downing of a Russian Su-24 by a Turkish F-16? What are you smoking, Friedman?

Iran to agree to a semi-autonomous Sunnistan in Iraq and Assad stepping down from power in Syria? This flies in the face of Iran's pursuit of hegemony throughout the Middle East.

"Obama has done an impossible job badly"? Obama was instrumental in creating that "impossible job." Will Putin continue to pay for stepping into the power vacuum created by Obama? Probably. But the US will also pay dearly for the destruction of its credibility and deterrent power in the years to come.

Nice try, Tom.

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