Obama's Paralysis Enabled Al Qaeda to Set Up Shop in Syria

[04-04-2013 12:00 AM]

By Nehad Ismail

I wrote an article in the Huffington Post on 13th December 2011 titled "How Many More Syrians have to be killed before Russia and China Condemn the Syrian Regime?" At the time some 5200 pro-democracy protesters had been killed by the Syrian regime. I said rhetorically:

"Does the figure have to climb to 10 or 15 thousands before Russia and China decides enough is enough?" Now the death toll has exceeded 60,000 and is still rising, are we to wait two more years with 150,000 dead and 3 million refugees before the world acts.

One is entitled to ask is President Obama blind to what is happening in one of the most strategic part of the World. President Obama's lack of clear decisive strategy has emboldened Iran, Russia and al Qaeda to operate freely in Syria.

Let's be absolutely clear, The Syrian people, the opposition and the Free Syrian Army are not demanding military intervention. All Syrians with a few exceptions have rejected an Iraqi or Libyan style intervention. They don't want troops on the ground. They want no-fly, no-kill zones in the North near the Turkish borders and in the South near the Jordanian borders. This will provide protection for the Syrian refugees and may encourage more defections from the regular Syrian army to the FSA. The second thing they demand which can be easily provided by NATO is anti-aircraft and anti-tank weapons. Whilst Russia and Iran are supplying armaments to the Syrian army, it makes lot of sense for the West and the so-called Friends of Syria to help the opposition. The murderous Syrian regime is getting economic and substantial military help from Russia, Iran, North Korea and Hezbollah. The Free Syrian Army is getting limited assistance from Qatar and Saudi Arabia.

The longer the West remains inactive, the more Islamic extremists will join the war. Inaction by the Obama administration over the last two years had encouraged the regime to kill more than 60,000 Syrians and force the displacement of 2 million Syrians. By turning a blind eye, President Obama has in effect given the green light to Al-Qaeda and other Jihadists to enter Syria. The Syrian regime has welcomed the influx of extremists to justify its war against the population.

According to Press Reports Mr. Muaz Al-Khatib, the leader of the Syrian National Coalition demanded international help to protect the civilians. He told an Arab Summit Conference in Doha, Qatar recently that more than 100,000 Syrians have been killed. It was some two years ago that Mr. Obama urged Bashar al Assad to step down. But since then he has been giving mixed signals which have been interpreted as dithering and not having a policy. The bad experience of Afghanistan and the disastrous handling of the Post-Saddam Iraq have haunted the President and incapacitated the US administration.

My gut feeling is that Obama should have listened to Senator John McCain and Senator Lindsey Graham and allowed the right weapons to reach the Free Syrian Army. As far back as February 19th 2012 the New York Times reported "The senators, John McCain of Arizona and Lindsey Graham of South Carolina, both Republicans, laid out a series of diplomatic, humanitarian and military aid proposals that would put the United States squarely behind the effort to topple President Bashar al-Assad of Syria. The senators, both of whom are on the Senate Armed Services Committee, said that rebel fighters deserved to be armed and that helping them take on the Syrian government would aid Washington's effort to weaken Iran". Why the President ignored this important advice is beyond comprehension.

The lame excuse is that such weapons will fall into the wrong hands. A year ago nobody heard of the Al Qaeda-linked Al-Nusra Front rebel group and other Islamic groups but now they are springing up like mushrooms and this is not the fault of the Syrian people or the Free Syrian Army but it is primarily the fault of the divided and ineffective UN Security Council and the indifference of the international community.

The Obama administration and the West must now recognize that silence is not an option. Silence and inaction in the early 1940s led to the Holocaust and the extermination of six million Jews. Can the world turn a blind eye to the atrocities committed by a murderous thuggish regime against its own people? Verbal condemnation is insufficient. Action is required and very quickly. In his excellent piece in the London Times on Good Friday 29th March, Amir Taheri an Iranian expert on the Middle East wrote "Obama is driving Syria into the arms of jihad". Unless the President finds some moral courage, he will another Afghanistan on the shores of the Mediterranean.

Nehad Ismail is UK based writer/broadcaster and commentator on Middle Eastern Affairs. This article was republished from the Huffington Post

Follow Nehad Ismail on Twitter: www.twitter.com/nehadismail

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