Thursday, March 30, 2017

Policy shift on Syria: US no longer sees removing Assad as a priority

UN Ambassador Nikki Haley. Reuters

The United States under President Trump has dramatically shifted policy away from the Obama administration and have signaled that they are no longer interested in replacing Bashar al-Assad in Syria. Reuters. UN Ambassador Nikki Haley told reporters that the US no longer considers replacing Assad as a priority. She also added that the US still views Assad as a hindrance and a war criminal and there will still be pressure on him for change, but the priority is no longer there. The main focus will be defeating ISIS and al-Qaeda in Syria. Predictably, Senators John McCain and Lindsey Graham, two of the GOP's biggest war hawks, condemned the move. US allies France and the United Kingdom also disagree about the future of Syria. 

My Comment:
This is great news as far as I am concerned. I have never understood what our national interest was in removing Bashar al-Assad. Sure, he is a brutal dictator, but we are allied with dozens of those and Assad isn't all that worse then the governments of the Gulf States. He is certainly brutal and worthy of criticism, but is he worth destroying Syria just to get rid of? Absolutely not. 

Bashar al-Assad may be a brutal dictator who has done some horrible things during the Syrian Civil War, but the forces arrayed against him are some of the most evil groups in history. ISIS and al-Qaeda are the most obvious but what is not widely reported is that many of the so called "moderate" rebels are Jihadists as well. As far as I am concerned radical Islam is evil incarnate and Assad has nothing on them... 

And we have to understand what would happen if Assad were to be removed. To find out, all we have to do is look at the examples of two other countries where we tried regime change, Libya and Iraq. Both countries had brutal dictators who were removed and killed after US interventions. Both of them suffered massive civil wars afterwards. Both of them had large swaths of territory taken by ISIS and both countries suffered far more deaths during and after the war than their respective dictators ever killed. 

There is also the fact that Syria is divided between Sunni Arabs and everyone else. Though Assad is brutal, he does protect religious minorities from Sunni persecution. If Assad were to be removed, what would happen to all the Alawites, Shiite Muslims, Druze, Christians and other non-Sunnis? The best case scenario is reversion to 2nd class citizens. The worst case is all out genocide. Given that the most credible resistance groups left are ISIS and al-Qaeda, who have genocide as a stated goal and are currently conducting genocide in both Iraq and Syria, that seems very likely.   

I also think that Trump understands that removing Assad is politically unpopular. When Obama considered bombing Syria after accusations of chemical weapons use, there was overwhelming bipartisan opposition. For once, left and right agreed on something and nobody but neo-cons wanted war. Nobody gave a straight answer as to what removing Assad would do for us and everyone was wary after the disaster that was Iraq. 

This move should not be surprising at all. Donald Trump often criticized Obama's handling of the war and our funding of rebels. Though Trump never seemed to be a fan of Assad, to my eyes at least, he was pretty clear that funding rebels that then went over to the enemy or simply laid down their weapons, was not a good idea. Indeed, this is one of the main reasons I ended up voting for Trump. I didn't want regime change in Syria and I wanted our focus to be on ISIS and al-Qaeda. I am very happy that Trump has delivered here... 

I am also not surprised that Lindsey Graham and John McCain are opposed to this. I really don't understand their obsession with war. I thought that I was a warhawk myself but Graham and McCain make me look like a bleeding heart liberal. If it were up to them we would be at war with both Syria and Russia... 

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