The quickly changing face of the Syrian civil war has left the United States with the dilemma of having to decide whether to arm the rebels, which are heavily backed by Al Qaeda, or remain on the sidelines and allow Hezbollah to continue to prop up Assad by crushing the opposition with more brutality.
Whether or not the Obama administration could have avoided putting itself in a corner of thorns is arguable, but its totally misreading the Syrian conflict make its position all the more difficult.
All polls show that the American public overwhelmingly does not want the United States getting involved in another messy conflict.
After the President Barack Obama’s Council of Sages’ decision to “engage” the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt and dump Hosni Mubarak, then U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton decided that Syrian President Bashar Assad should remain in power in the face of the sprouting Arab Spring protests in Syria more than two years ago She solidly backed Assad, calling him a “reformer.”
It took more than a year and tens of thousands of murders before the Obama administration realized it could not back a man whom Pulitzer Prize journalist Joel Brinkley once called “the most dangerous man in the world.”
The United States huffed and puffed and Assad’s goon quads tortured and murdered thousands of Syrians, but all that changed was a situation that went totally out of control.
If the control of a dictator is better than the control by anarchy, Assad would have been the man to back, except that American experts without much contact with reality continued to totally misread the social mood in the Middle East.
The United States cannot be seen as allowing a butcher like Assad to continue to rule.
But the last year of devastation and anarchy has allowed Al Qaeda and offshoots to fill the same vacuum that the License government left in the southern part of the country more than 20 years ago.
Jihadists from the Al Qaeda-affiliate Jabhat al-Nusra are taking care of the social needs of Syrians, a copy-cat tactic perfected by Hezbollah in southern Lebanon.
“They don’t push their ideology at us,” Hassan, a driver, told Fox News. “They aren’t corrupt like the others. What they capture from government bases they distribute.”
Like Hezbollah, the al-Nusra terrorists are brutal and ruthless when at war, no less than so than Assad’s loyalists.
When Assad lost control of areas in the civil war, leaving millions of people not only without basic necessities but also without some kind of due process of law.
“We promise that we will ensure accountability for anyone committing violations and they will be sent to the Sharia court,” said one al Nusra notice that was posted. “Anyone who might have a complaint against any element of the Islamic state, whether the Emir or an ordinary soldier, can come and submit their complaint in any headquarters building of the Islamic state.”
In Aleppo, “You see streets being cleaned by al-Nusra and schools organized by al-Nusra and also more moderate groups cleaning streets and operating school,” German filmmaker Marcel Mettelsiefen told Fox.
“Most civilians are saying [al-Nusra] may be quite radical, but at least they are helping and doing things, and the strategy is working.”
U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry is meeting with Defense Secretary Chuck Hague this week to discuss the rebels’ urgent request for arms as Assad prepares for a massive assault to retake Aleppo.
Kerry, like his predecessor, talks a lot and says almost nothing.
“We are determined to do everything that we can in order to help the opposition to be able … to save Syria,” Kerry told reporters at a news conference with British Foreign Secretary William Hague Wednesday.
“People are talking about what further options might be exercised here … but we don’t have anything to announce at this moment.”
The Obama administration reportedly is split on what to do, but to some extent it can blame itself.
Officials for years have sought political solutions in a region where leaders do not play by American and British rules of democracy and “engagement.”
“Our efforts in Syria have been to try to save lives, to prevent radicalization, to send a message to the regime that in the end there does have to be a political solution,” said Britain’s Foreign Secretary William Hague.