Syria Five Years Later

Five Years After He Called For Bashar Al-Assad To Leave, President Obama’s Strategy Is ‘Stuck Where It Started’

2011: ‘The Time Has Come For President Assad To Step Aside’

PRESIDENT OBAMA: “The future of Syria must be determined by its people, but President Bashar al-Assad is standing in their way. For the sake of the Syrian people, the time has come for President Assad to step aside.” (“Assad Must Go, Obama Says,” The Washington Post, 8/18/2011)

THEN-SEC. OF STATE HILLARY CLINTON: “The transition to democracy in Syria has begun, and it’s time for Asad to get out of the way. As President Obama said this morning…” (Sec. Clinton, Remarks, 8/18/11)

2016: ‘U.S. Strategy For Syria … Is Stuck Where It Started’

“The war has killed as many as a half-million people since 2011, contributed to a global migration crisis and created a vacuum that allowed the Islamic State to capture territory and emerge as a global terror concern. In that time, the U.S. has issued various, unfulfilled threats of its own, from declaring Assad's days ‘numbered’ five years ago to famously promising military action if chemical weapons were used and then backing down.” (“As Syria Transition Date Passes, Us Makes No Policy Change,” The Associated Press, 8/01/2016)

‘The top American [Sec.Kerry] described a U.S. strategy for Syria that is stuck where it started’ “The United States outlined no change in its Syria policy as a target date for a political transition passed Monday, despite warning a few months ago that no progress would lead to a more muscular approach for ending the 5½-year-old civil war. At a news conference in Washington, Secretary of State John Kerry said the U.S. would press on with a multi-month effort to prod Syrian President Bashar Assad and moderate opposition groups into a lasting truce and talks on a unity government... [O]n Monday, the top American described a U.S. strategy for Syria that is stuck where it started.” (“As Syria Transition Date Passes, Us Makes No Policy Change,” The Associated Press, 8/01/2016)

‘Fresh Setback[s] For US Strategy,’ & An Unchecked Russian Bombing Campaign In Support Of Assad

“The U.S. military’s efforts to confront the Islamic State in Syria suffered another setback Wednesday after the militants routed the only group to have survived intact an ill-fated Pentagon program to train and equip moderate rebels last year. The U.S.-backed New Syrian Army said it was forced to withdraw its forces to its base at Tanf near the Jordanian border after launching what appears to have been a poorly conceived offensive aimed at capturing the strategically important eastern Syrian town of Abu Kamal on the Syrian-Iraqi border.” (“Islamic State Routs Pentagon-Backed Syrian Rebels In Fresh Setback For U.S. Strategy,” The Washington Post, 6/29/2016)

“Russia launched a second day of air strikes against Syrian militants from an Iranian air base, rejecting U.S. suggestions its co-operation with Tehran might violate a U.N. resolution . . . Moscow first used Iran as a base from which to launch air strikes in Syria on Tuesday, deepening its involvement in the five-year-old Syrian civil war and angering the United States. . . . Russia backs Syrian President Bashar al-Assad . . .” (“Russia, Spurning U.S. Censure, Launches Second Day Of Syria Strikes From Iran,” Reuters, 8/17/2016)

  • “When Russian aircraft bombed a remote garrison in southeastern Syria last month, alarm bells sounded at the Pentagon and the Ministry of Defense in London. The Russians weren’t bombarding a run-of-the-mill rebel outpost, according to U.S. officials. Their target was a secret base of operations for elite American and British forces.” (“Russia Bombed Base in Syria Used by U.S.,” The Wall Street Journal, 7/21/2016)

‘A New Level Of Misery’ For Civilians In Syria

“The UN is investigating evidence of a toxic gas attack on a rebel-held area of the Syrian city of Aleppo. Rebels said the attack - which reportedly left four people dead and many injured - was carried out by government forces using chlorine gas.” (“Syria Conflict: Aleppo 'Chlorine Gas Attack' Investigated,” BBC News, 8/11/2016)

“Syria's largest city, Aleppo, divided by war, appears to have now reached a new level of misery. The United Nations says Aleppo's water pumping stations are without fuel . . . [T]he warring sides have simultaneously strangled one another's neighborhoods, putting all 2 million residents under de facto siege. The city's water stations . . . are out of power, and everyone's taps are dry.” (“In Syria, Residents Of War-Ravaged Aleppo Are Without Running Water,” NPR, 8/10/2016)

  • “‘Devastating and overwhelming.’ Those are the conditions in the ancient and once-great metropolis of Aleppo, according to the head of delegation for the International Committee of the Red Cross, Marianne Gasser, who was in the Syrian city recently. ‘We hear that dozens of civilians are being killed every day and scores more injured from shells, mortars and rockets,’ Ms. Gasser said.” (Editorial, “As Aleppo Is Destroyed, Mr. Obama Stands By,” The Washington Post, 8/16/2016)

Lacking A Strategy, The Obama Administration ‘Has Issued Various, Unfulfilled Threats,’ Like In 2013 When The President ‘Decided To Ignore His Own Red Line’ On Chemical Weapons

PRESIDENT OBAMA: “We have been very clear to the Assad regime, but also to other players on the ground, that a red line for us is we start seeing a whole bunch of chemical weapons moving around or being utilized.  That would change my calculus.  That would change my equation.” (President Obama, Press Conference, 8/20/12)

“In August of 2013, a rebel-held suburb of Damascus was attacked with sarin gas — a nerve agent that causes lung muscle paralysis and results in death from suffocation. The attack killed 1,400 men, women and children, and at the White House, officials asserted ‘with high confidence’ that the government of Bashar al-Assad was responsible.” (“The President Blinked,” PBS’s Frontline, 5/25/15)

  • “It was Aug. 30, 2013, and the U.S. military was poised for war. Obama had publicly warned Syrian strongman Bashar al-Assad that his regime would face consequences if it crossed a ‘red line’ by employing chemical weapons against its own people. Assad did it anyway, and Hagel had spent the day approving final plans for a barrage of Tomahawk cruise missile strikes against Damascus. U.S. naval destroyers were in the Mediterranean, awaiting orders to fire. … Instead, Obama told a stunned Hagel to stand down. … The president had decided to ignore his own red line…” (“Hagel: The White House Tried to ‘Destroy’ Me,” Foreign Policy, 12/18/15)

Former Obama Secretaries Of Defense: ‘A Serious Mistake,’ ‘A Blow To American Credibility’

ROBERT GATES, Former Obama Secretary of Defense: “Backing away from reacting once the red line was crossed impacted American credibility not just in the Middle East, but I think it was being watching in Moscow and Tehran and Beijing and Pyongyang and elsewhere… So not acting in response to crossing the red line was a serious mistake in my view.” (“Former US Defense Secretary: Obama Hurt US Credibility When He Backed Down From His Red Line On Syria,” Business Insider, 1/26/16)

CHUCK HAGEL, Former Obama Secretary of Defense: “There’s no question in my mind that it hurt the credibility of the president’s word when this occurred.’ In the days and months afterward, Hagel’s counterparts around the world told him their confidence in Washington had been shaken over Obama’s sudden about-face. And the former defense secretary said he still hears complaints to this day from foreign leaders.” (“Hagel: The White House Tried to ‘Destroy’ Me,” Foreign Policy, 12/18/15)

LEON PANETTA, Former Obama Secretary of Defense: “…President Obama vacillated… The result, I felt, was a blow to American credibility. When the president as commander in chief draws a red line, it is critical that he act if the line is crossed. The power of the United States rests on its word, and clear signals are important both to deter adventurism and to reassure allies that we can be counted on. Assad’s action clearly defied President Obama’s warning; by failing to respond, it sent the wrong message to the world.” (Leon Panetta, “Worthy Fights: A Memoir Of Leadership In War And Peace, Pg.450, 2015)


Related Issues: ISIL, War on Terror, Syria, National Security