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Syria: Has Putin Called Obama's Bluff?

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The Obama administration admits that its regime change project in Syria and his policies to defeat the "Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant" (ISIL) have been failures. Obama has abandoned his program of training "well-vetted moderate" mercenaries, and agreed to start talks with Russia. It is a major admission of doing "stupid stuff" and Obama blames Hillary Clinton, neocons, and Republicans for talking him into it. The main stream media as usual takes no responsibility for being a cheerleader and propagandist for another U.S. debacle---Obama's War.

The Guardian reported that the Russians tried to pursue a diplomatic solution to the chaos in Syria in 2012, but that the Russian's effort fell on deaf ears in the Obama administration. The Guardian reported that "the former Finish president and Nobel Peace Prize winner Martti Ahtisaari said western powers failed to seize on the [Russian] proposal". As a result "tens of thousands of people have been killed and millions uprooted, causing the world's gravest refugee crisis since the Second World War".

Out of hubris, Obama failed to pursue a diplomatic solution because he was confident that the Bashar al-Assad regime would quickly fall, and that he could easily pick up the pieces, according to Phyllis Bennis (here). This was the same kind of smugness that led George W. Bush and the neocons to invade Iraq in 2003. Now, rather than admit his disastrous failure in Syria, Obama instead points the finger of blame on "a group that, in addition to congressional Republicans, happened to include former Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton", according to the New York Times (here).

So, Obama says that the neocons, Republicans and Hillary Clinton talked him into an illegal war of aggression, a regime change, the destruction of Syria and a war crime that he did not want to do; and that caused the deaths of at least 250,000 Syrians. It has caused over 4 million war refugees, some of whom are now fleeing for their lives to Europe. In the same New York Times article, Obama excuse is that he "reluctantly went along" with the group that included Hillary Clinton, but he "never wanted to do it".

The New York Times further reported that according to Josh Earnest, the White House press secretary: "Mr. Obama has long considered Syria a quagmire that defies American solutions, and aides are hoping to keep him from being held responsible for something that, they argue, he never really had the power to fix".

To the contrary, Obama should be held responsible. Obama is the president, he is in charge of American foreign policy, and his lame whining from Josh Earnest does not excuse him now. Obama's lame excuse for his Syria catastrophe and his "I told you so argument" in the New York Times is a confession of what many have been saying for seven years: Obama is a puppet and the neocons, neoliberals, and the liberal interventionists pull his strings. Obama conveniently forgets that he is the "decider-in-chief" and that the "buck stops" with him. While others may have given him wrong and even criminal advice, all the blame is his.

Obama's astounding admission of weakness, incompetence and failure began to unfold with Obama's Central Commander General Lloyd Austin testifying before the Senate that after spending $500 million in the last year, he had only "four or five well-vetted moderates" trained and deployed inside Syria against ISIL, according to the Guardian (here). General Austin said without intended irony or shame that they had received "terrific training" and he asked the Senate for another $600 million for the program. The Senators were unimpressed with the idea of funding more suicide missions, and Obama announced that he is abandoning the program.

Now three years after turning down a 2012 Russian offer, the Obama administration is "reaching out to the Russians" (New York Times) for a possible diplomatic solution. This comes about after needless hundreds of thousands of Syrians have been killed and millions made homeless. Obama has destroyed another once-prosperous and non-sectarian regime in the Middle East, just as in Iraq and Libya.

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The main stream media should not escape blame either. Just one week ago the New York Times editorial board published an editorial telling the Russians to butt out of Syria. Reading between the lines the editorial made it clear that the goal of the Obama administration was the removal of "Syria's ruthless dictator, Bashar al-Assad", and that defeating ISIL has been a fig-leaf all along. If the editorial was not clear enough, then General Austin's testimony that the Obama administration has only "four or five" Syrian fighters made it very clear.

If it is still not clear enough that ISIL has never been the main target, then the fact that the Obama administration allowed its NATO partner Turkey to bomb the Kurds (New York Times) in Iraq and Syria should make it crystal clear. The Kurds have been one of the most effective fighting forces against ISIL in both Iraq and Syria. The Kurds have also been a thorn in the side of Turkey; as a minority group they have been struggling for an independent statehood of their own.

Obama gave the green light for Turkey to bomb the Kurds in exchange for Turkey allowing its Incirlik and Diyarbakir Airbases to be used by the U.S. to attack Syria (New York Times). Turkey also covets carving out a piece of Syria for itself if Syria should disintegrate. The green light to attack the Kurds and a 2,000 square mile piece of northern Syria, called an "ISIS-free zone"---that others call a "Kurd-free zone"---was the deal that Obama made with Turkey in exchange for airbases and helping to overthrow Assad.

It is no coincidence that the flood of refugees has increased since the Obama administration started bombing Syria from nearby Turkey airbases in August. With the fig-leaf of fighting ISIL, the Obama administration has been able to greatly increase its air war against Assad. The U.S. led coalition has the ability to carry out thousands of bombing sorties as it did in Libya.

The air war against Syria is an attempt to repeat of what the U.S. coalition "no fly zone" did to Libya under the cover of the right-to-protect civilians (R2P). Instead of protecting civilians, R2P was used to carry out 5,857 bombing sorties and 246 cruise missile attacks to destroy the Libya and assassinate Muammar Gaddafi (here). It was obviously an exhilarating experience for Hillary (watch), so it is no wonder that she wanted the rush of a repeat performance with Assad.

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The main stream media has also been irresponsible. For over three years they (e.g. The Guardian, The New York Times, The Washington Post) have been covering-up the Obama administration's real purpose in Syria---that is assuming Obama even has a plan other than chaos. Until 2014 the media maintained the fiction that the U.S. was providing military aid to "well-vetted moderates" to oppose the Assad regime in a civil war. The appearance of ISIL came as a complete surprise to the main stream media. If the main stream media did not know how or when ISIL evolved they should have.

With the surprise appearance of ISIL in 2014, the media fiction of "well-vetted moderates" disappeared into the memory holes. The media then started concentrating its coverage on the evil of ISIL and the Assad regime. The evil of U.S. drone strikes and bombs that kill mostly innocent civilians is just considered collateral damage and too often overlooked.

Now the main stream media uses the fiction that the U.S. is fighting ISIL. General Austin's revelations that there are no U.S. trained "well-vetted moderates" in Syria and that it is a fiction has thrown the Obama administration into disarray and finger pointing that Obama's War in Syria is former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton's fault. The public is not told who the money and weapons really go to, what factions the U.S. is backing and how many special operations forces have boots on the ground.

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David William Pear is an progressive columnist writing on economic, political and social issues. He is a regular columnist for The Real News Network, Op Ed News, and an editor for OEN. His articles have also appeared in Truth Out, Consortium (more...)

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