Saturday, April 4, 2020 -
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Obama botches Syria — again

To those who say that President Obama is admirably cautious before acting on intelligence that says Syria used chemical weapons, we say: Watch the pattern.

From the beginning of Syria’s participation in the “Arab Spring,” Obama has stubbornly refused to take the little steps that would have prevented the necessity for big steps later.

When there was no civil war in Syria, when there were mere civil protests back in March, 2011, Obama refused to express moral support for the protesters, let alone arm them.

Back then, adherents of radical Islam had not yet infiltrated the Syrian protest movement. And that’s all it was — a protest movement. Not an armed rebellion. But Obama said: The US should not intervene in any way, for if we do, we will exacerbate the situation and heighten the likelihood of a full blown civil war.

Of course, the protests in Syria would not die any more than they did in Tunisia, Egypt, Libya and elsewhere. The handwriting was on the wall; the inevitability of continued and intensified protests in Syria, absent concessions by the government, was perfectly clear.

But Obama did not act.

Then the protests got worse — still no Islamic involvement, but the number of civilian dead rose — and Obama did not act.

Then the numbers of dead were counted not in the ones or the tens, but in the hundreds and the thousands.

Obama did not act.

Then adherents of radical Islam saw a situation in Syria ripe for exploitation.

Obama did not act.

By “act,” we mean the attempt to strengthen the forces for democracy in Syria, and the attempt to prevent the Assad regime from massacring civilians. On both fronts, Obama did not act.

Frankly, we find it difficult to understand how the President can piously intone “Never Again” at Holocaust memorial ceremonies, and stand idly by while a mass murder unfolds in Syria — 70,000 dead so far — a mass murder that threatens to devolve into a full blown genocide.

And now, there is evidence that someone in Syria has used chemical weapons.

Still, Obama does not act.

By “act,” there are two powerful options besides the commitment of American forces in Syria.

• Arming the pro-democracy, non-radical Islamist rebels.

Unfortunately, because Obama has not acted, this option is much less viable than it used to be. Over a  year ago, there were no radical Islamist elements involved in the Syrian uprising. It was easier to discern which Syrian rebel groups were anti-Western and which were pro-Western. But because Obama did not act when it was relatively easy and effective to do so, it is now much more difficult to tell who’s who, and to ensure that American arms do not fall into the wrong hands.

• Imposing a no-fly zone in all or parts of Syria.

This option is capable of being enforced, at least in part, from Jordan and Turkey. In part, it is actionable through the use of Iron Dome anti-missile missiles. Its adoption seems to be imperative, an expression of basic humanity, for it is via air power that the Syrian regime is able to kill large numbers of civilians at one time.

There is still a larger reason for Obama to act: the potential for the conflict in Syria to spill over into Jordan and Turkey, and to destabilize major segments of the Middle East. Already, the huge and continuing influx of refugees from Syria into Jordan and Lebanon threatens to destabilize those countries and, to a lesser extent, the influx into Turkey threatens to destabilize it.

Still, Obama doesn’t act. He wants to know who used chemical weapons in Syria. We fail to see the relevance of this information. The goal here is to destroy the weapons, whoever has used them. Whether it is the Syrian regime or it is one or more groups of rebels who used the weapons, it is the weapons that must be destroyed. What’s the difference who used them?

Again, Obama, as he has since the beginning, finds excuses not to act. This is the two-year pattern.

It is a very dangerous one for Israel, not only and not even mainly in regard to Syria, but in regard to Iran. Here is President Obama, first articulating as clearly as possible his “red lines” for involvement in Syria: the use of chemical weapons. It is a “game changer.” Obama’s words. Yet, Obama does not act.

What do you think Iran thinks when it sees this? It thinks that all this talk about “no option being off the table” is just that: talk. It thinks that all it must do is to weather some sanctions, whose pain the Iranian regime could not care less about, and it will then continue its pursuit of a nuclear weapon with impunity.

Because Obama talks, but does not act.

Pathetically, Obama explained his reason for not acting now as due to insufficient specificity about chemical weapon use to be able to win international support for American intervention.

Since when did the international community intervene to stop mass murder? Not in Darfur. Not in Rwanda. Not in Cambodia. Not in Biafra. Not during the Holocaust. We expect more of our president than to look first for international support before doing the right thing. “Never Again” — does he mean it, or not?

Copyright © 2013 by the Intermountain Jewish News

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Rabbi Hillel Goldberg
Editor & Publisher

Shana R. Goldberg
Assistant Publisher