Terry Glavin: How Barack Obama sold out Syrians to appease Iran

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Terry Glavin: How Barack Obama sold out Syrians to appease Iran

Terry Glavin | August 24, 2016 | Last Updated: Aug 24 10:20 PM ET
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SAUL LOEB/AFP/Getty ImagesU.S. President Barack Obama

Last Sunday marked the three-year anniversary of the most egregious use of weapons of mass destruction in the 21st century: the sarin gas massacre in Ghouta, Syria, where President Bashar Assad caused the death by asphyxiation of 1,300 men, women and children. No particular fuss was made over the milestone, and it’s not hard to understand why.

Syrians are now being burned to death by napalm. A primitive version of the Vietnam-era incendiary jelly is routinely packed into the crude barrel bombs Assad’s forces have been dropping on civilian neighbourhoods at a rate of about 220 a week since October, when his friends in the Kremlin assured the world that the Syrian regime had stopped using barrel bombs altogether.

It has been almost three years since U.S. President Barack Obama walked back from his chemical-weapons “red line” in Syria and joined Russian President Vladimir Putin in the pantomime that resulted in the Sept. 27, 2013, UN Security Council Resolution (UNSCR) 2118, which called on Assad to surrender his chemical weapons stockpile. Ghouta has been unavoidably mentioned in recent days only in passing, following the disclosure by the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons that its investigators had detected the precursors of nerve agents at facilities Assad had failed to declare under UNSCR 2118. It seems the Syrian president has been lying all along about getting out of the murder-by-sarin business.


Minor details anyway, all that, because by this March, the Syrian-American Medical Society (SAMS) had already found that among the 161 verified chemical attacks in Syria, three of every four occurred after UNSCR 2118. The SAMS study — titled, A New Normal: Ongoing Chemical Weapons Attacks in Syria — reveals that the Assad regime merely switched from sarin to chlorine gas in its bombardment of civilians areas.

Any public reflection of the Ghouta massacre or of the many lies Obama has told about his response to the event would have been redundant this week, thanks to new evidence that supports the proposition that from the beginning, all that mattered to the U.S. president as far as Syria was concerned was his foreign-policy vanity project: détente with the Iranian ayatollahs. And now, nearly half a million Syrians have been obliged to die for what has turned out to be a caveat-riddled, vaguely enforceable nuclear deal the White House struck with Assad’s backers in Khomeinist Iran.

As far back as Iran’s aborted Green Revolution in 2009, Obama’s supplications to the country’s ruling theocracy have amounted to diplomatic shivs in the backs of its youthful democratic insurrectionists, mash notes written directly to Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei and the scuttling of programs documenting the regime’s human-rights outrages. As laid bare in The Iran Wars, the just-published book by Wall Street Journal foreign correspondent Jay Solomon, all the rationalizations the White House has been palming off ever since Ghouta have been falsehoods and cheap alibis.


Shaam News Network/The Associated Press filesPeople lie dead after an attack on Ghouta, Syria, in 2013.
Obama’s chemical red-line reversal had nothing to do with clever triangulation, war weariness, nation-building at home, the absence of “good guys” in the Syrian revolutionary opposition or the devilish complexity of the struggle. It was because Iran’s negotiators threatened to call off the nuclear talks if he used the unanimous Senate resolution he’d been given to punish Assad for Ghouta, senior American and Iranian officials told Solomon. At the time, Obama’s emissaries were meeting Iranian negotiators secretly in Oman. Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps “would not accept a continued engagement with the U.S. if their closest ally was being hit,” Solomon reports.

Once facing the most youthful, pro-American, pro-democracy uprisings of all the Arab Spring convulsions, Assad is now more firmly entrenched than at any time since the early days of 2011. His Baathist regime and its Shabiha death squads now enjoy bottomless bank loans and military aid from Beijing, seasoned Iranian Quds Force commanders to direct the strategies of battle, Iranian-sponsored mercenaries from as far away as Central Asia and bloodthirsty Shia militiamen from Hezbollah. And for nearly a year now, Russia’s direct and generous assistance.

The Kremlin’s air force has added internationally outlawed cluster munitions to the napalm, shrapnel and chlorine Assad’s barrel bombers are raining down on the people of Aleppo, Homs, Idlib and Daraya. In less than 11 months, the Russians have killed more Syrian civilians than the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant has managed to slaughter in more than three years of rampaging back and forth across the vast Syrian Desert.


Shaam News Network/The Associated Press filesThe aftermath of an attack on Ghouta, Syria, in 2013.
Aleppo is the final stronghold of Syria’s revolutionary opposition. Besieged and ravaged, it is now under constant bombardment. No UN humanitarian convoys have been able to make it into the city’s eastern districts and a brief break in the siege late last month was won not by U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry and his parlour diplomacy, but by a ragtag coalition of rebels and Islamist groupuscules.

Yet it’s hard to fault the rebels for the company they’re now keeping. Obama has refused to equip, or to arm, any rebel groups fighting Assad or his forces. And while the Russian bombardment of Aleppo was ascending in a grisly crescendo these past few weeks, the U.S. president was fine-tuning an offer to Putin: the coordination of U.S. and Russian military and intelligence agencies, coordinated air attacks, a joint command and control headquarters and an accelerated bombing campaign to target Jabhat Fateh al-Sham, a gruesome crowd that broke ties with al-Qaida only last month.

It’s true that there are few “good guys” left in the Syrian opposition. Five years ago, the population of Syria was about 22 million. The number of Syrians the UN counted as refugees in February was 4.8 million and of the people remaining within Syria’s borders 13.5 million require humanitarian assistance. More than half of them have had to flee their homes. Most of the “good guys” are dead.


Alexei Druzhinin/RIA-Novosti/Kremlin Pool Photo via The Associated Press filesSyrian President Bashar Assad, left, and Russian President Vladimir Putin in 2015.

There are heroes still in Syria, though, and none are more heroic than the non-violent, non-sectarian Syrian Civil Defence brigades. They’re the White Helmets activists who have pulled 60,000 people from the rubble of Syria’s cities since 2011. More than 130 organizations around the world have nominated the White Helmets for this year’s Nobel Peace Prize, and it would be a great thing if they won it.

It would be even better if this year the Nobel committee took back the peace prize it awarded Obama in 2009 for doing absolutely nothing. He didn’t deserve it then. He certainly doesn’t deserve it now.

National Post
http://news.nationalpost.com/full-comment/terry-glavin-how-barack-obama-sold-out-syrians-to-appease-iran
 
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