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Sunday, February 03, 2013

An extra-marital affair and a fall on the head put Syria in the hands of al-Qaeda?

The New York Times is reporting that outgoing Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and former CIA Director David Petraeus had developed a plan to arm Syrian rebels who are not affiliated with Islamists, but the plan fell apart when Petraeus was forced to resign due to his extramarital affair and Clinton fell and hit her head.
But it was Syria that proved to be the most difficult test. As that country descended into civil war, the administration provided humanitarian aid to the growing flood of refugees, pushed for sanctions and sought to organize the political opposition. The United States lagged France, Britain and Persian Gulf states in recognizing that opposition as the legitimate representative of the Syria people, but by December, Mr. Obama had taken that step.
Still, rebel fighters were clamoring for weapons and training. The White House has been reluctant to arm them for fear that it would draw the United States into the conflict and raise the risk of the weapons falling into the wrong hands. Rebel extremists affiliated with Al Qaeda had faced no such constraints in securing weapons from their backers.
When Mr. Petraeus was the commander of forces in Iraq and then-Senator Clinton was serving on the Senate Armed Services Committee and preparing for her 2008 presidential bid, she had all but called him a liar for trumpeting the military gains of the troop increase ordered by President Bush. But serving together in the Obama administration, they were allies when it came to Syria, as well as on the debate over how many troops to send to Afghanistan at the beginning of the administration.
Mr. Petraeus had a background in training foreign forces from his years in Iraq, and his C.I.A. job put him in charge of covert operations. The Americans already had experience in providing nonlethal assistance to some of the rebels.
The plan that Mr. Petraeus developed and Mrs. Clinton supported called for vetting rebels and establishing and arming a group of fighters with the assistance of some neighboring states. Defense Secretary Leon E. Panetta was said by some officials to be sympathetic to the idea. Mr. Petraeus and a spokesman for Mr. Panetta declined to comment.
Wary of becoming entangled in the Syria crisis, the White House pushed back, and Mrs. Clinton backed off. Some administration officials expected the issue to be joined again after the election. But when Mr. Petraeus resigned because of an extramarital affair and Mrs. Clinton suffered a concussion, missing weeks of work, the issue was shelved. 
In an interview last week, Mrs. Clinton declined to comment on her role in the arms debate and emphasized other steps the United States had taken. “We have worked assiduously, first to create some kind of legitimate opposition,” she said. “We have been the architect and main mover of very tough sanctions against Assad.”
She added: “Having said all that, Assad is still killing. The opposition is increasingly being represented by Al Qaeda extremist elements.” She also said that the opposition was getting messages from the ungoverned areas in Pakistan where some of the Qaeda leadership was believed to be hiding — a development she called “deeply distressing.”
So if this report is correct, it will one day be written that the United States earned Syria's enmity for the next 100 because David Petraeus couldn't keep his pants zippered, Hillary Clinton couldn't stay on her feet, and Barack Hussein Obama was in bed with the Islamists. 

What could go wrong?

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