Must read: How Obama is enabling the Syrian genocide
The truth - and it has become clear to me for the first time - is that Bashar al-Assad, who is Iran's most loyal client, and the Islamic State have an unwritten, unspoken agreement not to fight each other, so as to ensure that only the two will remaining standing once hundreds of thousands more Syrian civilians are murdered. And the Obama administration - through its feckless pursuit of a legacy nuclear deal with Iran - has become Assad's and ISIS's number one enabler.
Every barrel bomb dropped on defenseless civilians by regime helicopters is a recruiting gift to Baghdadi, the head of a vicious criminal enterprise that combines the worst aspects of al Qaeda and Saddam Hussein’s Baathism. Every Syrian child killed by barrel bombs or starved to death by regime sieges convinces others that if the “international community” can muster nothing but words, perhaps the self-styled caliph can offer protection. Eager to help rid its Syrian client of credible, nationalistic opponents, Iran consciously supports a program of mass murder that only gives Baghdadi power in Syria and in the Sunni Muslim world at large.
For Obama, who has said that his goal is to “degrade and ultimately destroy” an organization known variously as the Islamic State, ISIL, ISIS, and Daesh, Assad’s atrocities ought to provoke a reaction that extends beyond the same tired rhetoric. They do not. This is because Iran — the object of the administration’s courtship — is fully enabling the mass homicide strategy of its Syrian client.
In its single-minded pursuit of a nuclear agreement with Iran, the Obama administration adopted a Syria policy rich in rhetoric and empty of substantive action. Until June 2014, when the Islamic State used its bases in Syria to overrun much of Iraq, the administration could use the indifference of the U.S. and European publics to Syria’s agony to duck the fact that Assad had continuously undermined the White House’s credibility — ignoring the president’s loose talk about how Assad had lost legitimacy and the chemical “red lines” that ought not be crossed.
Getting a legacy-boosting nuclear deal with Iran was everything for the Obama administration. Nothing should be done in Syria that would offend Iran’s supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, or the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps’ support for Assad’s mass murder strategy. Offending them — or so the theory went — might cause Iran to walk away from the nuclear talks and forsake a monetary cornucopia in sanctions relief and foreign direct investment.
Public indifference toward Syria’s hellish humanitarian crisis still prevails. But by committing the United States to a war against the Islamic State, the administration found its task complicated by the fact that Assad’s atrocities and his lack of legitimacy had created the very vacuum in eastern Syria filled by Baghdadi and his followers. From the beginning of the uprising, Assad had proclaimed himself a bulwark against terrorists: Yet even as his forces gunned down peaceful demonstrators, he ejected extremists from regime prisons, seeking to inject them directly into the bloodstream of the revolution. The Islamic State became the Assad regime’s enemy of choice; an adversary that would supplement regime attacks on nationalist rebels, only engaging regime forces in combat when they sat atop something they wanted, such as an oil field, a military base replete with weapons stockpiles, or a town filled with priceless antiquities.
This symbiotic relationship enabled the Islamic State to sweep through much of Iraq in June 2014, pulling American combat aviation and ground forces back into Mesopotamia and the Levant. Iranian fingerprints were all over the Assad regime’s scorched-earth policies, which enabled this catastrophe. In a diplomatic tactic designed to advance the nuclear talks, the Obama administration pretended that Washington and Tehran were essentially on the same page with respect to the Islamic State. But they were not, and they are not.
Iranian policies in Syria and Iraq have made vast swaths of both countries safe for jihadis. This is an awkward fact for the Obama administration: It now seeks, as part of its strategy to move forward with the nuclear deal it struck with Tehran, to convince Congress that it is not in fact blind to Iranian depredations in Syria and elsewhere in the region. Thus far, the convincing has been all talk, and that is why it is falling short.Read the whole thing.