Posts Tagged ‘Assad’

Russia’s Military Presence in the Middle East

October 22, 2015

John Price (Ambassador to Mauritius, Seychelles and Comoros, 2002-2005)

Cross-posted from Ambassador Price’s October 19, 2015 blog post.

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President Vladimir V. Putin has been waiting for the opportunity to undermine the United States power in the Middle East. Seizing on that opportunity in Syria was in part due to a lack of U.S. policy that allowed the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) and al-Qaeda linked Islamist groups to make massive gains against Mr. Putin’s longtime ally Bashar al-Assad. Putin wants to also protect Russia’s main Mediterranean naval facility at the Port of Tartus; continue to be the major arms supplier in the region, and gain access to the vast oil reserves.

The former Soviet Union was active in the Middle East shortly after World War II, supporting Egypt and Syria militarily. After the October War of 1973, in which Israel humbled both of these countries, the Soviets withdrew from the region. They also did not want to confront the U.S. which was considered to have stronger interests there.

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Ambassador Gabriel on Countering ISIL

September 29, 2014

Edward M. Gabriel (Ambassador to Morocco, 1997-2001)

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One year ago this month, I wrote in these pages about the need for US leadership and bold American action in Syria. This appears even more important now in order to stop groups that seek to harm American interests and citizens. Perhaps it took the barbaric acts of ISIL to change the minds of the President and the American public, but this has now created an opportunity for the President to recalibrate US policy options regarding Syria as well as radical extremists in the region.

As I noted then, America already has experienced a significant deterioration in our strategic interests in this conflict. “If Iran, Syria and Hezbollah further tip the balance in their favor, this will result in a strengthened axis of resistance against US interests, stretching from Iran, through Iraq and Syria, to Hezbollah in Lebanon. This will represent an unstable, long term situation for the US, Egypt, Lebanon, Jordan, Israel, and our allies in the Gulf.”

I wrote then that a key task for the President is to convince the Qataris and Saudis– who are supplying arms and money to unvetted groups– as well as a broad coalition of partners to get behind this common mission, and to stop supplying arms and money to radical rebel factions.

This is now the US strategy that President Obama enunciated this month, and one that American policy makers and the public should strongly support. Only American leadership can both organize and sustain a strong coalition, including moderate rebel groups and countries, to put boots on the ground and provide the arms and resources to create the anvil necessary, between allied forces on the ground and US and allied strikes from the sky.

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Regime Change Will Not Diminish Al-Qaeda Attacks

June 2, 2014

John Price (Ambassador to Mauritius, Seychelles and Comoros, 2002-2005)

Cross-posted from Ambassador Price’s May 30, 2014 blog post.

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In Syria how will the U.S. clearly define moderate opposition groups? That has become a major difficulty as well in Libya. Rebel groups break down into tribes, clans, and broader religious factions—some with fundamentalist beliefs, while others have a more radical interpretation of Islam which includes armed jihad. In any event we do not know their ultimate goals. A Muslim diplomat once told me it is difficult to know the mission of a person carrying a weapon: “When they come, they also bring their behavior with them. There is one baggage that doesn’t weigh much–it is the behavior that is inside of them–the behavior in their mind–the attitude that they have. We can search their pockets for weapons–and see the one’s on their shoulders–but we cannot search their mind”.

Syria over the last three years has been in a chaotic civil war in which no one has clearly defined the “moderate” opposition that could rule democratically, if we take out President Bashar al-Assad. I have written articles saying, “regime change without an endgame plan is fraught with disaster”, as we witnessed in Libya after the U.S.—NATO incursion in 2011 that led to the downfall of the ruler Col. Muammar Gadhafi. Armed Islamist militias have since taken over large swaths of the country.

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So, Mr. President, You Want a New Syria Policy?

February 19, 2014

Marc Ginsberg (Ambassador to Morocco, 1994-1998)

Cross-posted from Ambassador Ginsberg’s February 18, 2014 special to the Huffington Post.

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This weekend’s collapse of the Geneva Syria “peace” talks throws into stark relief the unenviable fact that the White House has run out of “Hail Mary” passes which passed as its Syria policy. So if the president truly desires a better Syria policy he must first fix the reasons why he has overseen a failed Syria policy, and then work up from there.

Why has it gone wrong so far? Choose your poison and I invite you to read my previous long list of articles on this site. But if there is one reason that encapsulates the endless missteps and miscues it is the battle for the president’s foreign policy soul between the moderate-progressive foreign policy wing and the neo-isolationist wing of the Democratic Party.

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The Syrian Geneva “Peace” Conference: Whistling Past the Graveyard?

January 23, 2014

Marc Ginsberg (Ambassador to Morocco, 1994-1998)

Cross-posted from Ambassador Ginsberg’s January 21, 2014 special to the Huffington Post.

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Peace conferences, as a general historical rule, are convened because the warring parties are looking for a way to end the conflict. Not so at tomorrow’s Geneva Syrian “peace conference.” While diplomats from over 30 countries fine tune their diplomatic fiddles the industrial strength mayhem and murder in Syria is unrelenting.

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Assad Is the Least Worst Option

December 23, 2013

Ryan Crocker, Ambassador to Afghanistan (2011-2012), Iraq (2007-2009), Pakistan (2004-2007), Syria (1998-2001), Kuwait (1994-1997) and Lebanon (1990-1993)

Cross-posted from Ambassador Crocker’s December 21, 2013 op-ed in  the New York Times.

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It is time to consider a future for Syria without Assad’s ouster, because it is overwhelmingly likely that is what the future will be.

President Obama’s bold declaration in 2011 that Assad must go violated a fundamental principle of foreign affairs: if you articulate a policy, you had better be sure you have the means to carry it out. In Syria, we clearly did not.

We assumed that Syria was like Egypt, Tunisia and Libya with a hated dictator ripe for toppling by his people. History demonstrates why toppling would not be easy: Hama, 1982. Bashar’s father Hafez cornered the Syrian Muslim Brotherhood in the country’s fourth largest city. Ringed by armor and artillery, the city center was destroyed. The Brothers were neutralized, but some 15,000 Sunni civilians also perished. The exact number will never be known.

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Partitioning May Be a Peaceful Solution

November 21, 2013

John Price (Ambassador to Mauritius, Seychelles and Comoros, 2002-2005)

Cross-posted from Ambassador Price’s November 20, 2013 blog post.

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The goal of building democratic institutions in North Africa and the Middle East could prove to be futile. The Arab Spring uprisings that brought about regime change in Tunisia, Egypt, Libya, and Yemen did not bring peace to the region. The U.S. push for regime change in Syria, which is in the midst of a civil war and tribal and ethnic clashes, may not bring peace either.

Building democratic institutions and unifying Syria may not be possible, with the pent-up demand for a homeland by the differing ethnic factions. The overthrow of Bashar al-Assad may become the catalyst for the partitioning of Syria. This may also be true for other Middle East and North African countries, where uprisings and demonstrations occur almost daily.

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Iraq’s Maliki in DC: Take Down the Welcome Sign

October 31, 2013

Marc Ginsberg (Ambassador to Morocco, 1994-1998)

Cross-posted from Ambassador Ginsberg’s October 31, 2013 special to the Huffington Post.

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Iraqi PM Maliki arrived yesterday in Washington hat in hand with a slick sleight of hand to play for unsuspecting Americans.

Despite our ill-conceived investment of blood and treasure to bring a new era to Iraq, Maliki has doubled down on America’s Iraqi disaster by orchestrating his own surge of sectarian violence not seen since the worst days of Iraq’s post-Saddam black years of 2006-2008. The unraveling of the shaky social compact the U.S. left behind has resulted in the deaths of 7,000 Iraqis this year alone. By most accounts Iraq is heading toward an unchecked meltdown, and Maliki would like us to believe he deserves a red carpet welcome as the innocent plaintiff in the upheavals he created, not as the felonious defendant he should be adjudged.

And to top off his disastrous management of Iraq, he wants Washington to legitimate his charade by endorsing his bid for re-election in Iraq’s crucial 2014 elections.

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Ambassador Stephenson on his Trip to Israel

October 22, 2013

Thomas Stephenson (Ambassador to Portugal, 2007-2009)

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As I write, I am flying back from four days in Israel during which time I participated in a series of meetings with current, and several former, senior military, intelligence, and government leaders. None of the meetings were for attribution, but I thought it would be interesting to address the questions posed (How does the government shutdown impact US foreign policy and US credibility abroad? How significant is the recent shift in US-Iran relations? What do you expect will result from the recent agreement between Secretary Kerry, Russian Foreign Minister Lavrov, and the Assad regime regarding the disarmament of Syria’s chemical weapons?) in the context of Israel’s precarious position with regard to most of the issues raised, and the gist of what we heard and observed regarding these issues while there.

There was concern expressed about the impact on Israel and our other trading partners of our government shutdown and potential debt default (fortunately, an agreement to kick the can down the road a few months was reached the day after our meetings concluded). Several of the people with whom we met expressed concern about the potential impact of shutdown and sequestration on our military capabilities, the dollar as the world’s reserve currency, and the extent to which world financial markets and international trade have been roiled by our failure to find a solution. There is no doubt relief in many corners of the world that we have at least an interim solution.

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Ambassador Holwill on Syria

September 23, 2013

Richard N. Holwill (Ambassador to Ecuador, 1988-1989; Counselor to the US Arms Control and Disarmament Agency, 1990-1993)

Cross-posted from Ambassador Holwill’s September 22, 2013 Letter to the Editor published in The Washington Post.

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Regarding David Ignatius’s Sept. 19 op-ed column, “Obama’s uncredited win”:

President Obama failed a basic test of leadership. He did not get Congress, commentators or the public to follow his lead. This failure was driven by the fact that he did not identify or articulate the critical U.S. interest at stake with regard to chemical weapons in Syria. That interest is quite clear: Al-Qaeda cannot be allowed to capture chemical weapons from Syrian forces. In this regard, we have a common interest with the Russians. They cannot allow chemical weapons to fall into the hands of a group that could transfer them to Chechens.

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