Posts Tagged ‘medvedev’

Russia seizes Crimea through use of military force

Friday, February 28th, 2014

While Obama and his administration appear unable to think quickly on their feet and to understand what is going on as Russia seizes control of the Crimea by military force, independent observers with a keen eye can figure out what is happening and the significance of events.

See, for example,

(1) Luke Harding, “Crimean coup is payback by Putin for Ukraine’s revolution; After what Moscow regards as the western-backed takeover of Kiev, the Kremlin’s choreography has been impressive,” The Guardian, February 28, 2014.

(2) “Krim-Regierungschef bittet Russland um Hilfe; Der prorussische Regierungschef hat sich zum Oberbefehlshaber des Militärs und der Polizei erklärt. Er bittet Russland um Unterstützung; Der Kreml will die Bitte prüfen,” Die Zeit, 1. März 2014 (9:39 Uhr).

Little room for doubt exists that a coup orchestrated and carried out by the Russians has taken place. The new president of the regional assembly, elected under the gaze of men with automatic weapons who had seized the regional parliament building, made the following statements, according to Die Zeit:

Angesichts der angespannten Lage auf der ukrainischen Halbinsel Krim hat der Regierungschef der autonomen Teilrepublik Russland Unterstützung gebeten. “Aus Verantwortung für das Leben und die Sicherheit der Bürger bitte ich den russischen Präsidenten Wladimir Putin um Hilfe bei der Sicherung von Frieden und Ruhe auf dem Gebiet der Krim”, sagte Sergej Axjonow in einer von örtlichen Medien verbreiteten und im russischen Fernsehen ausgestrahlten Botschaft.

Axjonow sagte zudem, er habe die Befehlsgewalt über alle Militäreinheiten sowie für die Polizei und Sicherheitskräfte auf der Halbinsel übernommen. Alle Kommandeure sollten sich seiner Befehlsgewalt fügen oder ihre Posten verlassen.…Aksjonow, der am Donnerstag vom Krim-Parlament zum Regierungschef ernannt worden war, ist der Chef der größten pro-russischen Partei auf der Halbinsel.

What has occurred is a seizure of control of the Crimea by the Russians, in what might be termed a Blitzputsch, a kind of a lightning military coup d’etat (here by a foreign power) that is over before anyone knows what is going on.

Now the charade of Russian citizens in the Crimea requesting military intervention to protect Russian citizens is being played out, as we write. This is a well-orchestrated act that was aleady foretold by Dmitri Medvedev when he claimed Russians lives and safety were being threatened earlier this week, on February 24.

See

(1) “Konflikt in der Ukraine: Krim-Regierung ruft Putin um Hilfe an,” Der Spiegel, March 1, 2014 (8:40).

Die Regierung der Krim geht überraschend einen großen Schritt Richtung Russland: Der Premier der Halbinsel Sergej Aksjonow bittet den Kreml um Unterstützung “bei der Friedenssicherung” in der Region. Er übernahm zudem die Kontrolle über Flotte, Polizei und Innenministerium.

(2) “Russia’s Prime Minister Medvedev claims direct threat to Russian citizens, laying basis for Russian military intervention in Ukraine,” The Trenchant Observer, February 24, 2014.

(3) Pilar Bonet, “El nuevo líder de Crimea pide ayuda a Putin para restablecer la paz,” El Pais, 28 Febrero 2014 (23:57 CET).

–Un portavoz del Kremlin responde que no ignorarán la petición de la región ucrania prorrusa
–El jefe del Gobierno pone bajo su control “temporal” todas las instituciones armadas de Crimea
–Obama advierte a Rusia de que intervenir en Ucrania tendrá “costes”
–La tensión en Crimea crece tras la ocupación militar de dos aeropuertos
–Kiev teme un estallido de las tensiones entre comunidades

Now we will see if Obama and the Europeans have the guts, the commitment and the resources to stand up to the mighty King of the Caucasus and his well-honed propaganda machine.

Among the first responses to “Putin’s coup” that should be implemented are the following:

1) Expulsion of Russia from the Group of Eight;

2) Repeal of most-favored-nation status for Russia by the U.S.

3) Re-establishment of the Johnson-Vanik amendment, which was reapealed when MFN status was granted to Russia in 2012.

4) Imposition of strong eonomic sanctions on Russia. If they block transit routes for America’s withdrawal from Afghanistan, so be it.

5) If the Russians do not withdraw from the Crimea, agreement on early accession of the Ukraine to full NATO membership.

The point is that Putin will not yield to the persuasive logic of fancy words. Something much stronger, like actions that directly hurt Russia, must be used instead.

Europe, America and the other civilized nations in the world must now take firm action against Russia, in order to uphold and reaffirm the prohibition of the threat or use of force contained in Article 2(4) of the United Nations Charter.

The Trenchant Observer

What future for UNSMIS and for Kofi Annan? Russia pushes for more of the same, with an implied military threat to dissuade all from any other options—Obama’s Debacle in Syria — Update #61 (July 11)

Wednesday, July 11th, 2012

For a long-time student of diplomatic history and international politics, it is painful to watch the amateurism of Barack Obama’s foreign policy and foreign policy team.

In the case of Syria, where the interests of Russia, China, Iran, and the al-Bashar regime stand in sharp opposition to the interests of the United States, Europe, NATO, and members of the Arab League, who oppose repression through the use of terror including war crimes and crimes against humanity, following Obama’s foreign policy actions over the last year has been painful indeed.

Russia and China have stood, together with Iran, in stalwart support of the murderous regime of Bashar al-Assad, vetoing Security Council resolutions in October 2011 and on February 4, 2012.

Russia, with a very experienced foreign policy team lead by Sergei Lavrov, a veteran diplomat, has acted with great clarity of vision in pursuit of its goal of maintaining Bashar al-Assad in power and deflecting or neutralizing all efforts to bring force to bear in order to halt al-Assad’s terror. Under President Medvedev (with Putin as Prime Minister, but hardly in the background), and now under Putin as president again, Russia has been unwavering in seeking and achieving its objectives.

On the first level, Russia has simply blocked any Security Council resolution that might work to the disadvantage of al-Assad and his regime of war criminals. It has watered down the two resolutions (2042 and 2043) adopted by the Security Council on April 14, and 21, ensuring that the illusory peace plan and cease-fire that they promised were embodied in resolutions with no teeth–with no consequences for al-Assad for violating them. Similarly, it has blocked adoption of any resolution by the Security Council conferring jurisdiction on the International Criminal Court (ICC) to prosecute those responsible for war crimes and crimes against humanity in Syria.

On the second level, Russia has brilliantly played the weakly-led states of the West and the Arab League for fools–knowing fools, perhaps, but fools nonetheless.

The Russians’ willing tool and instrument has been Kofi Annan, with his 6-point peace plan and mediation mission. Annan’s mediation effort, interestingly, was already well underway before it was informally endorsed by the Security Council in a Presidential Statement on March 21 (which itself had no legal force).

Resolution 2042 formally endorsed the plan on April 14, and authorized Kofi Annan and his mission to “mediate” resolution of the Syrian crisis with al-Assad, who continued to commit war crimes and crimes against humanity even as Annan sought to mediate their cessation.

Resolution 2043 was adopted by the Security Council on April 21, expanding an observer mission authorized on April 14 to a 300-member mission known as UNSMIS to observe the cease-fire called for in the 6-point plan and Resolution 2042.

Al-Assad never complied with any of the peace plan’s provisions, and following numerous incidents where its observers were fired upon and threatened by crowds, UNSMIS was forced to stand down, confining its observers basically to their hotels in Damascus.

At various key decision points throughout this saga, Russia has raised the possibility of military engagement with them if the U.S., NATO, and the Arab states intervened in Syria.

One such threat was extraordinary: President Medvedev explicitly raised the possibility of a nuclear war in the region if there were military intervention against a state in the region (definitely Syria, possibly Iran).

At each decision point, the United States–without acknowledging the threat–went along with what the Russians wanted.

Now we are approaching another important decision point, to decide whether the UNSMIS mission should be extended when its initial 90-day authorization expires on or about July 20, and whether Kofi Annan should be authorized to continue his mediation effort.  And, at precisely this moment, Russia has sent a group of warships including Russian soldiers to the Syrian port of Tartus, just in case anyone had forgotten the threat.

The UNSMIS mission and Kofi Annan’s mediation efforts clearly provide cover for al-Assad and his continuing efforts to exterminate his armed and unarmed opposition through the use of terror.

Russia and Iran, which Annan has tried to bring into the diplomatic muddle, and presumably China, strongly support both of these proposed actions.

Will the U.S., NATO, Europe and the Arab League blink again, and in effect accede to the Russian demand that al-Assad be given as much time as he needs to annihilate his opponents–without military opposition from those who would use military force, if necessary, to halt the commission of crimes against humanity and war crimes?

Will the countries which support a transition toward democracy in Syria, and an immediate halt to al-Assad’s crimes have the clarity of vision and the guts to oppose the Russians, the Chinese, Iran, and the Syrian regime? Stay tuned.

In the meantime, see the following article which offers a profound analysis of how Syria has divided the world, into what we have dubbed “The League of Authoritarian States,” on the one hand, and those supporting democratic transitions in Syria and elsewhere, on the other.

Michael Ignatieff, “How Syria Divided the World,” NYRblog (New York Review of Books), July 11, 2012.

Russia, China, Iran, and Syria share one bedrock principle: they will use “all necessary measures” in order to repress domestic opposition in their own countries, and will support others who do so abroad. These measures include terror, war crimes, crimes against humanity, and other grave violations of fundamental human rights. Importantly, this support now includes the veto by Russia or China of any Security Council resolution that would confer on the International Criminal Court (ICC) jurisdiction and a mandate to prosecute those responsible for such crimes.

The battle lines are clearly set. Whether Obama will wake up from his illusion of a “reset” of U.S.-Soviet relations with Medvedev, and now with Putin, is an open question.

Obama is also reported to have a dream of concluding, in his second term, a significant new START treaty with Russia that would dramatically reduce the number of nuclear weapons in the world. Given his fecklessness on Syria, and the consequences that are likely to flow from the policies and actions he has adopted, it may be doubtful that he could ever secure the two-thirds vote in the Senate needed for ratification of such a treaty. Having watched Obama being outmaneuvered by Putin in Syria, Republicans would likely be skeptical if not outright hostile to any arms control agreement concluded between the two.

Democrats in the United States have for decades had the reputation of being unwilling to use the military when necessary to protect national interests. Obama clearly seeks to overcome the image of Democrats as being weak on defense through his hard-line policies on civil liberties in the war on terror, and his use of targeted executions by drones and other covert means against those perceived as posing a threat to the United States.

Whether these policies will in fact overcome longstanding doubts about the Democrats being weak on defense, in the heat of an election campaign, is an open question.

Certainly, allowing the Russians to roll over the West and the Arab countries in defending Syria and al-Assad’s crimes, will not strengthen the Democrats’ reputation of being unwilling to use military force to stand up to the military challenges of our opponents in the world.

Obama risks being seen, once the voters focus on the issues and hear the Republicans’ arguments, as being all talk, and no action–no guts, no intestinal fortitude, no resolve to act to defend the nation’s vital interests.

The Trenchant Observer

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Failure of “last chance to avoid civil war” in Syria—Obama’s debacle in Syria — Update #35 (May 10)

Thursday, May 10th, 2012

Kofi Annan has been quoted after briefing the U.N. Security Council (by satellite) on May 8 as saying his 6-point peace plan was “the last chance to avoid civil war in Syria.”

See AFP, “Kofi Annan: Last chance to avoid civil war in Syria,” Your Middle East, May 10, 2012.

This sentence has a familiar ring.

MOSCOW: Russian president Dmitry Medvedev voiced strong support on Sunday for UN-Arab League envoy Kofi Annan’s mission to end a year of violence in Syria, saying it could be the last chance to avert an even bloodier civil war.

“This may be the last chance for Syria to avoid a long-lasting and bloody civil war. Therefore we will offer you our full support at any level,” Medvedev told Annan at a meeting at a Moscow airport (emphasis added).

–Reuters, “Kofi Annan’s mission is Syria’s last chance: Russia,” The Times of India, Mar 25, 2012.

There has also been sharp criticism of the Annan peace plan and mission. See

Michael Weiss, “Kofi Annan’s ‘last chance’ Syria plan is going to end in humiliation and bloodshed,” The Telegraph, April 9, 2012.

Jonathan Schanzer and Claudia Rosett, “It’s Time to Add Syria to Kofi Annan’s Long List of Failures,” The New Republic, April 5, 2012.

The Trenchant Observer, “Kofi Annan is not God—Obama’s debacle in Syria — Update #15 (March 23), March 23, 2012.

Not only were the Russians among the first to repeat, again and again, the “last chance to avoid civil war” mantra, but they also provided a number of the key ideas in Kofi Annan’s 6-point peace plan.

They presented their own five-point plan to a meeting of the Arab League on Saturday, March 10, 2012, and then declared that the League had endorsed it. The actual text of the League’s endorsement is not to be found, at least not by the Observer.

Annan’s mission has the enthusiastic backing of Syria’s major international ally, Russia, which last month joined with China in vetoing a U.N. Security Council resolution that would have called on Assad to relinquish power.

Russia’s defense of Assad has led to strained relations with many nations, including the United States and various Arab countries, where Moscow has been publicly excoriated.

In a bid to improve its regional standing, Russia on Saturday presented a “five-point” Syrian peace plan to the Arab League in Cairo, calling for, among other things, a cease-fire and “unimpeded” delivery of humanitarian aid.

–Patrick J. McDonnell, “Kofi Annan meets with Syria President Bashar Assad; As tanks reportedly attack rebels in Idlib, the former U.N. chief holds talks in a bid to head off what world leaders fear could become a full-fledged civil war,” Los Angeles Times, March 11, 2012.

The Russian 5-point plan presented to the Arab League provided for the following:

In the end, the Arab League and Lavrov agreed on five points that could serve as the basis for a future U.N. Security Council resolution: an immediate cease-fire, a clause preventing foreign intervention, assurances about humanitarian aid and an endorsement of Annan’s mission.

–AP, “Syria assaults opposition as diplomacy staggers,” U.S. News and World Report, March 10, 2012.

With the Arab League’s endorsement, Russian foreign minister Sergey Lavrov and the Russians achieved two key objectives: 1) a ban on foreign intervention; and 2) agreement on Kofi Annan’s mission.

These two pillars of Russian foreign policy have provided a shield protecting al-Assad and the Syrian government as they continued to commit war crimes, crimes against humanity, and other grave violations of fundamental human rights.  They have also blocked efforts to resolve the conflict through means other than the “mediation” mission of  Kofi Annan.

Annan’s 6-point peace plan, premised on al-Assad’s remaining in power, has blocked all creative thought on how to act on the ground to stop al-Assad’s terror and how to organize a democratic transition in Syria.  To date, the whole morass has been a triumph for Russia, Syria, China, and Iran.

But for the international community, the 6-point peace plan has failed. Kofi Annan has failed. The Security Council has failed.

Only with an appreciation of these hard facts can the international community move forward and take the decisive action that is necessary to prevent Syria from morphing into something like Iraq in early 2006.

The Kofi Annan mission should be aborted.

There is no operative agreement with Syria regarding the six points in the Security Council’s peace plan.  We need to stop pretending such agreement exists when obviously it doesn’t.

The Trenchant Observer

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For links to other articles by The Trenchant Observer, click on the title at the top of this page to go to the home page, and then consult the information in the bottom right hand corner of the home page. The Articles on Syria page can also be found here.

Developments on the ground—Obama’s Debacle in Syria — Upadate #31 (April 26)

Thursday, April 26th, 2012

The civil war in Syria rages on, with the Security Council’s 6-point peace plan a dead letter and largely irrelevant–except as a collective delusion which keeps members of the Security Council and the Arab League from seeing clearly what is actually happening on the ground. According to Haaretz, over 11,000 people have been killed in Syria since March, 2011.

This blood is on the hands of the Russians and the Chinese, of Medvedev, Putin and Hu Jintao, as well as those of al-Assad.

Latest News Reports

Petra Ramsauer, “Haaretz exclusive: A visit to the war-torn heart of Syria’s struggle for independence; Daraa, home to 100,000 people, and the place in which the Syrian uprising began last year, bears all the features of a town wasting away as a full-blown civil war rages,” Haaretz, April 27, 2012.

Avi Issacharoff, “Syria opposition: Assad’s forces kill 102, despite ongoing UN mission; Reports say killings mostly take place following attack by Syrian forces on city of Hama, where 57 people were killed in a concentrated shelling of one neighborhood, Haaretz, April 25, 2012.

(Avec AFP) “Syrie: le plan Annan est ‘fortement compromis’,” l’Express, 26 avril 2012.

The March of Folly , led by our modern-day Pied Piper in the form of Kofi Annan, advances.

The Trenchant Observer

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For links to other articles by The Trenchant Observer on this topic, and others, click on the title at the top of this page to go to the home page, and then consult the information in the bottom right hand corner of the home page. The Articles on Syria page can also be found here.

Into the Abyss: Washington’s Fecklessness, Syria’s Fate—Obama’s Debacle in Syria — Update #20 (March 30)

Friday, March 30th, 2012

Latest News Reports and Opinion

Reuters reports from Beirut,

(Reuters) – Syrian artillery hit parts of Homs city and at least 37 people were killed in clashes around Syria on Friday, opposition activists said, as peace envoy Kofi Annan told President Bashar al-Assad his forces must be first to cease fire and withdraw.
–Erika Solomon and Douglas Hamilton (Beirut), “Syrian army must pull back first under Annan plan, Reuters, March 30, 2012 (2:15pm EDT).

The Syria conflict and the United States’ failure to develop and execute an effective policy to deal with the atrocities in Syria is likely to spill over into international efforts to halt the development of a nuclear weapons capability in Iran, as suggested by Turkish Prime Minister’s reported statements to Khamanei in Tehran.

See Elad Benari. “Khamenei: Syria’s Anti-Israel, So We’ll Defend It; Ayatollah Ali Khamenei tells Turkish PM Erdogan: Iran will defend the Syrian regime due to its anti-Israeli stance, Arutz Sheva (7), March 30, 2012 (www.israelinationalnews.com).

The Telegraph provides an overview of the situation at the end of the day in London:

Ruth Sherlock (Beirut), “Syria activists lose hope that they will unseat Bashar al-Assad; Syrian activists were losing hope of unseating President Bashar al-Assad from power as regime troops continued to attack dwindling rebel strongholds, ignoring international demands for a ceasefire,” The Telegraph, March 30, 2012 (7:39PM BST).

Der Spiegel, which has consistently provided up-to-date and comprehensive reporting on events on the ground in Syria, describes the impact of “Annan’s deadly peace plan” including its fatal flaws and its effects on the ground:

See Ulrike Putz (Beirut), “Annans tödlicher Friedensplan; Syriens Rebellen toben, Experten sind entsetzt: Der Uno-Friedensplan von Kofi Annan bringt dem Assad-Regime vor allem jede Menge Zeit, um im Land weiter zu morden und zu foltern. Am Ende könnte der Diktator sogar im Amt bleiben – die Opposition will das mit Gewalt verhindern, ” 30 März 2012.

Regarding Obama’s posture toward Russia as revealed in Seoul, see Charles Krauthammer, “The ‘flexibility’ doctrine,” The Washington Post, March 29, 2012. Krauthammer quotes the audio picked up at the open microphone incident, as follows:

“On all these issues, but particularly missile defense, this can be solved, but it’s important for him [Vladimir Putin] to give me space. . . . This is my last election. After my election, I have more flexibility.”
— Barack Obama to Dmitry Medvedev, open mike, March 26

Analysis

What can be added to what has been written before? See the Articles on Syria page.

Obama is determined not to get involved in Syria in an election year, “regardless of the consequences”.

He is not moved, not moved to action, by seeing thousands of Syrians killed by al-Assad’s forces, with dozens and sometimes hundreds of new victims added to the list each day.

He supported the Kofi Annan plan, which in effect prevented potential pressures on the ground against al-Assad, while providing a smokescreen behind which the United States could hide its feckless failure to act to halt the killing. Worse than that, the Annan plan thwarted the efforts of others–Turkey, Saudi Arabia, Qatar, in particular–from providing arms to Syrian citizens with which they could defend themselves against the onslaught of a modern army and state security apparatus, and from establishing a safety zone inside Syria to which they could retreat to escape the killing.

The response of the U.S. and others to events in Syria is worse than Srebrenice, because the events have unfolded in slow motion and the United States has had plenty of time to think, to react, and to act to stop the killing.

Now the world can draw its own conclusions about the current leadership of the United States, which as we have pointed out has a foreign policy without a moral core.

The saddest thing is that we can now also draw our conclusions about Barack Obama, and the kind of foreign policy “leader” he really is.

He has bungled our exit from Iraq, and further embroiled us in a hopeless war to uphold a corrupt dictator and political elite in Afghanistan, a narco-state.

He has also thrown international law to the wind as he pursues the defense of the United States by enhancing and using the capabilities of drones and special operations forces to simply kill our perceived enemies, throughout many countries in the world.

In doing so, with no vision of peace and no credibility in appealing for the support of the populations of allied countries to undertake joint endeavors based on shared moral values and principles, including those embodied in international law, he has given the world a prospect of endless war–without the moderating force of law.

He is who he is.

And we are who we are. In the United States, we have a vote in the upcoming presidential elections. For some of us, who find the domestic programs of the Democrats far more sensible than those put forward by Republican candidates in the presidential primaries, and who are gravely concerned about the future composition of the Supreme Court, the presidential elections in November, 2012 are shaping up to present a wrenching choice.

In the meantime, we–and the Syrians demonstrating and fighting for a democratic government which guarantees the protection of their fundamental human rights–must look elsewhere for leadership to halt the commission of crimes against humanity, war crimes, and other grave violations of human rights in Syria.

The Trenchant Observer

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For links to other articles by The Trenchant Observer on this topic, and others, click on the title at the top of this page to go to the home page, and then consult the information in the bottom right hand corner of the home page. The Articles on Syria page can also be found here.

“The emperor has no clothes”: Foreign policy without a moral core—Obama’s Debacle in Syria — Update #19 (March 29)

Thursday, March 29th, 2012

Latest News and Opinion on Syria

Dominic Evans (Beirut), “Assad says foreign aid to rebels must stop under peace plan,” Reuters, March 29, 2012 (8:54 pm BST).

Adrian Blomfeld, “Syria: Bashar al-Assad raises questions over commitment to peace deal; President Bashar al-Assad has raised questions over his commitment to a UN-backed initiative he agreed to just days ago by demanding that Syria’s rebels disarm before a peace deal can be reached, The Telegraph, March 29, 2012 (8:01 pm BST).

Der Spiegel reports that 29 people were killed on Thursday, mostly in Homs, Idlib and in the suburbs of Damaskus.

–Christoph Sydow, “Assad ignoriert Annans Friedensplan; Mit sechs Punkten zum Frieden: Uno und Arabische Liga setzen auf Kofi Annans Lösungsplan, der den Machtkampf in Syrien befrieden soll. Doch das Regime in Damaskus setzt bislang keine der Forderungen um. Assad spielt auf Zeit – und hofft weiter auf die fehlende Entschlossenheit des Westens,” Der Spiegel, den 31. März 2012. This article also contains a summary of the six-point U.N. peace plan of Kofi Annan, in German.

Tony Badran, “Passivity and incoherence on Syria,” NOW Lebanon (blog), March 29, 2012.

Tony Badran, “US tells Turkey to back off Syria,” NOW Lebanon (blog), March 22, 2012.

Opinion: Marc Ginsberg

Marc Ginsberg, former U.S. Ambassador to Morocco has condemned recent U.S. policy on Syria, highlighting similarities with the Clinton White House’s handling of atrocities in the Balkans up until the massacre of 7,000 men and boys at Srebrenice in July, 1995.

Flash forward 17 years later, and in this second year of Syria’s so-called Arab Spring bloodbath it’s déjà vu all over again at 1600 Penn. While Syria is not Srebrenica, there are eerie similarities in how this Obama team is hopelessly caught up in a Bosnian-style policy vacuum circa 1995, characterized by an excessively domineering election campaign apparatus that inexorably trumps national security considerations. That is a dangerous recipe when coupled with the absence of any long-term strategy in Syria.

Why is the White House on such a slippery slope that it claims it is determined to avoid?

Tracing the policy of the White House over the last year, Ginsburg notes that Obama and his team reacted to Syrian atrocities like “kryptonite”, stressed unsubstantiated fears about what would come after Assad as a reason for inaction, and coupled repeated calls for Assad to go with a failure to impose consequences on al-Assad. Consistently, the White House political operation’s desire to keep Syria out of the election trumped national security considerations.

Shockingly, Ginsberg relates how the U.S. enlisted Turkish support for certain options, and then cut the ground out from under the Turks by telling them that Obama “preferred going through the Russians” to secure peace by supporting the U.N. peace initiative led by Kofi Annan.

(A)s more reports of atrocities trickled out of Syria last summer, the U.S. began subcontracting U.S. policy to Turkey in the expectation that greater coordination with Ankara would create more multilateral support against the regime. At the time, this made eminent sense. Ankara, faced with a growing humanitarian refugee crisis on its Syrian border, and furious with its failed investment in the Assad regime, picked up the mantle. There were bilateral talks of buffer zones and humanitarian corridors and, perhaps non-lethal support to the nascent Free Syrian Army.

But as my able colleague Tony Badran reported in his blog in www.nowlebanon.com (confirming what I picked up during my recent visit to Turkey a few days ago), Secretary Clinton caught her Turkish counterpart off guard during their meeting in Washington last month. Clinton reportedly told Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu that the Obama Administration “preferred going through the Russians” in an attempt to achieve a political solution being shopped by the UN/Arab League’s Special Syrian Envoy Kofi Annan.

By unexpectedly dismissing Turkish/Arab League plans to create a buffer zone/or humanitarian corridor as well as organizing and providing non-lethal support to the Free Syrian Army, everything that Turkey thought was on the table with Washington appeared to fall off of it. It seemed to matter to no one in the White House that it had just pushed our Turkish colleagues over the cliff after we had jumped on their bandwagon.

(I)f the U.S. refuses to accede to new ideas from its “Syrian Friends” then, to coin its own phrase with respect to Assad, “it should get out of the way.”

–Amb. Marc Ginsberg, “Syria Is Obama’s Srebrenica,” Huffington Post (The Blog), March 28, 2012 .

Tony Badran’s March 22 article, listed above and cited by Ginsberg, provides further details on the change in U.S. position on Syria with regard to options under consideration by Turkey and the Gulf countries. Badran also explains Obama’s aversion to getting invoved, as follows:

The Obama administration’s reasoning is simple. It calculates, rather correctly, that such regional efforts will likely end up drawing the US in down the road, one way or another. President Obama wishes to nip in the bud any possibility of this happening in an election year. And so, such regional moves were opposed in order for the president not to be forced to take action he’s adamantly intent on avoiding, regardless of the consequences.

As a result, the administration has found itself in the surreal position of siding closer with Assad’s Russian ally and at cross-purposes with its own regional allies – and, most significantly, in contradiction with its own stated policy of regime change in Syria.
–Tony Badran, “US tells Turkey to back off Syria,” NOW Lebanon, March 22, 2012.

So, Obama seems to have pulled the rug out from under our allies, and decided to pursue peace in Syria instead by working with the Russians and supporting Kofi Annan’s ill-starred six-point peace program.

A Foreign Policy without a Moral Core

Obama’s actions toward Turkey and the Gulf countries in relation to Syria suggest that there is no moral core at the heart of Obama’s foreign policy.

It should also be noted that a close if unofficial advisor to Hillary Clinton–her husband, Bill Clinton–was himself the author of the U.S. policy that led to Srebrenice.

On Syria, the pattern of U.S. actions toward Iran in 2009, Tunisia, Egypt, and Libya has been repeated. Absent Security Council authorization, Obama has been unwilling to act or to lead. Obama avoids confrontation like the plague.

Events drive policy, not the reverse.

The Obama administration has shown no moral outrage at Russia’s and China’s support of al-Assad and their working to provide him with more time to commit war crimes and crimes against humanity against the Syrian population to solidify his hold on power. Rather, it’s business as ususal.

With Russia actively supporting al-Assad through the provision of weapons, amunition and training by Russian advisors on the ground in Syria, President Obama had the callous temerity to sit down with Russian President Medvedev at the Seoul nuclear conference last week, in a most cordial manner, and to beseech him to understand that he, Obama, would be able to be more flexible on nuclear arms control negotiations after the November elections.

What was most revealing about the “open microphone” episode in Seoul was that Obama was pleading with the Russians to be understanding and to give him some space on the arms control issue. In short, he was proceeding from a psychological position of weakness, when he should have been insisting publicly that Russia stop its morally indefensible support of al-Assad’s commission of war crimes and crimes against humanity in Syria.

Obama seems to be laboring under the illusion that his “reset” of relations with Russia, particularly thorugh his personal relationship with Mededev, has been successful when, quite obviously, the contrary has been the case.

These developments can be understood only by recognizing that Obama when dealing with foreign policy issues thinks primarily in terms of electoral politics and his re-election in November. He delegates foreign policy to others. In fact, he appears much more animated and engaged emotionally on domestic issues. This is consistent with his lack of international interests prior to entering the White House.

For whatever reasons, in the foreign policy area there appear to be no moral values for which he will fight.

When you step back from the daily news and take a broad look at what Obama has done by supporting Kofi Annan’s U.N. peace initiative, and “preferring going through the Russians”, you can see the utter cynicism and lack of morality of the administration’s policy and actions.

What Obama has done, in a word, is to sell the Syrian opposition down the river. He has abandoned them. The highly probable result of pursuing the Annan plan is that great delay will follow before the fighting stops, if it does, and then probably only after thousands of additional lives have been lost.

The U.N. plan is nothing more than a shameless facade behind which the United States can try to hide, while it obstructs those who would otherwise act to halt the commission of crimes against humanity and war crimes in Syria.

The logical outcome of the U.N. plan is that al-Assad will remain in power, with all the instruments of state terror at his command, to be used if and when and to the extent needed to maintain himself in power. Keeping him in power will ensure the Russians the continued operation of their naval base at Tartus, their listening post for the Middle East, and their arms contracts and other business relationships with the al-Assad regime.

One is reminded of the children’s story by Hans Christian Andersen entitled, “The Emperor’s New Clothes”. See the translation of Hans Christian Andersen’s “Keiserens nye Klæder” by Jean Hersholt.

The Emperor in this case is President Barack Obama. The Emperor has no clothes.

Obama’s foreign policy has no moral core.

The Trenchant Observer

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