Obama’s Syria Policy Striptease

America’s settled policy of standing by while half a million Syrians have been killed, millions have become refugees, and large swaths of their country have been reduced to rubble is not a simple “mistake,” as critics like Nicholas D. Kristof and Roger Cohen have lately claimed. Nor is it the product of any deeper-seated American impotence or of Vladimir Putin’s more recent aggressions. Rather, it is a byproduct of America’s overriding desire to clinch a nuclear deal with Iran, which was meant to allow America to permanently remove itself from a war footing with that country and to shed its old allies and entanglements in the Middle East, which might also draw us into war. By allowing Iran and its allies to kill Syrians with impunity, America could demonstrate the corresponding firmness of its resolve to let Iran protect what President Barack Obama called its “equities” in Syria, which are every bit as important to Iran as pallets of cash.

And just like it sold its Iran policy through a public “echo chamber” of paid “experts” from organizations like Ploughshares and quote-seeking journalists and bloggers, some of whom also cashed White House-friendly nonprofit checks, the White House deliberately constructed an “echo chamber” to forward its Syria policy. The difference between the two “echo chambers” is that, absent any wider debate or the need for congressional approval, the Syria version was much more narrowly targeted at policy wonks and foreign-affairs writers, and the arguments it echoed were entirely deceptive in their larger thrust—the point of the Iran Deal was, in fact, to do a deal with Iran—rather than simply incomplete or false in their specifics.

America’s Syria policy can, therefore, be best understood not in the terms most familiar to Mideast analysts, such as “getting Assad to step aside” or “supporting the moderate opposition” or “paving the way to a peaceful transition and elections.” Rather, it is a strategic-communications campaign tightly run from the White House, whose purpose was and is to serve as a smokescreen for an entirely coherent and purposeful policy that comes directly from the president himself, but which he and his aides did not wish to publicly own. The goal of the president and his closest aides is to convince the Iranians that we would meet our commitments to them while confusing and obscuring the real reasons behind the president’s set decision of nonintervention in Syria from American legislators and the public alike.

See more: http://www.tabletmag.com/jewish-news-and-politics/213851/obamas-syria-policy-striptease