Obama pushes US into bigger problems in Syria
It was none other than U.S. President Barack Obama who said in 2012 that it was a “red line” for him if Syrian President Bashar al-Assad used chemical weapons against rebels in the civil war that started in 2011.
At the time, the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) had not declared itself as the new and worst player in the Syrian theater.
It was also Obama who said that he did not use the expression “red line” (in answer to a public question) when al-Assad used chemical weapons against his own people.
And it was Obama’s Defense Department, the Pentagon, which said in an apologetic statement that they had “unintentionally” hit a Syrian Army convoy on Sept. 17 with F-16s and A-10s, killing 62 troops and wounding 100.
Is it possible that world’s biggest military power, the U.S., with the most superior military satellites, U-2s and other spy planes, plus their field intelligence supported by local collaborators, the People’s Protection Units (YPG), the Syrian branch of the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), which is considered a terrorist organization according to Obama himself, could make such a mistake and hit the Syrian army supported by Russia “believing” they were ISIL? (The PKK has been waging an armed campaign against Turkey, a NATO ally of the U.S., since 1984, during which time more than 40,000 people have been killed and recently Turkey has been carrying out a major operation against PKK acts of terror near the borders with Syria and Iraq.)
Russia immediately called the United Nations Security Council for an emergency meeting, which was denounced by the U.S. as “a stunt.” Stunt or not, Russian President Vladimir Putin gained another trump card against Obama, which could probably be used by Donald Trump against Hillary Clinton, Obama’s former secretary of state, during their first presidential campaign debate on Sept. 26.
But that was not the only mistake of Obama’s Syria policy. Now there is this “demarbling” campaign started by the U.S. Central Command (CENTCOM) in order to disintegrate the Free Syria Army (FSA), which was also originally supported by the Obama administration. The expression as we understand from what a military spokesman told Tolga Tanış of daily Hürriyet means to convince some Arab groups (“marbled” into rebel units, also containing jihadist ones, but not ISIL nor al-Nusra) to leave the FSA, which was actually trained and equipped in Turkey with the cooperation of the CIA, another branch of the administration.
The FSA, composed of Arab and Turkmen militia of Syrian origin, has been fighting ISIL since 2013 and conducting a land operation with the support of the Turkish military against ISIL since Aug. 24. They are the ones cutting off ISIL’s physical contact with the Turkish border, a major blow to the terrorist organization.
But it seems that because the Turkish government, which considers the YPG, the armed wing of the Democratic Union Party (PYD) in Syria, the same as the PKK and does not want them to control the entire Turkish-Syrian border so as to carve out a region for themselves, abusing their help against ISIL, Obama is not very happy with the FSA. Perhaps CENTCOM is being blackmailed by the PYD-YPG that if they do not stop the FSA, supported by the Turkish Army, they would withdraw their support of the U.S.-led coalition campaign, ironically also run from Turkey’s strategic air base of İncirlik. That seemingly contradicts Obama’s policy to support the territorial integrity of Syria when it comes out of this civil war; a Kurdish state carved out of Syria might trigger a chain reaction in the region, which could change Iran’s position as well and turn into a bigger problem for the next U.S. administration, whether it is Clinton’s or Trump’s.
Also, this expression of “demarbling” recalls the bad memories of CENTCOM’s “be-Baathification” policy in Iraq. That policy, despite all suggestions of friends of the U.S., including Turkey, paralyzed the entire governance of Iraq after Saddam Hussein and was one of the major root causes of al-Qaeda, which later evolved into ISIL after the break of the Syrian civil war.
After staying idle for years in Syria, the entry of the Obama administration into the Syrian theater from 2015 on by relying on a minority militant group with its ethnic-political targets was wrong. If Obama, having only a few months left in office, continues that, it would push the U.S., as well as other counties and peoples in the region, into bigger problems in Syria.