While Donald Trump looked presidential last week, appearing alongside Mexico’s president Enrique Pena Nieto in a press conference that dominated the news, and then outlining in Arizona his ten point plan to address our nation’s failed immigration enforcement system, another Obama foreign policy “accomplishment” was revealed as a failure.
In 2011, civil war broke out in Syria between the ruling regime of Bashar al Assad, a brutal dictator, and anti-government militias. Millions were displaced from their homes, and since 2011, over 450,000 people have been killed. (It was a perfect environment for ISIS to set up shop, and it did.)
In 2012, President Obama famously proclaimed several “red lines” on Syria, warning that Assad’s use of chemical weapons would invite serious consequences, which meant military strikes by America against the Assad regime, which could have meant its (long overdue) toppling.
In 2013, taking a page from Saddam Hussein, who used chemical weapons against the Kurds, Assad killed hundreds of Syrians with sarin gas, prompting more threats and rhetorical chest pounding from the Obama administration.
Assad’s benefactor in Moscow, Vladimir Putin, heard Obama’s threatening ukase and determined to quell any turbulence. So Mr. Putin stepped in and orchestrated a deal that required Assad to admit his possession of sarin gas, surrender his stockpile of chemical weapons and join the Chemical Weapons Convention of 2013, an agreement prohibiting Syria’s use of chemical weapons. At the time, many doubted Assad would comply. But the Obama administration, always searching for “accomplishments” that don’t require the use of military force, called it a win.
More importantly for Assad and Putin, the Convention accomplished three things: it ensured the survival of the Assad regime by taking American airstrikes off the table; it reduced America’s standing and influence in the Middle East; and bolstered Putin’s regnant role in Middle East affairs.
Like most of the Obama foreign policy, which is so much pomp and circumstance and so little substance, this agreement was rendered a nullity almost as soon as it was completed. Various media outlets have reported that Assad likely didn’t turn over the chemical weapons he was required to under the 2013 deal. And last week the U.N. released a report noting that Syria has used chlorine gas against civilians at least twice since 2013, including in 2014 and 2015. Other reports indicate Syria has used chlorine gas in chemical weapons attacks dozens of times since 2013.
While chlorine gas was not included in 2013 deal because of its many legal uses, the point remains: Assad is blatantly violating the terms of the 2013 deal by launching chemical weapons attacks against his enemies.
In response to the news, the Obama administration is defending itself and the 2013 deal. The White House spokesman Josh Earnest attempted to construe the 2013 Convention as a win, saying, “It is important to draw a distinction between what we indicated that we were prepared to do and had succeeded in doing, which is getting the Assad regime to acknowledge that they had a stockpile of sarin gas,” Earnest said. Earnest claimed this resulted “because of the tough diplomacy of the United States and Russia.”
This is incredible, for many reasons. First, there is no such thing as “tough diplomacy” by Russia against its puppet, Syria, which it aids economically and militarily. Second, instead of admitting that the administration’s deal failed to achieve its primary objective – barring chemical weapons attacks by the Assad regime – the Obama administration is claiming victory because the Syrian dictator was forced to officially recognize what everyone already knew he had: poison gas.
Josh Earnest wasn’t done though. Revealing the administration’s struthious approach to confronting dictators and rogue regimes, Earnest said, “As bad as the situation is in Syria right now, it would be even worse if we knew that the Assad regime's stockpile of sarin gas, for example, was floating around a country that had essentially been overrun by extremists.”
News to the White House: Assad is an extremist, supported by extremists in Iran, running an entire country, and likely stockpiling chemical weapons in flagrant violation of the 2013 Convention.
The White House House’s formal response? Calling for a United Nation’s investigation and claiming that military intervention is inappropriate because of the Iraq War. Huh? Yes, you read that right: the left’s obsession with the 2003 Iraq War, and the failure to find WMDs there after the invasion, continues to blind it to its own foreign policy failures, 13 years later.
While Obama’s U.N. Ambassador Samantha Power has said that Security Council members must “ensure consequences for those who have used chemical weapons in Syria,” nothing of consequence will come of the U.N. effort because Russia holds a veto on the Security Council, and will ensure that no harm comes to Syria.
Whatever you think of Donald Trump, turning over the foreign policy reigns to Hillary Clinton, who promises an Obama third term, is a prescription for American impotence and deadly outcomes, in Syria and around the world.