Aleppo Falling to Assad and his Loyalists Sounds Death Knell of Obama ISIS Policy

Syrian troops brought Aleppo under the control of Syrian President Bashar Assad on Friday by driving out the last rebels. (Associated Press)
Syrian troops brought Aleppo under the control of Syrian President Bashar Assad on Friday by driving out the last rebels. (Associated Press)

The fall of the rebel-held Syrian city of Aleppo to Russian- and Iranian-backed forces loyal to President Bashar Assad sounds the death knell for the outgoing Obama administration’s hands-off counterterrorism doctrine, analysts say.

The final batches of anti-Assad fighters vacated formerly rebel-held areas of eastern Aleppo on Friday, officially bringing the city — which was Syria’s economic and cultural hub before the war — under the regime’s control.

The fall of Aleppo was the biggest victory for government forces and their Russian and Iranian supporters since moderate rebel groups, emboldened by regional uprisings tied to the 2011 Arab Spring, attempted to overthrow the Assad regime and ignited the war six years ago.

But the fall was also a pivotal moment for the Obama administration, whose initial intractable stance against the Assad regime was translated into an indecisive policy aimed at defeating or sidelining America’s adversaries from a distance.

“There is no doubt [President Obama] will be hammered in historical terms. The question will be why he didn’t do more,” Aaron David Miller, a former presidential adviser on Middle East affairs, told Reuters.

Mr. Obama’s infamous “red line” warning in 2012 against Syria’s use of chemical weapons against rebel forces pushed Washington and Damascus onto a collision course, with U.S. warships anchored off of the Syrian coast ready to launch missiles on government targets.

In the end, the White House held its fire and a the U.S. and Russia brokered a disarmament plan to remove Mr. Assad’s chemical stockpiles.

Administration officials hailed the deal as a diplomatic breakthrough. White House critics, including Donald Trump, characterized the move as a sign of U.S. weakness in the international community.

The Obama administration’s approach to the ripple effects of the Arab Spring, which irrevocably changed the political landscape of the Middle East and North Africa, was tantamount to “a policy of calculated dithering,” said one top regional analyst.


Mr. Obama and his national security staff “just agonized over the [policy] choices until they no longer existed” in Syria, Yemen and Libya, Emile Hokayem, a senior fellow at the International Institute for Strategic Studies, told the Reuters news agency.

Even as the Russian-brokered chemical disarmament plan progressed, the White House embarked on clandestine efforts to train and arm moderate factions of the Syrian opposition.

The U.S. training mission in Syria, as well as efforts assist local forces in Yemen and Libya, were the main underpinnings of Mr. Obama’s counterextremist strategy.

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SOURCE: Carlo Muñoz
The Washington Times