By Karen Rubin, News & Photo Features
The catastrophe in Syria is often leveled at President Obama as a horrible scar on his legacy. But what is ignored is the context, and also how Libya, which was an important achievement, was used as a weapon to attack Obama as well as Hillary Clinton’s candidacy.
So it is rather remarkable that none of the news outlets are reporting a significant victory in Libya, routing out the last ISIS stronghold, in Sirte.
But to begin:
What is happening in Syria today is where Libya would have easily been, the scale of carnage that Syria turned into, if Obama had not intervened with a coalition of countries including Arab States. At the time, Republicans including Donald Trump, cheered. During the election, the action was demonized, and used in the incessant conspiracy harangue about Benghazi.
So it is really hypocritical that Obama is criticized for not intervening more strenuously in Syria, when in fact, he did all that he could do given the convoluted circumstances and inconvenient alliances and oppositions. Take Turkey, for instance, which opposed the Kurds and worked against the US support of Kurds against ISIS, but US needed access to Turkey’s bases from which to strike at ISIS and needed Turkey’s support of Syrian refugees. (These nuances go beyond Donald Trump’s comprehension.)
The red line that was crossed when Assad used chemical weapons? Recall that Obama was poised to strike, the military was on alert, but the cowardly Congress refused to give its Authorization of Military Force (progressives are still upset that Obama uses the Bush-era 9/11 authorization to go after ISIS). But still, Obama was able to get Assad to give up chemical weapons without the US firing a shot or a single troop sacrificed. How? Putin.
But what could not be anticipated was Russia assisting Assad in the massacre of the Syrian people. Putin, after all, claimed to be joining the coalition against ISIS. Instead, it was a rout of the moderate rebels fighting Assad. Would Americans have endorsed a war with Russia? Would Americans have supported sending 180,000 ground troops into Syria?
As for not providing enough aid to moderate rebels? There weren’t very many to be found – millions of dollars of supplies and only 50 “moderate rebels” identified. What would have happened if it was discovered the US thought it was supplying “moderate” rebels but actually the armaments went to ISIS fighters? Can you imagine?
“For years, we’ve worked to stop the civil war in Syria and alleviate human suffering,” President Obama said in his final press conference of 2017. “It has been one of the hardest issues that I’ve faced as president. The world as we speak is united in horror at the savage assault by the Syrian regime and its Russia and Iranian allies on the city of Aleppo. We have seen a deliberate strategy of surrounding and the seigeing and starving innocent civilians. We’ve seen relentless targeting of humanitarian workers and medical personnel, entire neighborhoods reduced to rubble and dust…
“We all know what needs to happen. There needs to be an impartial international observer force in Aleppo that can help coordinate an orderly evacuation through safe corridors. There has to be full access for humanitarian aid, even as the United States continues to be the world’s largest donor of humanitarian to the Syrian people and beyond that, there needs to be a broader ceasefire that can serve as the basis for a political, rather than a military solution. That’s what the United States is going to continue to push for, both with our partners and through multilateral institutions like the UN.
“Regretfully but unsurprisingly, Russia has repeatedly blocked the security council from taking action on these issues so we’re going to keep pressing the security council to help improve the delivery of humanitarian to those who are in such desperate need and to ensure accountability, including continuing to monitor any potential use of chemical weapons in Syria. And we’re going work in the U.N. General assembly as well, both on accountability and to advance a political settlement because it should be clear that although you may achieve tactical victories over the long term, the Assad regime cannot slaughter its way to legitimacy. That’s why we’ll continue to press for a transition to a more representative government. And that’s why the world must not avert our eyes to the terrible events that are unfolding.
“The Syrian regime and its Russian and Iranian allies are trying to confiscate the truth. The world should not be fooled and the world will not forget.”
Meanwhile, the US was not exactly not doing anything in Syria. The US operated tens of thousands of air strikes against ISIS, and has been the largest donor of aid to Syrian refugees.
And the US has not stood idly by in Libya, either, but assisted in the liberation of Sirte from ISIL. The Administration issued this statement:
Statement by Assistant to the President for Homeland Security and Counterterrorism Lisa O. Monaco on the Successful Operation to Liberate Sirte from ISIL
The United States congratulates the Government of National Accord (GNA) and the Libyan people on their successful operation to liberate Sirte from ISIL. The United States is proud to have supported the advance of the GNA-aligned forces into Sirte with precision airstrikes to eject ISIL from the only city that it controlled outside of Iraq and Syria.
We applaud the courage of the Libyan people, including the residents of Sirte, al-Bunyan al-Marsous forces, and others, who carried out this operation. We commend Prime Minister Fayez al-Sarraj for his leadership and dedication to the Libyan people. We also extend our sincerest and heartfelt condolences to the families of those who lost their lives fighting for this important cause.
The U.S. military conducted a carefully tailored counterterrorism operation, at the request of the GNA, to target ISIL while taking great care to minimize harm to civilians. This partnered operation has substantially reduced ISIL’s manpower in Libya, ended its brutal reign over Sirte’s population, and removed its primary base in Libya, dealing a blow to its ability to plot attacks in Libya and abroad. This progress comes as Libyans mark one year since the signing of the Libyan Political Agreement.
We know that ISIL will continue its attempts to terrorize the Libyan people and sow instability in North Africa, and that Libyan efforts against terrorism continue in other parts of Libya. We stand ready to help the GNA as it secures and rebuilds Sirte. The United States also remains committed to working with the GNA, Libyans throughout the country, and regional partners to counter ISIL and other violent extremist organizations.
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