Obama’s Dive into the Syrian Abyss

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The bloody Syrian war got bloodier when President Obama allowed U.S. Mideast allies and hawkish U.S. officials to supply weapons to Sunni jihadists including those fighting alongside Al Qaeda’s affiliate, reports Gareth Porter.

By Gareth Porter

President Barack Obama has long been under fire from the U.S. national security elite and the media for failing to intervene aggressively against the Assad regime. But the real strategic blunder was not that Barack Obama didn’t launch yet another war in Syria, but that he decided to go along with the ambitions of America’s Sunni allies to create and arm a Syrian opposition army to overthrow the regime in the first place.

Now a former Obama administration official who is knowledgeable on the internal discussions on Syria policy, speaking to this writer on condition of anonymity, has shed new light on how and why that fateful decision was made.

President Obama and King Salman Arabia stand at attention during the U.S. national anthem as the First Lady stands in the background with other officials on Jan. 27, 2015, at the start of Obama’s State Visit to Saudi Arabia. (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza). (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)

The former official revealed that when Obama made the first move toward supporting the arming of Syrian opposition forces, the President failed to foresee the risk of a direct Iranian or Russian intervention on behalf of the Syrian regime in response to an externally armed opposition – because his advisers had failed to take this likelihood into account themselves.

The story of this policy failure begins after military resistance to the Assad regime began in spring and summer 2011. In August 2011, national security officials began urging Obama to call on Assad to step down, according to the former official.

Obama did make a statement suggesting that Assad should step aside, but he made it clear privately that he had no intention of doing anything about it. “He viewed it as simply a suggestion, not a hard policy,” the ex-official said.

But soon after that, a bigger issue arose for the administration’s policy: how to respond to pressure from Turkey,…

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