What Hasn’t Obama Done to Save Bashar?

The danger does not lie only in what has happened so far, but more in what the Obama administration may do during what remains of its term

The American administration has not responded to Russian accusations that it broke a pledge made to the Syrian regime two years ago that it would not affect the regime forces during attacks carried out by the coalition against the Islamic State group. Instead of responding to this point, which was made by Russian representative Vitaly Churkin, America’s own representative in the Security Council, Samantha Power, accused Russia of hypocrisy and of striking civilians.

What Churkin said was not a surprise in any case, except to those who have turned a blind eye to the approach of the Obama administration or whose delusions have inspired them to believe in the possibility that it would pull back from this course. The Obama administration, when it thought of arming Syrian forces loyal to it, stipulated that its associates could only fight ISIS and could not clash with regime forces. It is known that this condition caused the failure of the project as a whole, despite its sizable budget of half a million dollars. This means that this fortune did not succeed in buying a sufficient number of Syrian mercenaries. It is also known that the failure of the project lead to the orientation toward the Kurdish People’s Protection Units, which did not fight the regime in the first place, and gave this group the opportunity to receive international support which thought to be reliable — unlike the support of Moscow and Tehran for the Kurdistan Workers’ Party and its leaders in Jabal Qandil, support which you cannot rely upon solely in confronting the Turkish government.

An emergency occurred in this respect. We should not make more of it than what it was: American bombers struck regime forces in Deir-ez-Zor. The US administration acknowledged the mistake immediately. It expressed its readiness to pay reparations. Here we must note a worse mistake, when the American bombers struck civilians in Manbij. The administration did not apologize for this mistake and it did not commit to paying compensation. Instead it brazenly disavowed what happened and attributed it to mistaken coordinates given to it by the Kurdish YPG. It was not content here with an immoral distinction between the regime soldiers in Deir-ez-Zor and these innocent civilians in Manbij. Indeed it should be noted that the way it disowned its actions deepened the rift between the Arabs and the Kurds.

Leaks about the American-Russian deal have also reported that Obama’s administration has given up once and for all the demand that Assad must go. It even waived the minimum demand that he remains only through a transitional period with protocol powers. This was the biggest concession that the de Mistura plan reached as it was. All the American talk over the past years about a political solution resulted at last in pressure on the opposition to negotiate about the extent of Bashar’s powers, that is, a series of concessions from the Geneva I document has not stopped for a long time, just as the series of concessions has not stopped on the relevant Security Council resolutions at face value.

The purpose is not to gather clues about what has become exposed in Obama’s approach. The danger does not lie only in what has happened so far, but more in what the Obama administration may do during what remains of its term.

To put it another way, the Obama/Kerry team has not yet pulled out everything that lies up its sleeve. The truce deal with Putin means nothing in reality except stopping supplies to the rebel groups and leaving it without mercy under the breaches from the Russian warplanes, regime forces and Shiite militias, in the hopes that this trio prepares a basic bloc in a short period. This does not change American satisfaction with the progress of rebel groups supported by Turkey on the front against ISIS, because this example achieves what the American administration wanted regarding only fighting ISIS. The lesson is in the open grants between the rebel groups and the regime, where American satisfaction also does not disappear about the advance of the latter and its allies in keeping pace with the Russian warplanes. Perhaps the recent increase in targeting the Houran front after it was the front governed by supplies from the CIA through the MOC room, is an indication that closing it is near after the American intelligence has played its role to the fullest.

To put the small players aside, the American decision is what has kept Assad in power so far, and has kept him in spite of the Syrians and the international and regional powers that have been marginalized. The biggest challenge in the last four months of Obama’s term in the White House is confronting his great insistence on minimizing losses, as it assumed not to fall into the delusion of victory in this fight. The Obama administration sponsored during the first two years of the conflict the equation of “neither victor nor vanquished” before gradually turning on this in favor of the regime. Now the biggest victory that can be attended is surviving the entrenchment of the regime’s dominance on all levels — politically, militarily and in terms of human rights. Relying on the inability of the Obama administration in its last months is not right in our case. The Syrian issue is not included among the sensitive strategic issues, and this is what always gives Obama a free hand in it.

There is no great hope in the coming American administration, but it may be less committed to Bashar staying than the current one. It is not out of the question that the new president draws a lesson from his or her predecessor. If Obama fails despite all he has done to save Bashar, this gamble may not be appealing to his successor. The opposition has always accused the regime, its allies and international forces of procrastinating and buying time, and now the best thing it can do is buy time in the same way.

This article was translated and edited by The Syrian Observer. Responsibility for the information and views set out in this article lies entirely with the author.

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