By Randa Takieddine
Russian president Vladimir Putin has had a firm and obstinate stance vis-à-vis the regime of Bashar Assad, while President Barack Obama was diplomatic during their second meeting in Northern Ireland, on the sidelines of the G8 Summit. This diplomatic approach reflected Obama's policy of abandonment in the Middle East, which is no longer one of his priorities. Obama's policy on the struggle in Syria signals a new era of US policy in the Middle East, one of abandonment and looking to other areas of the world, such as the Far East and Africa. Obama, unlike his friend, former President Bill Clinton, looks at opinion polls in the US indicating that 45 percent of Americans oppose arming the Syrian opposition. Unfortunately for the Syrian rebels, the Syrian regime has engaged in a clever policy of misinformation, which has convinced the American public that the Syrian people's uprising is about Islamist jihadists such as the Nusra Front, which sprang from Islam's biggest enemy, al-Qaeda.
Obama has left Iraq and is leaving Afghanistan, and he believes that his predecessor failed miserably in both places. However, he has not truly succeeded in leaving Iraq, as he allows Iranian influence to replace the US presence. How can any friend of the US in the Middle East trust an American policy that turns the region over to Israel and Russia, and surrenders to Iran's Revolutionary Guards and the country's supreme leader, Khamenei? Obama believes that America's independence from Middle Eastern oil imports and its becoming self-sufficient in gas and shale oil are elements of this policy. However, a number of American leaders do not agree with this, and they are led by Clinton and Senator John McCain.
The US has political and geostrategic interests in the Middle East but Obama, with his huge failure to pressure Putin, reflects an abandonment of these interests and allows the Russian partner that the White House brought to the G-8 Summit to assume control over them. The White House is angry with pressure from European allies, and even Secretary of State John Kerry expressed his displeasure to his French counterpart, Laurent Fabius, for his excessive talk about the need to arm the opposition.
The tragedy of Syria will continue, and it is difficult to expect that a Geneva 2 meeting will convene. Francois Hollande is right when he says that the meeting cannot take place without military pressure on Assad. However, who will exercise this pressure, without the will of the Americans? In addition to the disappointing American stance, there is an interesting development in the Assad regime's dealings with the American media. He has granted visas to American media with reach and made their cameras follow regime troops in their war against "jihadists and al-Qaeda." This is what a government soldier, fighting in the Yarmouk camp, said to an American journalist, who was relaying to the American public the big lie that the uprising is nothing but al-Qaeda.
The Syrian opposition in exile has failed because of its internal disputes and fragmentation. It has wasted the chance to undertake media campaigns that show the reality of the brave Syrian uprising on the ground, as it struggles alone against three murderous, repressive armies: the regime's, Iran's Revolutionary Guard, and Hezbollah. The G-8 Summit cemented this painful reality; the situation in Syria will become more tragic and Putin is going ahead with his Chechnya in the Middle East, until further notice. European countries will not succeed by themselves in helping change the balance of power on the ground in Syria, with the lack of commitment by their US ally. Thus, the near future is one of fragmentation in Syria and the displacement of its people as the war and killing continue, with Russia, Iran, and Hezbollah dominating the scene.