Mr. Obama has already decided to continue his policy of disengagement from the Middle East, and his platitudes about cooperation and the rule of law rang hollow.... [E]very listener was aware that Mr. Obama had no intention of backing his words with action.On the subject that occasioned our President's incredibly offensive and disgraceful comments on the Iraq war, Kasparov said this:
Mr. Putin, speaking about an hour later in the same room, included his usual NATO-bashing and obvious lies.... He spoke of national sovereignty—which is very important to Mr. Putin, unless it’s the sovereignty of Georgia, Ukraine or another place where he wishes to meddle.
In other words, Mr. Obama’s speech was routine because he knows he will not act. Mr. Putin’s speech was routine because he knows he will act anyway.
A look at a map of Iraq and Syria shows that the rise of ISIS was a logical response to American abandonment of the region’s Sunnis. A group like ISIS cannot thrive without support from locals, in this case Sunnis who see no other way to defend against the Shiite forces of Iran and Syria that are slaughtering them by the hundreds of thousands.That is not limited to Syria's Assad, but is true of Russia's allies in Iran as well. In Tikrit, Iranian backed militias destroyed the city after "saving" it from ISIS. Having taken control of it, they demolished it and abducted hundreds of Sunni citizens. Near the UN building today where these meaningless speeches were being given, thousands of Iranian Americans gathered to protest the murder of thousands of dissidents by the Iranian government. In Iran it's done not with "barrel bombs" but under color of law. Somehow, mysteriously, all of the regime's opponents are found to be guilty of drug trafficking, which in Iran is a capital crime.
In world affairs, as in chess, you have to play the position that’s on the board when you sit down. Criticizing George W. Bush for starting the Iraq war in 2003 does not change the fact that in 2008 there was no mass refugee crisis or massive ISIS army on the march. Support for al Qaeda had been undercut by negotiations with Sunni groups in Anbar province, a game-changing policy that was as responsible for reduced violence as the surge of new American forces.
The American exit and Mr. Obama’s refusal to deter Mr. Assad ended any possibility of security. The people had to fight, flee or die, and they are doing all three in horrific numbers. It’s important to remember that the waves of refugees reaching Europe are not running from ISIS. They are fleeing Mr. Assad—who counts on active support from Iran and now Russia.
There's a house cleaning ongoing at the Pentagon, too, pushing out those who continue to argue that we need a stronger response to Russian moves.
The Pentagon's top official overseeing military relations with Russia and Ukraine is resigning amid the ongoing debate within the Obama administration over how respond to Russian moves in Ukraine and Syria.... Farkas is a veteran defense policy hand, having served as a senior adviser to the U.S. European Command, executive director of a congressionally mandated commission on proliferation and a professional staff member on the Senate Armed Services Committee. As assistant secretary of defense, she traveled widely as part of the ongoing international standoff with Russia over Ukraine. All along, however, Russia has been a deep point of contention between the White House and the Pentagon.The President's dead set on all this. Nor can the anger of voters control him during the meantime: as we saw in the Iran deal as in the Obamacare vote, he's quite willing to suffer at the polls in order to get his way.
Obama pushed out his previous defense secretary, Chuck Hagel, after he urged a stronger American response to Russia's aggression. Hagel also questioned the president's strategy for arming so-called moderate Syrian fighters against the Islamic State, a program that has since all but imploded in an embarrassment for the administration.
2017 is still a long way away, and until then we are in freefall.