Monday’s attack on the U.S. Embassy in Damascus—by a mob orchestrated by the Syrian government—underscores the abject failure of the Obama Administration’s strategy of engaging the brutal Bashar al-Assad regime.
The Administration naively sought to upgrade diplomatic contacts with the Syrian dictatorship after abandoning the Bush Administration’s policy of mobilizing international pressure on Syria to halt its support of terrorist groups that murdered civilians in Lebanon, Israel, and Iraq, as well as U.S. troops in Iraq. It reversed the Bush Administration’s 2005 withdrawal of the U.S. ambassador to Syria following the assassination of former Lebanese Prime Minister Rafik Hariri, who courageously opposed Syrian domination of Lebanon. When Congress balked at confirming a new ambassador, the White House did an end run around it last December by appointing Robert Ford as the new ambassador while Congress was out of session.
After the “Arab Spring” brought pro-democracy demonstrations to Syria that were violently repressed by the regime, the Obama Administration was slow to criticize the Assad regime, which it hoped to draw into peace talks with Israel. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton even appeared to defend President Assad in an embarrassing March 27 interview in which she said, “There’s a different leader in Syria now. Many of the Members of Congress of both parties who have gone to Syria in recent months have said they believe he’s a reformer.”
Clinton at last appears to be wising up about the nature of the Assad regime, which has ruthlessly ruled Syria and killed tens of thousands of Syrians since Bashar’s father, Hafez al-Assad, seized power in a 1970 coup. On Monday, Clinton showed signs of finally abandoning her wishful thinking, weakly opining that “From our perspective, he has lost legitimacy,” marking the first time the Administration has called into question the dictator’s right to rule.
This is a small and belated step in the right direction, but the Administration has a long way to go to correct its ill-advised efforts to seek better relations with a gangster regime that has murdered more than 1,400 of its own citizens in the last four months; thrown more than 12,000 in jail; served as Iran’s chief ally in the Middle East; supported a wide array of terrorists against the U.S. and its allies; and conspired with North Korea (and probably Iran) to illegally build a nuclear reactor designed to produce fissile material for a nuclear weapon.
The collapse of the Obama Administration’s Syria policy is yet another example of how the Obama Doctrine has undermined U.S. national interests in a naïve effort to engage a despotic regime. Now that the Administration’s timid and weak policy toward Syria has emboldened the Assad regime to attack the U.S. embassy, it is time for President Obama—who has said surprisingly little about the serial massacres in Syria—to replace his myopic engagement strategy with meaningful efforts to help the Syrian people oust the predatory Assad regime.
For more on U.S. policy on Syria, see: