On Wednesday the United Nations General Assembly voted on a resolution condemning the Syrian government’s forces while praising the opposition. Although the resolution passed, the non-binding text received less support than last year’s resolution condemning Syrian President Bashar al-Assad. With support for Syria’s rebels waning, it is clear that the Obama Administration’s “lead from behind” efforts have left the Syrian opposition behind.
When Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan meets with President Obama at the White House on Thursday, he must be asking himself: What is Obama’s Syria policy? It is difficult to decipher, given the President’s various statements. But as Heritage’s Kim Holmes explains, unraveling the mystery of Obama’s Syria policy—in Sherlock Holmes’s famous words—is “elementary.”
Back in August 2011, Obama said the “time has come for [Mr. Assad] to step aside.” One year later, he declared, “We have been very clear to the Assad regime that a red line for us is [if] we start seeing a whole bunch of [chemical] weapons moving around or being utilized. That would change my equation.”
More recently, Obama appeased the Russians by agreeing to another regional conference on Syria. Rather than leading to a peaceful settlement, it is more likely that another conference will simply prolong the brutal violence that has engulfed the nation and claimed already 80,000 lives.
Simply put, Obama’s policy is muddled because he does not know what to do—he knows only that he does not want responsibility if things get worse. He seems to want to have his cake and eat it too.
But if Obama hopes to achieve a stable—nonsectarian—tolerant Syria, doing nothing is not an option.