Tuesday, December 27, 2016

Syria: Obama's Debacle, Trump's Opportunity

It is hard to overstate the disaster of Obama's policy in Syria. First, there was his infamous red line that was repeatedly crossed by a two-bit dictator whose country is engulfed in civil war. Despite the Obama regime's repeated calls that Assad must go, now it is Obama who will go and Assad will remain. Obama's Syria disaster invited Russian intervention that has now led to Syria to recover Aleppo. Russia, Iran and Turkey have even begun to meet to plan for ending the war with the Obama regime excluded.

That said, however, there is still time for the incoming Trump Administration to recover the situation and

a) Force Russian, Iranian, and Hezbollah withdrawal from Syria,
b) foster peace between Syria and Israel,
c) protect Syrian Kurds, and
d) defeat extremist Islamic rebels.

The key to such a decisive reversal of fortunes for the US is to intervene, not on behalf of the rebels but to attack Syrian, Iranian, and Hezbollah forces, weakening them on two fronts:

1. Use air strikes, with cruise missiles in the first wave to take down Syrian/Russian air defenses safely and pave a way for rebels to reach the Russian base in Syria.
2. Bomb their forces in and around Damascus but carefully sparing Assad. This will enable rebel gains near Damascus, causing panic in the Assad regime and dislocate their strategy.

The key is to force Assad to reverse his alliances and ask the US for terms to save his regime. The terms should be:

i. Expulsion of all Russian, Iranian, and Hezbollah forces from Syria and renunciation of any support for terrorism.
ii. Complete renunciation of his WMD program.
iii. Sign a peace treaty with Israel establishing full diplomatic ties and ceding the Golan Heights in exchange for Israeli aid to defeat the rebels and rebuild his country.
iv. Allow the creation of a Kuridsh autonomous region.
v. Grant amnesty to any rebel willing to surrender their arms and permit them to stay in the Kurdish autonomous region provided that they do not violate these terms.
vi. US assistance to defeat the rebels and rebuild his country. Such assistance will be critical for Assad as Russia cannot promise the reconstruction of the devastated country.

If the US and Israel can defeat the rebels, it will be something Russia, Iran, and the Hezbollah could not deliver for Assad since the civil war began. It will cleanse the Mediterranean of Russian influence. At the same time, it will prevent the rise of extremist Islamic rebels who may have an anti-US agenda. It will also represent a humiliating defeat for Russia, Iran, and the Hezbollah, the last of whom may be so weakened that they may eventually be defeated in Lebanon as well. It can also further weaken Arab resistance to normalize relations with Israel. The Trump Administration should seize this golden opportunity to accomplish so many US foreign policy objectives at the same time.

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