Hannah Allam reports: With Russia pledging missiles to Syrian President Bashar Assad, the civilian opposition unable to agree on much of anything, and regime loyalists pushing rebels out of strategic areas, the United States finds itself with no clear policy path to its oft-stated goal of Assad’s ouster.
Unclear from the beginning, U.S. policy on Syria has grown only more contradictory and ad hoc since the popular uprising that the Obama administration was quick to support transformed into a brutal civil war with a death toll now beyond 70,000. Both tracks of the State Department’s latest “dual-track” approach have led to dead ends, with neither a strong political opposition nor a trusted, viable rebel force ready to take charge in the increasingly unlikely event that the Assad regime should collapse.
Wednesday dealt fresh setbacks to U.S. and international plans to build the political and military capabilities of the anti-Assad movement. Weeklong opposition talks in Istanbul ended without meeting the goals of expanding membership of the Islamist-dominated group or naming an interim government – failures that could cost leaders crucial international support. Also Wednesday, Hezbollah-backed regime forces claimed victory in the vicious battle for control of Qusayr, a strategically important town near the Lebanese border.
Analysts who’ve closely monitored the conflict for the past two years blame a series of miscalculations and half-measures for the lack of a strong U.S. position on Syria. While the White House and its supporters in the foreign policy community defend the current approach as “cautious,” other analysts see it as frozen and out of touch with events on the ground. [Continue reading…]