A Syria policy that dare not speak its name


Michael Ignatieff writes: Once President Barack Obama had let Bashar al-Assad cross his “red line” and use chemical weapons in 2013, America was left with a policy in Syria that dare not speak its name.

The policy is not what the US wants but, in light of the ceasefire plan agreed last week in Munich between Moscow and Washington, it appears to have become what it reluctantly accepts: to allow Mr Assad and Russian president Vladimir Putin to win by focusing attacks on anti-regime rebels in strongholds such as Aleppo — and then, after a decent interval, to join with them to crush the militants of Isis.

The consequences of this policy are becoming clearer by the day: free Aleppo is dying under continuing Russian bombardment and a civilian uprising that began in 2011 is collapsing for want of help. Mr Assad is re-establishing his tyranny and is certain to take vengeance on surviving insurgents.

This is where risk avoidance has led a conscientious, prudent American president — to a diabolical transaction in which he and his allies regretfully sacrifice the lives of innocent civilians in the name of the mistaken belief that the west’s only overriding strategic interest in Syria is the defeat of Isis.

If this is the actual policy of the US the consequences should be spelt out. Russia and Iran will consolidate control of a rump state in the Middle East but the millions of Syrians who have fled the fighting will never return home and the region will never know peace. [Continue reading…]

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