Obama’s Syria mistake is now Trump’s problem

Nader Hashemi writes: Two positive developments can be discerned from the Tomahawk missile attack on Syria.

First, Bashar Al-Assad will have to think twice about using chemical weapons again. Donald Trump has drawn his own red line in Syria, and there is now a price to be paid — assuming Trump keeps his word — for dropping sarin gas on civilians.

Secondly, we are now all talking about Syria. Before the missile strike, the general assumption was that Syria no longer mattered. The fall of Aleppo meant that Assad, and his Iranian/Russian allies, had won the war as a fait accompli.

White House spokesman Sean Spicer said last week that a new “political reality” had emerged in Syria “that we have to accept.” But do we?

The conflict in Syria is a global problem, back at the top of the international agenda, while another American president grapples with its complexity.

President Obama’s gross miscalculation in 2013 was to wager that the conflict could be contained within Syria’s borders. Reflecting a widely held realpolitik view at the time, political scientist John Mearsheimer argued that Syria did not affect the core strategic interests of the West and was of “little importance for American security.”

Looking back, we can see how misguided this assessment was. It was arguably the biggest foreign policy miscalculation of the Obama presidency. Not only has the Syrian conflict deeply destabilized the Middle East, but its ripple effects have dramatically re-shaped politics around the world, including the domestic politics of the United States. [Continue reading…]

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