In Syria, Obama may have created his own Iraq

David Meyers Former White House Staffer
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Barack Obama’s handling of the Syrian crisis grows more troubling by the day. The president, who recently declared that action in Syria was vital to U.S. security, has now made any such action nearly impossible. And Obama may have set himself up for a clash at the United Nations similar to what happened to President Bush before the war in Iraq.

The UN Security Council (UNSC) resolution on Syria that Obama agreed to is baffling.

Initially, the U.S. insisted that the resolution authorize military action if Assad failed to destroy his WMD stockpiles. But at Russia’s request, the final resolution now says that Syria will only be punished with sanctions.

This is inexplicable, given that the U.S. and the EU have been sanctioning Syria since the mid 2000s. In fact, the UN itself already has sanctions in place against Syria. So if Assad refuses to comply with this new UN resolution, the “consequence” will be the status quo. How could Obama have agreed to this, let alone be claiming it is a victory?

The White House’s answer is that these sanctions will be different, because Russia and other rogue nations will adhere to them.

But if the administration really believes that Putin is going to stop arming and supporting Assad, they’re simply lying to themselves.

Furthermore, how is Obama going to convince Russia that Assad has violated the resolution when he can’t even convince Russia that Assad used chemical weapons on August 21?

If Assad fails to comply with the resolution, all Russia needs to do is say that it disagrees with the U.S. and UN assessment of the situation and veto any further action. And just like that, the victory that Obama thinks he has achieved will be a meaningless piece of paper.

If Obama tries to counter Russian obstruction, he’ll be setting himself up for a battle at the UN similar to the one waged by George W. Bush in 2003.

No one knows how many chemical weapons Assad has. His country is wracked by civil war. Inspectors won’t have free access to the country, and they won’t be able to truly ascertain Assad’s WMD capabilities. Therefore, Obama will have to use intelligence to prove his case at the UN, while countries such as Russia will counter with their own intelligence.

President Obama is obsessed with not repeating President Bush’s policy on Iraq, but that is exactly what he’s getting himself into at the UN.

Further, by supporting this new UNSC resolution, Obama has pretty much ruled out the use of force in Syria. If Syria fails to comply with the resolution, they will merely be sanctioned. And Obama no longer has the option to act unilaterally, because he would be defying a UNSC resolution that he himself supported.

The only way for Obama to use force in Syria would be to to obtain a new UNSC resolution that is approved by Russia and China. That will never happen.

Or, of course, President Obama could follow the path of George W. Bush in 2003, and openly defy the UN. This is just as unlikely.

So the U.S. has destroyed any deterrent power it had, emboldened Assad, Syria, and our other adversaries, and made America look weak, indecisive, and helpless.

The consequences of this fateful mistake will not be constrained to Syria, and they will not be constrained to foreign soil. As Obama’s pastor, Jeremiah Wright, famously said, it’s only a matter of time before the chickens come home to roost.