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Obama’s Passing The Syria Buck To The Next POTUS

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Saagar Enjeti White House Correspondent

President Barack Obama is effectively deciding to leave critical Syria decisions to his successor, the Washington Post reports.

A CIA proposal to give more advanced firepower to Syrian rebels to counter Russian airpower went all the way to the president’s desk before being shelved. Obama is increasingly skeptical of sending firepower to Syrian rebels, fearing U.S. weapons will end up in the hands of extremists. The administration is particularly wary of Syrian rebels killing Russian service-members with U.S. weapons, which could trigger a confrontation with Moscow.

“The lack of a decision is a decision,” a former senior administration official told The WP. He continued “There’s a huge risk here since the Russians entered … The lesson out of this is that if you don’t take action early on, you should almost expect the options to get worse and worse and worse.”

The CIA proposal reflects Obama’s broader reluctance to take an active role in the Syrian civil war, beyond defeating the Islamic State. Another U.S. official pushed back on this idea to the Post saying, “You can’t defeat ISIL without removing Assad.”

Neither Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton or Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump are outlining their position on arming rebels in Syria, or confronting Russia. Trump indicates his desire to work with Russia in Syria, while Clinton stresses her want to establish a no-fly zone in Northern Syria.

“For us to control all of the airspace in Syria it would require us to go to war, against Syria and Russia,” Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Joseph Dunford told Congress Sept. 26. Dunford continued, “That’s a pretty fundamental decision that certainly I’m not going to make.”

Clinton was a supporter of  surreptitiously arming rebel groups in the early days of the Syrian civil war, while serving as U.S. Secretary of State. The situation on the ground is now dramatically changing, with no major “moderate” opposition group militarily capable of toppling Assad, and Russia’s all-in intervention on behalf of Assad.

“You can’t pretend you can go to war against Assad and not go to war against Russia,” a senior administration official lamented to The Post.

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