I am coming to believe that America’s whole involvement in the Middle East (Iraq, Afghanistan, Syria, Egypt, Libya, Yemen, etc.) has been a mistake and/or handled very badly. The most recent examples are President Obama’s decision to recommend $500 million to support “good” Syrian rebels, mainly the Free Syrian Army. Ironically, Robert Ford just resigned a few weeks ago as US Ambassador to Syria because Obama had refused to do this. Although I would like to support fellow Foreign Service Officer Ford, I agree with Obama’s previous position of not supporting the rebels. The Free Syrian Army is caught between President Assad on one side and the terrorist rebels, including ISIS, on the other. They are in an impossible position. Obama’s flip-flop was obviously motivated by the ISIS invasion of Iraq, which I think is partially motivated by Assad’s success in defeating ISIS in Syria. ISIS decided correctly that they could have more success in Iraq than Syria. If we really wanted to defeat ISIS we should support Assad rather than the Free Syrian Army. Of course, Assad is a murderous goon, but he’s winning. Instead in Iraq, we have thrown our lot in with Iran, which is already supporting Assad (and Maliki). No one seems to care that we have abandoned our long-term Sunni allies — Saudi Arabia, UAE, etc. Our interests may be diverging, but it’s hard to walk away and get nothing for the trillions of dollars we spent for Middle Eastern oil over the decades.
I think support for the Syrian rebels is a hopeless effort, illustrated in part by yesterday’s news from Benghazi, Libya, where somebody has murdered one of its leading human rights lawyers, Salwa Bugaighis, who was a leader of the rebellion against Qaddafi. So far, our intervention in Libya has mainly created instability and violence. Of course, Qaddafi was violent, but now we have other people doing the same sorts of things. The recent elections seem unlikely to change that. I am pleased that we have captured Ahmed Abu Khattala, who apparently led the attack on the US mission in Benghazi that killed Ambassador Stevens. I commend the President and the military for his capture.
Of course, Egypt is a mess, too. I am disappointed at Egypt’s decision to imprison three Aljazeera journalists for seven years or longer. I don’t understand the politics, but apparently Qatar, where Aljazeera is based, supports the Muslim Brotherhood. Aljazeera Arabic has been outspoken in support to the Muslim Brotherhood, which new Egyptian President Sisi has sworn to destroy. However, the three imprisoned journalists work for Aljazeera English, which has been evenhanded in its treatment of the Muslim Brotherhood and Egyptian politics. The US should at least put some serious pressure on Egypt to release them.