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The Utter Failure of Obama’s Syria Policy

That sound you hear is President Obama’s Syria policy shattering into a million pieces. The latest sign of the ongoing catastrophe is the administration’s decision to suspend nonlethal aid to the mainstream Syrian resistance after fighters from the Islamic Front seized warehouses in northern Syria belonging to the Supreme Military Council, as the moderate rebel faction is known. The head of the council’s military wing, Gen. Salim Idris, had to beat a hasty retreat to Turkey and Qatar.

That the non-Islamist opposition is collapsing is utterly predictable given the administration’s hesitancy to provide it with more backing. The Islamic radicals are the obvious winners on the rebel side, while Hezbollah and the Iranian Quds Force grow stronger on the other end.

Yet somehow the administration, and in particular Secretary of State John Kerry, is still hoping to cobble together a Syria peace conference on January 22 in Switzerland. How, one wonders, is a deal going to be reached between an increasingly powerless and disjointed moderate opposition and a Syrian president who is growing increasingly confident in his ability to hold onto power?

This is so crazy that it makes you wonder whether the administration policy is on the level. Is it a total coincidence that Obama is trying to reach a deal with Iran and at the same time he is suspending aid to the Syria rebels fighting an Iranian-backed regime in Damascus? Is there perhaps a quid pro quo involved here?

That may, however, be giving the administration more credit than it deserves for strategic thinking. The Occam’s razor explanation here is that the administration has simply been incompetent and incoherent when it comes to Syria. The costs of its policy failures are, unfortunately, being paid by the poor Syrian people: more than 100,000 have already died and more are dying all the time. The war shows little sign of ending, and as it goes on extremists grow stronger, to the detriment of the U.S. and its moderate allies in the region.