It took two years, 93,000 casualties, the use of chemical weapons, and the growing prospect of victory by strongman Bashar Assad and his Iranian patrons, but President Obama has finally decided to arm the Syrian rebels. We'd say better late than never, but the question now is whether Mr. Obama is going to do just enough to prevent a rebel defeat but not nearly enough to help them win.RTWT.
The official justification for the policy switch is the Administration's new confidence that Assad's forces have used sarin gas against the rebels. "The President has said that the use of chemical weapons would change his calculus, and it has," said deputy national security adviser Ben Rhodes on Thursday evening.
This epiphany was also long in coming, following solid intelligence findings weeks ago from Britain and France. The White House now says U.S. intelligence has confirmed that Syrian forces used the nerve agent sarin "on a small scale" but "multiple times in the last year," according to Mr. Rhodes. Sarin has killed an estimated 100 to 150 people, including an attack in the Aleppo suburb of Khan al-Assal on March 19, and as recently as May 23 in Adra in eastern Damascus.
This puts Assad in some rare and despicable historical company for having used chemicals in warfare, including his old Baath Party comrade Saddam Hussein in Iraq against the Kurds. This also fingers Assad's main benefactors, Russia and Iran, as abettors of the world's latest user of WMD.
The Kremlin responded on Friday by calling the U.S. evidence "unconvincing," but that is a non-denial denial. Like Iran, Russia is providing Syria with weapons, military advisers and diplomatic cover at the United Nations, and it can't have been blind to reports of sarin use. We trust Mr. Obama will bring the point up when he meets one-on-one with Vladimir Putin at next week's G-8 summit. If he doesn't, Mr. Putin won't take him seriously.
Mr. Obama's sudden policy change was also no doubt driven by the fact that Assad's forces have the rebels on the run. Thousands of Hezbollah fighters crossed the border from Lebanon, at Iran's request, to help the Syrian military take back the strategic town of Qusayr last week. Their sights are now on rebel-held Aleppo, Syria's commercial capital.
No doubt it was a coincidence, but on Thursday morning Bill Clinton was quoted by Politico as saying in a private meeting that Mr. Obama risked looking like a "wuss" and a "fool" for failing to act in Syria and then saying public opinion wouldn't have supported U.S. intervention. Mr. Obama may want to avoid involvement in Syria, but he also wants to avoid responsibility for the slaughter of the rebels and a strategic victory for Iran, Russia, Assad and Hezbollah. So just as he intervened in Libya only as Gadhafi's forces descended on Benghazi, so he turned at the last minute here...
Man, this president is the f-king worst.
PREVIOUSLY: "Mideast Escalation: Iran to Send 4,000 Revolutionary Guards to Bolster Assad in Syria."