Historic letter will fail to change Obama’s approach to Syria

A historic letter of dissent written by dozens of United States diplomats is unlikely to spark any changes to President Barack Obama’s approach to the Syrian conflict. However, it does serve as a record of the writers’ efforts to place themselves firmly on the right side of history and it further highlights the fact that US policy in Syria has been dictated by maintaining short-term interests while continuously ignoring long-term consequences.

The letter expresses exasperation with the current administration’s failure to address the primary reason for the entire conflict: Bashar al-Assad’s regime and its continued crimes against the Syrian people. Nonetheless, as President Obama’s eight-year term comes to a close and as the bloody Syrian conflict continues to rage, renewed calls for a total overhaul of the current administration’s strategy in Syria are sure to go ignored.

The long overdue letter – signed by at least 51 US diplomats – is based on the logical conclusion that after years of endless bloodshed, the Assad regime has every reason to assess the US will not retaliate in response to its utter violations of agreements made between the Syrian government and the international community.

The intent of the letter was clear; the authors have demanded that the US flex muscle against Assad’s forces, carrying out “targeted military strikes in response to egregious regime violations” in an effort to pressure Damascus to actually adhere to the most basic terms of agreements made during negotiations.

“We believe that achieving our objectives will continue to elude us if we do not include the use of military force as an option to enforce the Cessation of Hostilities (CoH) and compel the Syrian regime to abide by its terms as well as to negotiate a political solution in good faith,” the diplomats wrote.

The regime has continually made a mockery of UN resolutions and the chemical weapons deal, ultimately carving out ways to massacre civilians with impunity. With the US-led coalition’s focus remaining solely on ISIS – which must continue to be degraded and battled – the Assad regime cannot continue to be ignored.

The success of the campaign against ISIS will prove ephemeral so long as Assad remains in power. This letter is an important plea to stop ignoring what has been undeniable since the most embryonic stages of the Syrian conflict.

At some point in the years to come, those that called for direct action against Bashar al-Assad’s criminal regime will not be criticized as warmongers

Brooklyn Middleton

Why now?

It is difficult to pinpoint what finally prompted this letter, which the New York Times referred to as “extremely large, if not unprecedented.” Inarguably, the years of the conflict have been punctuated by a number of deeply horrifying and chilling attacks by Assad’s forces – each justifying military action against his regime.

A version of this letter could and should have been written in the aftermath of the barbaric sarin attack in eastern Ghouta in August 2013 and again after each chlorine attack or barrel bombing massacre or intentional targeting of health clinics and hospitals.

It could have certainly been written after Caeser bravely defected and handed the entire world thousands of pieces of evidence showing the regime’s systematic torture and starvation of civilians, which the US Holocaust Museum displayed at their own institution. With endless documentation of Assad’s crimes, the diplomats are now refusing to let history view them as partly culpable due to US inaction.

At some point in the years to come, those that called for direct action against Bashar al-Assad’s criminal regime – the party responsible for the vast majority of civilian deaths and the worst chemical weapon massacre since Halabjah – will not be criticized as warmongers but instead will be noted as those who refused to think Syrians must be forced to choose between a barbaric dictator or terrorist organization.
Brooklyn Middleton is an American Political and Security Risk Analyst currently based in New York City. She has previously written about U.S. President Obama's policy in Syria as well as Bashar al-Assad's continued crimes against his own people. She recently finished her MA thesis on Ayatollah Khomeini’s influence on the Palestinian Islamic Jihad militant group, completing her Master's degree in Middle Eastern Studies. You can follow her on Twitter here: @BklynMiddleton.

Last Update: Wednesday, 20 May 2020 KSA 09:47 - GMT 06:47
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