From threats to bomb Assad, Obama bombs Assad’s enemies a year later

What a difference a year makes.

In September last year Barack Obama and John Kerry were drawing red lines in the sand and threatening to bomb Bashar al-Assad. They never did.

And Obama – with his coalition against evil – is now bombing Assad’s enemies in Syria.


The United States and allies launched airstrikes against Sunni militants in Syria early Tuesday, unleashing a torrent of cruise missiles and precision-guided bombs from the air and sea on the militants’ de facto capital of Raqqa and along the porous Iraq border.

American fighter jets and armed Predator and Reaper drones, flying alongside warplanes from several Arab allies, struck a broad array of targets in territory controlled by the militants, known as the Islamic State. American defense officials said the targets included weapons supplies, depots, barracks and buildings the militants use for command and control. Tomahawk cruise missiles were fired from United States Navy ships in the region.

The strikes are a major turning point in President Obama’s war against the Islamic State and open up a risky new stage of the American military campaign. Until now, the administration had bombed Islamic State targets only in Iraq, and had suggested it would be weeks if not months before the start of a bombing campaign against Islamic State targets in Syria.

Bahrain, Jordan, Qatar, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates took part in the strikes, American officials said, although the Arab governments were not expected to announce their participation until later Tuesday. The new coalition’s makeup is significant because the United States was able to recruit Sunni governments to take action against the Sunni militants of the Islamic State. The operation also unites the squabbling states of the Persian Gulf. ….. 

Assad will surely spin this as support for his regime. That may not be the primary intention of the air strikes but he will surely be strengthened by the attacks on the most potent of his many enemies

I think ISIS does need eradicating but it needs to be by the Sunni Muslim world in the first instance. I cannot help but wonder which of Obama’s moving red lines was crossed now by ISIS which was not crossed earlier by Assad. The difference of course is that bombing ISIS is – politically – almost risk-free for the US President. Vladimir Putin will not protest and neither will Netanyahu. Even Iran will be quite happy with this attack on Sunni extremists opposed to Assad. Even the EU will support – though the position of the EU is largely irrelevant for the US. But air strikes alone will not eradicate ISIS or bring much greater order to the chaos in Iraq and Syria.There is a real risk of the chaos being extended – geographically and in time – but Obama’s final term has not long left to run.

The entropy of the chaos increases.

Barack Obama will be remembered not  as a leader with any clear principles but merely as the first black President of the US and for whom principles were always subordinated to his fear of risks. Courage will not be associated with his terms in office.

“Yes. We can” will become “Well, I tried..”.

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