US Allies Slam Obama’s Syria Policy, Fear Russia And Iran Taking Advantage Of Lack Of Resolve

February 10, 2016
French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius who resigned today with fierce criticism of US policy in Syria | Associated Press

Live Updates: Major US allies are slamming American foreign policy in Syria, with some even going as far to say that they have betrayed their allies, while Russia and Iran are taking full advantage of the situation

The previous post in our Putin in Syria column can be found here.

A Ceasefire In Syria? Don’t Believe Everything That You Read

Reuters reports that, according to an unnamed Western official, the Russian government has proposed a ceasefire in Syria that would go into effect on March 1.

Why March 1, 20 days from now? One might assume that with the Assad regime rapidly capturing Aleppo province from Western-backed rebels, there is not a lot of urgency in Moscow or Damascus to freeze the fighting.

Furthermore, ceasefires in Syria typically end with the Assad regime launching new offensives to take advantage of the situation.

Even if Russia is genuine in their offer, previous ceasefire attempts have taught us that such a deal would need to be agreed to by all combatants, and this has only ever been briefly successful in relatively small locations.

James Miller

Syrian Kurdish Authorities Open Mission In Moscow, Former DNR Leader Boroday Turns Up

Russia’s state-owned RIA Novosti news agency reports that representatives of the PYD-led Syrian Kurdish authorities, who control a swathe of northern Syria, have established an office in Moscow today.

According to the report, the “government of Western Kurdistan” will operate in Russia with the status of a non-governmental organisation. 

Senam Muhammed the Syrian Kurdish special representative in Europe and the United States, said:

“For the Kurdish people, and for the people of Western Kurdistan, this event is historic. This has been made possible thanks to the dedicated struggle of the Kurds in Syria. We hope that the representative office will become the voice of our region.”

Rodi Ahman, the head of the delegation in Russia, said Kurdish representatives would set up meetings with Russian officials, politicians and public figures to work on a solution to the Syrian crisis.

One of those public figures spotted today was Aleksandr Boroday, former editor of the ultra-nationalist Zavtra newspaper and a key figure in the Ukraine war. 

Boroday, a Russian, was involved in the takeover of administrative buildings in Donetsk and declared himself the ‘prime minister’ of the self-declared Donetsk People’s Republic in May, 2014. 

He announced his resignation in August that year and was replaced by Aleksandr Zakharchenko.

The choice by the Syrian Kurdish leadership to open their first office in Moscow will only further fuel fears that Russia has co-opted Kurdish forces that still receive extensive US backing. 

Kurdish YPG (co-founded by the PYD) fighters have recently broken a truce with rebel groups in the Aleppo region and have enabled pro-regime forces to cut the city off from supply routes to the north and the Turkish border.  

Of course courting the PYD not only helps the Kremlin on a tactical level through collaboration in Aleppo, but also plays against Turkey, which considers the organisation to be a terrorist group and has recently stepped up a long-running war with the PYD’s parent organisation, the PKK.

— Pierre Vaux

French Foreign Minister Fabius Resigns With Scathing Criticism Of US, Russia And Iran Over Syria

The French foreign minister, Laurent Fabius, has resigned, making scathing remarks today on US inaction on the Syria crisis and the Russian and Iranian role in the disaster unfolding around Aleppo.

AFP, Le Figaro and Reuters report that Fabius said (some sections translated by The Interpreter):

“There are ambiguities… including amongst the actors of the coalition. I’m not going to repeat what I’ve often said, in particular on the principal pilot of the coalition, and also others. But one doesn’t get the sense that there is a very strong commitment.

There are words, but actions, this is another matter… Evidently, as the Russians and the Iranian sense this they have understood that Mr Bashar al-Assad is regaining strength…

There is at once the frightening brutality of the regime of Bashar al-Assad and, I call those responsible by their name: there is complicity on the part of Russia and Iran.

When you add this brutality, Russia and Iran’s complicity and the ambiguity you get the drama taking place in Aleppo.”

In separate comments, Fabius clearly stated that the United States has refused to act, which has given notice to Russia and Iran that they can do whatever they want in Syria. Furthermore, Fabius does not see the Obama administration changing course.

Reuters reports:

“I don’t think that the end of Mr Obama’s mandate will push him to act as much as his minister declares [publicly],” he added, referring to the secretary of state, John Kerry.

It’s very rare for a foreign minister of any country to make such blunt statements regarding the policy of a close ally.

In our in-depth analysis yesterday we pointed out that Syrian rebels which are supposedly backed by the West, America’s Middle Eastern allies, and other American allies feel betrayed by the West. To make matters worse, the Obama administration is perceived as playing sectarian politics by continuing to back and arm the Kurdish YPG while failing to use its influence to stop the group, which is regarded by NATO ally Turkey as a terrorist group, from attacking other rebel groups in Aleppo, amongst them units which also receive US backing.:

Today, Russian airstrikes have reportedly hit targets that are in the crosshairs of the YPG, more evidence that Russia is exploiting this rebel vulnerability.

Clearly, French foreign minister Fabius agrees with the assessment that the US has betrayed its allies.

In a separate article published yesterday in The New York Times Anne Barnard reports that Syria’s opposition is extremely angry with the Obama administration and Secretary of State John Kerry:

Mr. Kerry has been subject to increasing criticism, after an incident last week in which Syrian civil-society workers buttonholed him at a London cocktail party thrown by Prince Charles after an international donors’ conference on Syria. According to one of the Syrians who was there, who spoke on the condition of anonymity to protect her organization, the Syrians asked the secretary to put more pressure on Russia and the Syrian government to stop attacks and sieges on civilians.

The Syrian said Mr. Kerry seemed to blame the opposition for refusing to participate in United Nations-led talks in Geneva, and when the Syrians mentioned that 230 barrel bombs had fallen on Aleppo that day, he corrected them, saying it was 180.

Then, the Syrian said, Mr. Kerry added: “It’s going to get much worse. This will continue for three months, and by then the opposition will be decimated.” Pressed further, Mr. Kerry said, “What do you want me to do, go to war with Russia?”

As this story rocketed around social media, the State Department spokesman, John Kirby, declared on Monday that Mr. Kerry was “making no predictions about three months this or three months that.” On Tuesday, Mr. Kirby told reporters that “there’s been no badgering of the opposition,” and that Mr. Kerry simply objected to the rebel groups’ placing “preconditions” on the negotiations.

Syrian Opposition Groups Sense U.S. Support Fading

GAZIANTEP, Turkey – The United States and its allies have spent many millions of dollars backing Syrian opposition fighters they deem relatively moderate and secular, and civilian groups whose work on small businesses and local councils they billed as the cornerstone of Syria 's future.

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Feb 10, 2016 21:03 (GMT)

Members of the Syrian opposition with whom The Interpreter has spoken have no faith in the Obama administration’s promises. The perspective of many in the opposition is that the United States has talked a lot, done very little, and has consistently proven — long before the Russian airstrikes started — that they are not willing to commit enough support to topple the Assad regime. Once the Russians began their intervention, the US decided that even the nominal support that the Syrian opposition was receiving was already too much and could anger Russia.

The bottom line is that American foreign policy is in shambles. Some critics of America’s foreign policy might say something cynical like “what else is new?” What’s new is that in the past when the United States made mistakes it still did not leave its allies feeling like nothing the White House says can be trusted. Not only is that new, it’s dangerous and will make it very hard for the United States to respond to either this crisis or the next.

James Miller, Pierre Vaux