25

America’s True Role in Syria

NEW YORK – Syria’s civil war is the most dangerous and destructive crisis on the planet. Since early 2011, hundreds of thousands have died; around ten million Syrians have been displaced; Europe has been convulsed with Islamic State (ISIS) terror and the political fallout of refugees; and the United States and its NATO allies have more than once come perilously close to direct confrontation with Russia.

Unfortunately, President Barack Obama has greatly compounded the dangers by hiding the US role in Syria from the American people and from world opinion. An end to the Syrian war requires an honest accounting by the US of its ongoing, often secretive role in the Syrian conflict since 2011, including who is funding, arming, training, and abetting the various sides. Such exposure would help bring to an end many countries’ reckless actions.

A widespread – and false – perception is that Obama has kept the US out of the Syrian war. Indeed, the US right wing routinely criticizes him for having drawn a line in the sand for Syrian President Bashar al-Assad over chemical weapons, and then backing off when Assad allegedly crossed it (the issue remains murky and disputed, like so much else in Syria). A leading columnist for the Financial Times, repeating the erroneous idea that the US has remained on the sidelines, recently implied that Obama had rejected the advice of then-Secretary of State Hillary Clinton to arm the Syrian rebels fighting Assad.

Yet the curtain gets lifted from time to time. In January, the New York Times finally reported on a secret 2013 Presidential order to the CIA to arm Syrian rebels. As the account explained, Saudi Arabia provides substantial financing of the armaments, while the CIA, under Obama’s orders, provides organizational support and training.