NBC News is reporting today that President Obama stopped the CIA from executing a plan to remove Syrian President Bashar Assad from power in 2012. The President’s reluctance to do anything to end the Syrian Revolution had serious consequences–the rise of ISIS.
The article reports:
It’s long been known that then-CIA Director David Petraeus recommended a program to secretly arm and train moderate Syrian rebels in 2012 to pressure Assad. But a book to be published Tuesday by a former CIA operative goes further, revealing that senior CIA officials were pushing a multi-tiered plan to engineer the dictator’s ouster. Former American officials involved in the discussions confirmed that to NBC News.
In an exclusive television interview with NBC News, the former officer, Doug Laux, describes spending a year in the Middle East meeting with Syrian rebels and intelligence officers from various partner countries. Laux, who spoke some Arabic, was the eyes and ears on the ground for the CIA’s Syria task force, he says.
The article noted that the President, who must approve all covert operations, never approved the action.
The article further reports:
Petraeus and others who supported the plan believe it could have prevented the rise of ISIS, Assad’s use of chemical weapons, the European refugee crisis and the tens of thousands of civilian deaths that have happened since, the former officials say. President Obama and many other analysts strongly disagree.
Elements under discussion at the time included not only bolstering Syrian rebels, but pressuring and paying senior members of Assad’s regime to push him out, the former officials said. The idea was that the Syrian civil war could then have been peacefully resolved–a huge uncertainty.
Laux ultimately resigned in frustration — over that and other issues — after it became clear the Obama administration would not move forward.
…But former senior U.S. officials point out that the Lebanon-based terror group Hezbollah, and Iran’s Revolutionary Guards, had not yet begun fighting in Syria in significant numbers in 2012. Many players in the region, they say, were waiting to see what the United States would do.
Interfering in civil wars in foreign countries is risky. Libya did not turn out well, and initially Egypt did not turn out well. However, in the case of Syria, not getting involved probably created more problems than it solved.
Part of the problem here is the cultural differences between western culture and the Middle East. The Middle Eastern culture has very little respect for anything but force. President Obama’s lack of action was seen as weakness and viewed as something to be taken advantage of. Unless America elects a leader who is viewed as strong by our enemies, we can expect the problem of ISIS and Hezbollah to grow. We shouldn’t be sending our troops overseas at every moment, but we need to project enough strength to prevent nations and groups that are less than friendly to us from taking advantage of perceived weakness.