The United States is coming under increasingly bitter criticism for its perceived lack of leadership over Syria as the country’s brutal civil conflict heads toward new levels of intensity.
Washington appears unable or unwilling to prevent its ally Turkey from bombing Kurdish fighters inside Syria, its critics say. And it has done little to rein in Russia’s mounting military involvement on behalf of Bashar al-Assad.
In the eyes of his detractors, President Barack Obama is guilty of refusing to engage in Syria by doing exactly what he said he would do when he was elected in 2008: pulling America out of Middle Eastern wars, after the Iraq debacle, and “pivot” US foreign policy towards Asia.
A pointed attack came Tuesday from France, where few have forgotten Obama’s last-minute refusal to take action against Syria in 2013 after evidence surfaced that the government used chemical weapons against civilians.
“Obama had said, ‘If he uses chemical weapons, it will cross a red line,” former Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius said Tuesday on Europe 1 Radio. “And that red line was crossed with no reaction.”
“When the history books are written, we’ll see that this was a turning point, not only in the Middle East crisis but also for Ukraine, Crimea and the entire world,” Fabius had said earlier this month, adding that he regretted the “ambiguities” and “lack of very strong engagement” Washington has demonstrated with respect to Syria.
After the bombing of hospitals and other civilian targets around the northern Syrian city of Aleppo on Monday, the State Department only bemoaned the “continued brutality of the Assad regime against its own people” and questioned Russia’s “willingness” to put a stop to it.
For Jonathan Schanzer of the Foundation for Defense of Democracies in Washington, that simply wasn’t enough.
“Historians will one day look back at our archives and wonder what we thought we’d accomplish with such statements,” Schanzer tweeted Tuesday.
The White House has dismissed the accusations of inaction.
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