U.S. Must Act—Finally—to End the Calculated Carnage in Syria
Post Editorial Board
OBAMA administration’s suspension of contacts with Russia on Syria took so
long that when it finally came on Monday, it looked like just another display of
U.S. weakness. On Sept. 19, Russian
and Syrian planes shredded the cease-fire deal negotiated
by Secretary of State John F. Kerry by bombing one of the U.N.
humanitarian convoys it had authorized — a blatant war crime. Yet not for two
Mr. Kerry finally abandon his increasingly forlorn efforts to induce
the Russian regime of Vladimir Putin to stop its ferocious onslaught against
the city of Aleppo, which has included multiple bombings of hospitals and the
killing of hundreds of children.
along it was clear that the diplomatic effort would fail, because the United
States refused to use military pressure against the regime of Bashar al-Assad
— a lack of leverage that Mr. Kerry himself lamented in a meeting with Syrian
activists. Yet the pleading phone calls to Moscow continued, day after day, and
consideration of other U.S. options in Syria remained on hold, even as eastern
Aleppo was reduced to rubble.
supporters ruefully wondered why Mr. Putin chose not to go forward with a
cease-fire plan that was, as former State Department and National Security
Council official Philip Gordon put
it, “a clean win” for Russia. The deal negotiated by Mr. Kerry
would have left the Assad regime in power indefinitely while Russia and the
United States joined in a military campaign against its opponents — those
rebels deemed to be “terrorists.”
simple answer is that, having pocketed those U.S. concessions, Mr. Putin chose
to pursue a still more decisive victory, the recapture by the regime of
Syria’s largest city. If the offensive succeeds, any possibility of Mr. Assad
leaving power will be removed. If it fails, the Kremlin reckons it can always go
back to the ever-willing Mr. Kerry.
Putin clearly calculates that he has nothing to fear from the United States; so
confident has he become that he canceled a nuclear cooperation agreement with
Washington on Monday and decreed a list of stiff conditions for restoring
relations, including the lifting of sanctions and compensation to Russia for
their costs. The White House, meanwhile, still has not responded to Russia’s
hacking of the Democratic National Committee or even publicly acknowledged
administration is going through the motions of considering new options in Syria.
According to The Post’s Josh Rogin, possibilities
to be weighed in a Cabinet-level meeting Wednesday include
cruise-missile strikes to ground the Syrian air force and the supply of more
advanced weapons to the rebels defending Aleppo. Senior Pentagon and CIA
officials are said to support those steps, and for good reason: Their assessment
is that the fall of Aleppo would worsen the terrorist threat from Syria.
Obama has rejected military options numerous times on the grounds that they
would only exacerbate the conflict. The result has been a steady expansion of
Syria’s carnage, the growth of terrorist forces and the shrinking of U.S.
influence, to Russia’s gain. Continuing inaction will compound those