April 27, 2011
NYC Letter: Democrats In Charge VI - The Arab Spring
Day 827 of CHOPE
Q: Would you be willing to meet separately, without precondition, during the first year of your administration, in Washington or anywhere else, with the leaders of Iran, Syria, Venezuela, Cuba and North Korea, in order to bridge the gap that divides our countries?
OBAMA: I would. And the reason is this, that the notion that somehow not talking to countries is punishment to them -- which has been the guiding diplomatic principle of this administration -- is ridiculous. ... And I think that it is a disgrace that we have not spoken to them.
RODHAM-CLINTON: Well, I will not promise to meet with the leaders of these countries during my first year. I will promise a very vigorous diplomatic effort because I think it is not that you promise a meeting at that high a level before you know what the intentions are. I don't want to be used for propaganda purposes. ... But certainly, we're not going to just have our president meet with Fidel Castro and Hugo Chavez and, you know, the president of North Korea, Iran and Syria until we know better what the way forward would be.
A little mood music interlude.
JERUSALEM February 26, 2010 (WaPo) - The presidents of Iran and Syria on Thursday ridiculed U.S. policy in the region and pledged to create a Middle East "without Zionists," combining a slap at recent U.S. overtures and a threat to Israel with an endorsement of one of the region's defining alliances.
... [T]he message delivered by Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and Syrian President Bashar al-Assad in a joint news conference was sharp and spoke to a shared sense that Iran is gaining influence in the region despite U.S. efforts.
... The relationship between Iran and Syria has become one of the central alliances in the region, of particular interest now as a barometer of the success of U.S. policy toward Iran and of whether a larger Arab-Israeli peace deal is possible.
Now, this mook.
Q: I wanted to ask you what you think could be done to encourage democracy in Syria and Iran?
Well, I personally believe that -- I mean, this is my belief, okay? But President Assad has been very generous with me in terms of the discussions we have had. And when I last went to -- the last several trips to Syria -- I asked President Assad to do certain things* to build the relationship with the United States and sort of show the good faith that would help us to move the process forward.
... So my judgment is that Syria will move; Syria will change, as it embraces a legitimate relationship with the United States and the West and economic opportunity that comes with it and the participation that comes with it.
Next, this incredible exchange.
Q: Tens of thousands of people have turned out protesting in Syria, which has been under the iron grip of the Asad for so many years now, one of the most repressive regimes in the world, I suppose. And when the demonstrators turned out, the regime opened fire and killed a number of civilians. Can we expect the United States to enter the conflict in the way we have entered the conflict in Libya?
No. Each of these situations is unique, Bob. Certainly, we deplore the violence in Syria. We call, as we have on all of these governments during this period of the Arab Awakening, as some have called it, to be responding to their people’s needs, not to engage in violence, permit peaceful protests, and begin a process of economic and political reform.
The situation in Libya, which engendered so much concern from around the international community, had a leader who used military force against the protestors from one end of his country to the other, who publically said things like, “We’ll show no mercy. We’ll go house to house.” And the international community moved with great speed, in part because there’s a history here. This is someone who has behaved in a way that caused grave concern in the past 40 plus years in the Arab world, the African world, Europe, and the United States.
Q: But, I mean, how can that be worse than what has happened in Syria over the years, where Bashar Asad's father killed 25,000 people at a lick? I mean, they open fire with live ammunition on these civilians. Why is that different from Libya?
Well, I --
Q: This is a friend of Iran, an enemy of Israel.
Well, if there were a coalition of the international community, if there were the passage of Security Council resolution, if there were a call by the Arab League, if there was a condemnation that was universal – but that is not going to happen, because I don't think that it’s yet clear what will occur, what will unfold.
There’s a different leader in Syria now. Many of the members of Congress of both parties who have gone to Syria in recent months have said they believe he’s a reformer. What’s been happening there the last few weeks is deeply concerning, but there’s a difference between calling out aircraft and indiscriminately strafing and bombing your own cities [Incredulous laugh.] and then police actions, which, frankly, have exceeded the use of force that any of us would want to see.
This longueur has a simple point. All three former Democrat presidential candidates seriously misjudged Mr. Assad. This misjudgment had all three prepared to do business with Mr. Assad, and, in the cases of the senator and the SOS, play the shills. Now Mr. Assad is shooting protesters. [Pause.]
To brush aside America's responsibility as a leader and -- more profoundly -- our responsibilities to our fellow human beings under such circumstances would have been a betrayal of who we are. Some nations may be able to turn a blind eye to atrocities in other countries. The United States of America is different. And as President, I refused to wait for the images of slaughter and mass graves before taking action.
getting ahead of the massacre curve
ADDRESS TO THE NATION ON LIBYA
WASHINGTON March 28, 2011 (White House)
No waiting on Syria.
SYRIAN TROOPS POUR INTO DAMASCUS SUBURB
April 26, 2011 (Reuters)
RESIDENTS BRAVE GUNFIRE TO RESCUE BODIES
AS SYRIA’S CRACKDOWN CONTINUES
BEIRUT April 26, 2011 (Globe & Mai/APl)
CIVILIANS FORCED TO HURL ROCKS AT TANKS
April 26, 2011 (Daily Mail)
OP-ED April 26, 2011 (Telegraph) - Next year sees the 30th anniversary of the Hama massacre, when Syria's president Hafez al-Assad used his army to crush a Sunni Muslim revolt. Ten thousand people died in what has been described as the "single deadliest act" by any Arab government against its own people. The decision of Hafez's son Bashar to send tanks into Dera'a – where the current anti-government unrest began five weeks ago – was clearly designed to send a brutal signal to insurgents that he has reverted to family type.
... And it is arguable that the West's uncertain response to the Libya crisis has also emboldened him. Muammar Gaddafi is still in place more than five weeks after air strikes began. More pertinently, Bashar knows that the chances of similar military deployment against Syria are zero.
... Just as in Bahrain, therefore, this is a part of the Arab spring that the West will be content to leave to its own devices. There will be words of condemnation and no doubt the prospect of sanctions will be mooted, though we would be surprised if any of significance are imposed. In essence, the people of Syria are – tragically – on their own.
Four hundred thirty-five plus Syrians have been killed since protests began last month.
Mr. Obama's arguments for the Libyan intervention are the same arguments to intervene in Syria. The arguments not to intervene in Syria are the same arguments against the Libyan intervention. Mr. Obama wants to have it both ways in the middle east.
It is hard to imagine an intervention in Syria. An "integratively complex thinker" like Mr. Obama might have used a little, uh, integratively complex thinking -- a little foresight -- before couching his Libyan adventure in high-minded big talk. Now he looks like a craven phony.
Big talk. No principled policy.
* Mr. Kerry's chores for Mr. Assad (p.16):
So I put about five or six requests – one was the purchase of land for the American embassy in Damascus. The other was the opening of an American cultural center. The other was the border assistance with respect to Iraq. The fourth was a visit to Iraq by the foreign minister. The fifth was patching up with Bahrain. And the sixth was sending an ambassador to Lebanon in order to send a message before the elections of their independence and to guarantee they’d stay out of the election process. Guess what? All six were done, delivered.
Of course not one of these chores does anything to advance democracy in Syria. Nowhere in the whole of Mr. Kerry's address does he burden Mr. Assad with any pesky democratizing chores.Posted by Damian at April 27, 2011 05:45 PM