1. I am not sure what to make of what is happening at the moment, most probably because I have never seen the US engage diplomacy on this scale before – not in my lifetime anyway. I grew up watching the US shoot first and ask questions later, particularly in the Middle East. I grew up listening to George Bush and Tony Blair tell me that God had instructed them to invade Afghanistan and Iraq.

    Now I am seeing the US slowly feel its way back into statesmanship, albeit hitting quite a few bumps on its way. It would be a stretch to say that Obama has been following a particular strategy, but his ad-libbing has nonetheless brought out the better character in him, one that respects democratic values and the rule of law. It would also be naive to think that the agreement with Russia will end the turmoil in Syria, since it does not address the civil war itself. But it is a step in the right direction, and it breaks the American taboo of cooperation in the international arena.

    Seeing the US engage diplomacy independent of its allies is another phenomenon new to me. Having become so accustomed to building “coalitions of the willing” to veil over the guilt and questions of legality that accompany military intervention, the US has suddenly awoken to the fact that it has the tools at its disposal to pursue a diplomatic approach that is first and foremost in its own interest and not reliant on anybody else. This is vitally important for the future of the Middle East.

    The US – Obama in particular – will no doubt receive a fair share of criticism and ridicule (some of it well-deserved) in the coming days, but to me the deal with the Russians is a glimmer of hope that Obama is finally dragging his country into what the end of the Cold War should have always been about: a multi-polar international system that thrives off free trade and globalisation. This is, after all, a system built by the Americans, and one that Obama promised to engage. The US just has to get used to the fruits of its own labour – namely, a World that is more educated, wealthy, and interconnected than ever before.

    Next stop: end the only ideological conflict to have outlasted the Cold War – Iran.

    • However, Bush’s cowboy-style methods did remove the Baathist dictator and regular poison gas user from power in Iraq. I see nothing in the diplomacy that will lead toward removal of the Baathist dictator and poison gas user in Syria.

      • And put a group of more bloody dictators in place of him, backed by Iran and who have killed/tortured more people than Saddam did. Saddam was the lesser of the two evils, the international community could have contained him way better than that ugly thing that turned out to be the US invasion. US just gave Iraq as a gift to Iran. In fact, Ahmadinejad in 2008 said, about the US invasion of Iraq, that “finally, [US leaders] were able to make a good decision for once”. So Bush and Ahmadinejad were on the same line about Iraq (in fact, the faulty intelligence that the US used to attack Iraq, was probably the work of Iran). Now Iraq will have to be invaded again in 10 or 20 years because its becoming Iran 2.0. I was in favour of targeted strikes against Saddam, to the point of forcing him out in exile, but the occupation was a mistake. It would’ve been even accetable to leave immediately after the execution of Saddam, instead of continuing the occupation. As for Syria, until Russia and Iran support Assad, I dont see the rebels -badly armed, fighting among them, with no coordination and so on- being able to take Damascus.

        • Maliki is no angel, but to suggest that he is a more bloody dictator than Saddam is absurd.

          You are right in saying that both Iran and the US benefitted from the removal of Saddam (and his sons). So did everyone, including the Iraqis.

        • “…And put a group of more bloody dictators in place of him, backed by Iran and who have killed/tortured more people than Saddam did. Saddam was the lesser of the two evils, …”

          Saddam’s death toll during 80s iran-iraq war was 1million, and then his 91 adventure ,then southern iraq, and then the Kurds. So no, saddam wasn’t the lesser of evil. Had he lived in power we would have seen more of his actions…

    • The diplomacy to disarm Assad of his CWs will fail. All this has done is to give the war criminal more time to shell, SCUD, and bomb his people, which you seem to be oblivious to.

    • Taboo of cooperation in the international arena? Really? We’re not the ones who spent the last two years using our veto to stop almost every resolution that dealt with Syria at the UN including those that didn’t even threaten sanctions or military force. Seriously where do you get this stuff? If events in Syria are indicative of a “multi-polar” world then the future isn’t exactly looking bright for those living under constant repression who yearn for something better. There have been over a hundred thousand deaths and counting in Syria while the world watched and did nothing. Be careful what you wish for. To be honest we don’t need your approval to look after our own interests as we see fit. It is a good thing we didn’t have to rely on our allies in Europe because if we did it would just be another disappointment and little progress would’ve been made. While our allies sheepishly hid behind Putin’s veto at the UN we worked a deal in no small part because of our threat to launch military action independently of our allies who are unreliable and increasingly irrelevant to the US. They should start carrying their own weight and it is easy to see why Obama wants to pivot away from Europe and instead make Asia our top priority.

  2. President’s Speech and Online Army Video Point to Iran’s Dueling Interests in Syria

    “But Mr. Rouhani’s statement came as a video surfaced online appearing to show Iranian commanders and Revolutionary Guards soldiers training and fighting alongside pro-government militias battling rebels trying to oust Mr. Assad.”

    “Taken together, the speech and the video, if it is verified, point to the dual tracks employed by Iran as it tries to navigate the Syrian civil war and its widespread impact in the region. While calling for peace and diplomacy, Iran has also aided the government’s war effort. Although Mr. Rouhani stressed Iran’s wish for a diplomatic solution in Syria, the United States has long said Iran was supporting Mr. Assad against the rebels.”

    “In the video, men who appear to be Iranian commanders and soldiers are shown on patrol with Syrians, as well as engaged in firefights against rebels. The men speak in Persian with distinct regional accents.”

    “One commander, who says he is speaking from a base near the northern city of Aleppo, boasts about his men’s accomplishments in Syria and is shown at the base giving orders to some Syrian soldiers.”

    They call others hypocrites?

    • Anyone could outfox Obama–a dog, a cat, even an ant. It doesn’t take much given the man’s Chamberlain-like naivite in foreign affairs, if Hillary were president instead of Mr. Indecisive, we’d have acted long ago

  3. The American people’s reply to Putin

    “Thank you so much for your letter to the American people! I am an American person, and when I learned on Thursday from the official Russian news agency, the New York Times, that you wanted “to speak directly to the American people,” I thought: How sweet!”

    “Americans aren’t better than others, but our American experience is unique — exceptional — and it has created the world’s most powerful economy and military, which, more often than not, has been used for good in the world. When you question American exceptionalism, you will find little support from any of us, liberals or conservatives, Democrats or Republicans, doves or hawks.”

    And no we generally don’t care what outsiders who don’t even understand us think about it. I don’t know what in the world Putin was thinking when he apparently felt he needed to address the American people. Did he really think that Americans would be receptive? Did he think that because most Americans opposed military action against his ally that Americans would suddenly support all his initiatives? That might be a whole new level of arrogance for Putin.

  4. “Time to aid, not stigmatize, the Syrian rebels”

    That’s the header for my Syria roundup today and it is taken directly from Lebanon’s NOW. Links to some other interesting articles are included in that section.

    The first subpost examines the regime’s the greatly underestimated consequences of the regime’s checkpoint dilemna. What do these mini-defeats cost? Why can’t the regime afford them? Who mans them? Why does the regime even bother with checkpoints?


  5. a Swedish correspondent in Russia reported that the peace that Putin wants is that Assad will win, and she said a win for the opposition is considered a threat to Russia and that another government would be hostile to Russia
    true or not, but it is apparently so they think in russia
    they want Syria as there always have been

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