In a statement on Thursday, President Obama replaced the priority of political change in Syria with that of “counter-terrorism”, including against the insurgent faction Jabhat al-Nusra.
After Obama’s initial comments on the crisis in Iraq, a reporter asked:
The United States has been slow to provide significant weapons and training directly to the Syrian opposition. Does the expansion of the Syria war into Iraq change your mind about the type of weapons and training you’re now willing to give the opposition there?
The President refused to be drawn into a commitment to increased US military assistance — at least in public — to Syria’s insurgency, Instead, he shifted the focus to defeating “extremists”:
The question has always been, is there the capacity of moderate opposition on the ground to absorb and counteract extremists that might have been pouring in, as well as an Assad regime, supported by Iran and Russia, that outmanned them and was ruthless?…
We had already tried to maximize what we can do to support a moderate opposition that not only can counteract the brutality of Assad, but also can make sure that in the minds of Sunnis, they don’t think that their only alternative is either Mr. Assad or extremist groups like ISIL (Islamic State of Iraq and as-Sham) or al-Nusra.
The President then spelled out the priority: “Working with moderate Syrian opposition…(in) laying down a more effective counterterrorism platform.”
Obama did not explain how — given that Jabhat al-Nusra works with other insurgent groups in the fight against the Assad regime — this was to be accomplished.
Kafranbel Friday Protest: Obama Supports Both Assad and ISIS
Kafranbel’s Friday protesters, unimpressed by US President Obama’s statement on Thursday, portray him as a liar supporting both President Assad and the Islamic State of Iraq and as-Sham:
State Media: 34 Killed & 50 Injured by Car Bomb in Hama Province
State media says 34 civilians were killed and about 50 others injured by a car bomb in al-Hurra village in Hama Province.
A police source said attackers blew up a truck loaded with about three tons of explosive materials, destroying many houses and buildings.
Human Rights Watch Claims Abuses by Kurdish Authorities
A Human Rights Watch report says Kurdish authorities running three enclaves in northern Syria have carried out arbitrary arrests, violated due process of law, and failed to address unsolved killings and disappearances.
The 107-page report also cites the use of children in police and security forces.
Human Rights Watch declares:
At least nine political opponents of the (ruling Kurdish party) PYD have been killed or disappeared over the past two and half years in areas the party partially or fully controlled. The PYD has denied responsibility for these incidents but has apparently failed to conduct genuine investigations.
US Historian Calls for Washington to Ally With Assad Over Iraqi Crisis
Writing in Al-Monitor, historian Geoffrey Aronson says the US must now not only accept President Assad’s stay in power — it must work with the Syrian leader to deal with the crisis in Iraq:
Washington is having difficulty letting go of its insistence, in the words of Secretary of State John Kerry, that there is “no way possible in the imagination” to work with Assad. US interest, however, requires that Washington do exactly that, unless it is ready to concede Syria and Iraq to endless conflict and ISIS (Islamic State of Iraq and as-Sham) enclaves.
Assad, for his part, has certainly not made such a decision any easier by his conduct of the war. We are not talking here about a handshake or an embrace. The United States can work through intermediaries, like Russia, to keep a healthy distance and allow Washington to say, “We are not dealing with the Syrian government,” if so inclined. This all comes, however, with the recognition that US policy finally acknowledges that Damascus can play a role in beating back developments that pose the most potent threat to US interests in the Middle East in recent memory.