And how it is emboldening Salafists and Hezbollah.
One of the early policy gaffes that the Obama administration made, and which will ultimately have severe negative repercussions on the United States, was not commanding a strong leadership when protests erupted during Iran’s debated 2009 elections. It was during this time that the U.S. leaders had the potential to significantly alter the balance of power against the ruling clerics and Ayatollahs. A second, and similar, geopolitical, national and strategic mistake that the Obama administration is currently conducting is allowing Russia and the Islamic Republic of Iran to take the leadership position in regards to Syria. What the Obama administration is adopting is the policy of “Wait and See”; a strategy that supports taking the back seat rather than the steering wheel. In comparison to other mistakes and miscalculations implemented by the Obama administration, these particular uninformed policies and strategic lapses regarding the over two-year-long Syrian conflict may bring about a more significant level of threat to the United States’ national, global, geopolitical and strategic interests.
First of all, the absence of robust leadership from Obama’s administration has sent a formidable message to Hezbollah and Hamas: that these two groups can militarily operate regionally and globally as they desire without being held accountable or politically reprimanded. After witnessing the Obama administration take a back seat in the ongoing conflict between the rebels and the brutal police-state of Assad, Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah came out publicly announcing that he will support Assad’s regime and the Alawite sect until they score a victory. Nasrallah emphasized that his thousands of professionally trained soldiers are committed to fighting against what he projects in his propaganda to be radical Sunni Islamist rebels in Syria, at whatever the cost. In a televised speech on Saturday evening, Nasrallah stated, "We will continue to the end of the road. We accept this responsibility and will accept all sacrifices and expected consequences of this position….We will be the ones who bring victory."
Hezbollah has long been covertly operating in Syria. Through military support, intelligence advisement, and furnishing of necessary equipment, the group has been able to assist Assad’s brutal crack down on civilians. Yet, if the leader of Hezbollah, Hassan Nasrallah, and Iran's ruling clerics would have instead perceived the Obama administration as being serious about removing Assad from power and taking leadership, Hezbollah would have never been emboldened and empowered to the extent that it is now to publicly undermine the United States’ national and regional interests, global prestige, as well as its leadership role in the region and in the international arena.
The recent announcements by U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry, which declared a shift in the U.S. position from asking Assad to step aside to now adopting primarily the Russian position, has been especially detrimental to U.S. national interests. The Russian position is a superficial negotiation between the regime of Assad – a brutal regime which has lost its legitimacy and credibility in the eyes of the Syrians, regional and international circles, and oppositional and rebel groups. Following the Russian leadership, the Obama administration will be holding a so-called “peace plan conference” with a regime notorious for committing crimes against humanity.
In addition, the absence of credible leadership in the Obama administration has also emboldened Russian leaders to send the most advanced anti-aircraft weapons to the Assad regime, which poses a severe threat to Israel’s national, geopolitical and strategic interests. After the Obama administration agreed to hold the “peace plan talks,” which are primarily being orchestrated by Russia, Russian deputy foreign minister Sergei Ryabkov announced that he defended Russia’s planned sale of S-300 missile systems to the Assad regime, despite strong opposition from Britain, France and Israel. Ryabkov pointed out that this action is intended to “stop” and “restrain” the “hotheads” who are hoping to remove Assad from power and to conduct an international intervention in the Syrian conflict.
Moreover, it is worth noting that the growing presence and influence of the Salafists, Islamists groups, Al-Qaeda members, and Al-Qaeda-affiliated terrorist groups have become more evident not only in various cities in Syria (including Damascus, Allepo, Homa and Hama) but also Lebanon (in cities such as Tripoli) and Iraq, where they are also strongly operating. These groups have become empowered to the extent that they are now calling for mobilization in the Islamist state of Syria and Iraq, having found the appropriate and ripe environment to regroup in numbers larger and stronger then when the terrorist act of 9/11 was conducted from Afghanistan.
While the Obama administration has been adopting the effortless strategy of “Wait and See” in the Syrian conflict – choosing the back seat instead of the steering wheel, avoiding taking serious geostrategic and geopolitical actions, and permitting Russia and the Islamic Republic of Iran to govern regionally and internationally – severe long-term and short-term negative repercussions for the national, regional, global, geopolitical and politico-economic interests of the United States are brewing.
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