News / USA

Iraq Drives New US Policy in Syria 

A member of the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant waves an ISIL flag in Raqqa, Iraq, June 29, 2014.
A member of the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant waves an ISIL flag in Raqqa, Iraq, June 29, 2014.
Catherine Maddux

One direct byproduct of the rapid advancement of militants from the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) in Iraq is a revamped U.S. policy in Syria.

Last week, President Obama asked Congress to authorize $500 billion in direct assistance to train and equip what it calls "appropriately vetted elements of the moderate Syrian armed opposition."

That's a dramatic turnaround for Obama, who has tried to keep his distance from the civil war in Syria, which has become more complex and deadly – including the use of chemical weapons against civilians in Syria.

So, why now?

"The ISIS [ISIL] stampede into Iraq has, I think, concentrated the minds of the president and policy makers in the administration, and perhaps made them realize that our current policy in Syria isn't working," says Michael Crowley, Chief Foreign Affairs Correspondent for TIME.

In its authorization request, the White House cited “growing spillover effects of the Syrian conflict” among its reasons for aiding some Syrian rebels. ISIL militants are headquartered in the northern Syrian city of Allepo. 

Just under two years ago, in late 2012, says Crowley, Obama was presented a plan supported by Hillary Clinton, Leon Panetta and David Petraeus to step up training and arming of the rebels in Syria.

While not embracing that proposal, the president has signed off on doing more to bolster acceptable elements of the Syrian opposition very gradually.  That reportedly includes supplying rebels with heavy anti-tank weapons and a Central Intelligence Agency program to train a small number of rebels every month in Jordan. 

But the new request from Congress is a long way from Obama's "red line" moment, when Assad unleashed nerve gas in 2013, exactly one year after the president warned of serious consequences.

No air strikes were launched. 

Crowley points out that just two years after direct training of Syrian rebels was raised, the equation in Syria is a lot of more complicated, casting doubt on how effective a dramatically bolstered training effort might be. 

"We're [the United States] more interested in seeing the rebels fight the Islamists than we are in seeing them defeating Assad. It's a real three-dimensional chess game right now," he said.

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Comment Sorting
by: Igor from: Russia
June 30, 2014 11:14 PM
"when Assad unleashed nerve gas in 2013, exactly one year after the president warned of serious consequences". You speak as if indeed Assad had unleashed nerve gas without any convincing proof. It is similar to the case when you blamed Sadam for having mass destruction weapons. Is it the nature of your media?

by: meanbill from: USA
June 30, 2014 5:52 PM
CAN YOU BELIEVE IT? -- This US President requests $500 million dollars from the US Congress, to arm and train the Sunni Muslim extremists/terrorists in Jordan and Turkey, (like the US and NATO countries already does), to provide them with more advance weapons to make war on the Shia Muslim led country of Syria... (and that will supposedly help Shia Muslim led Iraq, who needs those US advance weapons themselves), to fight the invading Sunni Muslim (ISIL) "Caliph of all Islam" .... (BELIEVE IT?)...... (this US President believes, that arming and training Sunni Muslims to make war on the Shia Muslims in Syria), will help fight the growing army of the (ISIL) Sunni Muslims fighters of "the Caliph of all Islam" al-Baghdadi, IN IRAQ?...... CRAZY isn't it?

MY OWN PERSONAL OPINION? -- This has to be the craziest plan any sane person ever came up with, (and only a moron, idiot or imbecile), could design such a moronic, idiotic, imbecilic, plan.... (ARM and TRAIN the Sunni Muslims in Jordan and Turkey, "to fight against the Shia Muslim led government in Syria" and that'll help the Shia Muslim led government of Iraq?).... "The Art of Moronic, Idiotic, Imbecilic War Planning" by the US President Barack Obama?.... with help from the (3) stooges?

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