What Does It Take for Obama to Move on Syria?

by Elliott Abrams

Each day brings a new turn on Syria. Not the killings, of course; those continue day in, day out as the Assad regime tries to crush the rebellion.

But today there are two developments worthy of note. The greater one is this report of what Secretary Clinton said in Denmark, according to the Daily Star newspaper of Beirut:

Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton says the U.S. would need international support, including from Russia, for any military action in Syria. Clinton says U.N. and international support made possible last year’s intervention in Libya. She says Russia and China stand in the way of an international coalition against the government of Syrian President Bashar Assad.

Perhaps the secretary of state misspoke, and not for the first time, for what she said here is that Russia holds a veto over American foreign policy. One can hope the State Department will soon deny that this is what she said or at least that this is what she meant. “Reset” was bad enough! And while they’re at it, perhaps the folks at State can explain why she is in Denmark at all. Looking at her website, one quickly sees that she is obsessed with setting a record for globe-trotting, and perhaps that is the answer. Your tax dollars at work.

The second development is a statement from Israel’s minister of defense, Ehud Barak. “These events in Syria compel the world to take action, not just talk, but action. These are crimes against humanity and the international community must not stand on the sidelines,” he said. He noted correctly that Assad was not going to lose any sleep because Syrian diplomats are expelled, nor over speeches and U.N. resolutions.

This is significant because for many years Israel appeared to prefer Assad to any realistic alternative; “better the devil you know” really did sum up Israeli policy. No longer, for this devil is now the cause of endless violence and turmoil, and it won’t end until he is gone. One has to doubt, after three-and-a-half years of tension between the Obama administration and Israel, that Barak’s view will have any impact in the White House. Maybe Mr. Barak should head for Moscow, and there seek permission for the Americans to act. Then he could fly to Denmark, or whatever is Secretary Clinton’s next critically important stop, and give her the news. Such is the state of Obama foreign policy, year four.

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