The attack raises a series of questions about the president’s approach to America’s political processes and institutions.
The tumultuous events that have swept the Mideast like a whirling sandstorm have hardly abated; crises and conflict are now entrenched. Thus, looking back at the results of President Barack Obama’s two-term legacy, it’s clear we are facing a Mideast meltdown with dangerous and far-reaching consequences for the region and the world at large.
In its first resolution to focus on the politics of ending Syria’s five-year-long war, the Security Council today gave the United Nations an enhanced role in shepherding the opposing sides to talks for a political transition, with a timetable for a ceasefire, a new constitution and elections, all under UN auspices.
When Secretary of State John Kerry convenes Syria peace talks in New York on Friday, the fate of Syrian dictator Bashar Assad will be a main topic of debate. But despite widespread agreement that Assad has committed shocking war crimes—and a new report chronicling the atrocities—U.S. officials say the question of bringing Assad to justice is off the table for now.
Having discovered that the use of force in another country does not necessarily lead to wider sanctions and deepening isolation, Russia has nevertheless learned that military operations of that sort involve a tremendous number of recurring, growing and unpredictable risks. And the main risks in this war might not be military, diplomatic or even macroeconomic in nature. As happened 100 years ago, war does not always rally the people together: Sometimes it causes a fatal split in society itself.
From the political point of view, strengthening contacts with Iran enables Russia to, first of all, demonstrate its well-known solidarity with countries that have found themselves out of favor with the West at one time or another; second, assert the right of peoples to choose their own special path of national development; and third, defend Syria’s “sovereignty,” thereby showing its opponents that there are forces capable of helping countries withstand the onslaught of “imported revolutions.” However, all of these political motives bring Moscow few direct benefits.
ISIS is murdering and enslaving across Syria and Iraq. Russia is deploying dozens of aircraft to support the regime in Damascus. Huddled masses have been tempest-tossed into Europe. At the eye of the storm, Bashar al-Assad is pursuing a cynical, brutal, and risky strategy to cling to power.
What is most interesting to consider, however, is whether we are witnessing the first stages of a reconciliation between Saudi Arabia and Russia. Riyadh and Moscow, of course, have some apparently irreconcilable geostrategic imperatives. Russia’s close ties with the Islamic Republic of Iran and its unstinting support of Bashar al-Assad in Syria puts Moscow at odds with Saudi preferences for a weakened Iran and for Assad’s deposition in favor of a Sunni-majoritarian government in Damascus.