CNN's Fareed Zakaria: Obama Mishandled Syria From the Start

Monday, 02 Sep 2013 07:12 PM

By Sandy Fitzgerald

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The Obama administration has been mishandling Syria over the last year, and President Bashar Assad's alleged use of chemical weapons was an event that has "confused and confounded" the president and his staff, claims CNN correspondent Fareed Zakaria.

Urgent: Should U.S. Strike Syria? Vote Here

Last March, when Obama drew his so-called "red line," he said if Syria used chemical weapons, that would be a game changer, Zakaria write in an editorial piece Monday.

"It has, except not quite in the sense that he meant. It has been an event that has confused and confounded the Obama administration," Zakaria said, noting that Obama's handling of the Syrian civil war has been an exercise in how not to deal with foreign policy.

Obama started out understanding Syria was a "messy sectarian struggle" that American military action would not influence, and he kept from jumping in, Zakaria said.

"But from the start he confused and undermined this policy with loose rhetoric," he said.
Just over two years ago, Obama announced that Assad should be removed from office, but he did not have a strategy to make that happen, said Zakaria.

"In truth, Obama – and many others – miscalculated," he said. 'They believed that al-Assad’s regime was near the end, misreading both its strength and brutality, but also the level of support it has from several segments of Syria."

The red line comments were "insufficiently thought through, but publicly stated and definitive," said Zakaria, and American policy has since been concerned about making sure Obama's threat didn't seem to be empty.

In addition, he said, the United Nations and other international organizations, which are charged with upholding international law, do not support a military strike.

"The United States plus France and Turkey cannot be considered the embodiment of international law and global public opinion," Zakaria writes.

The nature of a short strike also will not make a large difference in Syria, he said, and Obama's last-minute appeal to Congress erases what little surprise may have been left, and sets the stage for a potential defeat at home.

"The manner in which the Obama administration has first created and then mismanaged this crisis will, alas, cast a long shadow on America’s role in the world," he concludes.

Urgent: Should U.S. Strike Syria? Vote Here


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