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Lindsey Graham on Obama's Syrian Policy: 'He Owns Aleppo'

Image: Lindsey Graham on Obama's Syrian Policy: 'He Owns Aleppo'

President Barack Obama (AP Photo)

By    |   Wednesday, 14 Dec 2016 07:42 PM

Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., declared Wednesday that President Barack Obama "owns Aleppo" because he pulled American troops forces out of Iraq too soon, and because he refused to attack President Bashar Assad after he crossed the "red line" by using chemical weapons against his own people.

"Assad was on the ropes four years ago," Graham, who sits on the Senate Armed Services Committee, told Wolf Blitzer on CNN. "Obama's entire national security team said if you act now by helping the Free Syrian Army, Assad will fall.

"The Russians and the Iranians came in to help Assad. The Russians had been bombing the forces we trained, not ISIL.

"When Aleppo falls, and it will, it'll be a big win for Russia, Iran, Assad, and ISIL," Graham added, referring to an alternative name for the Islamic State. "With Assad in power, ISIL can recruit for generations to come.

"Big loss for the United States.

"Obama left Iraq too soon," in 2005, Graham said. "He didn't act when Assad was on the ropes.

"He owns Aleppo. This is as much a part of his legacy as Obamacare."

The specter of a bloody end to the battle for Syria's largest city became a reality Wednesday after a cease-fire to evacuate rebel fighters and civilians from the remaining neighborhoods helped by opposition forces unraveled.

Residents reported shelling and brutal bombing runs had resumed.

Assad's opponents accused the government and its allies of scuttling the agreement with new conditions, including the lifting of a rebel siege on two pro-government Shiite villages in nearby Idlib province.

The cease-fire was mediated Tuesday by Turkey and Russia. It essentially was a surrender by the rebel fighters, who had held on to nearly half of Aleppo for more than four years in the bloody Syrian civil war.

Turning over those remaining opposition-run neighborhoods to government control would be a turning point in Syria's civil war, allowing Assad to gain control of most of the country's urban centers.

However, hours after the deal crumbled, three rebel spokesmen said it was back on amid reports wounded people and civilians were to be escorted out of Aleppo on Thursday.

"They began to strike as if there's no such thing as a cease-fire or civilian evacuation," said Mahmoud Raslan, a local media activist.

Mohammed Abu Jaafar, head of forensics in eastern Aleppo, said residents felt "duped."

"People have left their shelters . . . to be ready for the evacuation," he said. "I can't describe it.

"Since the morning, they started to target the areas where people have gathered," Abu Jaafar said. "These people were walking to the crossings designated for exit."

The Syrian forces are backed by Russia and Shiite militias from Lebanon, Iraq and Afghanistan.

Besides Russia, Iran backs Assad's government and has committed advisers and elite Revolutionary Guard forces to the government side.

Turkey supports some of the rebel groups fighting to topple Assad.

Graham attributed the bloodshed in Aleppo to President Obama's refusal to topple Assad after he crossed the line in 2013.

The president first said he would attack Assad but then reversed his decision, saying he would need congressional authorization to use force against the dictator.

But legislators refused.

"I'm not one of them," Graham said, adding Obama's coming to Congress "was a huge mistake."

For President-elect Donald Trump, Graham said his goal of his national security team must be to destroy ISIS, but Assad also has to be removed to restore stability in the region.

"In Syria, if you leave Assad in power, the Arabs will never accept him — and the Syrian war never ends because the Syrian people will not accept him.

"Turkey is going to be under constant friction.

"I would destroy ISIL with more of an Arab force," he added. "I would have a no-fly zone, and tell the Russians and Syrians that if they come over to bomb these people, I would shoot them down.

"Then, the Russians and the Iranians would come to the table to negotiate an end to the war."

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., declared President Barack Obama "owns Aleppo" because he pulled American troops forces out of Iraq too soon, and because he refused to attack President Bashar Assad after he crossed the "red line" by using chemical weapons against his own people.
Assad, chemical weapons, Aleppo, ISIL
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2016-42-14
Wednesday, 14 Dec 2016 07:42 PM
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