Obama Administration Unprepared if Assad Falls

U.S. training program for Syrian rebels criticized as slow, ineffective

The Obama administration has yet to outline a strategy for responding to the potential downfall of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, even as his hold on power grows tenuous in the fourth year of a civil war.

President Obama has so far avoided intervening in the Syrian war, which he says is a fulfillment of his pledge to not become ensnared in another land conflict in the Middle East. He sided against his top advisers in 2012 when he declined to arm the nationalist rebels battling Assad, and he reversed a decision in 2013 to strike the Syrian regime after it was accused of launching a chemical weapons attack that killed almost 1,500 people. The administration later reached a deal with Russia to remove much of Syria’s chemical weapons stockpile.

Yet recent developments in Syria might force Obama’s hand. Rebel groups in both the north and south of the country have achieved significant victories in the past few days against the beleaguered Syrian army. The Army of Conquest, a new rebel coalition backed by Saudi Arabia, Turkey, and Qatar, has seized the northern province of Idlib and is advancing toward Assad’s strongholds to the south.

The aftermath of the Assad regime’s demise would pose a challenge to U.S. security and American interests in the region. Jabhat al-Nusra, the Syrian al Qaeda affiliate, is part of the Army of Conquest—raising the possibility of another haven for al Qaeda in the Middle East.

The brutal Islamic State terrorist group also still controls parts of northern and eastern Syria and would seek to capitalize on Assad’s fall.

Michael Rubin, resident scholar at the American Enterprise Institute and a former Pentagon adviser on the Middle East during the George W. Bush administration, said in an email that if Assad is deposed, “the most radical, most violent, and most determined forces are going to fill the void.” He cited the example of the Afghanistan civil war in the 1990s after the withdrawal of Soviet forces, when the Taliban eventually prevailed against more moderate factions.

Full article: Obama Administration Unprepared if Assad Falls (Washington Free Beacon)

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