The Ties has several pieces on the Middle East maneuverings of our Nobel Peace Prize Laureate and his Laureate-in-Waiting. Let's start with the bad news:
New Diplomacy Seen on U.S.-Russian Efforts to End Syrian Civil War
BEIRUT, Lebanon — With President Bashar al-Assad of Syria facing battlefield setbacks, diplomats from Russia, the United States and several Middle Eastern powers are engaged in a burst of diplomatic activity, trying to head off a deeper collapse of the country that could further strengthen the militant group Islamic State.
The Russians seem to be driving this:
Russia has played the most prominent public role so far in the new diplomacy. Some analysts say that the discussion reflects a softening of the Obama administration’s long-held position that “Assad must go,” and a fear, shared with Russia, that the Islamic State could be the primary beneficiary if Mr. Assad’s government continues to weaken, as they expect, or even to collapse entirely, which they view as less likely but increasingly possible.
Mr. Assad’s opponents, too, have reason to reassess strategy; American efforts to build a proxy force in Syria have largely failed, insurgent groups have their own attrition problems, and Saudi Arabia and Turkey face political and security blowback at home.
As the military situation continues to deteriorate, the major powers are growing increasingly nervous. Emile Hokayem, a Middle East analyst with the International Institute for Strategic Studies and a vociferous critic of Mr. Assad, said the United States was letting Russia take the lead because “they don’t want to own this.” If anything, Mr. Hokayem added, “it’s the United States that has moved closer to Russia’s position” that Mr. Assad could be part of the transitional government that is the stated goal of any negotiations.
Our only reassurance is that both Obama and Kerry are three-dimensional geniuses. Obama didn't want to arm the moderate rebels a few years ago when there may have been some, he mocked ISIS as the "junior varsity", he drew red lines in Syria he wouldn't enforce, he insisted there was no linkage between Putin's adventurism in the Ukraine and the getting Putin to help with the debacle in Syria, and now he is flipping the keys to... Putin. Geez, if only Hillary were still at State to reset the reset with Russia.
Well, on to the worse news. Set aside my lost confidence in team Obama and let's hear from the NY Times editorial board:
Who Threatens America Most?
In what order does the Obama administration rank the biggest external threats to America’s national security? The short answer: It depends on whom and which agency you ask.
Official opinion is all over the lot, a sign of a rapidly changing world, different bureaucratic priorities and confused thinking. Which raises this question: If officials cannot agree on what the most pressing threats are, how can they develop the right strategies and properly allocate resources?
i have lost my confidence and they have lost their pom-poms. Scary!
And as an illustration of the complexities and subtleties vexing our nuanced leadership, the Times explains why Turkey announced greater cooperation with the US against ISIS and then promptly attacked the only group in Syria that seems to be able to work with the US to battle ISIS.
It has been obvious for years that the Kurds intended to carve out an enclave bordering Turkey in Iraq and, since opportunity has knocked, Syria. It has also been obvious that the Turks were choking on this. One might have hoped that our new arrangement with Turkey would have addressed this, but apparently not.