Elliott Abrams

Pressure Points

Abrams gives his take on U.S. foreign policy, with special focus on the Middle East and democracy and human rights issues.

Print Print Cite Cite
Style: MLA APA Chicago Close


Abandoning Syria

by Elliott Abrams
March 29, 2012


With 9,000 Syrians dead and the Assad regime increasingly isolated and under political, moral, military assault, it appears that the Obama Administration has made its choice: it is abandoning efforts to force the end of that regime.

The plan developed by Kofi Annan is a life-saving development for Assad, as it guarantees months of diplomatic wrangling while Assad methodically murders his way to victory. Town after town, neighborhood after neighborhood may be bombed and reduced to rubble, the death toll may double or triple, but there will be endless meetings in nice hotels in Europe and the Middle East. We can see that future right now, in stories like this: “Syria accepted a cease-fire drawn up by U.N. envoy Kofi Annan on Tuesday, but the diplomatic breakthrough was swiftly overshadowed by intense clashes between government soldiers and rebels that sent bullets flying into Lebanon.” A few more months of this is all that Assad needs.

Persuasive evidence that the Obama Administration is heading this way can be found in the most recent column by David Ignatius, who faithfully reflects White House views and wrote that “I credit the Obama administration for resisting the growing chorus of calls to arm the Syrian rebels — and for continuing to seek Moscow’s help….” If the White House were on the verge of changing that defeatist stance Ignatius’s private briefings would not lead to such lines; the briefers would be scolding the Russians and saying the time had come to push back against the Assad military machine.

“It’s a moment for realpolitik,” Ignatius wrote, and I suppose that is what Obama Administration officials call their policy. If realpolitik means watching Assad kill more protesters and level more apartment houses, I suppose that’s right. The usual criticism of realpolitik is that it lacks a moral dimension, and that is certainly true here. But a policy that would maintain Russian influence in Syria, back away from dealing Iran a gigantic blow by bringing down its only Arab ally, and fail to end the regime that is Hezbollah’s armorer is hardly one that deserves to be described as “realist.”


Post a Comment 5 Comments

  • Posted by Jaber Atassi

    ”it is abandoning efforts to force the end of that regime”.

    Excellent choice, any regime is better than Muslim brothers like in Egypt or imposed presidents by Qatar like in Tunisia and in Libya where people continue to perish thanks to NATO.
    The main problem that Mrs Clinton focused solely on Galioun’s team and excluded all other opposition group. Which made moderate Syrians go back to support Assad. I’m a former protestor and after seeing Galioun in action I’m back to support Assad.

  • Posted by Son of Damascus


    “After seeing Ghalioun in action…”

    Yet after seeing Assad in action for a whole year, and the death of 10,000 people you still choose to support such a killer.

  • Posted by susan leonhardt

    I think Mr McCain is trying to force the USA into a war where we are not wanted and it is not affect this country. I feel for the people being oppressed by the leader, but also I believe that UN sanctions will work. There has been religion wars going on in that part of the country since the beginning of time.

    Please let the UN handle this, US has been in wars for over ten years thanks to President Bush. I feel the UN is doing a good job, but they could do better.

    With all these talks of war in the Mid East, it panics the world and we all suffer through the raising of the gas price, all countries are feeling the gas prices jump, not just america.

  • Posted by ibnal7r

    I do not care what will happen to Bashar, but the important thing is Why can not get the democratic to reform their countries Do you know how much the size of financial corruption? How much we have of the political and religious corruption and violations of human rights? We live in the Middle Ages, if you sat down on the river Tigris or Furat or the Nile you will find a human body every hour? No one care about Of course, now they care about human rights, anything to keep their positions, even if a regional war What a Bashar continue to talk about the conspiracy, like there were no Arab revolutions

  • Posted by Stephen Albert


    One wonders what is realistic about Western democracies loudly proclaiming that Assad must go. while imploring him to please stop slaughtering his own people and accept the Annan plan.

    Your passage about the ongoing farce of the meetings of the Friends of Syria in chic hotels is particularly telling Sending an e-mail to Assad saying that he was being very naughty and we wish he would behave in a more civilized manner would be just as effective and far less expensive.

    Friends in Bosnia tell me that the outside world’s proclamations of concern tied to a failure to act to stop a brutal dictator remind them of the West’s failure to act after Milosevic and his allies pursued a policy of terror in the Balkans.

    It is indeed ironic that Kofi Annan ,whose was in charge of U.N. peacekeeping missions at the time of the Bosnian conflict, is now proposing a peacekeeping plan that make the Vance-Owen plan look like a work of genius.

Post a Comment

CFR seeks to foster civil and informed discussion of foreign policy issues. Opinions expressed on CFR blogs are solely those of the author or commenter, not of CFR, which takes no institutional positions. All comments must abide by CFR's guidelines and will be moderated prior to posting.

* Required