The epic failure of our age: how the west let down Syria


The seven-year conflict has marked a tipping point in the balance of power between the US and Russia, and has triggered a strategic disaster whose ramifications are still playing out
It was a sunny morning on Saturday 31 August 2013 – Labor Day weekend in the US – when Barack Obama strolled into the Rose Garden of the White House. The last thing most Americans were thinking about was war in a far-off Middle Eastern country.

But Obama faced a dilemma. The decision he was about to announce would come to be seen as a defining moment for his presidency. It also marked a tipping point for the international strategic balance of power. It was a moment that would transform the civil war in Syria into the epic failure of our age.

One year earlier, Obama had vowed that any use of chemical weapons by Bashar al-Assad, Syria’s embattled president, would cross a “red line”, warranting direct military intervention. Ten days earlier, Assad had launched just such an attack, in eastern Ghouta, near Damascus. Sarin nerve gas dropped from the air killed more than 1,000 people, hundreds of them children.

Waiting reporters fully expected a declaration of imminent US action. But Obama blinked. He announced the US would not attack the Assad regime – not yet, anyway. Instead, he would first seek authorisation from Congress.

Obama’s decision surprised even his close advisers. It appeared to have been influenced by an unexpected vote in the House of Commons two days earlier, on 29 August, when David Cameron’s plan to order British forces to join allied military action in Syria was blocked by a narrow margin.

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The Guardian