Obama’s Most Momentous Decision
Exclusive: President Obama must decide if he will let the Syrian civil war come to an end with Russian-backed President Assad still in power or if he will escalate by supporting a Turkish-Saudi invasion, which could push the world to the brink of nuclear war, writes Joe Lauria.
By Joe Lauria
Joe Lauria is a veteran foreign-affairs journalist based at the U.N. since 1990. He has written for the Boston Globe, the London Daily Telegraph, the Johannesburg Star, the Montreal Gazette, the Wall Street Journal and other newspapers. He can be reached firstname.lastname@example.org and followed on Twitter at @unjoe.
With the Russian-backed Syrian army encircling Aleppo, cutting off Turkish supplies to rebels and advancing on the Islamic State’s capital of Raqqa, a panicked Saudi Arabia and Turkey have set up a joint headquarters to direct an invasion of Syria that could lead to a vast escalation of the war. And there’s only one man who could stop them: President Barack Obama.
It is probably the most important decision Obama will make in his eight years in office since a Turkish-Saudi invasion risks a direct showdown between Russia and NATO, since Turkey is a member of the alliance.
The U.S. traditionally has held tremendous power over client states like Turkey and Saudi Arabia. So, an order from Washington is usually enough to get such governments to back down. But Ankara and Riyadh are being led by reckless men whose continued existence in power might well depend on stopping a Syrian government victory – helped by Russia, Iran and the Kurds – and a humiliating defeat of the Turkish-Saudi-backed Syrian rebels, who include some radical jihadist groups.
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan and Prince Mohammad bin Salman have shown increasing defiance of Washington. Neither man is the legal ruler of his respective country. But both have seized power nonetheless. …
Erdoğan showed his defiance of the Obama administration when he said, “How can we trust [you]? Is it me who is your partner or the [Kurdish] terrorists in Kobane?” …
With his aggressive strategies toward his neighbors, Erdoğan has been accused of wanting to establish a new Ottoman empire. Azaz is near Dabiq, the town where the Ottoman Empire began in 1516. Because of that symbolism, Turkey’s defeat there could mean the death of Erdoğan’s neo-Ottoman dreams and perhaps of his presidency. (For the Islamic State, Dabiq is the place where a future Christian-Muslim battle will take place heralding the end of the world.)
The Saudis appear equally spoiling for a fight. Prince Mohammed bin Salman is deputy crown prince, second in line to the crown. But his father, King Salman, is suffering from dementia and the current crown prince, Mohammad bin Nayef, 56, is considered loyal to the U.S. But 30-year-old Mohammed has launched the most independent Saudi military policy in the history of the modern Saudi state. He is said not to trust the United States. And as defense minister, he has recklessly launched a disastrous war in Yemen, where – despite widespread death and destruction – the most powerful Arab army cannot defeat the poorest Arab nation. Mohammed has staked his credibility on the outcome of the Yemen war. But he also has vowed to check Iranian regional influence. So, he may be going for broke now by threatening to invade Syria. …
Despite the tough Turkish and Saudi rhetoric, Saudi Arabia at least, has made it clear that it won’t invade without the U.S. leading the way. That puts the ball squarely in the Oval Office where President Obama has resisted committing U.S. combat troops to another war in the Middle East but reportedly wants to avoid further alienating U.S. “allies,” Turkey and Saudi Arabia. …
Obama could simply cut U.S. losses in its disastrous Syrian “regime change” policy and accept a Russian and Iranian-backed Syrian government victory, but he would come intense criticism from Washington’s influential neoconservatives as well as Republicans. But does he have another choice if he wants to avoid war with Russia? … — emphasis, m.z. —
Note / m.z.
Totaled NATO military budgets (intelligencies budgets and hidden military spendings related to the military-industrial-complex excluded):
900 Mrd. USD
Visualizing America’s Shocking Defense Spending
Wouldn’t it be a strange world to live in if 50% of military spending was paid for by just 5% (US) of the (world)-population? Sometimes truth is stranger than fiction.