The XX Committee

Obama Enabling Russia’s Mideast Rise

In Monday’s National Interest, Brent Sasley argues that our view of America’s deal with Russia on Syria’s chemical weapons—insofar as it is a “deal” at all—is unnecessarily alarmist. “It’s not clear,” Professor Sasley writes, “that Russia [poses] a challenge to the United States in the Middle East.” He also claims that our “argument rests on a single case—Syria.” While we welcome Prof. Sasley to this debate, we obviously disagree, as we see a clear and long standing Russian challenge in the region that goes far beyond “one case.” We regard Prof. Sasley’s reading of the current situation as naively optimistic; worse, despite his descriptive listing of Soviet involvements in the region, we find his larger analysis of Moscow’s influence in the region to be remarkably ahistorical and crippled by a serious lack of understanding regarding Russian foreign policy, its inner workings, or its goals.

Prof. Sasley’s attempt to snatch victory from the jaws of the Obama administration’s defeat rests on a series of improbable guesses and bald assertions: that Putin didn’t outfox Kerry; that the Russian deal had been under consideration for some time before Lavrov seized it; that the use of force was never (and still is not) off the table. Indeed, Sasley tells us confidently, it was almost certainly President Obama’s putative show of force and a consequent danger of regime change that forced Moscow’s hand. Unfortunately, there is no evidence to support any of this; in fact, the events that actually took place point to the opposite conclusion, since the Kerry-Lavrov “deal” happened as theU.S. president’s threat of force was imploding into a domestic political morass back in the United States and the American position was crumbling into incoherence.

Read the rest at The National Interest

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