Saturday, 29 October 2016

Obama’s Former Advisor: Hillary Will Push for Syrian Civilians’ Protection If She Becomes President

Washington – Ambassador Frederic Hof Director of Rafik Hariri Center for the Middle East – Atlantic Council and Former U.S. Special Advisor on Transition in Syria recounted during his interview with Asharq al-Awsat newspaper his expectations for the new U.S. administration’s policies for the Arab region.

Hof spoke in details about the Syrian crisis and possibility of the new administration going on a military movement to protect Syrian civilians and remove Bashar al-Assad from power.

The director felt optimistic about Mosul operation in Iraq to liberate it from ISIS control. He also advised the coming U.S. administration to fix what the current administration ruined in the relationship with the Middle East.

When asked about his evaluation of how Obama administration dealt with the Syrian crisis, Ambassador Hof said Obama considered that a U.S. military intervention in Syria will make the situation worse.

Hof had a different opinion. He believed that the administration took several wrong decisions where it could have prevented humanitarian crises in Syria. He spoke of two wrong decisions Obama took when he refused to arm the Free Syrian Army (FSA) and refused to launch a military campaign on Assad regime when he used the chemical weapon in Eastern Ghouta.

He said that one of the problems in Syria is that what happens in Syria doesn’t stay in Syria.

The ambassador didn’t criticize the role Secretary John Kerry played in the Russian-U.S. agreement. He believed that Kerry did what he could to push Russia to cooperate.

According to Hoff, both Kerry and Obama realize that as long as civilians are the target of military operations, there won’t be a political operation in the country or serious negotiations about a political agreement.

The problem is that Russia’s statements didn’t agree with its policies. The Russian intervention in Syria since September 2015 was for one purpose: to save Bashar al-Assad from military defeat.

The ambassador explained that the situation in Syria is very similar to that in Iraq. He said that a gap was created in eastern Syria due to the lost legitimacy of Assad just like illegitimacy of government of Nouri al-Maliki. He said that the gap was filled with ISIS.

By assuming that Raqqa has been retrieved and that ISIS can be defeated militarily in Syria, the problem won’t be solved unless Assad, his family and entourage leave the political scene.

When asked about how would Hillary Clinton or Donald Trump handle the situation, the ambassador explained that Hillary will ask the minister of defense and chief of staff to set real options for Syria that don’t include military movement or occupation.

The only thing that worries Bashar al-Assad is having enough gasoil in the helicopters used for dropping explosive barrels on residential neighborhoods, he said.

He added that he believes that Clinton will take several steps to ensure the safety of the civilians and will be open for the idea of peaceful negotiations to solve the crisis.

As for Trump, Hof admitted there are many questions about his policy towards Syria. VP candidate Mike Pence stated that civilians should be protected. Yet, Trump suggested an initiative with Russian President Vladimir Putin and proposed that counter-terrorism in Syria should be left to Russia.

But, Hof is sure that if Trump won and studied the situation carefully in Syria, he will have better idea that what he was promoting during his campaign.

The former advisor doesn’t expect any military action to remove Assad from power. He added that if U.S. wanted a modest military action to protect civilians, it will open the way for diplomatic and political solutions.

The ambassador said he can’t predict what will the situation be in Syria in the coming two or three years, but he is sure that if U.S. didn’t interfere to protect the civilians, then nothing good will happen there.

When asked about his evaluation for the situation in Iraq and the Mosul liberation operation, the ambassador said that so far it is going well. He is sure that ISIS will be completely defeated in Mosul, but doesn’t know how long will it take. He revealed that plans are being studied currently for real combat within the city.

Hof also considered that the Obama administration learned from the 2003 occupation of Iraq, and had devised a plan for after the liberation of Mosul to ensure stability in the area. He also mentioned that Obama admitted that one of his regrets was not insisting on leading the operations in Libya.

Hof said that he doesn’t think the U.S. has devised a post-ISIS plan or to prevent the surfacing of other extremist groups like ISIS.

He added for a plan to be effective, it should from the district itself to prevent a vacant in ruling that could lead to ISIS-like organization from coming to rule. He said that Iraqi leaders should form a legitimate local government to prevent such organizations.

He reiterated that U.S. and other countries can help but the real change should come from within Iraq.

When asked about his vision for the type of relationship between the coming U.S. administration and the Middle East, Hof believes it depends on the new president’s decision on whether he or she want to stay or be involved in the region on solid bases.

If the answer is yes, then the next step should be to convince the U.S. public that remaining in the Middle East is important.

But, and according to Hof, Americans see the Middle East as a troublesome area. However, for him, the ambassador said that it is crucial to maintain a relation with the Middle East.

Hof believes that the Obama Administration failed in maintaining good relations with Saudi Arabia and worked on establishing new associations with Iran and Cuba.

He concluded that probably one of the most important jobs of the new president is to build and cherish relations with partners in the Middle East.

Hof said that reviving those relations is important for U.S. itself and is related to the country’s national security.

Obama’s Former Advisor: Hillary Will Push for Syrian Civilians’ Protection If She Becomes President

No comments:

Post a Comment