When anti-Assad expatriate Syrians engage with the people on the ground in Aleppo, they get an earful of two distinct messages: We do not consider al-Qaeda (AQ), or its affiliated groups, to be terrorist organizations since they are defending us; and, apart from Assad, the US is to blame for the Syrian tragedy for blocking real weapons from reaching us before AQ mobilized. There are signs that these messages are trickling down to the Arab street. Obama selecting to ignore Assad of Syria will go down in the annals of history as the biggest blunders of our times.
The US-Iran Deal the Obama Administration pursued fervently, in combination with a quick exit from Iraq, is changing perceptions that could endanger US interests in the long-term. Many Sunni Arabs are beginning to accept al-Qaeda as a counter-balance to Hezbollah and if the US is willing to strike a deal with Hezbollah’s chief protector, yet commit resources to defeat al-Qaeda, the US, inadvertently, is sending the wrong message to the majority of Muslims in the Arab world the US cannot afford to turn into an enemy. The US should fight equally all terrorism, be it al-Qaeda or Hezbollah.
No one I spoke to within the FSA ranks considers AQ to be the cause of any ills. Just the contrary, absent any US support for their cause for an Assad-free Syria, most moderate Syrians have no choice but to defend their defenders. It mirrors exactly the position of most Christians in Syria who see the terror of Assad as a lesser of two evils. Arab Sunnis, today, are beginning to see AQ as a lesser of an evil than the Iran/Assad/Hezbollah era upon the region sparked by Obama. In fact, this US Administration left no room for most Arabs but to favor al-Qaeda because the alternative Iranian hegemony is far worse from their own perspective. Most Arabs will never forget the IRGC snipers using the uterus of Syrian pregnant women as target practice.
This sense of helplessness the Arab street is going through is testing its resolve as well as its commitment and loyalty. The Arab Spring of 2011 is morphing into an Arab Anger against the US, which, I believe, is indirectly empowering AQ’s bold move in Iraq. Ahmad al-Alwani is not the first Sunni Iraqi leader Prime Minister al-Maliki tries to jail and the fact most Sunnis are silent over AQ’s capture of Ramadi and Fallujah is reminiscent of most of the Shia silence over Hezbollah’s capture and violence of May 7, 2008 over West Beirut. Unintentionally, the Obama Administration, with its Iran Deal, has legitimized al-Qaeda, the enemy it has feared the most.
Today, Saudi Arabia, as the country most affected by these sudden US changes, is facing immense challenges to maintain stability. On one side, Saudi Arabia cannot afford to watch AQ rise again because its terrorism threatens the very essence of Saudi foreign and domestic policies. Furthermore, the rise of AQ threatens Saudi desire of stable and forward moving Arab societies. Simultaneously, if the Arab street’s perception of AQ is changing, the Kingdom will find it hard to set sails against the wind. Not only Mr. Obama has empowered Iranian terror to prevail in the region, but also he inadvertently clipped the wings of those countries the US needs the most to contain the terror it is fighting. Honestly, you cannot invent a worse scenario for the US even if you tried.
No matter how many times the Kingdom warned the Obama Administration against its ill-advised policies in Syria, the stubbornness and inexperience of President Obama is leading the region to an abyss that will be too costly for its people and US interests in general. Obama exited Iraq quickly; however, the US has been forced to return covertly to stem the tide of the AQ terror it has caused by cooperating with Iran’s proxies in Iraq, Syria, and Lebanon. In doing so, the US stoked further the fires of AQ; which is slowly driving the Sunni street to welcome the terror organization as its savior from the Axis of Evil.
The Sunni Arab street will not let Iran dominate the region and the street will show its displeasure against US policies by supporting al-Qaeda, the only force capable of defeating Assad or Hezbollah absent the US attempting to defeat either. As much as any Arab living in the region claims he/she are against AQ, the truth is deep down they support AQ because the organization has emerged as the only hope to defeat Iran and their proxies in Syria, Iraq, and Lebanon now that the US has abandoned them to Iranian terror.
For someone who lives in Washington DC and who has seen several past US administrations come and go, there is something eerily spooky about the Obama Administration. The ideology is driving the foreign policy and when mistakes become ever so obvious, the methods change but the ideology, the cause of the fool’s errands, remains the pillar of a stubborn presidency. It is like a drunk who keeps getting into car accidents and thinks that by changing the liquor brand, he will avoid them.
The Obama Administration is in for a rude awakening in 2014 when its foreign policy collapses almost completely under the weight of too many simultaneous fires. However, do not tell this to Secretary Kerry whose job is to weave through the fog of Obama’s ideological delusions. He will not object, complain, or resign even though he sees the train wrecks heads-on. His tenure will be remembered for insuring the US was wearing its seat belt before the wrecks happened.