Today, President Obama will be the first U.S. President to visit Burma. The unprecedented trip is a celebration for the second largest country in Southeast Asia. It’s also a remarkable achievement since Burma only recently held national elections in 2010 after holding the leader of the democratic opposition party, Aung San Suu Kyi, under house arrest for 21 years. Continue reading
Most reporters haven’t been following Ambassador Susan Rice’s performance at the United Nations since her appointment in January 2009. To many journalists, Rice’s misleading interviews on the five Sunday Shows the weekend after the 9/11/12 terrorist attacks that killed U.S. Ambassador Chris Stevens and three others were one of the first times they had heard from her. To veteran foreign policy observers, Rice’s shameful performance that Sunday was one of many blunders over the last four years. Continue reading
One year ago this month, Vogue Magazine published a glowing profile piece of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s wife, Asma. Over the last year, Vogue Editor in Chief Anna Wintour has defended her magazine’s portrayal of the Syrian First Lady despite the brutal crackdown in Syria by Asma’s husband’s regime that has killed more than 8,000 citizen protesters.
This week, President Barack Obama invited Wintour to the White House for the coveted State Dinner of America’s greatest ally – the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland.
The invite is yet another signal that Obama doesn’t understand how important Syria’s future is to U.S. national security.
Not only has Obama ignored the Syrian people’s cry for help, but he is honoring and rewarding the woman who celebrated the killer’s wife in the pages of a fashion magazine.
Vogue has since deleted the profile piece from its pages. But for a refresher, here are some controversial quotes from writer Joan Juliet Buck:
- “When I first arrive, I’m met on the tarmac by a minder, who gives me a bouquet of white roses and lends me a Syrian cell phone; the head minder, a high-profile American PR, joins us the next day. The first lady’s office has provided drivers, so I shop and see sights in a bubble of comfort and hospitality.” The high profile American PR firm working for the Syrian regime is the notorious firm of Brown Llyod James.
- “The old al-Assad family apartment was remade into a child-friendly triple-decker playroom loft surrounded by immense windows on three sides. With neither shades nor curtains, it’s a fishbowl. Asma al-Assad likes to say, “You’re safe because you are surrounded by people who will keep you safe.” Neighbors peer in, drop by, visit, comment on the furniture. The president doesn’t mind: “This curiosity is good: They come to see you, they learn more about you. You don’t isolate yourself.”
- “Asma al-Assad empties a box of fondue mix into a saucepan for lunch. The household is run on wildly democratic principles. “We all vote on what we want, and where,” she says.”
- “I can’t talk about empowering young people, encouraging them to be creative and take responsibility, if I’m not like that with my own children.”
- “The president joins in the punch line: “Brad Pitt wanted to send his security guards here to come and get some training!”
- “This is the diversity you want to see in the Middle East,” says the president, ringing his bell. “This is how you can have peace!”
Is what’s going on in Syria the kind of peace Wintour was thinking of? And more importantly, is this piece something that President Obama should honor by inviting its unapologetic editor to a White House State Dinner?
One of the reasons the American public holds unelected government officials in such low esteem is that they are never held accountable for their failures. Presidents and cabinet officials could send a strong message of accountability if they held senior appointees responsible for their performance. President Barack Obama should use this weekend’s U.N. failure to show Americans and Arabs alike that it is unacceptable to stand idly by while 6,500 Syrians are killed by their government. Obama should ask for U.S. Ambassador to the U.N. Susan Rice’s resignation and replace her with someone tougher and more effective. If she won’t voluntarily resign then she should be fired.
The case against Susan Rice has been building over the last few years. This weekend’s embarrassing failure on a Syria resolution was the latest and last straw. Her diplomatic failures and silence have given the United States a weak representation at the United Nations.
Next month marks the anniversary of the Syrian uprising. But Rice, as she has on many issues, has ignored Syria’s growing problems for too long. Rather than speaking out immediately when the violence started, she stayed silent. Rather than calling for action, she did nothing. Russia and China saw Rice’s passivity as a sign that Syrian President Assad’s removal wasn’t a priority. By the time Rice started pressuring Security Council members to confront the growing violence and death, it was too late. Once a draft resolution condemning Syria was introduced, Rice was too quick to negotiate changes that weakened it without insisting on a date for the Security Council to vote. Her constant agreement to changes seemed desperate. The frantic and late maneuvering left the United States at the mercy of Russia and China, who vetoed even the watered down measure.
On her post-veto media tour, however, Rice sought to blame Russia for not listening to the United States or other western governments rather than acknowledge her failed diplomatic skills – an ironic spin given that Rice and team Obama created this new Russian resolve when they naively and dramatically called for a re-set to our relationship with Russia. The reset Rice championed and spoke affectionately about has not only failed to deliver support for U.S. national security policies but it has also exposed the dangers of an inexperienced team’s strategy of personal diplomacy.
This continues Rice’s pattern of failing at her own stated goals. During the 2008 presidential campaign, Susan Rice talked very openly about restoring America’s leadership at the United Nations and often derided President George W. Bush for acting without U.N. backing. Rice cheerfully exclaimed that, unlike Bush, Barack Obama would engage in active diplomacy even with countries considered our enemies. Rice was very critical of the U.S.’ reputation at the U.N. and vowed to build better relationships with every country. In her current stump speech Rice claims that her goal has been accomplished, “We’ve repaired frayed relations with countries around the world. We’ve ended needless American isolation on a wide range of issues. And as a consequence, we’ve gotten strong cooperation on things that matter most to our national security interest.”
This past weekend shows just how disastrous Rice’s strategy has been.
Rice has been silent on important issues and ineffective when she does engage. She skipped Security Council meetings when Israel needed defending and even failed to show up for the emergency session on the Gaza Flotilla incident. Rice didn’t even show up for the first two emergency Security Council meetings on the unfolding Arab revolution last year. Rice stayed silent when Iran was elected to the U.N. women’s committee, she didn’t call out Libya when it was elected to the Human Rights Council, she was absent from the Haiti crisis meeting and was a no-show for the last open meeting scheduled before the planned U.N. vote to recognize Palestinian statehood. When she actually shows up, she is a miserable failure.
Take the crucial issue of Iran. Rice spent the last several years undermining and grumbling about the Bush Administration’s increasingly tough measures but has only been able to pass one resolution of her own – compared with the Bush team’s five. Rice’s one and only Iran resolution was 22 months ago. And it passed with just 12 votes of support – the least support we have ever seen for a Security Council sanctions resolution on Iran. In fact, Susan Rice lost more support with her one resolution than the previous five Iran resolutions combined.
In another example, Rice secretly negotiated with the Arabs on acceptable language for a possible U.N. resolution to condemn Israel’s settlement activity. Rice’s engagement sent a strong message that making a new policy, rather than encouraging the two sides to negotiate directly, may not garner an automatic U.S. veto. In February of 2011, the U.S. abruptly changed tactics on the Arabs and vetoed a U.N. resolution on Israeli settlements. The Palestinians were justifiably furious with Rice. After all, they had just spent weeks going back and forth with her on acceptable language to make Israeli settlement activity a violation of international law — something previous U.S. Administrations had bluntly and immediately threatened a veto over. Rice’s negotiations suggested the U.S. was open to change, when in fact it was not.
Whether the issue is Sudan, Egypt, North Korea or Rwanda, Rice has been either missing in action or unable to deliver a quick and effective resolution.
Firing Rice may serve Secretary of State Hillary Clinton too. Clinton’s team has always viewed Susan Rice with suspicion dating back to the 2008 Democratic presidential primaries, when Rice went on MSNBC to slam Clinton’s ad claiming she was best equipped to take the national security emergency call at 3 a.m. “Clinton hasn’t had to answer the phone at three o’clock in the morning and yet she attacked Barack Obama for not being ready. They’re both not ready to have that 3 a.m. phone call,” Rice said. Secretary Clinton, one State Department diplomat told me, has tried to distance herself from Rice and her lackluster U.N. performance.
President Obama could show the Arab street that it is unacceptable for the United States government to sit idly by while the United Nations Security Council does nothing. What better way to show that things at the U.N. have to change than to fire the woman spearheading the failed U.S. efforts there. Rice’s last diplomatic initiative should be putting the United States’ reputation above her own.
This week, United States Ambassador to Syria Robert Ford participated in a tour sponsored by Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s government in the Northwest province of Idlib. The propaganda tour was organized to show the devastation caused by what government officials described as “foreign outlaws” and “radical Islamists”. The excursion included Syrian officials who explained to Ford that Islamic extremists were responsible for the more than 1,500 deaths that have occurred since anti-government protests began on March 15. Government officials also told Ford that there have been no peaceful freedom marches, as has been reported by the international media, only foreign radicals looking to destabilize Syria. Ambassador Ford dutifully attended the government’s tour but has since failed to respond or react.
Ford’s silence dramatically contrasts with his tough talk during his confirmation hearing in March 2010 when he told Senators, “Unfiltered straight talk with the Syrian government will be my mission priority.” We can only hope Ford’s public silence means he has been giving it to Assad privately. But unfortunately there are press reports
indicating that Ford hasn’t been able to schedule a private meeting with any senior government officials. So the U.S. Ambassador to Syria just sits and waits.
Ford’s stiff upper lip seems exactly what President Obama and Secretary of State Clinton want. While they cling to the idea that Assad may still yet be a reformer, the
Obama team misses the opportunity to topple the Syrian dictator and blunt Iran’s influence in the region. A review of Ford’s Embassy website shows a similar silence from Ford on the Syrian crackdown of the last three months. With foreign journalists not allowed inside Syria, you might think the U.S. Embassy staff would be working overtime to tell the world and specifically the U.S. taxpayer just what is happening inside Assad’s world. Shouldn’t Ford be calling attention to and showing the violence coming from Assad’s government? How about demanding that the IAEA come in to inspect the Israeli-bombed suspected nuclear site Al Kibar? Now seems like a good time to take advantage of a distracted dictator. But our U.S. Embassy’s website is embarrassingly outdated and irrelevant. On the home page there is a link to the text of Obama’s speech Wednesday on Afghanistan, a June 17th news summary from Washington’s Information Bureau quoting an unidentified official on Syria and an op/ed from Secretary Clinton dated June 17. A closer look and you can find links to statements dated June 8th, June 4th and May 31 on HIV/AIDS and the internet. There are also stories on Iraq, Hurricane Katrina and former astronaut Marsha Ivins. But there is nothing from Ford on his reaction to the Syrian propaganda tour or the violent government crackdowns.
It’s time to end this charade and show Assad what the American government thinks of his phony excuses of “64,000 outlaws” and a “revolution by the Muslim Brotherhood who are agents of America and the West”. Surely Ford must know Assad is not telling the truth and that Americans are not responsible for Assad’s troubles. With 10,500 Syrians having fled into Turkey, Assad’s problem has become an issue of international peace
and security. If U.S. Ambassador to the UN Susan Rice can’t show regional instability and thus an urgency for UN action then it’s time the U.S. act in other ways. With more promises of reforms, new committees and conspiracy charges from Assad’s Damascus University speech on Monday, the time to do more is now. Opposition forces need to know that the U.S. stands with them. It’s also a chance to show the Iranian people what is possible. Ford and Clinton look foolish doing nothing. While some may say that the U.S. has little it can do outside of military action, Obama can still squeeze the Assad regime and isolate it further with these actions:
1. Order Ford home immediately, and shut down the Embassy.
2. Publicly call upon Assad to resign and ask other countries to do the same.
3. Call upon the Europeans and others to pull their Ambassadors from Damascus too.
4. Restrict the movement of the Syrian Ambassador to Washington and the Syrian Ambassador to the UN to a small radius around their offices.
5. Ask European capitals to restrict the movement of Syrian Ambassadors in their countries too.
6. Force the UN resolution on Syria to a vote and dare the Russians to veto it.
7. Move USAid employees into southern Turkey to care for the Syrian refugees arriving daily.
8. Schedule an Al Jazeera TV interview with President Obama to explain our actions and why Assad must go.
9. Demand the IAEA inspect Al Kibar and offer an immediate UN resolution authorizing it.
One sure way to ruin American credibility in the Arab world is to sit silently in Damascus and look like your part of the Assad show.
It doesn’t seem like a gutsy call to put sanctions on a head of state who has jailed protesters and shot peaceful demonstrators since early March. President Barack Obama’s overdue call to add Bashar al-Assad to a sanctions list restricting his travel outside of Syria is a slow start to one of the greatest U.S. foreign policy opportunities of our generation. And today’s Middle East Speech did nothing more to push Assad.
The end of Assad’s regime would be a blow to Iran and help isolate Ahmedinejad’s government in the region by removing its main ally and partner in crime. Isolating Iran, especially right now, could have profound consequences for Americans’ security, too, since the Iranian government announced it has mastered the technology needed to make a nuclear weapon. The Iranian leader also said that Israel should be wiped off the map.
But the Obama team either believes it can charm Assad into ending his relationship with Iran or doesn’t see the strategic importance of ending the Assad-Iran partnership. Obama’s engagement policy with Syria and his decision to send a U.S. Ambassador into Damascus normalized relations with a man Secretary of State Hillary Clinton called “a reformer.” Assad responded to Obama’s overtures and acquiescence with more violence and terror and less reform. But Obama is unfazed. Syria has strengthened its ties with Iran and has continued to send and support terrorists into Iraq, Israel and Lebanon; And Obama can only muster enough outrage to say that Assad must stop using violence against his people.
Syria has allowed Iraqi Sunni insurgents to mobilize and plan attacks from its territory, has been accused by the United Nations of planning and assassinating Lebanese Prime Minister Rafik Hariri and has supported Hezbollah and Hamas efforts to destabilize Israel and Lebanon. The reluctance by Obama and Clinton to act decisively on the Syrian government’s brutal actions against its people allows Syria to maintain its position as a legitimate member of the international community. Obama’s Middle East missteps have also encouraged neighbors like Turkish Prime Minister Recep Erdogan to abandon his normally pro-western positions in favor of his comfortable relationship with Assad and Ahmedinejad.
Obama’s refusal to call for an end to the Assad regime is consistent with U.S. Rep. Nancy Pelosi’s trip in 2007 to Damascus to meet with the Syrian President despite pleas from the Bush Administration to not legitimize the dictator and Vice President Joe Biden’s refusal to call for Egypt’s Hosni Mubarrak to step down or characterize him as a dictator.
The recent evidence of brutality by Assad’s government is undeniable. More than 10,000 people have been arrested, 800 protesters killed and 120 government security forces killed since the protests began. Opposition forces are calling for an end to President Assad’s regime and an expansion of economic and civil liberties; a goal Obama should wholeheartedly support.
An April 4th crack-down by government forces was caught on tape and posted on YouTube showing Syrian protesters shot outside a mosque and lying in the street – some dying on camera:
(Warning: This video is very graphic)
Images like these have rallied hundreds of thousands of people throughout Syria to continue fighting for their rights. These compelling stories have also prompted
human rights activists to call for more direct action from the White House.
For an Administration that criticized the international community’s slow response to Darfur and committed to utilize the United Nations more, little has been done to rally the world to support an obvious U.S. priority. Obama and his Ambassador to
the UN Susan Rice haven’t forced a vote of the UN Security Council on Syria nor
put the UN members on record to either support the protesters or the dictators
in Yemen, Egypt and Tunisia. While the Arab revolution has unfolded over the last several months, Rice has failed to even offer draft resolutions for discussion.
Instead, Rice has allowed Russia and China to dictate the non-agenda.
It’s clear from Obama’s Middle East speech today that he has sidelined the UN. Team Obama should be applauded for realizing their previous commitments to utilize the UN for all international issues was a foolish campaign promise to look un-Bush (see also: Iraq pullout in one year, closing GITMO, enhanced interrogations, military tribunals).
Obama should speak more forcefully about Syrian dictator Bashar al-Assad and call for him to step down. He should also immediately withdraw the U.S. Ambassador from Damascus, kick out the Syrian Ambassador in Washington and call upon Europeans to do the same. If Obama believes that the status quo is unsustainable then he should stop supporting it. Timidity is exactly what Assad and Ahmedinejad are looking for.
The revolution sweeping across the Middle East started in Beirut shortly after the February 14, 2005, assassination of Lebanese Prime Minister Rafiq Hariri and 22 others. The ensuing Cedar Revolution, launched by Lebanese pro-democracy supporters, targeted Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s brutal regime and demanded an end to Syria’s 30 year occupation of Lebanon. The Lebanese revolution succeeded in ousting Assad’s military and intelligence officials from Lebanon and driving them back into Syria by the end of April 2005. It was an incredible moment celebrated by pro-democracy supporters throughout Lebanon, Jordan and Egypt and ignited the reform efforts we see in Syria today. The United States, too, celebrated the expulsion of Assad’s militiamen because of the message it sent not only to Syria but Iran.
Syria’s defeat in 2005 was a moment of opportunity for the U.S. and our allies that has since been squandered. The U.S. government’s efforts to build on the Cedar Revolutions’ successes faded over the years and altogether stopped with the election of President Barack Obama. Today, Syria and Hezbollah are in control of Lebanon again with Iran calling the shots.
But the Syrian uprisings of the last week give Obama another rare opportunity to push for greater democracy in Syria and send a powerful message to Iran that it could be next. He should seize the moment quickly.
In 2009, after a year of ignoring the signs of Syrian and Iranian growing influence, President Obama naively ordered the return of the U.S. Ambassador to Syria after a six-year hiatus – a punishment for bad behavior. Obama’s diplomatic gift and peace offering gave the brutal regime — controlled by Hezbollah, Damascus and Tehran — the instant credibility it desired.
Nothing has been gained by Obama’s concession to Assad and much has been lost. As moderate regimes throughout the Arab world begin to fall, the most repressive Arab governments are reaping the benefits of weaker neighbors and moving to take more ground. The Obama Administration meanwhile struggles to understand who our friends and enemies are. It was more aggressive with Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak than with the much more repressive Bashar al-Assad. The inconsistent Obama strategy has been called “selective” by the U.S. media and hypocritical and foolish by the Arab street.
Obama and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton seem to not be able to do diplomacy and chew gum. The Administration has struggled to find a coherent policy and failed to articulate its goals. When Yemen and Bahrain launched bloody attacks on peaceful protesters, the U.S. botched an opportunity to stand firm on our values against an ally’s repressive actions. Instead, Clinton defaulted to the tried and true talking point about our interests and how helpful those governments have historically been to our military and the support they have given to our anti-terrorism efforts.
But why not push our friends toward reform and our enemies toward regime change? White House and State Department officials should be able to have adult conversations with our allies that include multi-faceted approaches to the policies we disagree with. Certainly U.S. allies that receive vast amounts of US taxpayer dollars are able to accept our aid but stand strongly against some of our policies (Pakistan comes to mind).
For Obama, chastising brutal regimes has proven to be much harder than calling out House Republicans. Syrian President Assad, for instance, has consistently supported Hezbollah and Hamas at Iran’s asking with little consequence from Obama and Clinton. If we want to pressure Iran to give up its illegal pursuit of nuclear weapons then we better find enough resolve to support the overthrow of Iran’s closest ally, Syria.
Over the last month, hundreds of protesters have turned into thousands and then tens of thousands of voices throughout Syria calling for more freedoms and an end to Assad’s reign. What started in Dara’a as a student protest has morphed into tens of thousands in Damascus demanding democratic reforms. A simple look at Twitter shows incredible enthusiasm from Arab youth and democracy supporters for ending Assad’s government.
While much as been written by the U.S. media that the intelligence community didn’t connect the dots in the lead up to Sept. 11, very little has been said of the State Department’s failure to recognize the intensity of Arab reform efforts. Clinton missed the changes afoot in Syria even after opening up a new Embassy in Damascus last year, and she has chosen to stay behind the region’s news by stating the obvious and usually waiting to speak for two or three days after most everyone knows what has developed. Clinton’s me-too message of greater political participation for women in the Arab world seems like stale and recycled talking points from former First Lady Laura Bush’s and former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice’s efforts. And there have been longer readouts for journalists on the president’s NCAA tournament picks than for his meetings on Libya or Syria.
The U.S. mainstream media’s protection of Clinton’s slow response peaked with Anna Wintour’s Vogue Magazine profile of Bashar al-Assad’s wife, Asma, last month. While Syrian democracy reformers organized, an embarrassingly naïve and apologetic piece about the Syrian first lady by writer Joan Juliet Buck was released weeks before the Assads’ government started killing protesters. To be sure, Vogue would have never produced such a ridiculous piece if its’ it-girl Hillary Clinton, instead of calling Assad a “reformer,” had been speaking out more forcefully against a regime that has supported the killing of Americans. Buck’s piece has since been used by Arab bloggers to show the arrogance of the Syrian regime and the cluelessness of the U.S. media.
Obama now has a rare historical chance to make progress on U.S. interests and values by speaking clearly and forcefully against a brutal regime that has worked against American policy in Iraq, Iran, Israel and Lebanon. If the president squanders that opportunity, it would be fair to conclude that the Obama Administration is strategically uninterested in changing Syrian and Iranian behavior.
Now is not the time to back off supporting the Arab street and its march towards greater democracy and free markets. Syria could be next; and the protesters need to know that President Obama stands with them in toppling their leader. This isn’t a call for use of U.S. military force but it is a call to de-mask Damascus and speak out for U.S. interests at the same time.
It has been almost six years since a brutal bombing in Beirut killed Lebanon’s Prime Minister Rafiq Hariri and 22 others on Valentine’s Day 2005. This week, the UN prosecutor overseeing the investigation finally submitted sealed indictments to the criminal court’s pre-trial judge as to who was responsible for the bombing. UN investigators and foreign intelligence over the last several years, however, have consistently pointed to senior Syrian and Iranian officials’ involvement. While the names of the indicted individuals are not expected to be known for eight weeks, the Obama Administration has known for quite some time that senior Syrian and Iranian officials are to blame for the brutal killings.
That is why it is puzzling that while the long-awaited indictments were being prepared last month, President Barack Obama naively ordered the return of the U.S. Ambassador to Syria after a six-year hiatus. Obama’s premature move gave Hezbollah, Damascus and Tehran the instant credibility they had been looking for to characterize the coming indictments as political rather than criminal.
Administration officials have ignored Lebanon’s developing crisis from the moment they took office by consistently siding with Syria. Last week, administration officials leaked that President Obama has now given French President Nicholas Sarkozy the lead in dealing with Lebanon and the indictments for the international community. The move washes Obama’s hands of Lebanon’s problems and gives France control. The outsourced foreign policy couldn’t be more pleasing to Syria and Iran.
The Obama team has been remarkably disinterested in the history of the special tribunal that has investigated the bombing and the drama it’s produced throughout Lebanon and the region. The Bush Administration’s strong response to the Hariri killings helped galvanize international support for the removal of Syrian troops from Lebanon after 29 years. Since then, without much U.S. attention to the problem, intelligence has shown that Hezbollah, a designated terrorist group, has worked with Syria, Iran and some Lebanese officials to ensure that Hariri’s killer is never brought to justice by declaring the tribunal’s rulings illegitimate. Even U.S. ally Turkey is helping the Syrians fight the indictments with no protest from the White House.
Secretary of State Hilary Clinton’s softer tone with Syria last week signaled the administration’s willingness to start fresh with Syria and forget its brutal past. When pressed about Syria’s role in the bombings, Clinton said, “We don’t think it is, at this moment, useful to be pointing fingers or blaming or going about the business of recriminations about what did or didn’t happen and who did or did not do what.” In other words: We are going to forgive Hezbollah, Syria and Iran for killing 23 people and hit the reset button on our relationship. It was a remarkable statement from a U.S. Secretary of State about a country with known ties to terrorists.
Irrefutable evidence compiled over the last six years proves that top officials in Iran, Syria and Hezbollah conspired to kill Hariri and the 22 others in order to gain greater control over Lebanon’s future. And although the initial UN probe in 2005 accused four pro-Syrian Lebanese generals of taking orders from neighboring Syria and Iran while working for the Lebanese military, the four were held for roughly four years but, sadly, never charged and eventually released. Since then, Syria has been desperate to close the case and have the U.S. ambassador return to Damascus in an attempt to show the world that its hands were clean all along. The Obama team should have waited for the UN tribunal’s work to finish before giving Syria such an enormous gift. Especially since the indictments were only a month away. Having the U.S. Ambassador sent back to Syria before the tribunal’s indictments were announced was a gift even the Syrians couldn’t have imagined.
After months of ignoring Lebanon’s growing regional problems, the Obama Administration now faces a Lebanon with no leader and under the control of Hezbollah. The Obama team must now justify Syria’s continued support for Hezbollah and Hamas and its hatred for Israel. Having created some of the circumstances that brought him to power, Sheik Hassan Nasrallah, the armed Shia group’s defiant leader, is now squarely President Obama’s problem. And what will Obama do when the indictments are unsealed and we find that senior Syrian officials are accused of killing Lebanon’s prime minister? With the U.S. Ambassador already sitting in Damascus, little incentive remains for Syria’s cooperation.