July 10th, 2014
10:29 PM ET

Obama caves to conventional wisdom on Syria

By Fareed Zakaria

Syria has been unstable from its birth. Between its independence in 1946 and Assad’s coup, there were around 10 other coups and attempted coups. By the late 1970s, it was already divided into camps, largely defined by Islamism and sect. Outside powers in the Middle East — Saudi Arabia, Iraq, Iran — have been funding, arming and training militants on both sides. In 2011, these long-simmering tensions bubbled over.

Today, according to James Clapper, the director of national intelligence, there are about 1,500 separate insurgent groups in Syria, with between 75,000 and 115,000 insurgents. In addition, there are 7,500 foreign fighters from neighboring countries. The strongest groups are all radical Islamist — the Islamic State, Ahrar al-Sham and Jabhat al-Nusra.

Read the Washington Post column

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Topics: Fareed's Take • Syria

soundoff (15 Responses)
  1. chri§§y

    I fail to see the correlation of the t i tle of this thread with the contents! Something is missing.

    July 10, 2014 at 10:47 pm | Reply
    • Retired Military

      Chrissy: you must not have read the Washington Post column. Link is at end of post in blue. Have a good evening.

      July 11, 2014 at 12:51 am | Reply
  2. Stan

    If you were going to try and change the dynamic in a place like Syria then you will have to put advisers on the ground, to accomplish two things. One is to ensure the 500 million dollars goes where we can get the biggest bang for the buck, and second to provide logistics to whatever group the government tries to back, if your looking to change the reality on the ground in places like Syria then there will have to be better leadership on the ground to bring about those changes in a timely manner.

    If a breakaway group like Isis can change the landscape there with such ease, then it would make more sense to give the same tools for another group to infiltrate whatever environment may be faced.

    July 11, 2014 at 1:24 am | Reply
  3. chri§§y

    Lol @ Retired Military i got it but thanks. Just a shame we have to read the Washington Post to figure out what CNN is talking about ya know.

    July 11, 2014 at 1:57 am | Reply
  4. dirtstorm

    Allah is angry because america is the land of sin and vice. Yes it is wicked. May your children catch a new disease from a pig and suffer. U infidels. Iran shall nuke everybody like Britain, Netherlands, France, but most of all AMERICA.
    Down with america!!!!!

    July 11, 2014 at 8:59 am | Reply
  5. dirtstorm

    Praise sandstorm and praise me.
    for we speak the truth u fat ugly american spoiled infidels

    July 11, 2014 at 9:01 am | Reply
  6. Joey Isotta-Fraschini

    According to this, Syria like Iraq needs to be divided into two different countries. As history shows, the Shi'ites and the Sunnis will never get along. This is what the politicians in Washington are blind to.

    July 11, 2014 at 9:15 am | Reply
    • Joey Isotta-Fraschini©

      @ My Troll,
      Don't portray me as one who would end a sentence with a preposition.

      July 11, 2014 at 10:58 am | Reply
  7. palintwit

    I'm going to e-mail John McCain's office and thank him for the gift of Sarah Palin. We as a nation have so much to be grateful for because of her. She is one of the greatest problem-solvers this country has ever seen.

    July 11, 2014 at 9:59 am | Reply
    • George patton

      "Sarah Palin a problem solver", palintwit? But then again, she can't be more detrimental to this country that any other right-wing politician has been lately.

      July 11, 2014 at 11:36 am | Reply
      • Joey Isotta-Fraschini©

        The extreme left and the extreme right are equally detrimental to the USA.
        If I had to choose the more detrimental, I would choose the extreme left.

        July 11, 2014 at 6:04 pm |
  8. j. von hettlingen

    "Syria has been unstable from its birth". Iraq too! Military officers gained power after a coup, only to find themselves ousted by others. Autocrats have never understood that peaceful reform is the most viable means to meet popular demands and the best way to avoid violent revolution. Although the Syrian Baath party is run by Alawites, the Iraqi Baathists are Sunni Arabs. Their idelogy and loyalty are based on a trinity of party, army and ethnicity.

    July 11, 2014 at 6:03 pm | Reply
    • j. von hettlingen

      Despite the progress made by ISIS and other Islamist groups, the West baulks at intervening in Syria, fearing of another nonstarter like the Iraq debacle. Transforming Assad's regime into a workable democracy is a delusion, the same with al-Maliki's. In fact both countries are fighting the same war and nobody can predict its outcome. It's indeed a "strategic incoherence" that the US wants to topple Assad, while trying to help al-Maliki survive.

      July 11, 2014 at 6:04 pm | Reply
  9. Pro-active

    Fareed, you couldn't have summed it up, quite well! The US Congress is trying to influence a situation on the ground that they cannot effectively influence. But of course, the likes of the three Amigos and other Republicans who do not understand the region, the power play, culture, sects and religious complexities offer solutions that would make the situation worse. They are itching to get involved just to be seen as a big power at play!

    July 13, 2014 at 7:42 am | Reply
    • Pro-active

      Fareed, as you stated, Good luck to Washington & hope they can figure out who the good guys are when they vet the vast, dispersed opposition of 1,500 groups to find the moderates". They need their heads examined!

      July 13, 2014 at 8:00 am | Reply

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