Thursday Headlines

State Department Declares ISIS’ Actions Genocide
Secretary of State John Kerry announced today the Obama administration has determined that the Islamic State group is committing genocide against Christians and other minorities in Iraq and Syria.

“”In my judgment Daesh is responsible for genocide against groups … under its control, including Yazidis, Christians and Shia (Shi’ite) Muslims,” Kerry said.

Earlier this week, the US House of Representatives unanimously passed a resolution labeling the ISIS atrocities against Christian groups in Syria and Iraq “genocide,” a term the State Department had until today not used to characterize the been reluctant to use about the attacks and mass murders by ISIS.

Despite Congress and the State Department affirmatively declaring ISIS’ actions genocide, it is unlikely to have any substantive impact on US policy.

The Obama Doctrine Worsened Situation In Syria
Brookings Institute scholar Tamara Cofman Wittes argues that despite being elected to end wars in the Middle East, the president has created a situation very similar to the one he inherited from President Bush.

Wittes said Obama’s decision to prematurely withdraw from Iraq was one central mistake in his foreign policy, while the other major failure was his misreading of the Syrian conflict. Instead of fully appreciating the broad implications of the conflict, Obama failed to recognize the risk that Syria’s civil war could spill over in ways that directly implicated U.S. interests.

“[Obama’s] errors (as well as the famous ‘red line’ climbdown) also provoked anxious regional partners to take their own initiatives to advance interests they felt Obama had slighted—condoning jihadism at times along the way, and very often exacerbating the disorder and sectarianism on which ISIS feeds,” she writes.

She added that “Obama demonstrated little readiness to invest political capital or build platforms for persistent engagement on behalf of the messy, imperfect, and always incomplete work of democratic growth,” and that failure to invest was reflected in the administration’s decision to cut funding for democracy assistance globally throughout his presidency.

The Obama Doctrine In Ukraine
In a mirror image of the situation in Syria, Obama’s foreign policy doctrine impacted negatively the way in which the administration responded to Russia’s incursion into Ukraine, assert Steven Pifer and John Herbst in The National Interest.

Pifer and Herbst are both former US ambassadors to Ukraine and previously at the U.S. embassy in Moscow.

In his long interview with Jeffrey Goldberg in The Atlantic, defended his actions toward the situation in Ukraine by contending that while it is a core interest for Moscow, but it not so for America. Obama says that because Russia’s neighbor is not a member of NATO, Ukraine is not a direct national interest to the US, so does not qualify as a military conflict for which the nation is willing to go to war.

Pifer and Herbst, both former US ambassadors to Ukraine, contend the US could have taken more aggressive action against Russia short of going to war. They argue against the administration’s assertion that providing arms to Ukraine would have led to an inevitable U.S.-Russian military confrontation.

“The president, however, rejected lesser steps, which would not have led to war with Russia, but that would have taken away easy military options from Moscow and increased the prospects of a genuine settlement,” they said.

For example, if the US made Russian President Vladimir Putin pay a heavy price for his aggression, it would have the effect of dissuading him from committing further provocations in the Baltic states, and the potential miscalculations that could arise from those provocations.

 

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