Ask President Obama’s critics why they disapprove of his foreign policy and their first response tends to be, “Syria.”
Last fall, the administration walked right up to the military-strike line, but chose not to cross it when an international agreement came together to rid the Assad regime of its chemical weapons – an outcome the White House saw as far preferable to missile strikes, anyway.
Obama’s detractors still see it as evidence of a fiasco. Assad crossed a “red line” drawn by the president, the argument goes, and did not pay a price. (From the administration’s perspective, of course, Syria did pay a price in the form of lost chemical weapons stockpiles.)
Unexpectedly, Jeffrey Goldberg reports that Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is siding with Obama on this one.
Israel’s prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, has some uncharacteristically positive words for one of U.S. President Barack Obama’s most controversial foreign policy initiatives: the deal struck last year to remove chemical weapons from Syria. […]During the course of our discussion, I asked him about the famous “red line” crisis – Obama’s last-minute decision to abort a missile strike and instead negotiate the destruction of Syria’s chemical weapons stockpile – that colors so much of foreign-policy commentary today. Netanyahu issued what was for him a full-throated endorsement of an Obama initiative, calling it “the one ray of light in a very dark region.”“It’s not complete yet,” he went on. “We are concerned that they may not have declared all of their capacity. But what has been removed has been removed. We’re talking about 90 percent. We appreciate the effort that has been made and the results that have been achieved.”
Goldberg added that when it comes to Obama reaching an international agreement, the U.S. president “actually gets more credit for the deal in Israel – particularly among leaders of the country’s national-security apparatus – than he often does in Washington.”
Which in turn leads to an interesting question for Republican opponents of the White House.
On the one hand, GOP lawmakers tend to argue that when it comes to national security, particularly in the Middle East, the Obama administration can do no right.
On the other hand, these same Republicans tend to argue that in this same area, Israel can do no wrong.
So, what’s it going to be this time? Since Obama and Netanyahu agree, the right faces an interesting challenge.
As for the Syrian deal itself, some of the preliminary deadlines appear out of reach, but overall, there’s reason for cautious optimism: “The global chemical weapons watchdog says the last 100 tons of Syria’s declared stockpile of precursors for poison gas and nerve agents have been packed and are ready for transport but Damascus says it’s too risky to move them…. U.S. says it needs 60 days to destroy hundreds of tons of highly toxic chemicals on board a specially equipped ship.”