The Obama Doctrine and America's Ability to Influence the World

Has the administration hit a brick wall on Syria?

President Barack Obama waits to speak at an interfaith vigil for the shooting victims from Sandy Hook Elementary School on Dec. 16, 2012, in Newtown, Conn.
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Even if weapons inspectors are able to locate, round up, and control or destroy all of these weapons, the regime still holds plenty of conventional arms to continue its fight. The resolution does not include any conditions for military enforcement, so Russia could yet again veto any subsequent calls for strikes from other members of the Security Council.

Michael Singh served as the National Security Council's director of Middle East Affairs under George W. Bush. If you're looking for stability in the region, he says, Assad is not the answer.

"People too often use stability as a synonym for the status quo. They really aren't the same," says Singh. Assad has been responsible for skirmishes with Israel, an occupation of Lebanese territories and agreements with Islamic extremists such as al-Qaida to use Syrian land for coordination and transportation.

Obama appears to be ignoring the advice of his closest advisers, Singh says. Media reports of the days leading up to the president's decision to ask Congress for military authorization indicate that most of his inner circle suggested against it.

[WORLD REPORT: What the U.N.'s Syria Gas Report Really Said]

Then-Secretary of State Hillary Clinton advised the president in early 2013 to arm the rebels. Then-Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta agreed.

Army Gen. Martin Dempsey, chairman of the Joint Chiefs, has attempted to avoid political affiliation while also offering his candid military appraisal of the situation. He reversed his original support in early 2013 for providing arms to the Syrian opposition movement, and in April said the composition of the rebel fighters was becoming more confusing, making it harder to "clearly identify the right people."

"The strategy is really in disarray, and I think it's simply going to take time before the Obama administration can get its act back together in Syria," says Singh, now managing director of the Washington Institute for Near East Policy.

The U.S needs to strengthen the non-jihadi forces through covert support, says former deputy NSA Abrams, through money, guns and training. Abrams made headlines in the 1980s for his support, along with then-Marine Lt. Col. Oliver North, to sell arms secretly to the Iranian government during the Iran-Contra affair. Hewas convicted in 1991 for withholding information from Congress about his participation.

"If you believe the regime is going to fall...then there will be a fight when he goes over who takes power," he says. "I still believe that it is possible to build up a non-jihadi rebel force to strengthen the nationalist rebels."

[WALSH: Obama Tries to Regain the Offensive]

The larger struggle in the region lies between Iran and Saudi Arabia, and their quest for dominance in the region, says Berger.

"They see what happens in Syria is important to the trajectory of the region for the next 10 or 20 years," he says. "The importance of this goes beyond what just happens in Syria."

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