by Richard Baehr
If there is one factor above all others that probably led to the victory for the "Leave" side, it had to be the refugee and immigration disorder that has resulted from the war in Syria.
The catastrophe that has hit Syria -- hundreds of thousands dead, millions dislocated, and a multi-year stream of refugees headed to Europe that now numbers in the millions -- is a political and human disaster with multiple godfathers. After several years of war, there is still no evidence that the fighting will soon end, or that a political solution is at hand.
One of the biggest reasons for this calamity has been the near complete abdication of responsibility for or interest in addressing the conflict by the Obama administration, a neglect that history will not regard as benign. When over 50 State Department officials expressed their dismay at American policy towards Syria in a written statement, and their disgust was made public, it was, unfortunately, only a one-day story for the national networks and leading papers.
This is, after all, a press corps that was never eager to embarrass the administration, which they have so ably served for more than seven years. This history of journalistic obeisance was what enabled White House adviser Ben Rhodes to gloat over how easy it was to deceive the reporters on what was really in the Iran nuclear deal. Rhodes classified most of the reporters as young know-nothings. Of course, there were also those who were knowingly in the bag for the deal for other reasons (such as former Ambassador Thomas Pickering, who was bought and paid for by Boeing while he was lobbying Congress for the Iran deal, never disclosing his financial arrangement with the plane manufacturer).
It is obvious in one regard why the Obama administration shied away from any serious military involvement in Syria, including the time when the president reversed course on responding to Syria's use of chemical weapons, the supposed red line that he set up that was crossed and presumably demanded military action. The president saw his role as being the un-Bush, the leader who would take America out of conflicts into which his predecessor had led it. These conflicts included the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. The president put little effort into achieving a separation agreement with the Iraqi government that would have enabled a modest American force to remain in the country. The rise of Islamic State in Iraq and Syria was hastened by the American withdrawal and the perception in Iraq among the minority Sunni population that the Shiite government in power, now linked up with Iran, would make life miserable for the country's Sunnis. The American "surge" effort in the final years of the Bush administration enabled President Barack Obama to begin his term with the country in far better shape than had been the case a few years earlier in terms of both military status and political arrangements. Today Iraq and Syria are in a state that makes the worst days of the conflict during the Bush years seem like a stroll in the park.
Were the Obama policy of disengagement merely that, it might at least be one consistent with someone whose views toward the military and war were in tune with the likes of folk singer Pete Seeger: time to lay down our sword and shield. But there has been a second, if not overarching, foreign policy mission in the Obama years, during both his terms in office, despite the lies repeatedly told to reporters and members of Congress suggesting the Iran initiative only began when a more moderate government came to power in [T]ehran in his second term. The Obama team was on a mission from the start to achieve a nuclear deal with Iran, really any deal with Iran, that would serve as the president's signal foreign policy achievement. This "achievement" turned out to be on a par with Obama's major domestic policy achievement: the creation of Obamacare, the health insurance program which to date has run up far higher costs to serve far fewer of the previously uninsured than advertised.
The administration, particularly Secretary of State John Kerry, has been scrambling to make sure Iran is happy and receives everything he promised them in the negotiations, the promises he has always meant to keep as opposed to those he made to members of Congress, which were largely fictions.
Iran is the U.S.'s new regional ally -- a regime favored with more positive attention than any nation in Europe, or Israel, or its former Sunni Arab allies in the Middle East. Some Treasury Department officials are outraged with Kerry's efforts to override their efforts over the years to set up various sanctions regimes related to banking and the use of the American dollar in transactions, which Obama is eager to ignore to make the mullahs' economy grow faster. The propaganda is that faster economic growth will make Iran more moderate.
The Obama administration's Iran swoon is a major reason for its hands-off policy on Syria. The Assad regime is tightly linked to the Iranian regime, one of its closest allies. Iran regularly arms its terror army Hezbollah by first shipping weapons to Syria, which are then transferred across the border to Lebanon to threaten Israel. Both the Iranian military and Hezbollah have been fighting in Syria on behalf of the Assad regime. Iranian forces have worked with the government forces in Iraq to battle Islamic State, a threat to the Iran-friendly Shiite regime now in place in Baghdad.
The Obama team has talked about elevating Iran's regional position as a counterweight to Sunni regimes. This new balance of power would somehow play out peacefully among the contending parties once the U.S. is out of the way and Iran is restored to its rightful place among the community of nations. It is at times hard to believe that the people who run foreign policy for the United States could say these things without laughing at each other.
Britain's exit from the European Union is not a laughing matter for the United Kingdom or for what remains of the EU. If there is one factor above all others that probably led to the victory for the "Leave" side, it had to be the refugee and immigration disorder that has resulted from the war in Syria. If you cannot control who comes into your country, you are no longer a country. Britain's annual immigration levels recently (350,000 a year) are, on a per capita basis, nearly double the legal immigration levels in the United States.
The chaos in the Middle East -- from Libya (another disastrous Obama initiative) to Iraq and Syria, and the resulting mass flight from these countries -- are reasons for many to fear that Great Britain and much of Europe will be overwhelmed by the tide. German Chancellor Angela Merkel opened the floodgates with a warm welcome to the refugees. A majority of the people of Britain and some other EU countries were not on board with the welcome mat. Maybe the next Brexit like vote will be Finish, or Czeckout, or Italeave, or Deportugal. In any case, when America withdraws, from Europe or the Middle East, there is likely trouble ahead.
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