Obama excels in using 'Orwellian subterfuge'

Some would argue that in putting 'Orwellian subterfuge' into use, US President Barack Obama has surpassed the skills of America's founding fathers. Historian and author Robert H. Patton tells us that during the Revolution, when a cash-strapped Congress, unable to launch an effective navy of its own, licensed approximately 1,700 privately owned warships to roam the ocean in quest of British prizes.

Essentially legalised pirates, these revolutionary privateers carried congressional commissions that forbade attacks on neutral shipping and the mistreatment of captives but otherwise gave them free reign to rob and plunder. Men who became privateers were driven as much by greed as by patriotism.

In fact, even George Washington is believed to have endorsed the policy of outsourcing the war for independence essentially to criminals. The objective was to ally with even the devil in exchange of cannons and flotilla to counter the British navy.

Exactly similar is the US policy in Syria today. Al Qaeda is America's boots on ground in Syria as much were the pirates during the nation's war for independence. To the United States the terror outfit and splinter organisations linked to Al Qaeda are worth befriending to get Bashar Al Assad out. The strategy may smack of moral hypocrisy. But that is not what really weighs upon the US president or his mandarins in White House. 'Orwellian subterfuge' could not have been more effectively put into use.
To the United States and its president Al Qaeda and organisations linked to the outfit are allies as long they do not pose any threat to the American interests and to the American allies across Atlantic.

Washington would look the other way as long as these organisations would remain occupied with local agendas.

In Afghanistan and Pakistan Al Qaeda is a foe because it is a threat to the US interests. In Syria it is a collaborator to get Assad out of power, to keep Hezbollah in Lebanon disturbed and away from fighting on behalf of the Syrian regime and to keep Iran anxious.

Oliver North, the former United States Marine Corps Lieutenant Colonel, may feel outraged by his government's approach towards Al Qaeda and may argue that Obama should act against Al Nusra front and the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS), two main affiliates active in Syria today.

Obama has not yet moved his fingers against either because "a more nuanced take would lead the president to ask key questions before taking (any) action. Does the United States have a stake in the outcome of an intra¬Al Qaeda struggle? Should it adopt a position of 'A pox on both their houses'? Or is one affiliate less threatening than the other, and therefore worth ignoring for tactical reasons?"

For the past two years the US approach vis-à-vis Al Qaeda in Middle East has undergone a sea change. Fighting the outfit isn't a priority any more, or at least for now. And it would not be a priority to the United States as long as Assad remains saddled in power and Iran remains his ally.

Michael Doran, William McCants, and Clint Watts have been more than succinct in concluding that taking action against Al Qaeda and its affiliates in Syria might at times get in the way of other goals, including the efforts to contain Iran.

An exclusive focus on Al Qaeda in Syria could leave Iran relatively better off, which could be equally detrimental to the long-term interests of the United States.

The endless fountain of US rhetoric expressing concerns for Syrians, human rights, democracy and pluralism, therefore, sound so deeply hollow and hypocritical. In reality, Obama administration, regardless of the catastrophe which is fast assuming a diabolical proportion, continues to pour in arms, funds and training for the opposition to keep the cauldron in Syria burning. A huge portion of the funds and arms find their way to the hands of Qaeda affiliates.

Al Qaeda and its affiliates are evidently critical to America's larger geo-strategic plan for the region. No wonder, therefore, even after expressing fealty to Al Qaeda the United States has not moved an inch to declare Ahrar Al Sham a terrorist outfit. Its leader, Abu Khalid Al Suri, openly praised Osama bin Laden and Ayman Al Zawahiri underscoring the fact that Ahrar Al Sham and Al Qaeda are 'are joined at the hip'.

To Obama and his administration Ahrar Al Sham is what the pirates and privateers were to the founding fathers of the United States. This organisation, despite its close affiliation to Al Qaeda, serves as America's frontline fighting force against ISIS "which is a far bigger concern for the United States."

Michael Doran, William McCants, and Clint Watts say, ISIS has the strongest track record of supporting global jihad, and it has American blood on its hands from its war against US forces in Iraq.

ISIS is an indiscriminate killer of Syrian civilians and, finally, it is the primary conduit through which the conflict in Syria is spreading to Al Anbar in Iraq. The Islamic Front, including Ahrar Al Sham, represents the best hope in Syria for defeating ISIS.

Obama, therefore, would never, act against Ahrar Al Sham and declare it a terror outfit. Not until, at least, Assad is ousted and ISIS eliminated. Clearly, a Taleban in Syria is in making. It is proved that in putting 'Orwellian subterfuge' into use Obama has indeed excelled over his founding fathers.

The author is the Opinion Editor of Times of Oman.


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