What would 'President Romney' do about Syria?
The same thing President Obama has been doing. Contrary to his condemnations of Obama's foreign policy, handling of the Syria crisis, and stance toward Bashar al-Assad, Romney would effectively have the same policy on Syria as Obama.
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In a GOP debate last November, Romney toyed with the idea of creating a “no-drive zone,” but he has yet to mention the idea since. Even Romney confidant John Bolton, a hawk among hawks, recognizes the “remote” likelihood of success for any large-scale military operation.Skip to next paragraph
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Diplomatically, Obama has largely pursued policies that Romney’s foreign policy team supports. Take, for instance, the US relationship with the Syrian National Council (SNC) – the umbrella opposition group of mostly expatriate Syrians. In December of last year, Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton called the council a “leading and legitimate representative of Syrians seeking a peaceful democratic transition.”
Two weeks later many of Romney’s top foreign policy advisors signed an open letter supporting “direct contact” with the SNC. The letter stopped short of calling for official recognition of the SNC, and Obama has thus far demurred on extending it due to questions about the group’s legitimacy among Syrians.
Romney and his team have also vocally supported sanctions on Assad. And, to-date, Obama has ordered rounds of targeted asset freezes and other economic penalties on the regime, which was already heavily sanctioned from Bush-era measures.
The only discernible difference between Romney’s and Obama’s stances on Syria relates to the issue of whether or not to arm the opposition. After the Houla massacre that left 108 civilians dead, Romney argued “we should work with partners to arm the opposition so they can defend themselves.” The statement was a rebuke to Obama’s reticence about providing arms – overtly at least – for opposition fighters. But US intelligence operatives have been vetting rebels that Turkey, Saudi Arabia, and Qatar are arming.
Thus, under President Obama, the United States is working with like-minded countries who are arming the opposition. And, under President Romney, the United States would be giving the opposition arms directly. The policies may be distinct, but the outcomes are equivalent: Weapons get in the hands of Syria’s opposition.