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Press Release - Leading from Behind Has Led to Chaos in Syria

September 15, 2015

Russia's aggressive actions in Syria—building up bases and bringing in air assets, ships, and ground troops—are a serious escalation of the conflict there. Vladimir Putin is filling a power vacuum created by President Obama's accommodation of Iran, lack of strategy in Syria, and abandonment of Iraq. The administration's leading from behind has allowed the situation in Syria to become the biggest humanitarian crisis in decades, with over 250,000 dead, more than four million refugees in neighboring countries, and some seven million people displaced inside Syria.

And now there are reports that the Obama Administration is considering leading from behind again, possibly turning a blind eye to Russian military engagement in Syria. This would be a disastrous policy. Syrian dictator Bashar Assad caused this crisis, and allowing Russia and Iran to prop him up would only deepen the conflict in Syria and generate countless more refugees.

What President Obama doesn't understand is that Putin will continue to back Assad and expand Russian involvement in Syria until he sees that America is fully committed to Assad's removal and rolling back Iranian influence in the region. Right now, all Putin sees is an American president unwilling to defeat ISIS, ignoring Assad's depravity, and facilitating the rise of Iran's destructive power throughout the Middle East.

We have all seen the heartbreaking devastation this approach has caused, and the American people are rightly asking what we can do. To truly help Syria's people and give its refugees hope that they can one day return to and rebuild their country, we must do what no other country can do—we must lead.This means we must enforce a no-fly zone in Syria, train many more moderate fighters to go after both ISIS and Assad, and in response to Putin's build-up in Syria, enact additional sanctions against Russia, especially its defense and energy sectors.

By providing strong leadership underscored by a commitment to removing Assad, defeating ISIS and rolling back Iran's influence, we can get real buy-in and support from our traditional allies such as Israel, Egypt, Jordan, Turkey, and the Gulf States. Until we provide such leadership, the conflict in Syria and all of its symptoms will only get worse, no matter how many refugees we agree to resettle.

Scott Walker, Press Release - Leading from Behind Has Led to Chaos in Syria Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project

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