Immanuel Wallerstein, an American sociologist, writes a biweekly commentary on the situation in the world, which is published on his webpage. The commentary dated October 15, 2015 is titled "Obama's Impossible Options in the Middle East" where Wallerstein criticizes the unstable and complex US policies in the region. The social scientist asserts that Obama's targets in Syria are doubtful, opportunities are limited and the results are damaging. That is why the United States in't seen as a leader in Syria. Washington's ideas clash with those of Turkey, Britain, France and Israel (i.e. traditional allies) who support the judgement of US's failure in the MidEast. 


Wallerstein makes the same conclusion as to the US's policies concerning Iran, Afghanistan, Palestine/ Israel: “Not only is the United States not a hegemonic power but it isn’t even the most powerful actor in this fragmented region. Its unwillingness to admit this reality to itself is a danger to the entire world.” Is America's loss of power and its inefficiency only limited to the Middle East? Isn't it a similar diagnosis in Asia and Latin America, where leftist parties in power are denying the US's leadership?

Nov. 17, 2014 file photo, smoke rises from the Syrian city of Kobani, following an airstrike by the U.S.-led coalition
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Nevertheless, the Middle East is more of a priority.  In the last quarter of 20 century, the occurrences in Greece, Spain and Portugal were important for Turkey. But thanks to the Justice and Development Party (AKP) government, Turkey's turned into a Middle Eastern country. For example, even before the October 10 massacre Ankara lived intertwined with Syria. Analyzing Wallerstein's critic of the US is much more important today. 




Let's examine the US's skills in Syria in 4 stages:

Libyan scenario is on the agenda


After the overthrow of Gaddafi in Libya, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton along with the effective Jewish lobby, raised the issue of a "regime change" led by the US in Syria. Bashar al-Assad supported Hezbollah, which was the sole Arabic power capable of  defeating Israel, and this was why the Syrian leader should be toppled down. The most practical way was to create a buffer zone, like in Benghazi, and a no-fly zone, respectively. The USA's air forces and some of the ground forces of its allies would be the first stage of the regime change. However, the no-fly zone in Libya and military intervention came following the UN Security Council's 1973 resolution. Russia and China abstained then, but they did not make the same mistake in Syria and prevented the UN from finding a pretext for a similar military operation. Obama wanted a regime change in Syria, but not as much as Bush, who thought "If our interests are in danger, we don't mind even the UN." Obama understood that the US soldiers did not want to die in the Middle East and such methods were unsuccessful in Iraq and Afghanistan. American imperialistic movements targeting regimes, even in such a small country like Syria were limited even at that time. 

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Later Washington agreed that the regime change could be managed by Syrians armed uprising supported by the West. Then followed the destruction that burst in Syria. On the one hand, Syrian National Council was founded for the so-called moderate fighters. Internal conflicts and other divisions soon made it inefficient. On the other hand, Free Syrian Army (FSA) was initiated by the US. For example, arms and ammunition bought by the CIA and Saudis in Libya were transported to Ankara with Qatar planes and then delivered to the Syrian border with trucks. 


The US didn't see Salafist-Jihadist groups inside FSA as a threat in the beginning. But the most important of them, al- Nusra Front, left FSA in November 2012 and pledged alliance to Al-Qaeda, declared as a "terrorist" group by the US. But it was too late. In the following months, weapons and funding flowed freely from the Turkish border into Syria. Ankara officials were close to al-Nusra Front. Saudis and Qatar also continued to supporte various jihadist groups that broke away from the FSA. Free Syrian Army took a position transporting arms and fighters to other Islamist groups. The US's three allies in the Middle East (one of them is also a NATO member) carried their own interests into Syrian crisis and Washington couldn't control them.


US's trained Syrian fighters evaporate along with the supplied armaments


In the middle of 2013, the US started its train-equip program that aimed to limit the arms flow to "reliable" groups. However, ISIL which was once a branch of al-Nusra Front, occupied a vast area in Syria. Washington had to  start air operations first in Iraq, then in Syria against ISIL. 

President Barack Obama listens during a phone call at the White House
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The fighters who were trained and equipped joined ISIL or al-Nusra Front taking all the weaponry with them. This was how 100 million dollars allocated for the training program evaporated from the US budget. Later in 2015, the US decides to support only the groups fighting against ISIL, and that was the Democratic Union Party (PYD). 


"Islamist allies" are no good, Russia takes the stage 


Thus Obama administration virtually suspended the “regime change” goal. However, Turkey, Saudi Arabia, and Qatar were determinant to overthrow Bashar al-Assad. The Gulf boosted the flow of funds to groups which derived from al-Nusra Front or other collaborating groups from the Turkish border. Those groups occupied Idlib in March 2015 and embraced a supply line from Hatay to Aleppo. At that stage, Russia got involved in the conflicts to save the regime. The priority for Russia, Syria, Iran, and Hezbollah — was closing the Turkish border and stopping the flow of arms immediately. 


Russia's involvement was a source of relief for Obama as it invalidated a no-fly zone idea of Turkey. But Washington's "hawk wing" (like former CIA Chief General Petraeus) considered al-Nusra Front as a potential ally at the same time. They criticized Russia for "bombing the opposition, not ISIL." The US is the architect of the humanitarian disaster in Syria, but it couldn't manage to make any of its goals into reality. At the end of the 5 year war, Syria is totally divided. In short, Wallerstein is right. For these reasons, it is wrong to seek American imperialism's role in Ankara massacre of 10 October. Such "quest for foreign power" undermines the real criminals. 



The real criminals, the ones behind the Ankara massacre are clear — ISIL. The other guilty party is the Justice and Development Party (AKP), which provoked the crisis in Syria, taking part in every step — starting from jihadist fighters ending with ISIL – and they knew quite well that Turkey would pay for all of that. Complicating these basic and clear facts will bring only harm.