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Syrian conflict a headache
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At a press conference marking 100 days into his second term in office, President Barack Obama said, "What's happening in Syria is a blemish on the international community."
It's true. International cooperation is nearly absent. Meanwhile, 70,000 Syrian citizens have been killed, many in the most brutal ways. Syrian President Bashar Assad's air force has bombed citizens waiting for bread outside bakeries. His army's snipers have picked off children.
In dealing with the Syrian civil war, Obama faces a problem he deals with at home: A general unwillingness to cooperate -- even for the common good. China and Russia used their absolute veto in the U.N. to stop U.S.- and Western-led initiatives to place international sanctions on Assad's regime. Russia supplies Syria with weapons and jets, and in January sent warships just off Syria's coast. And no nation wants to intervene militarily in Syria, including our ally Great Britain, even though the Arab world is fearful the conflict might spread.
Complicating matters further are the rebels themselves. They are but tenuously united, and they're not all good guys -- al-Qaida is active and well organized among them. Nor do the rebels have overwhelming support -- in fact, a sizable percentage of Syrians support Assad.
A new Pew Research poll found that, except for Jordan, Arabs oppose sending military aid to the rebels. And, perhaps understandably, our ally Israel does not want the rebels armed at all.
To his credit, Obama has done his "due diligence" on the rebels. The CIA has been vetting the rebels to separate the good guys from the bad. It has advised nations funneling weapons to the rebels about whom they shouldn't arm.
And the president is being pro-active. During his press conference Obama listed a few of his actions taken on Syria. He is organizing the international community; he has made the U.S. the biggest supplier of non-lethal aid to the rebels; he has applied U.S. sanctions on Syria.
He has also defined the "red line" -- chemical and biological weapons -- and what defines crossing it. Although the U.S. intelligence community has some confidence chemical weapons were used inside Syria, we still don't know who used them, or in what quantity. To mobilize the international community (as well as the American public), Obama knows we cannot have a repeat of Iraq's missing WMDs.
Obama is considering arming the rebels. He is also sending Secretary of State John Kerry to Moscow to persuade Russian President Vladimir Putin to side with the rebels in a peaceful transition. Instead of marching to war, Obama is working to build an international coalition that will compel Assad to leave.
Diplomacy is critical. The administration deserves support, not carping.
Donna Brazile is a senior Democratic strategist, a political commentator and contributor to CNN and ABC News.