Katty Kay: European Allies ‘Mistrust’ U.S. Approach to Syria after Obama’s Botched Red Line Threat


BBC anchor Katty Kay said Tuesday that European countries do not trust the United States when it comes to Syria after President Obama failed to follow through on a declaration to use military force against Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.

Kay was responding to a question posed by host Joe Scarborough, who asked how Europe feels about Obama's "isolation" and lack of action in Syria, mainly in the context of the fight against the Islamic State.

"Katty, I got to ask you the view from Europe," Scarborough said. "This is not a Republican or a Democratic divide in America. All Americans I've spoken with, and experts on both sides of the aisle, see this [Islamic State] as a direct threat, almost an imminent threat, whether it's Dianne Feinstein or whether it's liberal columnists or whether it's Republicans. What's the view from Europe right now about the president's—I said he was in a bubble by himself. But his isolation."

Kay called Syria "the single biggest criticism from Europe of American foreign policy under Barack Obama." The divide dates back long before the recent terrorist attacks in Paris, she said, to 2012 and 2013 when President Obama chose not to act after Assad crossed his red line on using chemical weapons.

"He [Obama] actually had the French, who were in the vanguard of European countries in saying we should now bomb Syria because they are using chemical weapons," according to Kay. "He left them hanging out to dry when he rolled back on that. So there's been long-standing mistrust from European allies about the White House's approach to Syria."

The president first said in 2011 that Bashar al-Assad's "days were numbered" before firmly stating in August 2012, "We have been very clear to the Assad regime–but also to other players on the ground–that a red line for us is we start seeing a whole bunch of chemical weapons moving around or being utilized." He also said such actions would change his "calculus" and that the U.S. military was coming up with several contingency plans.

Obama, however, did not act when the United Nations reported in 2013 that the Syrian president did use chemical weapons, leading Leon Panetta, Obama's former Secretary of Defense, to criticize Obama's inaction as damaging U.S. credibility.

A U.S. official said Monday that the use of chemical weapons in Syria today has become "routine," despite a Russian-led diplomatic effort in 2013 to remove Assad's arsenal of such weapons.

Kay said that Europe's disillusionment with Obama's policies in Syria has "escalated recently when Europeans so clearly feel the threat, and they have felt that America has been slightly divorced from it because of the Atlantic Ocean and the fact that it is harder for refugees and for militants, jihadis to come here."

The civil war in Syria and the threat posed by Islamic State has come to the forefront of political discourse since the jihadist group recently carried out deadly terrorist attacks in Paris, which came shortly after its successful bombings in Beirut and takedown of a Russian plane over Egypt. The Islamic State has also made threats against Washington, D.C. and New York City.

Scarborough started his question to Kay by calling Secretary of State John Kerry and President Obama "clueless" about the Islamic State threat, both of whom have received harsh criticism recently for not effectively countering the terror group.

Obama has earnestly defended his strategy, though, saying it will work overtime.

Aaron Kliegman

Aaron Kliegman   Email | Full Bio | RSS
Aaron Kliegman is the news editor of the Washington Free Beacon. Prior to joining the Free Beacon, Aaron worked as a research associate at the Center for Security Policy, a national security think tank, and as the deputy field director on Micah Edmond's campaign for U.S. Congress. In December 2016, he received his master's degree from Johns Hopkins University’s Global Security Studies Program in Washington, D.C., with a concentration in strategic studies. He graduated from Washington and Lee University in 2014 and lives in Leesburg, Virginia. His Twitter handle is @Aaron_Kliegman. He can be reached at kliegman@freebeacon.com.

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