In August 2012, as the civil war in Syria raged, President Obama warned Syrian President Bashar Assad not to use chemical weapons against opposition forces, saying that would cross a "red line" and provoke a major U.S. response, presumably including military action. In April, Assad seemingly called that bluff, allegedly using chemical weapons in an attack on rebels in a Damascus suburb that killed more than 1,000 people, including women and children. Suddenly, Obama was caught between hawks who demanded he make good on his red-line pledge and a war-weary American public that wanted nothing to do with someone else's civil war. As the administration tried -- and failed -- to line up support for military action, who should come to the rescue but the Russians. Seizing on a seemingly off-hand suggestion by Secretary of State John F. Kerry that Assad could end the crisis by simply giving up his chemical weapons, the Russians jumped in and got Assad to do exactly that. In the end, Obama got his wish of no more military adventures in the Middle East, at least for now. But the price was appearing diplomatically inept at best and weak-willed at worst. Not the administration's finest foreign policy hour. Above, members of a United Nations investigation team testing for chemical weapons search outside Damascus.
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