US to step up efforts to help Syria's neighbors, including Turkey
US President Barack Obama has announced that the US will step up its efforts to support Syria's neighbors, including Turkey, which is one of the countries facing the burden of hosting many Syrians who have fled the Syrian civil war, as Turkey is also facing the problem of al-Qaeda-affiliated terrorists crossing the border between Syria and Turkey.

Speaking at the commencement of the US Military Academy in West Point on Wednesday, Obama laid out some aspects of US foreign policy. He also called on the US Congress to support a new "Counter-Terrorism Partnerships Fund" of up to $5 billion, which will be spent on training and facilitating the partner countries in the region, as well as building their capacities.

"With the additional resources I'm announcing today, we will step up our efforts to support Syria's neighbors -- Jordan and Lebanon, Turkey and Iraq -- as they host refugees and confront terrorists working across Syrian borders. I will work with Congress to ramp up support for those in the Syrian opposition who offer the best alternative to terrorists and a brutal dictator [Syrian President Bashar al-Assad]," Obama said in his speech.

He added, "And we will continue to coordinate with our friends and allies in Europe and the Arab world -- to push for a political resolution of this crisis and make sure that those countries, and not just the United States, are contributing their fair share of support to the Syrian people."

Obama pointed out that there are no easy answers to the ongoing crisis in Syria and that no military solution can eliminate the suffering of Syrians any time soon. Stressing that the US will not put American troops in the middle of this increasingly sectarian civil war, Obama said: "I believe that is the right decision. But that does not mean we shouldn't help the Syrian people stand up against a dictator who bombs and starves his people."

By helping those who fight for the right of all Syrians to choose their own future, Obama said the US will also push back against the growing number of extremists who have found safe haven in the chaos.

Obama's speech at West Point received immediate criticism. US Republican Congressman and Chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee Ed Royce criticized Obama's foreign policy following the speech. "Since President Obama took office, a series of foreign policy plans and visions have been put forward; assurances have been made. But too often, strong words have been followed by weak actions, or no actions. The result has been a general loss of US credibility, making successful foreign policy nearly impossible," Royce said in a statement to the press.

Mark Mardell, the BBC's North America editor, questioned the timing of the counterterrorism fund to help Syrian rebels. "The trouble with this is that there is no reason he is announcing this today, rather than two years ago. And if he'd announced it five years ago the situation in the world might, just might be different. If it wouldn't, then it's pretty pointless now as well," he said.

Turkey has voiced its concerns about the Syrian crisis often and has asked the US to engage more actively in the situation.

Obama argued in his speech that critics who say his cautious approach to crisis points such as Syria and Ukraine has diminished America's leadership role in the world are misreading history or engaging in partisan politics.

(Cihan/Today's Zaman) CİHAN
Last Modified: 2014-05-29 17:00:02
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