5 years before the Arab Spring revolts took place, Head of Affairs at the US Embassy in Damascus, William Roebuck, laid his cards on the table in regards to how he envisaged taking down Bashar al-Assad.
We believe Bashar’s weaknesses are in how he chooses to react to looming issues, both perceived and real, such as a the conflict between economic reform steps (however limited) and entrenched, corrupt forces, the Kurdish question, and the potential threat to the regime from the increasing presence of transiting Islamist extremists. This cable summarizes our assessment of these vulnerabilities and suggests that there may be actions, statements, and signals that the USG can send that will improve the likelihood of such opportunities arising.
Clearly, the goal outlined here was to destabilize and undermine the Syrian administration without regards for the consequences of these actions. Looking back at this from 2016, it is clear that this irresponsibility from a US diplomat went a long way to setting the scene for ISIS to take hold, and the subsequent refugee crisis that has tragically taken place.
In public, the US government was opposed to ‘Islamic extremists’, but in private it saw the ‘potential threat to the regime from the increasing presence of transiting Islamic extremists’ as an ‘opportunity’ that the US should take action to try to increase.
The recklessness of the Obama administration in promoting sectarian violence across this region in order to achieve their goals in the Middle East ultimately caused the rise of ISIS. Although the emergence of this guerrilla group was certainly intentional, the US failed to foresee the influence that this self-styled ‘caliphate’ would eventually gain in the area, forcing Assad to turn to his Russian allies in order to deal with the threat.