In an op-ed at the Atlantic Council, former ambassador Frederic C. Hof condemns President Barack Obama's "passivity" during the bloody conflict in Syria, both on the battlefield and before the public eye, for the sake of preserving the Iran nuclear deal.

The administration's failure to defend "a single Syrian civilian from the Assad-Russia-Iran onslaught," he writes, "may well serve to define Mr. Obama—accomplishments at home and abroad notwithstanding—as a failed president."

Hof continues, about White House press secretary Josh Earnest:

In his August 25, 2016 press briefing Mr. Earnest was asked about the administration's failure to protect Syrian civilians in the face of what he described as the Assad regime's "unconscionable use of violence against civilians." He clarified, using language that defines vacuity, the administration's policy as follows: "But our approach to the Assad regime has been to make clear that they've lost legitimacy to lead that country." Claiming, in a sentence that defines wishful thinking, that "Russia shares this assessment," Earnest suggested that the way forward toward ending mass murder is for Moscow to live up to its commitments and rein-in its homicidal client. He did not mention Russia's own growing portfolio of war crimes in Syria. In fact the administration's policy toward Assad Syria (as opposed to ISIS Syria) rests on its desire to accommodate Iran—a full partner in Assad's collective punishment survival strategy—so that the July 14, 2015 nuclear agreement can survive the Obama presidency. In the case of ISIS, Earnest noted with evident pride that the United States has put boots on the ground in eastern Syria and is at war with a loathsome terrorist group. In the case of offering Syrian civilians not the slightest modicum of protection from Assad, however, Mr. Earnest had an excuse evidently not applicable to ISIS: Iraq 2003. According to Earnest, "We've got a test case just over the border in Iraq about what the consequences are for the United States implementing a regime-change policy and trying to impose a military solution on the situation." Warming to the subject, Mr. Earnest went on to say, "And look, there are some people who do suggest that somehow the United States should invade Syria." Shame on a news media that consistently permits this dissembling to go unchallenged. Mr. Earnest, if asked, would be unable to name anyone counseling the invasion of Syria. Mr. Earnest would be unable, if asked, to explain why limited military measures designed to end Assad's mass murder free ride—such as that offered by the 51 dissenting State Department officers—amounts to "regime-change" and "trying to impose a military solution." Indeed, if challenged, Mr. Earnest would be required to retract his subsequent false claim that no critic of the president's Syria policy has ever offered specific, operationally feasible alternatives to a catastrophe-producing approach.

Read the rest at the Atlantic Council.