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Back then, neighbouring Iraq was the ultimate exemplar of American hubris and failure, with Afghanistan coming in second.

But nearly eight years later, Syria is at the centre of a destabilised and fractured Middle East.

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Obama can even count on Trump, who cautioned Americans that if they listened to Clinton they’d “end up with World War III”.

And, of course, he can count on the Russians, whose propaganda machine easily matches their political and military commitment to the Assad regime’s deadly rule.

International attention has been galvanised by the Russian-regime attempt to bomb and besiege opposition areas of Aleppo, Syria’s largest city, into submission.

In her bid to succeed Obama, Clinton revived the idea of protecting areas of the country and exerting leverage against the Russians, rather than walking a step behind them – but she failed, and Donald Trump will soon take the helm.

When pro-Assad forces imposed their “surrender or starve” sieges, Obama stood aside.

When Russia intervened with its bombers and military “advisers” in September 2015 to save Assad and his depleted military, Obama watched.Meanwhile, in stark comparison with the small number of rebels who made it through CIA vetting, Iran began establishing a 50,000-strong militia to bolster the weakened Syrian Army, while Hezbollah put in several thousand of its own fighters. When they ran short of conventional munitions, they turned to barrel bombs, drums filled with explosive and dropped out of helicopters.When these were not enough, the Syrian military began experimenting with chemical weapons.And on August 21 2013, the regime unleashed sarin nerve agent on multiple locations near Damascus.Conservative reports from reliable outlets say more than 1,400 people were killed, many of them were first responders and medics who tried to treat the suffocating. The president’s top advisers – among them his second-term Secretary of State John Kerry, who was comparing Assad with Hitler – were gathered for the decision to intervene, finally setting up protected areas and trying to ground the Syrian Air Force.Scott Lucas does not work for, consult, own shares in or receive funding from any company or organisation that would benefit from this article, and has disclosed no relevant affiliations beyond their academic appointment.

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