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October 1, 2014 1:46 pm

Obama Hit With ‘Double Standards’ Accusation Over Iraq, Syria Civilian Casualties

avatar by Ben Cohen

A photo from the Pentagon shows before and after photos of an IS command center targeted by an F-22 Raptor.

As President Barack Obama meets with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu at the White House, a storm is brewing over alleged double standards concerning civilian casualties incurred during the current US bombing campaign against the Islamic State terrorist organization in Iraq and Syria.

Writing in the National Review, pundit David French observed that only a few months after the Obama Administration used terms like “appalled” and “disgraceful” in reacting to supposed civilian deaths during Israel’s recent war against Hamas in Gaza, the president has now loosened the restrictions imposed last year to prevent civilian deaths arising from American military operations.

“I applaud the administration for loosening its absurd rules of engagement. When an enemy hides among civilians, the resulting civilian deaths are the enemy’s moral and legal responsibility, not ours,” French wrote, in a clear allusion to the fighting tactics adopted by Hamas in Gaza. “Yet I can’t help but notice the double standard. If Israel’s acts of self-defense are ‘disgraceful,’ then how does the administration describe our own strikes?”

French ended his piece by calling on Obama to walk back his administration’s criticisms of Israel. “The president of the United States owes the men and women of the IDF — men and women who risked and sacrificed their lives fighting the same jihad — a heartfelt apology,” French wrote.

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The loosening of the US’s own strict standards on civilian casualties was revealed after reports emerged that as many as a dozen civilians, including women and young children, were killed when a Tomahawk missile struck the village of Kafr Daryan in Syria’s Idlib province on the morning of September 23. Caitlin Hayden, a spokesperson for the National Security Council, said that while the reports were being investigated, the bar set up by President Obama against US drone strikes unless there is a “near certainty” there will be no civilian casualties does not apply in the current war on IS.

“The ‘near certainty’ standard was intended to apply only when we take direct action ‘outside areas of active hostilities,’ as we noted at the time,” Hayden said in an email to Michael Isikoff of Yahoo News. “That description — outside areas of active hostilities — simply does not fit what we are seeing on the ground in Iraq and Syria right now.”

The growing realization that the US administration may be holding the IDF to higher standards than the US military drew a sharp response from one prominent Middle East analyst. “The United States should expect no more from Israel than it expects of itself,” Michael Doran, a former deputy assistant secretary of defense in the George W. Bush Administration and now a Senior Fellow at the Brookings Institution, told The Algemeiner. “The speed with which the Obama administration lifted restrictions from itself was equalled only by the speed with which it demanded that Israel place restrictions on itself,” Doran added.

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