On a Saturday afternoon in July 2012, then-secretary of state Hillary Clinton invited CIA director David Petraeus to her brick colonial home in Washington. The four-star general had led George W. Bush's U.S. troop surge in Iraq and President Barack Obama's in Afghanistan. Clinton asked him whether it was possible to vet, train and equip moderate opposition fighters in Syria where the forces of President Bashar al-Assad had begun killing civilians by the thousands.
"He had already given careful thought to the idea, and had even started sketching out the specifics and was preparing to present a plan," Clinton recalled in her new memoir, Hard Choices. The next month, Clinton flew to neighbouring Turkey to discuss plans for a no-fly zone over Syria and support for the opposition. Clinton and the Turkish foreign minister made calls to foreign ministers of Britain, France and Germany to build an international coalition. She returned to Washington "reasonably confident" that allies were on side.
But when Petraeus presented the plan to the President, Obama balked.