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Recognizing that diplomacy at the United Nations had reached a dead end, Ambassador Rice alluded to “partnerships and actions outside of this Council to protect the Syrian people.” She did not specify what those actions would consist of, although intelligence support and enhanced communications and logistical aid are already being provided. “You’ll notice in the last couple of months, the opposition has been strengthened,” a senior Obama official was quoted by the New York Times as saying last Friday. “Now we’re ready to accelerate that.”
However, as usual, the Obama administration is leading from behind and is clueless regarding the bigger strategic picture. As was the case in Libya, it is being pressured by France, the United Kingdom, and Arab League members to take forceful action with uncertain consequences.
France is out in front among the Western powers in pushing for aggressive action to bring about regime change in Syria, irrespective of what sort of government might follow. Turkey, Saudi Arabia and Qatar are already financing arms transfers to the opposition forces.
No one denies the humanitarian crisis brought about by Assad’s use of heavy weapons in civilian populations centers and his regime’s indiscriminate killings. But foreign fighters reportedly linked to the Al-Qaeda terrorist network are fighting on the side of Syria’s opposition. The leader of al-Qaeda, Ayman al-Zawahiri, has publicly supported the Syrian opposition. He has called on Muslim fighters from all over the region to wage a war of jihad against Assad’s “pernicious, cancerous regime.”
This is not a battle between good and evil, or between democracy and dictatorship as the Obama administration would have us believe. It is a battle between two shades of evil, and two versions of authoritarianism.
True, if Assad falls, Iran will lose a reliable ally. But that does not mean, as the Obama administration seems to think, that we will be picking up a new ally on Iran’s border.
“If the Assad regime did fall, this would provide more Islamist militants with a potential opportunity to establish a new foothold in the heart of the Middle East,” said Charles Lister, an analyst with Jane’s Terrorism and Insurgency Center. “The temporary lack of state structures would also afford aspirant militant Islamists with a safe area for training.”
With radical Sunni Islamists, aided by al Qaeda, waiting in the wings to fill any power vacuum left by the fall of Assad’s regime, we would be trading the devil we know for the devil we don’t know and have no reason to trust. And although Sunnis and Shiites don’t like each other, their more overarching common enemies are Israel and the United States. The enemies of their enemies are their friends. Hezbollah will still manage to get its arms and funding from Iran, transiting through a weakened Syria unable to control its borders, and will continue to serve as Iran’s terrorist surrogates in the region and all over the world.
Even if Turkey were to somehow gain the upper hand in shaping post-Assad Syria because of its support for the rebels, that does not mean Syria will suddenly become a bulwark against the extension of Iran’s influence in the region. To the contrary, Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan, an Islamist who has called himself the “imam of Istanbul” and “the servant of the Shari’a,” has stressed his country’s warm relations with Iran and his antipathy towards Israel. Erdogan’s government also has an appalling record on the protection of religious freedoms of minorities.
In summing up the post-mortem for the UN Security Council’s deadlock on Syria, our UN Ambassador Susan Rice said that the Security Council had “utterly failed.” The Obama administration is intent on interfering in a civil war and pushing forward to remove Assad with its own type of coalition of the willing outside of the auspices of the UN. It is being pulled in that direction without any idea of whether a post-Assad Syria will further extend the borders of the Islamist caliphate that the so-called Arab Spring has sprung on the world.
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