The pro-Iranian camp wants us to coordinate with Iran and Assad. The pro-Saudi camp wants us to arm the Free Syrian Army and its assorted Jihadists to overthrow Assad.
Both sides are not only wrong, they are traitors.
Iran and the Sunni Gulfies are leading sponsors of international terrorism that has killed Americans. Picking either side means siding with the terrorists.
It makes no sense to join with Islamic terrorists to defeat Islamic terrorists. Both Sunni and Shiite Jihadists are our enemies. And this is not even a “the enemy of my enemy” scenario because despite their mutual hatred for each other, they hate us even more.
The 1998 indictment of bin Laden accused him of allying with Iran. (Not to mention Iraq, long before such claims could be blamed on Dick Cheney.) The 9/11 Commission documented that Al Qaeda terrorists, including the 9/11 hijackers, freely moved through Iran. Testimony by one of bin Laden’s lieutenants showed that he had met with a top Hezbollah terrorist. Court findings concluded that Iran was liable for Al Qaeda’s bombing of US embassies. Al Qaeda terrorists were trained by Hezbollah.
While Shiite and Sunni Jihadists may be deadly enemies to each other, they have more in common with each other than they do with us. Our relationship to them is not that of “the enemy of my enemy is my friend.” That’s their relationship to each other when it comes to us. In these scenarios we are the enemy.
The pro-Saudi and pro-Iranian factions in our foreign policy complex agree that we have to help one side win in Syria. They’re wrong. We have no interest in helping either side win because whether the Sunnis or Shiites win, Syria will remain a state sponsor of terror.
It’s only a question of whether it will be Shiite or Sunni terror.
Our interest is in not allowing Al Qaeda, or any of its subgroups, to control Syria or Iraq because it has a history of carrying out devastating attacks against the United States. We don’t, however, need to ally with either side to accomplish that. We can back the Kurds and the Iraqi government (despite its own problematic ties) in their push against ISIS in Iraq and use strategic strikes to hit ISIS concentrations in Syria. We should not, however, ally, arm or coordinate strikes with either side in the Syrian Civil War.
Both the pro-Saudi and pro-Iranian sides insist that ISIS can’t be defeated without stabilizing Syria. But it doesn’t appear that Syria can be stabilized without either genocide or partition. Its conflict is not based on resistance to a dictator as the Arab Springers have falsely claimed, but on religious differences.
Helping one side commit genocide against the other is an ugly project, but that would be the outcome of allying with either side.
Stabilizing Syria is a myth. The advocates of the FSA claimed that helping the Libyan Jihadists win would stabilize Libya. Instead the country is on fire as Jihadists continue to fight it out in its major cities.
Even if the FSA existed as an actual fighting force, which it doesn’t, even if it could win, which it can’t, there is every reason to believe that Syria would be worse than Libya and an even bigger playground for ISIS. The FSA enthusiasts were wrong in Egypt and Libya and everywhere else. They have no credibility.
The pro-Iranians claim that helping the Syrian government will subdue ISIS, but Assad hasn’t been able to defeat the Sunni Jihadists even with Russian help. The Syrian army and its Hezbollah allies are still struggling despite having an air force, heavy artillery and WMDs. Not only shouldn’t we be allying with Shiite terrorists who have killed plenty of Americans over the years, but it would be extremely stupid to ally with incompetent terrorists. Allying with the FSA or Assad makes as much sense as allying with ISIS.
The difference is that ISIS at least seems to be able to win battles.
Some pro-Iranian wonks claim that if we don’t get Assad’s approval for air strikes, he will shoot down Americans planes. That’s about as likely as Saddam Hussein returning from the dead to audition for American Idol. Assad didn’t even dare shoot down Israeli planes who were buzzing his palace. The odds of him picking a fight with the United States Air Force are somewhere between zero, nil and zilch.
We don’t need Assad’s permission to hit ISIS targets in Syria and, in one of the few things that this administration is doing right, we aren’t asking for it. Unless Assad experiences a bout of severe mental illness, he isn’t going to fight us for the privilege of losing to ISIS. Not even Saddam was that crazy.
The big potential problem in this war is mission creep. That’s why we should avoid committing to any overarching objectives such as stabilizing Syria. Unfortunately that is exactly what Obama has done.
It’s not our job to stabilize Syria and short of dividing it into a couple of majority states in which the Sunni and Shiite Arabs, the Kurds, the Christians and maybe even the Turkmen get their own countries, it’s not a feasible project. We have the equipment and power to pound ISIS into the dirt when its forces concentrate in any area. We can send drones to target their leaders. If Assad or the FSA want to provide us with intel, we can use it as long as we don’t begin working to help them fulfill their own objectives.
We need to remember that we are not there for the Syrians or Iraqis; we’re there for ourselves.
After September 11 we learned the hard way the costs of letting enemy terrorists set up enclaves and bases. But we also learned the hard way the costs of trying to stabilize unstable Muslim countries.
Al Qaeda, in its various forms, will always find sanctuaries and conflicts because the Muslim world is unstable and widely supportive of terrorism. For now this is a low intensity conflict that denies the next bin Laden the territory, time and manpower to stage the next September 11. We can do this cheaply and with few casualties if we keep this goal in mind.
This isn’t nation building. It’s not the fight for democracy. All we’re doing is terrorizing the terrorists by using our superior reach and firepower to smash their sandcastle emirates anywhere they pop up.
Allying with terrorists to defeat terrorists is counterproductive. The Muslim world will always have its Jihadists, at least until we make a serious effort to break them which we won’t be doing any time soon. But we can at least stop making the problem worse by arming and training our own enemies.
Don’t miss Shillman Journalism Fellow Daniel Greenfield on this week’s Glazov Gang discussing “ISIS Rising”:
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