by Richard Saunders – August, 2014 (opinions expressed don’t necessary represent eventsfy views)
Let’s broaden the normal narrow perspective we usually hear from our politicians today and take a look at ALL the major foreign issues facing America now to obtain proper context why not choosing to arm the Syrian Opposition (Rebels) beyond minor assistance and small arms was the best option without broad international support. Studies show that arming rebels rarely helps the situation unless the broad external forces are on the same page. Beyond this Syrian issue, there are four other major foreign issues—Ukraine, Iraq, Israel/Palestine, and Iran’s nuclear ambitions. You must know that the Syrian issue has deep ties to these other issues.
Syria is currently ruled by Bashar al-Assad—a western educated and secularist leader who many contend exploits sectarian tension. Regardless of Assad’s crimes against his people in Syria (as awful as they are), he has built over many years strong alliances with Russia, Iran, and Hezbollah—a Shi’a Islamist militant group and political party based in Lebanon.
Choosing early on (or now) to GREATLY arm the ragtag Syrian Rebels without broad international support would have become not only a war against the al-Assad Regime but also a heightened proxy war against Russia, Iran, and Hezbollah—who all would be very determined (much more than we) to keep one of their few allies left in the world in power against the United States. Do you think Russia, Iran, and Hezbollah would’ve stood idly by while their friend, al-Assad, was being overthrown by the ragtag Syrian Rebels being financed and supplied weapons by the United States? How long and bloody would this choice have been for us? Was there REALLY any Syrian coalition that could have stabilized Syria after toppling al-Assad? We’ve already spent trillions of dollars in Iraq along with thousands of American lives and isn’t the situation less stable now than it was before—isn’t it? Why do we really think that this time in Syria we could have implemented a stable government among all the sectarian divisions in Syria when facing many fiercely opposing nations? Can’t we learn from our past mistakes? Furthermore, how many times have we seen weapons given to our “allies” in the Middle East fall into the hands of our enemies—Iran, Iraq, Afghanistan, etc.?
Early on without any broad international support to support the Syrian Rebels, chances of success in Syria were absolutely bleak and we honestly couldn’t have known if the outcome after supplying military weapons and support for the Rebels in Syria would have created a better outcome—one could easily argue that a worse outcome would have transpired based on historical evidence and all the opposing parties (Russia, Iran, and Hezbollah).
If we had supplied military weapons and support for the Syrian Rebels, then:
- Russia and Iran would have supplied EVEN more weapons to the Syrian Regime
- Iran and Hezbollah would have supplied more fighters and personnel for the Syrian Regime
- Russia would have used this pretext and moral equivalency to supply even more weapons and military support to Ukrainian Rebels in Eastern Ukraine with unforeseen outcomes
- Iran and Hezbollah would have used this pretext and moral equivalency to supply even more weapons and military support to Hamas in Gaza with unforeseen outcomes
- Russia would definitely have been less likely to help us eradicate chemical weapons in Syria
- Russia would definitely have been less likely to continue supporting economic sanctions on Iran to stop Iran’s nuclear program
- Iran would have been less likely to continue negotiations to stop its nuclear program
- Hezbollah would have become even more radicalized against America and Israel for our trying to topple its strongest ally and Hezbollah lives right by Israel in Lebanon
- Russia and Iran would have felt even more indignant about America eroding their power around the world causing greater desperation—desperation causes desperate actions
- More Muslims would have absolutely been radicalized—rightly or wrongly—from seeing America interfering with another Islamic country’s sovereignty
Over these past five years, Iran has gone from President Ahmadinejad, a fiery-rhetoric and antagonist Anti-American Crusader, to President Rouhani, a measured and conciliatory-toned reformer reaching out to Americans; over these past five years, Iran has received the most crippling economic sanctions ever; and over these past five years, Iran has finally agreed to negotiate on its nuclear program. The framework for engagement with Iran was initiated by President Obama even before he was elected President of the United States in 2008. Much progress has been made between our two countries and toppling the Syrian Regime would have greatly undermined this progress.
This now brings us to Iraq, which Iran has benefited the most from our 2003 invasion. Before our 2003 invasion:
- Iran and Iraq were bitter enemies fighting a decade war in the 80s and weakening each other
- Iraq was controlled by the minority Sunnis (34%)—now it’s controlled by the majority Shiites (64%), which also is the controlling religion of Iran (90%)
- Iran had little influence in Iraq’s government and politics—now it has GREAT influence
- Iran had little influence in Iraq’s military—now it supplies and supports Iraq’s military
Quick summary: Iraq used to be controlled by the minority Sunnis, who are enemies of Iran and who have been much disenfranchised with the new majority run Iraqi Shiite government. To complicate things further, Sunnis are the MAJORITY in Syria (64%) yet the minority Shiite’s (22%) control the government run by Bashar al-Assad. With Syria the only other Shiite controlled government besides Iran—and now Iraq—one can easily understand the desperate measures Iran would have done to maintain their ally in Syria. All the other Middle Eastern countries besides Israel and Lebanon are Sunnis. Confused yet?
The extremist Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS), who became the victors of all the various rebel factions inside Syria, have now taken control of large swaths of land in both Syria and Iraq with military precision—not to mention seizing control over military equipment and billions of dollars provided to our “allies” (the Iraqi government) along the way. ISIS is composed of Sunnis, who, once again, are enemies of Iran. Iran borders Iraq. Who do you think is more concerned about ISIS—America or Iran? Iran IS much more concerned than the United States of ISIS insurgence because of proximity and all the historical conflicts with the Sunnis.
Because of our limited involvement in Syria, we now have:
- A willing and eager partner in Iran to help us tame the situation in Iraq and Syria instead of an opposing partner—a chance for America and Iran to build a working relationship
- A willing and eager partner in Hezbollah to help us tame the situation in Syria
- A more willing partner in Russia and Iran to help us solve Iran’s nuclear program issue
- A more willing partner in Iran and Hezbollah to not undermine any Israel/Palestinian peace agreement
- An Iraqi government who has FINALLY recognized its need for a more inclusive government—thus nominating a new Prime Minister on August 11th
Of course, we could continue to beat our heads on the ground—not learning from our past mistakes—and continue to listen to all these neocons who haven’t found any conflict they don’t call for war. It’s our choice to choose—old ways of thinking that don’t work need to be challenged forcefully!