There have been many reports recently that the Syrian government used chemical weapons against the rebels – and this action supposedly crossed Obama’s “red line”, which should have triggered a US response. But, no response. Why? This article in the New York Times gives a pretty solid reason:
As Islamists increasingly fill the ranks of Syrian rebels, President Bashar al-Assad is waging an energized campaign to persuade the United States that it is on the wrong side of the civil war. Some government supporters and officials believe they are already coaxing — or at least frightening — the West into holding back stronger support for the opposition.
Confident they can sell their message, government officials have eased their reluctance to allow foreign reporters into Syria, paraded prisoners they described as extremist fighters and relied unofficially on a Syrian-American businessman to help tap into American fears of groups like Al Qaeda.
“We are partners in fighting terrorism,” Syria’s prime minister, Wael Nader al-Halqi, said.
Omran al-Zoubi, the information minister, said: “It’s a war for civilization, identity and culture. Syria, if you want, is the last real secular state in the Arab world.”…
Which statement is pretty close to the truth – but doesn’t change the fact that Assad’s regime has been an unrelieved series of rat-bastard actions since the days when his dad was in charge. While I doubt recent claims of chemical weapons use, it is pretty sure that the Syrian regime has used poison gas in the past against rebels. Additionally, while the Assad regime is officially secular it has been long allied with Islamist Iran and has provided vital support to Islamist Hezbollah in Lebanon. Even as an allegedly secular State, Syria has been helping our Islamist enemies – in addition to being implacably opposed to the existence of the State of Israel. There is, in short, not much for us to love there. Of course, the rebels do appear dominated by Islamists, so if they do manage to topple the Assad regime, it also won’t work to our advantage.
And so I’ve always said we should stay out – no matter who wins in Syria, we lose. But what we should have been doing is using Syria’s civil war as a means to pry Hezbollah out of Lebanon. Right now, no one in Syria has much time or resources to be supporting Hezbollah – a concerted effort against Hezbollah will now ultimately bear fruit because all actions against them will weaken their power, which cannot be easily rebuilt without active Syrian support. Partnering with Israel and those elements in Lebanon (which are substantial) which would prefer to see an end to the quasi-State run by Hezbollah in Lebanon, we could have secured genuine Lebanese independence – so that no matter who wins the Syrian civil war, Syria’s position in Lebanon is permanently destroyed.
But, we did nothing of the kind – because Obama doesn’t see enemies over in the Muslim world, just alienated friends (alienated by us, of course). Obama – and all his foreign policy team – probably never even thought about how to exploit the Syrian civil war to our strategic advantage. We’ve dithered and blustered and threatened and half-armed the rebels – and we may yet be dragged in to direct participation in the war and the subsequent cost of pacification and rebuilding. But we won’t secure a pro -US regime in Syria and we may well end up midwifing a new, virulently anti-US regime which also controls Lebanon.
Its a miserable situation and because our leaders are ignorant of the realities of the Middle East, it will likely just get worse.