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There is an old adage” the enemy of my enemy is my friend.” The truth of this saying is being tested in the latest Middle East civil war. Many leaders in Washington seem to believe that those who oppose President Bashar al-Assad are natural allies of the United States. President Obama has fallen less for this false narrative than some in congress, but he still is holding a hesitant grip on the idea. An idea that seems to belie the reality on the ground.
The forces fighting to overthrow Assad are not necessarily freedom fighters wishing to install a secular state that respects the rights of all its citizens. Most of the rebel groups are Islamist for whom freedom is foreign word. Those of them that are fighting for a free and peaceful state fool themselves if they think the fall of Assad will bring it to them. The real choice is likely between the Muslim Brotherhood and Al Qaeda. In short, the best that can be hoped for is a non-Iranian allied Islamist state that allows Christians to be raped in the streets. There is also the very real possibility of Syria becoming a terrorist state that ships chemical weapons across the world to kill “infidels.”
This is not to say Assad is an angel, his status as a world villain is well earned. Assad is a dictator for whom the use of force is a way of life. He is infamous for the heavy handed tactics he uses to keep the country in line. At the same time his and Iran’s unending proxy war with Israel has been destabilizing to the whole region. He has even been involved in political assassinations in neighboring Lebanon. There is little to admire in the man but, the fact is, he seems to know his limits. He has not been one to pick fights he can’t win or do anything that would incur too much wrath of his more powerful enemies. Things that can’t be as confidently said about those allied against him.
The fact of the matter is, whoever ends up on top in Syria the end result will most likely not be good. If Assad is forced to flee there is a good chance life in Syria will only get worse. This is especially true for Syrian Christians. One of the oldest groups of Christian believers on earth, they have been told by rebel leaders to leave Syria or die. It is little wonder they support Assad and dread the thought of his departure. For all his faults at least Assad showed some sense of religious tolerance. It is also probable that even if Al Qaeda does not gain control of the country it will likely get its hands on some of his chemical weapons in the chaos of an Assad departure.
Then there is the possibility of the war exploding into a regional conflict. The civil war is already a proxy battle ground for both regional and world powers. The Iranians are sending troops to help Assad while Egypt and others are sending aid to the rebels. Similarly the United States is assisting the rebels at the same time Russia is selling arms to Assad. Complicating matters, Russia is even issuing veiled threats to the United States if it dares try to create a no fly zone. All signs that the conflict could spin out of control if cooler heads do not prevail.
This all begs the question, why is the United States interfering at all? What is the strategic endgame? No apparent U.S. interest is being advanced nor has there been congressional approval sought for military involvement. It seems as though the U.S. is playing with dynamite with no apparent upside for doing so. Civil wars are messy and usually very bloody affairs, this is true even when there is a clear cut good and bad side. The Syrian affair is a hodge-podge of various interest most of which are not aligned with those of the U.S..
Spin the Bottle, or a game of Russian Roulette, either of these would give better odds than having a good outcome in Syria. In fact, picking sides in the Syrian conflict is like playing Russian Roulette with a nearly fully loaded gun. No matter what, the outcome is not likely to be beneficial. If there is a winning strategy maybe President Obama is not far from it. He is giving just enough aid to get a diplomatic foot in the door if Assad loses but not enough to assure the outcome. A hedged bet meant to save face over Syria crossing his red line. Regardless, probably the best strategy of all was to stay out of the conflict all together, or as Sarah Palin put it, let “Allah sort it out.”
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