Monday, May 16, 2011

An opportunity in Syria

Ryan Mauro reports that Obama may be moving towards regime change in Syria:
According to the Associated Press, the Obama administration is close to changing course on Syria and supporting the removal of Bashar Assad from power.
The decision has not yet been made — and this is likely a calculated leak meant to deliver a last warning to Assad — but this is nonetheless a huge change in policy. An official has told the AP: “we are getting close” to demanding the Syrian dictator’s resignation. Apparently the language is already being crafted, with the report stating: “The first step would be to say for the first time that President Bashar Assad has forfeited his legitimacy to rule.” This will be coupled with language supporting a transition towards democracy — a softer way of saying two words the Obama administration is so reluctant to utter: “regime change.”
Michael Totten adds: "I certainly hope so."

Normally Michael Totten being on board is a sign of a good policy.  But I am very troubled by the comments I'm reading in response to Mauro's article.  Most seem to be from people on the right side of the political spectrum, as I am on security issues, yet most of them are blasting Obama for possibly taking us into another war.

I would guess that if a Republican were in charge, most of these same commenters would be gung-ho about taking out the Assad regime.  The hypocrisy is disappointing.  Before you ask, the Left does the same thing, usually to a far grerater extent.

People, we should care about what is good for the country, not who is in charge or who gets credit.  A good policy is a good policy whether it comes from a Republican or a Democrat.

As you know, I am generally no fan of Barack Obama, especially on foreign policy and environmental issues, but regime change in Syria would be unquestionably good for the US.  We should encourage him to go for it, not make it difficult for him.

Mauro outlines the stakes in Syria:
[T]he International Atomic Energy Agency has confirmed that the site destroyed in September 2007 — in an operation everyone attributes to Israel — was indeed a secret nuclear reactor. Syria is still refusing to grant access to other sites suspected of being part of a covert nuclear weapons program. The IAEA’s report is due next month, adding another layer of pressure on the Assad regime. And all of this is happening as the UN Special Tribunal investigating the 2005 assassination of former Lebanese Prime Minister Rafiq Hariri has prepared indictments for Hezbollah officials and quite possibly Syrian officials.
The pieces are falling together for tough international action against the Assad regime at precisely the time it is most vulnerable.
If Mubarak and Gaddafi deserved to fall, then Assad — who has the blood of American soldiers on his hands and is a major support [sic] of terrorism — certainly does as well.
Farid Ghadry agrees:
Given that the U.S. is assisting Japan and is participating in three different conflicts, the appetite for another one is low at best: Syria, Iran, and Russia know this. The West has very few options besides exercising restraint — which, considering the dynamics at play, is synonymous with defeat. At the hands of Iran.
Ever since Mahmoud Ahmadinejad ascended to power, his belief in the 12th Imam’s coming reappearance via Armageddon has not subsided. Only through mayhem can Iran achieve this religious awakening, thus defeating all its enemies. Today, the region is closer than ever to this day of reckoning after Israeli wars in 2006 and 2008 against terrorist organizations supported by Iran and Syria failed to subdue this evil.
The Syrian people, meanwhile, are determined to earn their freedom through peaceful struggle. Mass graves, the shelling of homes with huddled families, snipers picking off Syrians as if playing a video game, and Alawite generals being told to fight for existence: it all paints a bleak picture of the pressure Syrians are under to turn their struggle into an armed one. But they remain steadfast in their commitment to peaceful struggle.
However, Iran welcomes civil war in Syria as part of its grand scheme.
Iran seeding permanent chaos is an ugly future, and the West must consider the alternatives. Will the West turn a blind eye to Assad’s massacres, hoping to fight him another day, or will it stop the blackmail and confront Assad with whatever means possible? If President Barack Obama calls for regime change in Syria, will Assad sink? And if he stays afloat, what contingency plans can secure the president’s words?
Further, what roles can countries in the GCC and Israel play? All will suffer greatly if Assad survives and Iran appears to be winning against the West. Another win by Iran will turn the Middle East into a swamp of terror, which may mean even steeper gas costs for U.S. consumers.
U.S. supremacy is being challenged in ways never seen before by the likes of Iran and other countries eager to see the U.S. on its knees. The Europeans, addicted to Russian gas, will have to weigh their options carefully before they start on another path like the one they have taken in Libya. Absent Assad calming the Syrian street without a grand-scale massacre, the Syrian conflict will continue to bubble.
Now that the conflict has been internationalized, the West has no choice but to find a means by which both the Syrian and the Iranian regimes are defeated: it’s in everyone’s interest, including U.S. consumers.
Meanwhile, the Assad regime comes closer to a repeat of Hama.

The clock is ticking.  The window of opportunity for the US here is not getting any bigger.

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