The U.S. Mustn’t Intervene in Syria

911e1adc7a78fc36649663a47de3164e6018 The U.S. Mustnt Intervene in Syria

The brutality of Syria’s civil
war and Iran’s influence in the region have motivated calls for
foreign intervention since the conflict’s beginning. Reports of
massacres, torture, and the use of illegal weapons has prompted
some to call for the U.S to intervene in Syria and stop the
bloodshed. To date at least 40,000 Syrians have died and hundreds
of thousands more are refugees in bordering countries such as
Jordan and Turkey.Despite fierce international condemnation Assad’s regime shows
few signs of peacefully surrendering or working towards some sort
of political transition. In light of the military and diplomatic
deadlock some are arguing for Western military intervention. Citing
geopolitical and humanitarian concerns some say that the time has
come for American troops to engage in Syria on behalf of the
rebels. However, this is something that U.S. officials should
avoid.   The situation in Syria is worrying aside from its brutality.
Syria is a close ally to Iran, which has been supporting the regime
throughout the conflict. Although Syria is a majority Sunni
country, Assad is an Alawite Shiite, and the regime has enjoyed
support from the Shiite terrorist group Hezbollah, which in turn
receives support from Iran. It is true that were the Assad regime to fall then Iran would
lose a key ally. Having Syria on the Mediterranean coast makes it
valuable to Iran. James P. Rubin cited Iran’s influence as a key
reason for intervening in Syria in
Foreign Policy back in June:
Libya was an easier case. But other than the laudable result of
saving many thousands of Libyan civilians from Muammar al-Qaddafi’s
regime, it had no long-lasting consequences for the region. Syria
is harder — but success there would be a transformative event for
the Middle East. Not only would another ruthless dictator succumb
to mass popular opposition, but Iran would no longer have a
Mediterranean foothold from which to threaten Israel and
destabilize the region.
Without Assad’s regime Iran would have difficultly maintaining
the material support Hezbollah and Palestinian jihadists have grown
accustomed to, but the difficulties would be temporary. It is
almost certain that Iran would find some way to continue supporting
terrorist groups without Syria. There is no way of knowing that a
Western intervention would not create instability in the Middle
East that Iran could exploit.
Daniel Larison made a similar point back in March:
Sectarian warfare in Syria could indeed hamstring Iran’s ability
to project power, but it isn’t going to end Iran’s patronage for
Hezbollah. Iran’s loss of Syria as an ally would be a significant
setback, but it would likely also come at a great cost to the U.S.
and friendly governments in the region. Stoking conflict in Syria
would destabilize all of Syria’s neighbors, three of which are U.S.
allies or clients, potentially contributing to new sectarian
conflicts in Iraq and Lebanon. It could also result in the
establishment of a less predictable Syrian regime that is no less
hostile to Western interests. It makes little sense to risk the
stability and security of those states on the assumption that
whatever is bad for Iran must be good for us. 
While we might not like the fact that Iran supplies unpleasant
actors in the region there is not way to predict how these
established channels could change with an occupying force in Syria.
It is also worth considering that the Iranian regime might welcome
American targets closer to home. Syria is neither Libya nor Iraq, and offers a very complicated
theatre of war that the U.S. would do well to avoid. With over 20
million people and a wide range of ethnic and religious groups,
Syria is too large and diverse a country for a foreign occupation
to work. If any lesson is to be learned from the mess in Iraq it is that
native demographic tensions can be close to impossible to contain
and control. This is especially worth considering after one
reflects on the fact that it is far from obvious that a Western
intervention would be welcomed as a liberating force by most
Syrians.An occupying military force would not only have to establish
relationships with Syrians, but also fight Assad’s loyal military
and secure chemical weapons. The Syrian army is comparatively
better equipped than its neighbors’, and by the U.S. military’s own
calculations securing chemical weapons in Syria would require more
75,000 troops.Perhaps the most compelling case for intervention in Syria is
the brutality being inflicted on innocent people. Tens of thousands
have died and hundreds of thousands have fled. No one doubts that
the Syrian conflict has created a humanitarian crisis. What remains
in doubt is if the misery being inflicted on the Syrian people
would be alleviated by foreign intervention.Assad’s opposition is a wide-ranging group, composed of
constituent factions with many different motivations. Among those
fighting Assad are Al Qaeda-linked militants who hope to establish
an Islamist state in a post-Assad Syria. This goal seems safely at
odds with many of Assad’s other opponents.Were Assad to step down there is no predicting what mess could
possibly ensue. As our adventures in Iraq and Afghanistan have
shown, the presence of U.S. troops hardly ensures peace and
stability.Those advocating for intervention in Syria purely out of
humanitarian concerns need to argue why Syria is their target of
choice and not any other murderous regime. Why not intervene in
North Korea, Zimbabwe, Uzbekistan, or any other of the Earth’s
oppressive regimes?There is little evidence that a foreign intervention in Syria
would permanently disrupt Iran’s influence in the Middle East, and
the humanitarian case for intervention fails to address what makes
Syrians more worthy of assistance than other oppressed people.Having boots on the ground is of course not the only military
option. The U.S. could impose a no-fly zone over Syria, similar to
the one imposed over Libya. However, even these interventions,
although being limited, can have
unintended consequences. As usual, non-intervention would be the best policy for the U.S.
to pursue. 

Originally posted here:  

The U.S. Mustn’t Intervene in Syria

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