Would US Intervention Help Syria?

Political pressure is building on the Obama administration to intervene in Syria’s civil war on the side of the anti-government rebels, but an escalation of the violence might only prolong the conflict and prevent serious national reconciliation, say Flynt and Hillary Mann Leverett at RaceForIran.com.

By Flynt Leverett and Hillary Mann Leverett

Across most of the American political spectrum, policy elites are urging that the United States double down on the Obama administration’s failing Syria policy. America’s reliably pro-intervention senatorial trio (Lindsay Graham, Joseph Lieberman, and John McCain) recently argued that the “risks of inaction in Syria,” now outweigh the downsides of American military involvement.

Last week, the Washington Post prominently featured a pieceby Ken Pollack, asserting that negotiated settlements “rarely succeed in ending a civil war” like that in Syria, even though that it precisely what ended the civil war in Lebanon, right next door to Syria. From this faulty premise, Pollack argues that the only way to end a civil war like that in Syria is through military intervention.

Syria and the surrounding countries. Graphic image by (orthographic_projection).png

(After his scandalously wrong case for the 2003 U.S. invasion of Iraq, we wonder why the Washington Post or anyone else would give Pollack a platform for disseminating his views on virtually any Middle Eastern topic, but especially not for a piece dealing with the advisability of another U.S. military intervention in the region. In this regard, we note that the bio line at the end of Ken’s op-ed makes no mention of his book that made the case for the U.S. invading Iraq, The Threatening Storm, describing him instead as “the author of A Path Out of the Desert: A Grand Strategy for America in the Middle East.)

A more chilling, and, in some ways, more candid, indicator of the direction in which the debate over American policy toward Syria is heading was provided last week in Foreign Policy by Robert Haddick (managing editor of the hawkish blog, Small War Journal).

Remarkably, Haddick argues that: “rather than attempting to influence the course of Syria’s civil war, something largely beyond Washington’s control, U.S. policymakers should instead focus on strengthening America’s diplomatic position and on building irregular warfare capabilities that will be crucial in future conflicts in the region.

“Modest and carefully circumscribed intervention in Syria, in coordination with America’s Sunni allies who are already players in the war, will bolster critical relationships and irregular warfare capabilities the United States and its allies will need for the future.”

And why is bolstering these relationships and capabilities so critical? Because, as Haddick writes, “The conflict in Syria is just one front in the ongoing competition between Iran and America’s Sunni allies on the west side of the Persian Gulf. The Sunni countries have a strong interest in stepping up their irregular warfare capabilities if they are to keep pace with Iran during the ongoing security competition. The civil war in Syria provides an opportunity for the United States and its Sunni allies to do just that.

“U.S. and GCC intelligence officers and special forces could use an unconventional warfare campaign in Syria as an opportunity to exchange skills and training, share resources, improve trust, and establish combined operational procedures. Such field experience would be highly useful in future contingencies. Equally important, it would reassure the Sunni countries that the United States will be a reliable ally against Iran.”

Foreign Policy has become arguably the leading online venue for topical discussion of key issues on America’s international agenda. And it is giving its platform to an argument that Washington should leverage the “opportunity” provided by the civil war in Syria to help its regional allies get better at killing Shi’a.

And Washington should do this for the goal of prevailing in “the ongoing security competition” between the Islamic Republic of Iran and the United States (along with America’s “Sunni allies).

Such trends in the American policy debate show an appalling incapacity to learn either from either current experience or history. And these trends are, in fact, influencing actual policy.

Late last week, during a visit by U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton to Turkey, Ankara and Washington agreed that “a unified task force with intelligence, military and political leaders from both countries would be formed immediately to track Syria’s present and plan for its future.”

After meeting with her Turkish counterpart, Ahmet Davutoðlu, Secretary Clinton said that the United States and Turkey are discussing various options for supporting opposition forces working to overthrow the government of President Bashar al-Assad, including the possibility of imposing a no-fly zone over rebel-held territory in Syria.

In the wake of Clinton’s remarks, Flynt Leverett appeared on CCTV’s World Insight weekly newsmagazine to discuss the internal and international dimensions of the Syrian conflict. Flynt and both of the other guests on the segment, Jia Xiudong from the China Institute of International Studies and our colleague Seyed Mohammad Marandi from the University of Tehran, agreed, contra Pollack, that the only way to resolve what has become a civil war in Syria is through an inclusive political process.


Getting to the heart of the matter, Flynt pointed out that “the United States and its regional partners are trying to use Syria to shift the balance of power in the Middle East in ways that they think will be bad for Iran.” This strategy is “ultimately doomed to fail”, but, as long as Washington and others are pursuing it, “the international community is going to be challenged to find ways to keep the violence from getting worse and try to get a political process started.”

Flynt also observed that China and other players in the international community have historical grounds for concern about the imposition of a no-fly zone in Syria to create so-called “humanitarian safe havens” could lead to: since the end of the Cold War, every time that the United States has imposed humanitarian safe havens, in Somalia, Bosnia, Iraq, and most recently in Libya, this has ultimately resulted in a heavily militarized intervention by the United States and its partners in pursuit of coercive regime change.

In part, American elites persist in their current course regarding Syria because they continue to persuade themselves that, in the “security competition” between America and Iran, the United States is winning and the Islamic Republic is losing.

At roughly the same time that Pollack and Haddick were holding forth last week, the New York Times offered an Op-Ed by Harvey Morris purporting to explain Iran’s “paranoia” over Syria’s civil war by describing “What Syria Looks Like from Tehran.”

Morris claims that “the impact of regime change in the Arab World has in fact been largely negative from Tehran’s perspective. The Muslim Brotherhood leadership in Egypt is closer to Saudi Arabia than it is to Iran. If the Alawite-dominated regime in Damascus were to fall, it would mean the loss of a non-Sunni ally.”

Our analysis, of both of Tehran’s perspective on and the reality of how the Arab Spring is affecting the regional balance of power, is diametrically opposite to Morris’s. For an actual (and genuinely informed) Iranian view, we note that Al Jazeera devoted last week’s episode of its Inside Syria series to the topic, “Can Iran Help End the Syrian Crisis?”

Once again, our colleague from the University of Tehran, Seyed Mohammad Marandi, gave a clear and concise exposition of Iranian views on the imperatives of and requirements for serious mediation of the struggle in (and over) Syria.

Flynt Leverett served as a Middle East expert on George W. Bush’s National Security Council staff until the Iraq War and worked previously at the State Department and at the Central Intelligence Agency. Hillary Mann Leverett was the NSC expert on Iran and from 2001 to 2003  was one of only a few U.S. diplomats authorized to negotiate with the Iranians over Afghanistan, al-Qaeda and Iraq. [This article was originally published at RaceforIran.com. For a direct link, click: http://www.raceforiran.com/how-much-will-america%e2%80%99s-animus-against-iran-distort-u-s-policy-toward-syria.]


11 comments for “Would US Intervention Help Syria?

  1. August 15, 2012 at 11:11 pm

    Ken Pollack is one of many Israel Hasbara warmongers using Zionist-controlled mainstream media to fool American people.

    There is no ‘civil war’ in Syria. It’s indirect invasion of pro-Israel western powers and their Middle Eastern stooges to bring a pro-Israel regime change in Damascus in order to make easy to attack Iran in the next phase. On Wednesday, South Lebanese al-Miqdad family abducted more than 20 members of the western funded and trained Salafi/Wahabi militant groups known as the Free Syrian Army (FSA). None of those captive is Syrian. They’re recruited from Qatar, Turkey, Aghanistan and Pakistan.

    Currently, Qatar’s Thani family along with its Wahabi Saudi family is bankrolling rebels in Syria – who have killed tens of thousands of Shia Alawites, Sunnis and Christians soldiers and civilians. Qatar, Saudi Arabia and Turkey, the ‘Axis of Evil’ are desperately fighting the ‘Axis of Resistance’ (Syria, Hizbullah and Iran) in order to install a pro-Israel regime in Damascus and isolate the country from the Islamic Republic.

    Not only Qatar is involved in supplying arms and money to the armed foreign insurgents in Syria – it’s also offering bribes to high-ranking Syrian officials in return for their defections. Fars News Agency has reported that Thani family has allocated $300 million for this purpose. I few months ago, Qatar promised Hamas leaders $250 million to move their head office out of Syria.

    Qatar’s latest ‘bribe for defection’ case involved Syrian ambassador to Mauritania, Hamad Seed Albni, who was offered one million dollar in advance , a monthly salary of $20,000 over 20 years and a permanent residence in Doha – as a reward for his defection and voicing support for the rebels.

    Hamad Seed Albni reportedly rejected Qatari offer, calling it a “blatant interference” in Syria’s affairs and warned not to come up with such initiatives anymore.

    However, some others did not have the moral courage to reject such offers. Diplomats representing Syria in the United Arab Emirates and Iraq, Abdel Latif al-Dabbagh and Nawaf al-Fares, quit their posts and so did the country’s former Prime Minister Riyad Hijab.

    The agenda of the ‘Axis of Evil’ was spilled out by Israel’s deputy foreign minister Danny Ayalon on Friday. He predicted that the western post-Assad plan calls for the fragmentation of Syria into Alawite, Sunni, Druze and Kurd provinces. He added that a similar fate is awaiting for Lebanon in the near future. Ayalon ruled out the possibility of the emergence of an Arab alliance that would stand in opposition to Israel in the next 10 to 15 years.

    “After their internal instability, the Arab countries will realize the importance of cooperating with Israel,” boasted Ayalon.


  2. davebehrens
    August 16, 2012 at 8:32 am

    Why should the USA commit ANY resources to mitigate the Syrian debacle, or any other Islamic war? Muslims are killing Muslims, albeit at too slow a rate in my opinion, and I welcome it. Read the Quran’s Verse of the Sword Surah 9:5 or Surah 9:29 for irrefutable evidence as to how ALL professed Muslims must confront the non-Islamic portion of Earth’s people. Hint: Convert to Islam, or pay a yearly tax (jizyah) and be made to feel subjugated in the paying, or be summarily butchered.
    Shrewdly calculating Muslim governments are AGAIN awaiting the Great Infidel to spill American blood and dissipate American resources to depose a Muslim dictator. While they husband their oil riches and wait to decry the defilement of their sovereign territory by the feet of American troops, should they be sent to do the dirty work, these cowardly Muslim governments’ hands remain politically clean. This gives zealous mullahs the opportunity to characterize American military involvement in any degree as Islamic genocide. We have made ourselves into absolute fools by acting as the world’s policeman. Did America get one gallon of free oil from either Iraq or Kuwait for deposing Sadam Hussein?? Will America get priority access to Afghanistan’s vast mineral wealth?? Has America gained a willing ally, not a paid friend like Pakistan, in any Mideast endeavor?? The answer to these questions is a resounding NO.
    The argument that ‘we are spreading democracy’ in these Muslim countries is a testament to our fundamental ignorance of Islam. Greek initiated, western style fully participative democracy is anathema to Islam and Sharia Law. Islam comes closest to democracy in the Quran’s Surah 42:38, in which a powerless, strictly consultative assembly (shura) is suggested, albeit not required. The shura certainly cannot challenge Sharia Law as interpreted by the Islamic priesthood, who are the de facto rulers of all Islamic political entities.
    Is the lesson of the recent Egyptian popular election of an Islamic zealot lost on the average American, and his government?? The Quran dictates that Muslims live in an Islamic theocracy, ruled by Sharia Law. A majority of Egyptians freely voted against democracy and for the implementation of that Islamic theocracy. Understand exactly what that means. A majority of Egyptians, in the only opportunity in their lifetime to vote to choose how and by whom they will be governed, voted to never have that choice again. Bloody, expensive American interventions will always fail if their goal is to establish even a semblance of democracy.

    • August 16, 2012 at 11:02 am

      I ‘m sure your source is not Holy Qur’an but Daniel Pipes’ blog. Holy Qur’an, unless taken out of context, doesn’t command its followers to kill innocent people, Muslims and non-Muslims. It’s Jewish Talmud which commands that all non-Jews must be killed unless they agree to serve the Jews. On the other hand, Abraham Foxman, national director of Jewish lobby group, ADL – said in his 2006 book that the New Testament’s teachings inspired the Nazis to murdered millions of Jews.

      “What reason could you have for not fighting in the Way of Allah – for those men, women and children, who are oppressed and say, “Our Lord, take us out of this city whose inhabitants are wrongdoers! Give us a protector from You! Give us a helper from You!,” Holy Qur’an 4:75.

      According to a majority of Islamic scholars – there are four types of Jihad (utmost exertion) sanction by Allah and His Messenger:

      1. Jihad by one’s heart – Self-purification or sometimes called ‘greater Jihad’.

      2. Jihad by one’s tongue or writings – persuading people to adopt the right path and to dissuade them from evil. This is the Jihad the Prophet (pbuh) has prefered over force or violence.

      3. Jihad by one’s hand – supporting the right and correcting the wrong by using physical means, short of violence.

      4. Jihad by one’s sword – War being the ultimate arbiter of nations’ disputes – being the most practical religion, Islam permits the Believers to fight back against the agressors and occupation forces.

      For more on why to kill Israeli thugs ploting the downfall of Bashr al-Assad regime – read below.


      • August 17, 2012 at 5:30 pm

        From the above website:

        9:5 And when the sacred months have passed, then kill the polytheists wherever you find them and capture them and besiege them and sit in wait for them at every place of ambush. But if they should repent, establish prayer, and give zakah, let them [go] on their way. Indeed, Allah is Forgiving and Merciful.

        9:29 Fight those who do not believe in Allah or in the Last Day and who do not consider unlawful what Allah and His Messenger have made unlawful and who do not adopt the religion of truth from those who were given the Scripture – [fight] until they give the jizyah willingly while they are humbled.

        From al-Hadith:

        Hadith 9:4 “Wherever you find infidels kill them; for whoever kills them shall have reward on the Day of Resurrection.”

      • bobzz
        August 18, 2012 at 7:22 pm

        “On the other hand, Abraham Foxman, national director of Jewish lobby group, ADL – said in his 2006 book that the New Testament’s teachings inspired the Nazis to murdered millions of Jews.”

        Foxman could not be that dumb. No NT teaching supports anything like the Shoah. If someone THOUGHT it did, they badly misread it. Early Christians were non-combatants, and a number of them were martyrs.

  3. August 16, 2012 at 2:54 pm

    U.S. intervention has not helped so far why would doubling down on it help? This whole policy is nothing more than a stick in the eye to Russia. I mean how much more can American Policy Makers humiliate them? We are illustrating their inability to defend what little they have in the way of empire. The Russians are no longer a deterrent to American Imperialists. They are going to sit idly by while America’s Ruling Class kicks them out of their only Med Port. They have been conquered. Syria is the proof.

    • August 16, 2012 at 7:08 pm

      Both the US and Russia are imperial powers. Both have hidden mutual understanding on their sphere of imperialism. That’s why during decades of the so-called COLD WAR – they never attacked each other even during the Cuba crisis.

      Syria is an Israeli Project – and both the US and Russia played midwives to Israel. Israel’s first President Dr. Chaim Weizmann was a Russian Jew. Russian Jews make the largest ethnic community in Israel.

      Why Russia is not collaborating with US and Israel against Syria? Because, Syria is the only communist allied regime left in the Middle East.

      Russia is no friend of Iran either. what Moscow is interested – to get revenge what America did to USSR in Afghanistan by helping Afghans to fight a proxy war against the Red Army.


  4. August 16, 2012 at 10:27 pm

    The Cold War got hot twice in Korea and Vietnam. In both of these wars Russians and Americans fought each other. So, I think you are wrong to claim that they never attacked one another. They did. I find it interesting that Russia is just standing idly by whilst American Imperialists conquer what is left of their empire.

  5. August 17, 2012 at 12:18 am

    This delusional idiot doesn’t remember that not only Golan Heights but the entire Palestine belongs to Arabs and not to Europe’s unwanted Jews.


  6. August 19, 2012 at 7:14 am

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  7. Kenny Fowler
    August 19, 2012 at 5:22 pm

    The answer is no.

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