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Rubin Reports

Washington Panics: Is Iran/Syria Regime Winning?

June 14th, 2013 - 12:13 pm

(Updated: A case can be made that the Syrian rebels must not be defeated, because this would represent an Iranian victory. But, and disturbingly, even if one could argue that the rebels must be helped, this would be a policy conducted dishonestly.

Most are not aware that almost all the weapons provided by the United States will end up in the hands of pro-Muslim Brotherhood units. How would the American people feel if they knew that truth? At this point, almost 100 percent of the fighters on the front lines are radical Islamists. The exiled political leadership is overwhelmingly Muslim Brotherhood.

This is a choice of Sunni anti-Christians, anti-Americans, and anti-Semites vs. Shia anti-Christians, anti-Americans, and anti-Semites. The United States — after Egypt and Tunisia — is now promoting the Muslim Brotherhood as regional hegemon. This is not a good idea.)


A new, important development has taken place in the Syrian civil war: Western panic that the rebels are losing has replaced optimism, and this has spurred a desire to do something about the war. But how can the West do enough to prevent the feared rebel defeat? It isn’t going to intervene directly, nor with a large enough effort to stave off a loss. Anyway, is a defeat imminent?

This has been a war during which each week brings a proclamation of a different victor. I don’t believe that the Syrian regime is poised for a victory; a lot of people in Washington and other world capitals do. This round has, however, been different in that significant alarms have been raised in both the West and the Sunni Muslim world that the Shia Muslim side is in fact winning — meaning that Iran is emerging triumphant over the United States.

What are the implications?

Iran is not going to take over the Middle East, nor is it about to win a lot of Sunni followers. Iran’s limit of influence is mainly in Lebanon and Syria (where its ally only controls half the country) and to a lesser extent Iraq. Tehran can fool around in Yemen, Bahrain, and southwest Afghanistan a bit too, but that’s about it. There are real limits.

Why, though, does the Iran bloc seem to be winning? The reasons:

– Iran’s proxies are better organized than the Syrian rebels.

They are unified, with Hizballah and the Syrian government being coherent forces, and a new people’s army being a single militia. In contrast, the rebels are divided into a dozen groups which may cooperate, but which also battle among themselves and don’t coordinate very well.

– The Iran bloc gives more support to its proxies than do the Sunni bloc or the West.

Among the Sunnis, they are also divided into Islamists (Muslim Brotherhood, Salafists, and al-Qaeda) and what might be called non- or anti-Islamists. The United States will not intervene in a big way. Remember that in Libya, NATO had to hand the rebels victory by destroying their regime enemies. Nothing like this will happen in Syria. The Obama administration will face a defeat rather than do so.

– This means that the United States has worse and weaker proxies than does the other side.

In part, this is because the Obama administration accepted their destruction, as in the dismantlement of the Turkish army’s power, the overthrow of the Egyptian regime, the subverting of Israel’s leverage, and the failure to support moderates or non-Islamist conservatives all over the region. Iraq has also been turned into a Shia power.

In short, Obama helped dismantle the old strategic order and replaced it with one where enemies of America rejoiced.

So what happens if U.S. policy exaggerates a Sunni defeat, intensified by Turkey, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, and Jordan — those who backed the Syrian rebels — begging it to do more?

Let me point out that once again this shows that the Arab-Israeli conflict is unimportant in the contemporary Middle East. This idea simply doesn’t seem to penetrate the brains of Western leaders. Perhaps Secretary of State John Kerry has turned into a full-time “peacemaker” because he thinks that defusing the conflict will shore up the Sunni Muslim side, which is ridiculous. There’s not going to be any progress on peace, if for no other reason than the Palestinian Authority is terrified of either Islamist or Shia Islamist conquest of the region. Even if they wanted to make a deal — and they don’t — they’d be scared off by thinking peacemaking is suicidal.

But the wider issue could convince policymakers to enter an open alliance with Sunnis, including the Muslim Brotherhood, to counter the Shias. The Saudis and others would be pressured to get along with the Muslim Brotherhood; Israel would be pushed not to do anything to disrupt the grand alliance. Again, this could happen, but it won’t work if it does.

There is an alternative: the United States will understand that Israel is just about the only reliable ally in the Middle East. It might take another president to do that.

Other implications of a Syrian government victory:

– It again reminds us that we are in an era characterized by two phenomena: the battle in each country between Islamists and non-Islamists, and the battle between Sunni and Shias. The old Arab nationalist era, extending from 1952 to 2011, is over.

– The United States should recognize that the increasingly repressive Erdogan regime has led it into a mess in Syria. The White House won’t do this, though there are many in the State Department who understand.

– Both Sunni and Shia Islamists are against U.S. interests. U.S. policymakers don’t quite get this.Even if they did, what would they do about it?

– U.S. policy will probably become more favorable to the Muslim Brothers ruling Egypt (lots more military aid) and those wanting to rule Syria: they are becoming increasingly designated as “good guys” by the United States, even though they are becoming more repressive and unpopular.

– The violence is growing in Iraq, where Sunnis are looking at Syria and saying: “We thought we couldn’t win, but maybe we were wrong.” That country might also be destabilized. Ironically, the United States and Iran are both on the same side there, supporting a Shia regime against al-Qaeda.

– The (Egyptian, Syrian, Lebanese) Christians, (Iraqi and Syrian) Kurds, and Syrian Druze are increasingly going to look for a protector. The United States will probably ignore them.

– Internal violence is also growing in Lebanon along Sunni-Shia lines. Perhaps the United States should reconsider a strategy which has indirectly supported Hizballah. Indeed, maybe it should consider covert operations to work with the Christians and mainly moderate Sunni Muslims to subvert Hizballah. But it won’t do this, either.

To my knowledge, despite massive coverage of Syria, there has not been one article or even quote in a mass media outlet questioning whether the United States should arm Syrian rebels who are 95 percent Muslim Brotherhood, Salafist Islamists, or al-Qaeda.

There was never any coverage of the idea that the United States should, before the civil war began, try to punish Syria, and — after the civil war began — try to support non-Islamist moderates and Kurds rather than the Muslim Brotherhood. This is the way foreign policy debates are conducted in the United States today. If one raises such questions — like whether there really is a live Israel-Palestinian peace process, or whether U.S. policy should support the overthrow of the Egyptian government, or whether the Turkish regime’s policy is bad for the United States, or about the astonishing number of pro-terrorist American Muslims being consulted and courted by the U.S. government, etc. — you will be blacklisted, and never appear in mass media.

Incredible, but essentially true. We are not talking about outrageous, crackpot positions, but about well-documented arguments and about the most basic policy choices that must be made. These are not even innately partisan issues — for instance, Senator John McCain is a leader in calling for arming the rebels.

Can one say that there is a real foreign policy debate in America anymore, at least concerning the Middle East?

Comments are closed.

All Comments   (14)
All Comments   (14)
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Your article(s)show true undertstanding about ME politics to read and think over. US g'ment either willingly or mistakenly back the 'hard-core Islamists ' in these conflicts (One should remember BHO telling that PM Erdogan/Turkey is one he consults with-ditto King Abdullah II (now wargaming with US). There are so many jihadists from EU countries urged to take part (their ummahs have a website too)in Syria- now the Sunni clerics telling it is the duty to wage jihad against sectarian Assad- scores of Egyptians,Saudis,Qataris AQ/MB/Salafists and yes Hamas are traveling to Syria to wage war (point of entry- Turkey).It is said reading is fundamental- so very true. Israel has to defend itself in Golan Heights against these rebels/Assad forces-his latest. It is very obvious that BHO adm. does not understand realpolitik on the ground-the diverse forces-alliances. In Egypt they are collecting signatures for ousting Morsy-in Turkey waking up to looming totalitarianism- in Libya and Iraq bloodshed amongst ruins-Lebanon veering back to 1980s. No wonder Orwell is selling like hot bread '1984'.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
I've come to the conclusion that Obama is a very devious bastard --- he's destabilized an entire region which has served to keep AQ and it's ilk busy in the region trying to win the local power struggle --- or he's as clumsy at foreign policy as was J. Carter.

I wonder what the M.E. will look like in 25 years when this jug-eared miscreant is sitting back polishing his Nobel Peace Prize and giving thought to penning his memoirs. We've seen what has happened to this region by Carter's meddlings - and presidents since him have done little better.

Will there be anything left of Syria? Egypt? How about Israel? If there is no Israel in 25 years I doubt the historians will have much choice in how to play up/down Obama's hand in it's demise. His hand is all over the turmoil yet he seems to be surprised by each turn of events in response to his actions/inactions. I really doubt he'll be drawing a line in any sands in the near future. He's learned that much.

Are progressives really this stupid?
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
You enter the fog of war at your peril, but there is some chance that Obama could come out of this smelling like rose.

"There are no "good guys" in Syria." Not true, there are good guys in Syria and they are the Kurds. It is they who will carve out the northern safe zone (in fact, they already have carved it out, for all intents and purposes) which will eventually be incorporated into the future Kurdistan. Located in the northwest corner of Syria this will be one base of operations and refugee center supported by the Kurds and the Turks just across the two adjacent borders. Notice that Erdoğan and the Kruds just arranged a detante last week. The peshmerga, long our allies with decades of relationships with American special forces and the CIA, will take care of this safe zone.

The southern Syrian safe zone will located adjacent from Jordan not far from Israel will probably a project of the Jordanian military and special forces with US and others joining in as needed. These two safe zones will hold the refugees and be humanitarian and military staging areas.

The next element is the no fly zone. I expect that will be Syria proper which will require the same resources as the no fly zones in Iraq and Libya.
Soon there will be an attack on all the air assets of Syria by cruse missiles and stealth bombers. Then the no fly zone can be enforced from bases in Jordan, Turkey and at sea. Downed aviators can be rescued from the safe zones.

With so many powers operating through proxies in Syria it will be telling how the various powers respond the the escalation. Bets will be raised and bluffs will be called.

People at PJ Media are connected I wonder what the Israeli defense establish thinks of all this. I expect they support it. Not the least since Syrian air space then becomes a possible route to bomb Iran. But that high card will now be partly in Obama's pocket.

The Kurds, who are doing a pretty good job in their new homeland of Iraqi Kurdistan, will be good stewards of their Syrian territory. They could eventually control northern Syria from east to west.

Will Jordan occupy a chunk of southern Syria in the future?

All this puts Hezbollah in a fatal bind. They could be cut off from their masters in Iran.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
There are no "good guys" in Syria.
The government is a fascist dictatorship.
The rebels are Al Qaeda and Moslem Botherhood.
If the rebels win they will exterminate the marginal religious minorities, Alawites, Christians, Druze.
If the Syrian Government wins, this won't happen.
If we aid anybody at all, it should be Assad; a fascist dictator is a step up from an Islamic "Republic."
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
The Russians are helping Assad. I vote for staying out of the whole mess.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
Should we "impose" our values on them? We have been calling them to stop from day One, let them vent some frustrations and settle down.

What are they fighting for anyway? For the freedom to be executed by one group of thugs instead of the other?

Btw, their freedom is doing really well in Egypt, in Libya and in Turkey.

Just like us, if you have done nothing wrong, what is to fear? Do whatever Big Govt. wants you to do, there is nothing to fear, really.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
I think this entire article is truly naive. Pure absolutist tripe. Humanity for all of history had not so much difficulty deciding which of two options is the least bad, and that often something needs to be done anyway. This is all news to Rubin, apparently.

>> Iran is not going to take over the Middle East, nor is it about to win a lot of Sunni followers.

So Iran's many enemies are irrational? And how many Sunni followers did Assad need to rule Sunni majority Syria? And Iran doesn't care how many Sunni followers convert, and knows they won't. See if you maintain control by force you don't need ideological or religious converts. That's the whole point. This is news?

Well, it would be the whole point if the Mullahs were rational actors, but they probably aren't. So even if Iran gets nukes, and in the unlikely event that they still aren't able to dominate the region afterwards, what if they're run by an apocalyptic cult that then opts to destroy the region, or what if they want to anyway? Bob, would that change your method of calculation?
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
Arabs killing Arabs is a good thing. As long as they're killing each other they aren't trying to kill us. Hopefully Obama's strategy, intended or not, will bring into balance the opposing forces and maintain the civil war for several more years. As the war continues each and every side and faction is weakened, just as happened in the Iran/Iraq war. The only other alternative would be for the US to try to settle it for them, in which case we would be very unlikely to come out of it without major damage to our own interests, our economy and our national wellbeing. It may sound callous, but there's nobody who could give assurances that US involvement would be anything but a disaster, especially considering the weakness and incompetence of the Commander in Chief. US involvement would definitely not save lives, only it would now be Americans who would be dying.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
"In short, Obama helped dismantle the old strategic order and replaced it with one where enemies of America rejoiced."
And now Obama will continue apace by assisting, siding with the enemies of America in order to topple Assad. (Who's next on Obama's list? Jordan, S. Arabia?) Obama is such an incompetent, bungling disaster -- this can only be catastrophic for the United States.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
If you stick with your premiss that Obama is purposely replacing regimes that are at least tolerant of the US and replacing them with rabid American haters I don't know how you get to the incompetant bungler. Seems to me he's been pretty darn effective in turning a huge chunk of the planet into America's enemies.

Add to the mix his intential snubbing, insulting, betraying and down right stabbing in the back ever ally we have and you have a guy that is intent on turning the entire planet against us. He's even screwing Canada with the pipeline. Oh and he's flooding our country with third world illiterates that also hate us. Oh and he's financially destroying us with debt. Crippling our industry and dumbing down our future (our youth) to a level that makes the illiterates look competant. They, at least can use a hammer or a leaf blower.

Have I left anything out? Seems to me he's got the destruction of our country down to a science and has accomplished in a few short years what took centuries to destroy Rome.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
It all depends on his motives -- sometimes I do suspect he has a malicious intent to bring down the United States (that is, his actions are deliberate, intentional -- i would include his overspending, getting Americans dependent on hand-outs, food stamps, etc). Getting involved in Syria? I don't know, is it an evil intent on Obama's part to install the MB or has Obama been goaded into going to war and he is too much of pansy to say, "no" -- eg, McCain and then Clinton calling him a wuss? Whatever Obama's motives, I think it is very bad news, and considering Russia and Iran and this clown as CiC -- matters may get much worse.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment

Do you think Iran has a Plan B if the rebel(s) win? My guess would be they’ll try to win the new regime over with the same support they’ve provided Assad over the years. If that can’t be done, would that not be a huge defeat for Iran?

Then the question would be should you support one enemy (Muslim Brotherhood) in order to weaken another?
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
"This is a choice of Sunni anti-Christians, anti-Americans, and anti-Semites vs. Shia anti-Christians, anti-Americans, and anti-Semites."

Which is why a part of me wants the conflict to drag on. Both sides are the US & Israel's enemy. Let them continue to kill each other. But then another part of me recognizes that in any war innocents, including children, are going to suffer and die. So I'm not sure how moral it is to cheer on any war.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
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