Another neglected question is what the Obama administration wants in Syria: regime change, continuity, or a deal? In other words, for the war to go on as long as possible, a Muslim Brotherhood government, or a de facto partition deal?
Remember that two other administration policies that were aiming at regime change have been forgotten here: arms to the Syrian rebels and training. Clearly the Obama goal of expanded arms supplies to the rebels had to be abandoned because of bad publicity like radicalism and cannibalism.
Yet there are hints that this administration wants regime change and is using the attention of the Syrian crisis to further it. The constant cry of Kerry and others is “no boots on the ground.” But what about boots on the ground in Turkey and Libya (for weaponry) and Jordan (for training)?
In addition, nobody has asked what groups are being trained. Of course it is not al-Qaeda, but it may be the Muslim Brotherhood. Qatar, Saudi Arabia, and non-Arab Turkey also support this long-term U.S. goal because of opposition to Iran and the Turkish government’s Islamist ambitions. Regime change, not two days of bombing in Syria, is the only important question.
But to return to a second possible deal, only if Iran and America favor de facto partition — because they secretly think the war is unwinnable — might they agree to the 40-40-20 division. Perhaps Bashar al-Assad knows that is the best he can get.
That might be interesting to explore. I don’t know, though, if anyone is interested.
Finally, there is the third potential deal. A de facto partition of Syria could establish the serious foundation for a compromise on the Iranian nuclear weapons issue. I want to make it clear that I do not think this is really going to happen. But President Obama might.
President Obama and his administration think that Iran now has a relatively moderate government. This means that Iran can stall a long time to fool the West on negotiations, perhaps even to the end of Obama’s second term. Watch for this thinly concealed game. The West wants to be fooled.
As for Obama’s immediate strategy, however, it seems to be — in the words of Secretary of State John Kerry — a very short, narrowly focused, minimal bombing. Remember, though, that this is not important.
The question of whether the United States hits Syria one time is unimportant (it probably won’t).
What is important is the shape of the civil war if the U.S. attack takes place. It now seems an attack is unlikely. But as Hilary Clinton once said, “What difference does that make?”