It all makes sense, but it does not get us to a proper policy. Maybe, as many experts have been saying for some time, there really is no good outcome possible in Syria?
That, too, makes sense to me, and it suggests that we may be trying to solve the wrong problem. It’s better to ask the strategic question: “What is the best way to advance American interests in the region?”
That question forces us to look at a broader war. The slaughter in Iraq may be greater, and there’s plenty of fighting in Afghanistan. Moreover, there’s a common leitmotif: As in Syria, Iran is a major actor, sometimes sending its own military (the Revolutionary Guards’ Quds Force) or its foreign legion (Hezbollah), sometimes arming, training, funding and guiding terror groups, including al-Qaeda and the Taliban. We recently learned that Iranian General Suleimani, the Quds Force commander, had ordered killers in Iraq to prepare to attack in the event of an American strike against Assad.
The American government knows that Iran holds the key to progress in Syria. Indeed, Assad would probably have fallen long since without Iranian support. UN Ambassador Samantha Power said publicly that we sent warnings about chemical weapons to Assad via the Iranians, while Chief of Staff Denis McDonough said that bombing Syria would “send a message to Iran.”
Although Power said we were out of non-military options in Syria, there is at least one that might not only produce a better outcome in Syria, but greatly improve our interests in the entire region:
Support the opposition in Iran.
Most Iranians want an end to the theocratic regime, and have taken to the streets against it. Unlike so many in the Syrian opposition, the Iranians are pro-Western, experienced in self-government, and eager to separate mosque from state. They don’t need weapons or training; they need political support, probably some money, and good communications gear. If they win, we get a potential ally, Assad joins the mullahs on history’s rubbish heap, and terrorists all over the world are gravely weakened.
Ask a better question, get a better answer. And a prize from the Red Queen.