Forget Syria — Neutralize Iran


UPDATE: The Emergency Committee for Israel is sponsoring a new advertisement demanding that Obama take action against Iran.

There is a strong analogy between today's civil war in Syria and the 1936-1939 civil war in Spain, as my PJ Media colleague Barry Rubin argued recently. The analogy may be even stronger than he suggests. Spain became a proxy war between Nazi Germany and Soviet Russia, and the West had no interest in the victory of either side. Syria is a proxy war between Sunnis and Shi'ites, and (to quote then Israeli prime minister Yitzhak Shamir's delicious line) we want them both to win. The difference between Spain in 1936 and Syria in 2012, to be sure, is that the West had no means to discourage the Russians and the Germans, the strongest military powers on the European continent. All the contenders in the Syrian cock-pit are tenth-rate powers next to the United States. The correct response to Syria is to neutralize Iran. By "neutralize," I mean a campaign of air attacks and ground sabotage to destroy Iran's nuclear weapons program and some other offensive capabilities.

It is unseemly and stupid for Washington to remonstrate with the Russians for playing the spoiler in Syria, for example by providing the Assad regime with attack helicopters. The way to deal with this dog is to beat up the dog's owner, namely Tehran. Washington's pathetic display of solicitude towards a terrorist regime that uses negotiations to buy time for nuclear weapons development aggravates every other problem in the region, Syria above all.

The greatest strategic risk to the West in the Syrian conflict is the possibility that Iran's Revolutionary Guards might intervene with the blessing of the beleaguered Assad regime and get control of the country's chemical weapons stockpile, reportedly the world's largest. That would change the strategic equation in the Middle East: Iran would have a WMD second-strike capability against Israel. That, as I wrote in this space March 30, is a central Israeli concern and a supporting motivation for an Israeli strike on Iran's nuclear program.