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The Syrian curse

Op-ed: Obama's US should stop seeking new models of intervention in disputes it knows nothing about

Published: 08.30.12, 11:01 / Israel Opinion

When President Barack Obama took office, when he still had illusions regarding an American alliance with the Muslim and third worlds, he wanted to make Bashar Assad a key figure in this alliance.

 

So he tried to improve relations with Assad, almost at any price, and sent an ambassador to Damascus. The White House was willing to ignore evidence of Syrian involvement in the assassination of former Lebanese Prime Minister Rafik Hariri in 2005 and the dire human rights situation in Syria; it was also willing to ignore the aid Damascus was providing to terror groups such as Hezbollah, Hamas and Islamic Jihad; and ignore the ties between Syria's proxies and extremist Iran.

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And who was the lobbyist who led the efforts to strengthen US relations with Syria? Who convinced the Obama administration to send the ambassador back to Damascus? Tom Dine, a Jewish American who served as AIPAC's executive director between 1980 and 1993 and was a close friend of the late Yitzhak Rabin. The Syrians and Americans share the same concerns, he said at the time and was hailed by all those American columnists who understand the Middle East so well.

 

All of this collapsed, of course, with the eruption of the civil war in Syria, which further exposed the Assad regime's murderous ways – for those who needed more proof. The White House never gave any explanation for its erroneous policy and never offered an apology.

 

Now the Obama administration's pendulum has shifted to the other side. Now Assad is evil and the Sunni rebels must be supported in their fight against him – with surface-to-air missiles for example. But this policy is also foolish and short-sighted.

 

These rebels are divided amongst themselves. Many of them are already leaning towards militant Islamist groups such as al-Qaeda, and the ethnic cleansing they are committing against the Christian or Alawite minorities is atrocious. Tens of thousands of Christians are being banished from their homes in Homs and Aleppo and no one in the world says a word, because they are being expelled by the "good guys."

 

The Obama administration has lost nearly all of the US' allies in the Arab Middle East, and Syria was never an ally that should be saved. So why is Obama so keen on getting involved in Syria's affairs? Russian President Putin was right when he said that any foreign intervention only exacerbates the situation in this miserable country.

 

And what will happen after the "evil" Assad is overthrown? Will the "forces of good" rise to power? Not necessarily. Syria will become the new Afghanistan, with dozens of militias and ethnic forces hostile to one another. Syria will become a major burden on its neighbors and the situation there may lead to regional anarchy. There are no good guys in this story.

 

Obama's America would be wise to stop seeking new models of intervention in disputes it is not familiar with. Any intervention will only cause more damage. The developments in Syria, and what is likely to happen in Turkey, Lebanon, Iran and other countries – these are processes are forming new entities in the Arab and Muslim Middle East to replace the fake nation states that had been established in the region over the past 100 years. These states did not coincide with the ethnic, religious, tribal or racial divisions in the region, so these processes will occur regardless of whether the US and the West decide to intervene.

 

Israel's policy of non-involvement is wise. Syria is not an ally of the US or the West, and it won't become one when the Assad era ends. The Obama administration should refrain from investing efforts in this dispute, particularly because this policy does not seem to be serving any US interests, apart from self-righteousness.

 

 

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