Syria isn't Libya: Obama must consider bolder intervention
Before the calls come to commit US forces to an intervention in Syria, the Obama administration must take a hard look at what happened in Libya. The politically safe, low-risk, low-reward intervention in Libya shouldn’t be repeated in Syria.
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As the situation in Syria becomes more unstable, America can ill afford to see those weapons hit the black market, not to mention the vast arsenal of the Syrian army that, much like Saddam Hussein’s army, has weapons spread from one end of the country to the other. If Syria loses control of its national arsenal, the result could be disastrous for the region.Skip to next paragraph
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Other factors make a Syrian crisis much more dangerous than Libya.
First, Al Qaeda has deep connections in Syria that were developed and exploited to smuggle foreign fighters, money, and explosives into Iraq at the height of the Iraq War. Though mostly dormant, those cells could become active. The could again export violence into Iraq where the coming absence of US forces already threatens to rekindle the Sunni-Shia civil war that raged from 2005-2007. Add to that potential Sunni-Shia violence in Syria, and it is not far-fetched to imagine a conflagration that could engulf major portions of the region.
Second, the ties between Iran and Syria, though showing increasing signs of strain, are still strong. It’s fair to say that Iran will not let its greatest Arab ally fall without a fight. How would the Iranian regime react to a destabilized Syria? Would it react differently if Iraq were dragged back into levels of widespread, extreme sectarian violence?
The answers to both questions are difficult to assess. But one thing isn’t difficult to see: Iran has lost much of its fear of the US. As long as Iran perceives the US as war-weary, weak, and unlikely to interfere, little will prevent it from taking significant covert action to support the Assad regime in Syria.
The chain of events that could result from a destabilized, chaotic Syria is mind-boggling. Suffice it to say that Syria is not another Libya. The Obama administration needs to think long and hard about whether “leading from behind” will be sufficient in wake of the violence now raging in Syria.
THE MONITOR'S VIEW: The moral imperative in Syria
Yesterday, the Obama administration took several actions that might indicate it is doing just that – seriously contemplating its involvement. The administration ordered Ambassador Robert Ford to return to Damascus even while Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton met in Geneva with members of the Syrian National Council (SNC), a group that claims to represent opposition activists.