It does little good to accomplish our aims on the Syrian front if we can’t leverage them to achieve our greater goals of returning a greater measure of peace stability to the region by containing Iran and helping crush Islamist extremism

Crush Jihadists in Syria; then focus on restoring Middle East peace

By —— Bio and Archives--July 8, 2017

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WASHINGTON, D.C. — Anyone who argues that the United States ought to get deeply involved in the civil war in Syria ought to have his head examined.

There is no easy answer for that quagmire.  If there was, the strongmen in Tehran and Moscow wouldn’t stand by and let responsible nations implement them.

That is not say that the U.S. should sheepishly acknowledge Assad’s dictatorial, genocidal regime.  As a matter of policy, Washington should reject the legitimacy of the government in Damascus.  But we shouldn’t forcibly attempt to enforce the policy. 
We also shouldn’t do nothing.


For starters, we ought to start with clarifying what the key U.S. objectives are.

One of them is not to have a responsible government in Syria. Washington hasn’t had a friendly one in Damascus in decades — not one that hasn’t been a significant obstacle in protecting American interests in the region.

What this administration does want to do is crush ISIS/al Qaeda. The U.S. also wants to keep the conflict in Syria from destabilizing Iraq and Jordan.

Washington also has an interest in stabilizing the refugee populations in the region and safeguarding against the conflict rippling over into Israel, Lebanon and Turkey.  Finally, the U.S. needs to contain the expanding negative influence of Iran in the region.

All the key tasks that America ought to do can be done without diving head-long into the Syrian civil war.

That said, it is clear that the U.S. military will have to engage in military operations in Syria to accomplish its aims.  Neither the Syrian Civil War nor the transnational Islamist terrorist enterprise in Syria respects borders.

If Syria’s troubles would simply stay inside the boundary that marks Syrian territory on a map, the U.S. might have been able to stay out of the fray all together, but that’s not happening.

So like a home owner that fights a fire in his neighbor’s backyard before the flames set fire to his roof, the U.S. has to do something.

What the U.S. is, and ought to be doing, is sufficient military operations in support of others to defeat ISIS/al Qaeda’s territorial control.

The U.S. also ought to be working with allies to prevent Iran from having a super-highway to Lebanon and the backdoor of Israel.  We also need to be working to help establish stable, humane governance in liberated territories and establishing conditions to stabilize and protect refugee populations.

There are no guarantees in any conflict.  Still, the chances of the U.S. getting sucked into a wider war are small.  Damascus, Moscow and Tehran aren’t much interested in directly waring on one another.

All would risk losing far more than they might gain.  Indeed, as the sides come close to each other, they are likely to become more restrained, not less.

That doesn’t mean Iran, Syria or Russia want the U.S. to succeed in Syria.  They each have their reason to see us fall flat on our face.  They all would willing try a “sucker punch” to undermine American efforts.  Washington needs to be on guard for that. 

That is a manageable risk.

What the U.S. needs right now is to think beyond what to do when the ISIS black flag comes down, not just in Syria but broadly in the region.

It does little good to accomplish our aims on the Syrian front if we can’t leverage them to achieve our greater goals of returning a greater measure of peace stability to the region by containing Iran and helping crush Islamist extremism.

So by all means, Mr. President, finish the job in Syria — and get on with the rest of the tasks that have to be done to make the Middle East great again.


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James Jay Carafano -- Bio and Archives | Comments

A 25-year Army veteran, James Jay Carafano is vice president of Defense and Foreign Policy Studies for The Heritage Foundation, (Heritage.org), a conservative think-tank on Capitol Hill.  Readers may write him at Heritage, 214 Massachusetts Ave. NE, Washington, DC 20002.

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