Who Should We Send to Sing to Our Rebels in Syria?

 

Screen Shot 2015-10-07 at 08.06.44Well, goodness. Think anyone’s going to notice that? I hope not. It might make future allies a little uneasy about allying with us.

Russia has targeted Syrian rebel groups backed by the Central Intelligence Agency in a string of airstrikes running for days, leading the U.S. to conclude that it is an intentional effort by Moscow, American officials said.

The assessment, which is shared by commanders on the ground, has deepened U.S. anger at Moscow and sparked a debate within the administration over how the U.S. can come to the aid of its proxy forces without getting sucked deeper into a proxy war that President Barack Obama says he doesn’t want. The White House has so far been noncommittal about coming to the aid of CIA-backed rebels, wary of taking steps that could trigger a broader conflict.

U.S. officials said Russia’s targeting of its allies on the ground was a direct challenge to Mr. Obama’s Syria policy. Underlining the distrust, the Pentagon decided against sharing any information with Moscow about the areas where U.S. allies were located because it suspected Russia would use that information to target them more directly or provide the information to President Bashar al-Assad’s regime.

“On day one, you can say it was a one-time mistake,” a senior U.S. official said of Russia’s strike on one of the allied rebel group’s headquarters. “But on day three and day four, there’s no question it’s intentional. They know what they’re hitting.”

U.S. officials say they now believe the Russians have been directly targeting CIA-backed rebel groups that pose the most direct threat to Mr. Assad since the campaign began on Wednesday, both to firm up regime positions and to send a message to Mr. Obama’s administration. …

One of Russia’s first targets was a CIA-backed group known as Tajamu al-Ezzeh or the Ezzeh Gathering in Hama province in central Syria, U.S. and rebel officials said.

The first strike on the group came at 9 a.m. on Sept. 30, catching its fighters off guard. Seventeen more strikes were launched against the group over the first three days of the Russian campaign, injuring 25 of Ezzeh’s fighters. Some of the injured had received CIA training, according to their commander, Maj. Jameel al-Salih. Four strikes on the first day targeted Ezzeh’s headquarters.

American officials and the allied commanders said several other rebel groups covertly backed by the U.S. and its coalition allies have also been targeted by the Russians. They include the First Coastal Division, whose base in northern Latakia province near the Turkish border was struck twice on Oct. 2 starting at 9:45 p.m., according to the group’s commander, Capt. Muhammad Haj Ali.

Members of the brigades said in interviews they believed they were being targeted by the Russians to weaken the moderates, without whom the West would have to accept Mr. Assad’s continued rule. The other rebel groups on the battlefield are too radical for the West to work with, they said.

U.S. officials and rebel leaders said the White House thus far has taken no tangible steps to offer the groups support.

Twitter rumor has it that both Russia and ISIS were targeting FSA Suqour al-Jabal at the same time in Aleppo last night, by air and ground.

Meanwhile, remember how just a while back we were all having earnest debates about the Iranian nuclear deal, and those of us who remained concerned about it were told we were off our rockers? (Remember how The New York Times launched the Congress Jew Tracker?) So, precisely as our own government and newspaper of record were brightly intimating that anyone who wasn’t fully on board with Obama’s plan must be a Zionist stooge, this is what Moscow and Iran were up to:

“Soleimani put the map of Syria on the table. The Russians were very alarmed, and felt matters were in steep decline and that there were real dangers to the regime. The Iranians assured them there is still the possibility to reclaim the initiative,” a senior regional official said. “At that time, Soleimani played a role in assuring them that we haven’t lost all the cards.”

Three senior officials in the region say Soleimani’s July trip was preceded by high-level Russian-Iranian contacts that produced political agreement on the need to pump in new support for Assad as his losses accelerated.

Their accounts suggest planning for the intervention began to germinate several months earlier. It means Tehran and Moscow had been discussing ways to prop up Assad by force even as Western officials were describing what they believed was new flexibility in Moscow’s stance on his future.

Before the latest moves, Iran had aided Assad militarily by mobilizing Shi’ite militias to fight alongside the Syrian army, and dispatching Iranian Revolutionary Guards Corps officers as advisors. A number of them have been killed.

The decision for a joint Iranian-Russian military effort in Syria was taken at a meeting between Russia’s foreign minister and Khamenei a few months ago, said a senior official of a country in the region, involved in security matters.

“Soleimani, assigned by Khamenei to run the Iranian side of the operation, traveled to Moscow to discuss details. And he also traveled to Syria several times since then,” the official said. …

Khamenei also sent a senior envoy to Moscow to meet President Vladimir Putin, another senior regional official said. “Putin told him ‘Okay we will intervene. Send Qassem Soleimani’. He went to explain the map of the theater.”

Russian warplanes, deployed at an airfield in Latakia, began mounting air strikes against rebels in Syria last week.

Moscow says it is targeting Islamic State, but many of Russia’s air strikes have hit other insurgents, including groups backed by Assad’s foreign enemies, notably in the northwest where rebels seized strategically important towns including Jisr al-Shughour earlier this year.

In the biggest deployment of Iranian forces yet, sources told Reuters last week that hundreds of troops have arrived since late September to take part in a major ground offensive planned in the west and northwest.

Around 3,000 fighters from the Iranian-backed Lebanese group Hezbollah have also mobilized for the battle, along with Syrian army troops, said one of the senior regional sources.

The military intervention in Syria is set out in an agreement between Moscow and Tehran that says Russian air strikes will support ground operations by Iranian, Syrian and Lebanese Hezbollah forces, said one of the senior regional sources.

The agreement also included the provision of more sophisticated Russian weapons to the Syrian army, and the establishment of joint operations rooms that would bring those allies together, along with the government of Iraq, which is allied both to Iran and the United States.

One of the operations rooms is in Damascus and another is in Baghdad.

“Soleimani is almost resident in Damascus, or let’s say he goes there a lot and you can find him between meetings with President Assad and visits to the theater of operations like any other soldier,” said one of the senior regional officials.

Syria’s foreign minister said on Monday that the Russian air strikes had been planned for months.

Now right about then, if I recall rightly, the president said, “We must be willing to test whether this region is willing to move in a different direction.” He said the deal offered Iran an opportunity “to move in a new direction” away from a “policy based on threats to attack your neighbors and annihilate Israel.”

So he’s saying this even as Soleimani is “almost resident” in Damascus and running up frequent-flyer miles to Moscow, where he’s signing plans for Russian air strikes to support ground operations by Iranian, Syrian and Lebanese Hezbollah forces. Well, folks, if this is how you pass that test, I’m not sure how you can lose, really.

As for the the theory that welcoming Iran back in from the cold would bolster regional stability? High five, guys, you nailed that one:

Dozens of conservative Saudi Arabian clerics have called for Arab and Muslim countries to “give all moral, material, political and military” support to what they term a jihad, or holy war, against Syria’s government and its Iranian and Russian backers.

Although the clerics who signed the online statement are not affiliated with the government, their strong sectarian and anti-Christian language reflects a growing anger among many Saudis over Russian and Iranian involvement in Syria’s civil war.

And what do you think it might mean when Sultan bin Khalid Al-Faisal says ‘”With the United States and other Western powers disengaging from Middle Eastern conflicts, “We are going to have to take care of ourselves?”

Speaking fluent English, Sultan said with emphasis, “We are moving the armed forces to a level needed today to lead — lead — the Middle East.”’

I find that insinuation so … ambiguous.

But back to my original point. Hapless, strategically-blundering, and misguided thoughout our strategy may have been, we certainly backed quite a lot of rebel groups in Syria who are now being shot like fish in a barrel by Russians. They’re begging for help, but we’re “noncommittal.” When I ask myself, “How likely is anyone in the world, ever, to forget that the Americans seem to be the last people you want on your side when things go pear-shaped,” my answer, realistically, is three generations. It will take that long.

Meanwhile, I hope we’re at least airdropping those poor guys some moral support. Like maybe a nice James Taylor mix tape.

 

 

Published in Foreign Policy, General
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  1. Austin Murrey Inactive
    Austin Murrey
    @AustinMurrey

    Zafar: Here’s one, but it does seem sort of tongue in cheek:

    If that’s what Putin’s paying for he needs his rubles back!

    • #31
  2. Manfred Arcane Inactive
    Manfred Arcane
    @ManfredArcane

    Ed G.:

    James Of England:

    Mike Rapkoch: I’m looking at a map and see no place from which American forces could wage war.

    Claire can correct me, but the obvious answer is “Turkey”. The Turks have been keen to support America if America would take a position of opposition to Assad for years now. If the US would decide to concentrate on the biggest killer as well as the second biggest, Turkey’s military would be able to work a lot more closely with us.[…..]

    I just wish more people would have taken a closer look at the map before we decided to prematurely pull out of Iraq and Afghanistan. Nation building, to me, was always a tertiary project with only some chance for successfully planting a friendly and relatively liberal government in the middle of a region that is nothing but trouble for us and the world. The main benefit was acting as a stopper against bad actors acting badly and also was the ability to project power as needed in a region where there’s a good probability it would eventually be needed.

    Not only does pulling out deprive us of those benefits, the vacuum created by our retreat is sucking the badness into the space we left. Now, instead of having Iran surrounded with a possibility of some containment, Iran appears to be expanding.

    I note from your bio you have 4 sons.  Would you send them to do this dirty work?  I sure wouldn’t.

    • #32
  3. James Gawron Inactive
    James Gawron
    @JamesGawron

    Claire,

    Yes, as my dear departed father used to say, “With friends like that you don’t need an enemy.”

    We should stick the Sixth Fleet up Putin’s @CoC%.

    Appropriate music should be very American.

    Regards,

    Jim

    • #33
  4. Ed G. Member
    Ed G.
    @EdG

    Manfred Arcane:

    Ed G.:

    […..]

    I note from your bio you have 4 sons. Would you send them to do this dirty work? I sure wouldn’t.

    The “dirty work” had mostly been done. President Obama squandered the position earned by the blood and treasure we spent there. Regardless of whether or not you agree with President Bush’s original decisions, once it was done the calculus changed. Unfortunately President Obama didn’t change along with the circumstances and he appears to have had too weak of a character and to have been arguing too disingenuously to reverse course and to lead in the right direction according to the circumstances he found then and projected into the future instead of rehashing the past.

    • #34
  5. Manfred Arcane Inactive
    Manfred Arcane
    @ManfredArcane

    jetstream: It’s a good plan, except you left out it will be Iran, Russia and Iraq taking on ISIS inside Iraq. Russian generals in Iraq are already advising the U.S. which air space the U.S. is permitted to operate. The dynamics seem obvious, Russia is on track to dominate Syria and Iraq. The U.S. won’t be a player in Iraq or the Middle East in general. Which counties in the Middle East think it’s safe to rely on the U.S. for any kind of military support.

    There is so much more to consider.  Iran is going to dominate Shia Iraq, not Russia.

    And what ME country do we really care enough about, other than Israel, that is worth any considerable investment (material, military) on our part to protect?  I don’t see a single country that I give a r__ a___ for.  Our only interest over there has been to protect flows of oil to US and allies.  But guess what, that no longer is nearly as important as – hurrah – the US is the worlds largest producer of petrol products, and if we would just start do so, we can dominate the foreign market for such products, making a gazillion dollars while simultaneously impoverishing all these ‘bad actors’ (Russia, Iran, Saudi Arabia, Qatar, …).  Let them fritter away all their disposable income in Syria.  We couldn’t orchestrate a better scenario for promoting our national interest than the one before us if we tried.

    • #35
  6. jetstream Inactive
    jetstream
    @jetstream

    Russia holds Iran’s puppet strings with effective control over Iran’s nuclear facilities and weapons. Russia also holds Iran’s puppet strings with sophisticated military weapons. It will be Russia who dominates Syria an Iraq and eventually most of the Gulf States oil production. There is no military force to stop Russian domination.

    • #36
  7. Manfred Arcane Inactive
    Manfred Arcane
    @ManfredArcane

    Ed G.: The main benefit was acting as a stopper against bad actors acting badly and also was the ability to project power as needed in a region where there’s a good probability it would eventually be needed.

    So this: “The main benefit was acting as a stopper against bad actors acting badly and also was the ability to project power as needed in a region where there’s a good probability it would eventually be needed.”

    You willing to send your sons to “project power” in the ME?

    And what does “there’s a good probability it would eventually be needed” mean?  We defended SA oil from Saddam Hussein when he went into Kuwait.  We deposed him as a user of WMD after 9/11.  So what new scenario do you fear looming on the horizon is going to require the same commitment, given that he is now gone from that stage.

    • #37
  8. Manfred Arcane Inactive
    Manfred Arcane
    @ManfredArcane

    jetstream:Russia holds Iran’s puppet strings with effective control over Iran’s nuclear facilities and weapons. Russia also holds Iran’s puppet strings with sophisticated military weapons. It will be Russia who dominates Syria an Iraq and eventually most of the Gulf States oil production. There is no military force to stop Russian domination.

    That is just not true.  Russia needs Iranian business in all those areas as badly as Iran needs Russian supply.  Russia is broke, Iran is a good customer and a handy tool to leverage EU against its sanctions.  Iran is not going to be a puppet of any country, let alone Russia.  The two countries are actually both rivals in the Caucasus area.  They have a marriage of convenience now, that’s it.

    • #38
  9. jetstream Inactive
    jetstream
    @jetstream

    Manfred Arcane:

    jetstream:Russia holds Iran’s puppet strings with effective control over Iran’s nuclear facilities and weapons. Russia also holds Iran’s puppet strings with sophisticated military weapons. It will be Russia who dominates Syria an Iraq and eventually most of the Gulf States oil production. There is no military force to stop Russian domination.

    That is just not true. Russia needs Iranian business in all those areas as badly as Iran needs Russian supply. Russia is broke, Iran is a good customer and a handy tool to leverage EU against its sanctions. Iran is not going to be a puppet of any country, let alone Russia. The two countries are actually both rivals in the Caucasus area. They have a marriage of convenience now, that’s it.

    Exactly why it’s in Russia’s strategic interest to dominate the Oil product in the Gulf States. Iran is the puppet, they have no military power without Russian weapons and assistance.

    • #39
  10. Ed G. Member
    Ed G.
    @EdG

    Manfred Arcane:

    Ed G.: The main benefit was acting as a stopper against bad actors acting badly and also was the ability to project power as needed in a region where there’s a good probability it would eventually be needed.

    So this: “The main benefit was acting as a stopper against bad actors acting badly and also was the ability to project power as needed in a region where there’s a good probability it would eventually be needed.”

    You willing to send your sons to “project power” in the ME?

    [….]

    Manfred, is that the only thing you got from what I wrote? That I’m only interested in some disembodied ability to project power for its own sake?

    Also, I don’t do the “would you send your sons….” formula. If there is good reason for the US to use its military power then the US should use its military power, regardless of how the army is built or whether I have relatives serving. This is a distraction from discussion of what counts as “good reason”.

    • #40
  11. Ed G. Member
    Ed G.
    @EdG

    Manfred Arcane:[…..]And what does “there’s a good probability it would eventually be needed” mean? We defended SA oil from Saddam Hussein when he went into Kuwait. We deposed him as a user of WMD after 9/11. So what new scenario do you fear looming on the horizon is going to require the same commitment, given that he is now gone from that stage.

    I referred to “the region” and not just Iraq. Looking at the map, Iraq is strategically located in the Middle East, particularly as it shares a border with Iran. Had we maintained a significant presence in Iraq then ISIS doesn’t run rampant and neither does Iran (or Russia). Had we maintained a significant presence then the nuclear talks, if they happened at all, would be done from a position of strength on our part. Otherwise, in case you hadn’t noticed, crazy and dangerous people have been popping up in the Middle East for decades if not centuries; while I can’t predict the future, my bet is that we’d have need to project military power in that region in the near future just as we have had in the near and distant past.

    • #41
  12. Marion Evans Inactive
    Marion Evans
    @MarionEvans

    Interesting piece on why Assad called in the Russians: because he is fearful of… Iran. Alawites are largely secular. Iran not so much.

    http://www.spiegel.de/international/world/syria-leader-assad-seeks-russian-protection-from-ally-iran-a-1056263.html

    • #42
  13. Manfred Arcane Inactive
    Manfred Arcane
    @ManfredArcane

    Ed G.:

    Manfred Arcane:

    Ed G.: The main benefit was acting as a stopper against bad actors acting badly and also was the ability to project power as needed in a region where there’s a good probability it would eventually be needed.

    So this: “The main benefit was acting as a stopper against bad actors acting badly and also was the ability to project power as needed in a region where there’s a good probability it would eventually be needed.”

    You willing to send your sons to “project power” in the ME?

    [….]

    Manfred, is that the only thing you got from what I wrote? That I’m only interested in some disembodied ability to project power for its own sake?

    Also, I don’t do the “would you send your sons….” formula. If there is good reason for the US to use its military power then the US should use its military power, regardless of how the army is built or whether I have relatives serving. This is a distraction from discussion of what counts as “good reason”.

    I am trying to get you to realize that there is “no good reason” to hazard your sons life over in the ME.  Just none.  This thread is just “full of sound and fury, signifying nothing”.  Fracking in the US has changed the geopolitical environment completely.

    • #43
  14. Manfred Arcane Inactive
    Manfred Arcane
    @ManfredArcane

    jetstream: Iran is the puppet, they have no military power without Russian weapons and assistance.

    You don’t know what you are talking about.  Iran is nobody’s puppet.  The notion that the fundamentalist Mullahs in Iran would accept being puppets of a non-Muslim master is just ridiculous.  You need to re-calibrate your world view a bit to accommodate this fact.

    • #44
  15. Manfred Arcane Inactive
    Manfred Arcane
    @ManfredArcane

    Ed G.: If there is good reason for the US to use its military power then the US should use its military power

    With fracking bringing vast new quantities of oil and natural gas onto the marketplace for decades to come there    is    no    good    reason   for   the   US    to    use    its    military   power   in   the   ME.  Period.

    Fracking folks.  Fracking.  It makes all the ‘fracking’ difference in the world relative to our ME policy.

    Thank you.

    • #45
  16. Roadrunner Inactive
    Roadrunner
    @Roadrunner

    Our experience with muslim moderates has not been very encouraging unless our secret desire was to funnel weapons to ISIS.  We have two choices in the region and neither is very appetizing.  We destroyed the balance of power in the region and grab at straws to mitigate what we have done.  Neocons should stop using other people’s children as cannon fodder for their fantasies.

    • #46
  17. jetstream Inactive
    jetstream
    @jetstream

    Manfred Arcane:

    jetstream: Iran is the puppet, they have no military power without Russian weapons and assistance.

    You don’t know what you are talking about. Iran is nobody’s puppet. The notion that the fundamentalist Mullahs in Iran would accept being puppets of a non-Muslim master is just ridiculous. You need to re-calibrate your world view a bit to accommodate this fact.

    The Mullahs produce no sophisticated military weapons on their own, nuclear or conventional. If they want military power they are totally dependent on Russia. Russia holds the keys to Iran’s military. If the Mullahs want military power then the Russians are their masters.

    Edit: How many air strikes have the Mullahs conducted in Syria .. none, they don’t have the capability. They do have a lot of military age manpower which the Russians will have effective control.

    • #47
  18. Manfred Arcane Inactive
    Manfred Arcane
    @ManfredArcane

    jetstream:

    Manfred Arcane:

    jetstream: Iran is the puppet, they have no military power without Russian weapons and assistance.

    You don’t know what you are talking about. Iran is nobody’s puppet. The notion that the fundamentalist Mullahs in Iran would accept being puppets of a non-Muslim master is just ridiculous. You need to re-calibrate your world view a bit to accommodate this fact.

    The Mullahs produce no sophisticated military weapons on their own, nuclear or conventional. If they want military power they are totally dependent on Russia. Russia holds the keys to Iran’s military. If the Mullahs want military power then the Russians are their masters.

    Edit: How many air strikes have the Mullahs conducted in Syria .. none, they don’t have the capability. They do have a lot of military age manpower which the Russians will have effective control.

    Why would the Russians want to give the Mullah’s ‘military power’?  It would be the Mullahs and not theirs.  The Mullahs have about as much affinity for Russians as they do for Americans.  You may see a marriage of convenience between these two, but master and puppet, no way.

    • #48
  19. Manfred Arcane Inactive
    Manfred Arcane
    @ManfredArcane

    Roadrunner:Our experience with muslim moderates has not been very encouraging unless our secret desire was to funnel weapons to ISIS. We have two choices in the region and neither is very appetizing. We destroyed the balance of power in the region and grab at straws to mitigate what we have done. Neocons should stop using other people’s children as cannon fodder for their fantasies.

    Right on.  And now that fracking totally undermines OPEC and Russian oil monopolies, we have even more reason to steer clear of that toxic waste dump that is the Middle East.

    • #49
  20. Kozak Member
    Kozak
    @Kozak

    Marion Evans:Russia is a participant in a Sunni-Shia war and the US is not. Are we upset that we are not participants? Should we up the ante just to show those Russians? Or to make good on promises we made to two dozen rebels? No, best to stay out.

    Dead ISIS, dead Shia militias, dead Russians.

    Win win win….

    • #50
  21. James Of England Moderator
    James Of England
    @JamesOfEngland

    Marion Evans:Interesting piece on why Assad called in the Russians: because he is fearful of… Iran. Alawites are largely secular. Iran not so much.

    http://www.spiegel.de/international/world/syria-leader-assad-seeks-russian-protection-from-ally-iran-a-1056263.html

    I think the chief reason that Assad wants Russian help is that it makes it much less likely that he will be murdered. As above, when you become a region’s greatest murderer in a century (and one of the big hitters of all time), your only plausible path in onwards. With Iran’s help, Assad was losing to the people who don’t exist. Adding Russians to that may turn things around.

    • #51
  22. John Penfold Member
    John Penfold
    @IWalton

    Assad has two choices.  Stay in power as long as possible or be murdered along with his extended family and all the minorities he’s been protecting.  Russia has a variety of options.

    • #52
  23. Chris Campion Coolidge
    Chris Campion
    @ChrisCampion

    It’s interesting that we have one thread filled with comments about son-sending, and another thread on Bibi’s public shaming of the self-interested dolts at the UN.

    Did we have an “interest” in Europe in WW2?  We could have opened up trade routes with a Nazi-controlled France, Great Britain, Russia, etc., after letting Hitler get on with it.

    Assuming we have no interest in ME stability, or events there, because we’re out of Iraq and we produce more oil now is simplistic in the extreme.  In case anyone’s forgotten, radicalism has come to us, the West, and will continue to do so, and escalate, unless we do something about it.

    Or not.  And we allow other sons, and daughters, and Moms, and cousins, casual acquaintences, and random strangers, to be forced to make the decision whether or not to be burned alive in a building or leap from it to their deaths.

    The world keeps moving whether we want it to or not.  This is not an argument for sending troops anywhere; it’s more of an argument that to the degree that we can prevent further instabilities, we are likely doing ourselves and our sons and daughters a future favor by doing something about it now.

    • #53
  24. Ball Diamond Ball Inactive
    Ball Diamond Ball
    @BallDiamondBall

    Chris, that sort of charity begins at home.

    • #54
  25. James Of England Moderator
    James Of England
    @JamesOfEngland

    John Penfold:Assad has two choices. Stay in power as long as possible or be murdered along with his extended family and all the minorities he’s been protecting. Russia has a variety of options.

    The opposition has put forward a pretty large variety of proposals for peace. People who started the war by refusing to shoot at civilians aren’t necessarily motivated by a desire for genocide. If protecting those minorities from that sort of harm were Assad’s key motivation, he’d accept one of those peace proposals today, and a united front of Turks, Arabs, Syrians, Americans, and Russians would knock AQ and ISIS out of the country relatively swiftly.

    It just can’t happen while Assad’s in power.

    If it were a matter of his family’s survival, Iran has a pretty noble tradition of taking in Shia refugees.

    • #55
  26. Zafar Member
    Zafar
    @Zafar

    Oh, can you imagine the Rose of Damascus in a Manteau….

    • #56
  27. Manfred Arcane Inactive
    Manfred Arcane
    @ManfredArcane

    Chris Campion: Did we have an “interest” in Europe in WW2?  We could have opened up trade routes with a Nazi-controlled France, Great Britain, Russia, etc., after letting Hitler get on with it. Assuming we have no interest in ME stability, or events there, because we’re out of Iraq and we produce more oil now is simplistic in the extreme.  In case anyone’s forgotten, radicalism has come to us, the West, and will continue to do so, and escalate, unless we do something about it.

    Although you have a point, it really begs greater scrutiny.

    First, the affinity we felt for the beleaguered countries of Europe (Great Britain, France, Poland, etc.) were much greater than any affinity we have for any ME country (Israel excluded) now.  Immigrants from there made the US.  That is a big, big difference.

    Secondly, we started suffering U-boat attacks before Nazi Germany declared war on us.

    Thirdly, Europe was a major trading partner, – neither Syria or Iraq is.  To the extent that we sell lots of military stuff to Saudi Arabia, and we and our allies need their oil, is the degree to which we have an interest in protecting that country (and similar countries like Kuwait – although its flirtation with Western values is an additional credit in its favor).

    Fourthly, the Sunni-Shia schism buffers us so much from the Islamic Fundamentalism rampant in that part of the world that we should not overrate the threat IF presents to us…

    • #57
  28. Manfred Arcane Inactive
    Manfred Arcane
    @ManfredArcane

    There are other reasons I would use to argue disengagement from the ME is a salutary policy, but one really sticks out in my mind – and this may be worth a separate thread – is that Islam has to be reformed and I don’t know of a better way of that happening than for Islamic countries to experience a crucible of fire.  The failure of Muslims to open their societies to non-Muslims is a cancer that needs to do its work.  The West should use the advantages in its freedom and geographical endowments to make it clear to ME populations that they need to change their ways.

    It is sad, but the ME will fall apart if oil prices remain low.  Already the signs are evident.  Did you know that Egypt – one of the few sane Muslim countries – faces famine every year?:

    http://www.washingtontimes.com/news/2014/oct/3/pipes-hunger-growls-in-egypt/

    Did you know that Syria suffers from massive water shortages?: “Population [estimated at 24 million in 2009] growth, urbanization and increased economic activity have contributed to the water crisis, as have climate change and mismanagement of the water sector,” said a local expert, who preferred anonymity.

    http://www.irinnews.org/report/88554/syria-why-the-water-shortages

    Did you know that well over 90% of Egyptian women are genitally mutilated?

    Did you know that Iran may be entering the same demographic collapse as Europe and Japan are?  Do we need fret their foreign policy then?

    • #58
  29. James Of England Moderator
    James Of England
    @JamesOfEngland

    Manfred Arcane:

    Chris Campion: Did we have an “interest” in Europe in WW2? We could have opened up trade routes with a Nazi-controlled France, Great Britain, Russia, etc., after letting Hitler get on with it. Assuming we have no interest in ME stability, or events there, because we’re out of Iraq and we produce more oil now is simplistic in the extreme. In case anyone’s forgotten, radicalism has come to us, the West, and will continue to do so, and escalate, unless we do something about it.

    Although you have a point, it really begs greater scrutiny.

    First, the affinity we felt for the beleaguered countries of Europe (Great Britain, France, Poland, etc.) were much greater than any affinity we have for any ME country (Israel excluded) now. Immigrants from there made the US. That is a big, big difference.

    The affinity felt for the beleaguering countries was also pretty strong. There were many more immigrants from Germany, Italy, and Ireland than all the allied countries combined. Americans aren’t so racist today as to deny the humanity of Arabs. Arab Americans are about a third of the size of the Jewish American population, and there are more of them today than there were Polish Americans when Poland was invaded.

    Secondly, we started suffering U-boat attacks before Nazi Germany declared war on us.

    Is the basis for this distinction a claim that America has not suffered terrorist attacks in this conflict?

    Thirdly, Europe was a major trading partner, – neither Syria or Iraq is. To the extent that we sell lots of military stuff to Saudi Arabia, and we and our allies need their oil, is the degree to which we have an interest in protecting that country (and similar countries like Kuwait – although its flirtation with Western values is an additional credit in its favor).

    Syria isn’t that big a partner, but as you note, the region is pretty important, and not just for arms (indeed, arms aren’t all that large a portion of the exports). We sell more to the Middle East than we do to the UK and Poland combined.

    Fourthly, the Sunni-Shia schism buffers us so much from the Islamic Fundamentalism rampant in that part of the world that we should not overrate the threat IF presents to us…

    It’s very easy to overstate the importance of the Sunni Shia rivalry. It wasn’t enough to stop Iran from being critical to the foundation of Al Qaeda, it’s not enough now to stop Iran from being the chief patron for Hamas. The Sunni Shia rivalry did not protect America from 9/11, it will not protect America from an Iranian nuke, and such.

    More than not protecting it, the use of theological support for the current conflict helps to motivate Americans to head out there or to be radicalized at home. Each time an American joins ISIS, America suffers a harm, although that harm is different when the kid dies and when they survive. It’s just in triple figures, but that’s still a higher number than the number of likely deaths from the most frequently proposed forms of engagement.

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  30. James Of England Moderator
    James Of England
    @JamesOfEngland

    Manfred Arcane: The failure of Muslims to open their societies to non-Muslims is a cancer that needs to do its work.

    Openly betraying our allies and condemning the vulnerable to a Russian backed genocide seems like an eccentric way to persuade them of our moral virtue.

    Manfred Arcane:  The West should use the advantages in its freedom and geographical endowments to make it clear to ME populations that they need to change their ways.

    I definitely agree with this, assuming you mean “change their ways in positive directions”; we should also work to prevent their changing their ways in negative directions. There are possible outcomes from this that are worse than stasis; if Assad remains in power, for instance, we will have a far more brutal Assad regime than was the case pre-butchery.

    We should work hard to teach accounting, so that non-nepotistic, pluralistic, non-corrupt government becomes easier. We should incentivise them not to engage in barbarism by acting to support those who oppose it, such as the Free Syrian Army, and opposing those who engage in it, such as ISIS and Assad. We should support education for women so that the desire to have a pluralistic country is not hindered by the lack of capable candidates. We should strongly push for democracy, as Bush did, and support and reward countries like Tunisia, Iraq, Morocco, and Saudi Arabia that move in a positive direction on the matter.

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