John Feehery: Speaking Engagements


The Top 3 Options For Syria

Posted on May 7, 2013

I am not an expert on Mideast politics, and I have only been casually observing the growing conflagration in Syria.

There is a full-blown civil war engulfing that country for a while now, as Islamic extremists on one end and pro-democracy forces on the other try to topple Bashar Al-Assad’s Ba-ath Party in Damascus.

Assad is a member of the Alawite minority in Syria, so he is not necessarily an ally of either the Shia or Sunnis that make up most of the Arab world.  He has been an ally of the Persians in Iran, and his country is a safe haven for terrorist organizations like Hezbollah.

The Syrian Ba’ath Party, like Saddam Hussein’s Ba’ath party in Iraq, is socialist in nature.  Assad’s wife is an attractive woman who doesn’t cover herself up in a big black burka.   In other words, Assad is no fan of the Islamic extremists who make up Al Qaeda.

It seems to me that we have three options in Syria.

Option 1: Stay Out of It

We can let everybody continue to kill everybody in the country, without stepped in.  That is kind of what FDR did when the Germans invaded the Russians in 1941.   He didn’t invade France until he was pretty certain that the Germans and Russians had done a sufficient job of spilling a lot of each others blood.
If Al-Qaeda and Assad’s force wipe each other off the map, what does it concern us, some might ask.  Let them.

The problem with that scenario is that a lot of innocent people will get slaughtered, including some of our potential allies.

That is why John McCain is all about getting some arms to the rebels, even if some of those arms might fall in the wrong hands.  McCain doesn’t like it when it isn’t a fair fight.  And right now, it is not a fair fight.

Option 2: Support One Side or the Other

The second option is to go with some big-time support of one side or the other.  The question remains:  whom do we want to win?  Assad is a bad dude, but he is not an Islamic extremist, and he is not nearly as bad as Saddam Hussein.    Islamic extremists are bad news.  Period.  And we are still at war with them, and as the Boston bombing showed, they are still at war with us.

We need to be careful whom we support here.  I don’t think it is any way an easy decision.

Option 3: Cease-Fire

The third option is that we try to broker a cease-fire and then, eventually a peace agreement.

Working with the Saudis, the Egyptians, the Turks and, yes, the Iranians, this might be complicated, but it might be for the best for everybody, including the Israelis.

The danger is letting this war to continue to expand is that it starts to spill out over the Golan Heights and into Israel.  I have been to the Heights and it is a very nice vantage point from which to peer into Syria, but it is also very, very close to key Israeli cities.

The danger is that if Assad feels even more threatened than he is today, he will do something desperate to unite his people, and by attacking Israel, he could very well do that.

Letting war linger is not the best option, in my opinion.

Arming the insurgents to let them expand the war is also not a good option.   We don’t know where those weapons may end up.

Sending our own troops in would make things worse, especially for us.  I don’t really even feel that comfortable trying to enforce a no-fly zone.  That puts our guys in harm’s way, and for what?

Getting some sort of peace agreement would be the preferred option.  Finding some exit strategy for Assad, where he could retire with his wife in comfort somewhere else might be the best way to move forward.

Obama doesn’t seem to be doing anything and that is probably why the Israelis have decided that they have to take matters in their own hands.

For the last 600 days, the President and his people have been saying two things.  First, they have continued to say that Assad’s days are numbered.   And second, they have warned that if he crosses a “red-line” on chemical weapons, well, then, Assad will be in big, big trouble.

Neither threat seems to carry much weight with the Ba’ath party leader.

Instead of throwing sticks and stones, perhaps Mr. Obama should try to broker a deal.   Of course, that would require some leadership from this President.

I won’t hold my breath.