Massacre of the Week: Syria Death Machine

The Best We Can Do in Syria is Stay Out

Hundreds of innocent people are being killed. Grandmothers felled by mortars. Mothers and children murdered by thugs. Snipers dropping teenagers. A bloody revolution is taking place. The revolutionaries are the underdogs at the moment, but sticking it out through more than 5,000 casualties since April 2011 shows their dedication.

The government of Bashar Assad, whose father had ruled Syria with an iron fist for thirty years, is telling the military to fire rockets into the city of Homs, where rebel fighters lie among the once-million-strong population. Homs is called the rebel “stronghold” because Assad’s forces won’t go in, lest they be target practice on the streets. These “cowards” are afraid to enter the city so they sit back and fire rockets, says a Homs rebel.

Meanwhile, the insurgents—some say terrorists, gangs, rednecks—are not unified. The idea of America arming them, while tempting, is not prudent at this juncture

Al Qaeda may be on site bombing public places in Homs and Aleppo. Even umbrella groups like the Syrian National Council and the Free Syria Army (FSA) are neither tight-knit nor allied with one another. This complicates a burgeoning quagmire. Russia, Iran, Turkey, the Arab states, Israel, Western Europe and the U.S. all have an opportunity to play this game of Risk. The Pentagon is preparing for all contingencies and members of Congress and media pundits are calling for action, mainly arming the rebels

The Kremlin backs Assad, who hosts a Russian naval base and purchases old Soviet weaponry. The Obama administration calls for him to cede power (not bloody likely), and that’s all America should do at this point. The one thing the Left and Right can agree on: messy Middle East intervention is so six years ago. Of course CIA is on the scene, as they should be.

But no matter who wins the civil war, the U.S. has relatively little to lose or gain. The only way America can screw this up is if we get involved with taking out Assad and sectarian violence erupts, creating a thousand more destitute Muslims looking to commit jihad against the West.

Turkey’s Islamic-lite leader Tayyip Erdogan stands firm against Assad, as most Sunni governments do, even protecting the FSA inside their borders. Turkey wants EU status and to be an independent regional force. Assad’s fall means Iran loses an ally—maybe Turkey gains a friendlier neighbor. Again, geopolitics masks the gruesome, tragic facts on the ground.

To be clear, pundits agree this is not Libya, bombstrikes plus NATO/US intelligence plus local, well-armed guides plus luck equals a brisk, five-month victory. Assad has a bigger army than Qaddafi’s, Russia backs him and his friends, family and security forces will avoid regime change at all costs.

Adding to this catastrophe is Muslim sectarianism between Assad’s Shia Allawite government and the majority Sunni citizenry that is flaring up with help from instigators such as Al Qaeda. Horrific home-invasion murders are popping up in an increasingly lawless land. An Iraq-style civil war is one lit cigarette and gasoline spill away. Pray to Allah for the people of Homs, and thank Chebus you don’t live there.

Potential War of the Week: Israel vs. Iran

Please excuse this rapidly written rant. There’s been tons of talk in the major media outlets about what America should and shouldn’t do when Israel attacks Iran. Some say this will be between April and June 2012.

The Obama administration should make it crystal clear to Israel’s right-wing Likud party that the U.S. will not back it up when Iran retaliates.

As I wrote last year when the media was speculating about when the attack would happen: Neither Israel nor the U.S. should ever pre-emptively strike Iran. Even top Israeli military officials agree. Not even if Iran is on the cusp of getting nukes, not even if Iran gets them.

A nuclear-armed Iran will have some negative repercussions in the Middle East but Iran is never going to use nuclear weapons; neither will the Islamic Republic let a proxy terror group have them.

Case in point: Pakistan has nuclear weapons and is far less stable than Iran. Indeed, Pakistan’s military, judiciary and executive branch are in a major kerfuffle. A good chunk of Pakistan is controlled by various terrorist networks, the Haqqanis, Terik-e Taliban Pakistan, Lashkar-e Taiba, the list goes on, and the Pakistani military wages only a half-hearted campaign against them (and only at America’s behest).

Even though America frequently pisses off the Pakistanis, the military and spy agency still won’t let its terror networks near its nukes because India (and the rest of the world) would retaliate should bombs end up in non-state hands. U.S. drone strikes could fall like rain.

Iran, with a balanced and relatively unified governmental body and military, is not nearly as unstable. And Iran would appear much less hostile and volatile if Israel and the U.S. stopped antagonizing it using terrorist-list groups (Jundallah; the MEK) and severe sanctions. If the Iranian regime had fewer outside enemies to unite its hard-liners, democracy would have more of a chance, as it did under President Khatami in the early 2000s. And eventually Iran might move toward Turkey’s model of a Muslim democracy.

The bottom line is that, in this situation, whoever attacks first loses. If he attacks Iran, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu makes his state and neighborhood a hellish war zone, and the world a much more dangerous and economically unhinged place. When the U.S. defends Israel, America will again achieve the infamy it earn by invading Iraq and expend resources and capital it can’t afford to.

Not to mention that the chances a strike would end the Iranian nuclear program, as oppose to just delay it, are very slim.

Iran has never started a war with another sovereign nation (Saddam Hussein started the Iran-Iraq War). That’s not to say current and former Iranian leaders haven’t sponsored terrorism. And it’s not to categorize “pre-emptive strikes” as never appropriate. But Iranian president Ahmadinejad’s calculated ravings about wiping Israel off the map should only elicit one response: A promise from Israel, the U.S. and their allies that they will finish whatever Iran starts.