First Thoughts on Syria

What, you didn’t think we were a foreign policy blog?

That, considering just the U.S.-Syria system, the U.S. bombing Syria is a terrible idea isn’t news. Here are the rough contours: it’s illegal as a matter of international law, nobody wants to do it, we can’t destroy the stockpile of chemical weapons, even proponents of intervention admit it won’t achieve anything, and it is likely to increase government killings of civillians.

So why is it going to happen? My thinking on this is that the only reason the U.S. is considering getting involved, and the only reason it should consider getting involved, is signalling to Israel and Iran. The idea of a “red line” is prominent in the justification for bombing: the U.S. said there was a red line at the use of chemical weapons and Assad (most probably) used chemical weapons. Both Israel and Iran care very much about how the U.S. acts in this situation because of the possibility that Iran will cross the declared “red line” of nuclear weapons during Obama’s term. How the U.S. reacts to Syrian “red line”-crossing offers a clue, then, to how it would react to Iranian “red-line”-crossing.

From Israel’s perspective, the ideal would be if the U.S. dealt with a potential Iranian weapon quickly and decisively, without any intelligence verification or attempts to drum up allies or political approval procedures that could drag on. The prototype of that kind of behaviour already hasn’t happened on Syria. From Iran’s perspective, the ideal would be if it could develop nuclear weapons without being bombed. On the one hand, if the U.S. strikes Syria, that’s a pretty good indication that the U.S. is likely to act in case Iran comes close to getting a bomb. On the other, if Israel becomes convinced that the U.S. is unlikely to act in Iran, it is likely to be much more aggressive.

So where does that leave us? The outcome I would prefer is the one that doesn’t lead to nuclear weapons being used or a World War III type scenario. What I don’t know is whether bombing Syria (which otherwise is a very bad idea) simply in order to scare Iran and pacify Israel is helpful towards that goal.

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7 Responses to First Thoughts on Syria

  1. vj says:

    Well, I guess you should be really happy with Obama and Co’s performance on this. They seem to be in the exactly same state of doubt and indecision as you. Well, prolly also hoping that it’ll all blow over or fix itself if they just procrastinate a bit longer.

    • zolltan says:

      Well, the difference between me and them is that they have spies and intelligence info and shit so they should actually have a better idea about what effect this has on WWIII prospects. Based on that info, they should either have done it already or not do it at all, though.

      As to actually coming up with a suggestion to what to do, if I were to guess, I would say that Iran is going to go for nuclear weapons regardless and Israel is bluffing about attacking Iran regardless so it doesn’t matter. And since I think apart from Israel-Iran, bombing Syria is a terrible idea, I hope they don’t do it.

      • Anya 4 (Tch) says:

        Hi Alex! 🙂
        Guess I’m pretty late and this is hopefully no longer an issue – as long as no new developments and Assad cooperates with Russia-US proposal, but here’s how i feel! I feel like it is quite possible that the first chem. attack was not carried out by Assad. Apart from inevitable civilian casualties a US bomb strike would cause, and US acting like “world police” where it has no business & going around the rules of the UN, strengthening the unclear-who-the-fuck-they-are rebels seems to be a really bad idea because it’d be fueling more and more unrest in that whole region. Although if Assad regains control now it still won’t be forever, and similar situation might ensue in future, I guess he is the best of the worst to be in power over there, at the moment…

        For some reason I am really into this topic….))

  2. Zuuko says:

    Anya sounds like kissinger.

    • zolltan says:

      Well in the realpolitik sense of tolerating an evil dictator as being better than potential alternative, yes. But in the let’s not interfere in other countries’ politics she is decidedly non-Kissinger-like. Which is good. There’s only so much you wanna have in common with a guy who is a war criminal.

  3. anya 4 says:

    Not familiar with how he sounds, but seems like a complement 😉

  4. anya 4 says:

    You mean only so much you want your friends to have in common with war criminals… 😉
    but I didn’t know he is referred to as a war criminal…

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