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Friday, August 30, 2013

What US strategic interests are at stake in Syria and how can they be advanced by a US attack on Syria?

Caroline Glick's JPost column deals with an issue that has not gotten enough attention in Washington this week: What US strategic interests are at stake in Syria, and how can they be advanced by a US attack on Syria?
With no good horse to bet on, the US and its allies have three core interests relating to the war. First, they have an interest in preventing Syria's chemical, biological and ballistic missile arsenals from being used against them either directly by the regime, through its terror proxies or by a successor regime.

Second, the US and its allies have an interest in containing the war as much as possible to Syria itself.

Finally, the US and its allies share an interest in preventing Iran, Moscow or al-Qaida from winning the war or making any strategic gains from their involvement in the war.
 
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It is important to note that despite the moral depravity of the regime's use of chemical weapons, none of America's vital interests is impacted by their use within Syria. Obama's pledge last year to view the use of chemical weapons as a tripwire that would automatically cause the US to intervene militarily in the war in Syria was made without relation to any specific US interest.

But once Obama made his pledge, other US interests became inextricably linked to US retaliation for such a strike. The interests now on the line are America's deterrent power and strategic credibility. If Obama responds in a credible way to Syria's use of chemical weapons, those interests will be advanced. If he does not, US deterrent power will become a laughing stock and US credibility will be destroyed.

Unfortunately, the US doesn't have many options for responding to Assad's use of chemical weapons. If it targets the regime in a serious way, Assad could fall, and al-Qaida would then win the war. Conversely, if the US strike is sufficient to cause strategic harm to the regime's survivability, Iran could order the Syrians or Hezbollah or Hamas, or all of them, to attack Israel. Such an attack would raise the prospect of regional war significantly.

A reasonable response would be for the US to target Syria's ballistic missile sites. And that could happen. Although the US doesn't have to get involved in order to produce such an outcome. Israel could destroy Syria's ballistic missiles without any US involvement while minimizing the risk of a regional conflagration.

There are regime centers and military command and control bases and other strategic sites that it might make sense for the US to target.

Unfortunately, the number of regime and military targets the US has available for targeting has been significantly reduced in recent days. Administration leaks of the US target bank gave the Syrians ample time to move their personnel and equipment.

This brings us to the purpose the Obama administration has assigned to a potential retaliatory strike against the Syrian regime following its use of chemical weapons.

Obama told PBS on Wednesday that US strikes on Syria would be "a shot across the bow."
After reading Caroline's entire column, my conclusions are:

(a) There are US strategic interests at stake in Syria and they go beyond President Obumbler's drawing a red line in the sand that the US must now defend to avoid losing any more credibility in the Middle East.

(b) Israel's alleged actions in Syria have advanced US interests by preventing the proliferation of Syria's chemical weapons and by denying Hezbullah the ability to spread the war to Lebanon.

(c) The Obama administration has no clue what strategic interests are at stake in Syria. It probably has not even considered the question.

(d) US strategic interests could be served by a limited strike against Syria, provided that the Obama administration stops presenting such a strike as a once-in-a-lifetime event.

(e) Three and a half more years of an Obama administration could - and probably will unless things change - lead to the US becoming a third-rate power, just as Obama has wanted all along.

Read the whole thing.

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