Why Regime Change in Syria is the Only Option
I am afraid our military intervention in Syria is too little too late….but better late than never.
We did not intervene when the rebels were strongest, the Assad regime most fragile, and limited U.S. support to the then dominant moderate rebel factions might well have pushed Assad out of power without dividing Syria along sectarian and ethnic lines.
We clearly allowed Iran to move in and al Qaeda to penetrate. Assad is now far stronger and the rebels are fractured and have stronger Sunni Islamist extremist elements than ever.
We have also chosen the wrong red line. The key challenge in Syria is scarcely to end the use of chemical weapons. The real challenge is some 120,000 dead, another 200,000-plus wounded, and as many as 20% of its 22.5 million people have been displaced inside the country or are living outside it as refugees.
Well, we just cannot afford to wait anymore.
I believe any international military intervention against Syria should be aimed at overthrowing President Bashar al-Assad from power. Anything short of that is a total waste of time, human and capital resources.
So who are the parties involved?
Well we have today the Sunni majority Qatar on one side funding al-Nusrah; and Iran and the Shia terrorist group Hezbollah aiding Assad on the other.
All are involved in order to further their own objectives; and their actions have already inspired sectarian violence between Sunnis and Shias across the region.
Neither a victory for the Assad/Iran axis nor al-Qaeda-run territories within Syria should be though considered an option for the West.
Currently both sides are winning: al-Nusrah and the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria are gaining ground within the opposition and establishing mini-Islamic emirates in northern Syria; while the regime has the upper hand against the opposition. Intervention is not a choice between al-Qaeda and Assad, but rather an opportunity to deter the activities of both.
If you are arguing that if we crumble Assad, al Qaeda takes over, I believe this argument has no legs. In fact, if we partner with Syria’s seculars we will not let Al Qaeda seize power.
Who are those prominent groups we could partner with?
The most prominent moderate group today is the National Coalition for Syrian Revolutionary and Opposition Forces. Formed in November 2012, it has the broadest support both within Syria and from the international community. It has the support of the Free Syrian Army (FSA) as well as various grassroots opposition activists; and is recognized as “the legitimate representative” of the Syrian people by the UK, the US, the European Union (EU), France and the six member states of the Gulf Co-operation Council.
In fact, and contrary to popular belief, the Syrian opposition is a broad coalition, which features not only the al Qaeda affiliates and militant Salafists, but also genuine moderates who share the aim of a pluralistic and democratic Syria, with whom the West should be partnering.
As a result of limited resources the FSA has under certain circumstances co-operated militarily with the al-Qaeda groups and Salafist brigades. They do not, however, share the groups’ ideology and wish to see them disenfranchised. FSA Chief of Staff General Salim Idriss asked for Western support back in May 2013 in order to counter al-Nusrah dominance in north-eastern Syria. Acknowledging the risk from the crossover of opposition groups, the National Coalition for Syrian Revolutionary and Opposition Forces and the FSA are the only viable Western allies.
About our other options?
Launching limited strikes on Syria’s weapons and negotiate with Assad will go nowhere as the Syrian regime along with Al Qaeda and every other terrorist group out there will only get bolder . Besides, launching limited strikes does not guarantee Assad wouldn’t use chemical weapons again, since the caches would remain untouched. It’s just as likely that Assad could decide to double down and use chemical weapons again, thus leaving President Obama in the uncomfortable position of having to escalate U.S. involvement.
We could of course openly arm and train the Syrian rebels to do the job for us. Although this may have been a viable option two years ago, but today even those in favor of arming the rebels admit that the strongest among the many rebel groups are linked to Al Qaeda. If we arm the good rebels, it would be in hopes they could defeat both the Al Qaeda rebels and the Assad government. At best, that would put us in the middle of a three-way civil war: We support our rebels, while the Arab oil states support their rebels, and Iran and Russia support the Assad government. At worst, the Al Qaeda rebels seize our weapons, and use them first against Assad and then against us…. Remember Benghazi?
Delaying the process will only make the Assad/Iran axis and al-Qaeda-run territories within Syria better prepared… and the message would be clear: America’s threats mean nothing. Assad and every other would-be murderous dictator would conclude the international community is unwilling to stop those willing to use weapons of mass destruction. It’s a cardinal rule of foreign policy: You don’t make threats unless you’re willing to carry them out, since your bluff will always be called. Words don’t deter, only deeds do. The longer the US hesitates, the more it leaves itself open to future threats. Decisive action is imperative.
By attacking the Assad regime and overthrowing him from power, the US is breaking a taboo long existing that Assad is untouchable and invincible. It will also send a very strong message to every terrorist out there wanting to walk into Assad’s shoes…. The message being: We will go to the end no matter what our track record for Iraq has been. Don’t even try. The United States is after all a homogenous block not a divided nation… at least in front of the enemy. At he end of the day, mark my words: If Washington does not literally kill Assad, there will be 10,000 new recruits by al-Qaeda. Call DC inaction a recruiting tool.
Meanwhile, the cursed region where many live in the shadow of a savage like Assad continues to suffer. Just because Assad failed to attack the US on US soil makes him a darling of both the left and the right while both sides witness silently the gassing of Syrian children and women. Does that remind us of another era against another people when Nazis within the ranks of the German people looked the other way?
For any American, who enjoys the fruits of this great rich nation of ours, to believe it comes cheap, he/she is both naïve and dangerous.
Do you want to know how Islamic terror starts? It starts because we let people like Assad get away with mass murder.
Once again, I strongly believe our intervention in Syria must clearly have some real strategic meaning such as the dismantling of the Assad regime first with a chance of producing lasting success. Also, our intervention must have a reasonable chance of bringing stability to Syria, of limiting the growth of Iranian and Hizbullah influence, of halting the spillover of the Syrian struggle into Lebanon and neighboring nearby states, and helping to deal with the broader humanitarian crisis.
So watch out how you strike Syria… There shouldn’t be any room for survival. If not, Assad will boast he defeated the United States…something to be avoided at all cost in the Middle East as it will once again embolden him along with every terrorist out there more than ever.
Since Qatar has already spent as much as $3 billion over the past two years supporting the rebellion in Syria, let them bankroll our campaign alongside the Saudis.
There is no point in fighting a war against chemical weapons. There is no point in U.S. military symbolism or massive unilateral military action. There is however a point in trying to use force to end the suffering, the fighting, and repression of the Assad regime by pretty much sending him to meet his 72 virgins in heaven – and serve our national interest while we meet the needs of the Syrian people and our Arab allies.
As Winston Churchill used to say: “If you’re going through hell, keep going”.
The risks of miscalculation by the 3 musketeers of terror, Assad, Nasrallah, & Khamenei are out of control. All checks and balances would be shredded to pieces if the US doesn’t punish Assad for his savagery and barbarism.
The worst strategic outcome for Assad isn’t defeat, it is to be doomed to oblivion… This in my opinion is the only outcome he should expect.
Now want to keep Assad off balance? Keep saying publicly we will only apply a limited strike and go for regime change. Something he doesn’t expect and that will completely thwart him off.
I highly discourage anyone to believe, somehow, that Hitler cannot rise again in the personae of Assad. It starts with gassing few hundreds, but who knows how it will end if we do not end the Assad regime.
Bottom Line: If we can’t stop Syria on chemical weapons how will we stop Iran on nuclear weapons? Limited strike is no option. Only option is regime change.
The West’s reaction on the Syrian front shouldn’t be perceived as a litmus test regarding how we can expect the U.S. and other Western countries to react if and when Iran is on the verge of attaining nuclear weapon capability. A nuclear capability would embolden Tehran to seize control of the Straits of Hormuz and unleash a nuclear arms race. Possessing a nuclear bomb would radically augment Iran’s political influence – and the influence of its terrorist proxies – as well as making it nearly impervious to international pressure. The West has a clear, vested interest in preventing this from happening.
It all starts with regime change in Syria.
Ziad K. Abdelnour is Founder & President of the US Committee for a Free Lebanon – America’s Pro- Lebanon lobby – and co-Author of Ending Syria’s Occupation of Lebanon.