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United States Dithering on Syrian Crisis

Posted by Steve Markowitz on October 13, 2012

New York Times published an article titled Citing U.S. Fears, Arab Allies Limit Syrian Rebel Aid reporting on the United States withholding support for Syrian rebels.  Money and small arms are being sent to Syrian rebels by Saudi Arabia and Qatar.  However, heavier weapons are being withheld because of opposition from the United States as explained by Qatar’s foreign affairs minister who stated: “You can give the rebels AKs, but you can’t stop the Syrian regime’s military with AKs“.  He indicated that heavier weapons are required: “But first we need the backing of the United States, and preferably the U.N.

According to the report, that Obama Administration’s reluctance to send larger and more sophisticated arms to the rebels revolves around the fear that such weapons could fall into the hands of anti-western terrorists.  While possible, this did not stop the Obama Administration from backing the Libyan rebels.  Some of those rebels are now attacking American interests, which included the killing of America’s Libyan Ambassador Christopher Stevens.

While the Obama Administration intervened in the Libyan uprising, it has voted “present” for the carnage in Syria.  However, the outcome of the Syrian conflict is of greater significance to United States and the world.  Syria’s Civil War is a proxy for the larger conflict between Sunni and Shia Muslims that has been ongoing for centuries.  This conflict pits Sunni Saudi Arabia and other Arab countries against Shia Iran.  Syria, under the al-Assad regime, is a client state of Iran.  Its Alawite minority, an offshoot of Shia Muslims, are battling the Sunni rebels.  The longer the conflict continues, the greater the danger of not only a regional conflict developing, but that Syria disintegrates into a long-term civil war divided on religious grounds.

Bad policies are made worse by inconsistencies.  Foreign policy inconsistencies leads to miscalculation by the adversaries.  This is the danger with Obama’s dithering approach to foreign policy.

Besides the dithering on the Syrian civil war, the Obama Administration has not yet drawn a red line on Iran’s nuclear ambitions.  Stopping Iran from obtaining nuclear weapons has typically focused on the danger such weapons pose to Israel.  More significantly, should Iran obtain atomic weapons it will not be long before Sunni Muslim countries obtain the counterbalance, their own nuclear weapons.  That is a slippery slope that the world cannot travel down.

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