Inaction in Syria Hurts U.S. Interests

Feb. 28 2018

Bashar al-Assad’s army, together with its Iranian and Russian allies, has for several days subjected Eastern Ghouta—a rebel-held area outside Damascus that contains about 400,000 people—to intensive and indiscriminate bombardment. As has been the case repeatedly over the past few years, the Moscow-backed ceasefires and “humanitarian pauses” have done little to ease the suffering of Ghouta’s civilians. By relying mainly on diplomacy alone, argues Jennifer Cafarella, Washington is undermining its national interests.

The U.S. has repeatedly hoped in vain that diplomacy will stop or contain the slaughter. . . . Assad, [however], has hijacked this diplomatic approach, and the U.S. and United Nations have become complicit in the use of starvation as a weapon of war. Aid organizations route their deliveries through the Assad regime, which continues to block deliveries or redirect supplies to regime clients. The effect has been to give Assad’s sieges diplomatic cover. . . .

[This] diplomatic approach undermines other strategic interests. A successful “freeze” of the Syrian conflict, even if it occurred, would leave in place Iranian forces and Iran’s proxies, including Hizballah. It would prevent future military operations against al-Qaeda, which is embedded in opposition-held areas. These outcomes have already occurred on local levels in southern Syria, where Iran’s proxies and al-Qaeda are entrenched beneath the cover of the U.S.-backed “de-escalation” zone. . . .

American diplomats dealing with the Syrian crisis lack the leverage and credibility necessary to conduct effective diplomacy. The U.S. has used few other tools of national power to support them and has refused to contemplate using military force beyond self-defense, [as it did after the attack on American-backed forces two weeks ago], or tactical retaliation for the use of chemical weapons. Assad will continue to pursue all-out military victory as long the U.S. remains thus on the sidelines, and all diplomatic efforts except surrender will fail.

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More about: Iran, Politics & Current Affairs, Russia, Syrian civil war, U.S. Foreign policy, United Nations

 

Syria’s Downing of a Russian Plane Put Israel in the Crosshairs

Sept. 21 2018

On Monday, Israeli jets fired missiles at an Iranian munitions storehouse in the northwestern Syrian city of Latakia. Shortly thereafter, Syrian personnel shot down a Russian surveillance plane with surface-to-air missiles, in what seems to be a botched and highly incompetent response to the Israeli attack. Moscow first responded by blaming Jerusalem for the incident, but President Putin then offered more conciliatory statements. Yesterday, Russian diplomats again stated that Israel was at fault. Yoav Limor comments:

What was unusual [about the Israeli] strike was the location: Latakia [is] close to Russian forces, in an area where the IDF hasn’t been active for some time. The strike itself was routine; the IDF notified the Russian military about it in advance, the missiles were fired remotely, the Israeli F-16s returned to base unharmed, and as usual, Syrian antiaircraft missiles were fired indiscriminately in every direction, long after the strike itself was over. . . .

Theoretically, this is a matter between Russia and Syria. Russia supplied Syria with the SA-5 [missile] batteries that wound up shooting down its plane, and now it must demand explanations from Syria’s President Bashar al-Assad. That won’t happen; Russia was quick to blame Israel for knocking over the first domino, and as usual, sent conflicting messages that make it hard to parse its future strategy. . . .

From now on, Russia will [almost certainly] demand a higher level of coordination with Israel and limits on the areas in which Israel can attack, and possibly a commitment to refrain from certain actions. Syria, Iran, and Hizballah will try to drag Russia into “handling” Israel and keeping it from continuing to carry out strikes in the region. Israel . . . will blame Iran, Hizballah, and Syria for the incident, and say they are responsible for the mess.

But Israel needs to take rapid action to minimize damage. It is in Israel’s strategic interest to keep up its offensive actions to the north, mainly in Syria. If that action is curtailed, Israel’s national security will be compromised. . . . No one in Israel, and certainly not in the IDF or the Israel Air Force, wants Russia—which until now hasn’t cared much about Israel’s actions—to turn hostile, and Israel needs to do everything to prevent that from happening. Even if that means limiting its actions for the time being. . . . Still, make no mistake: Russia is angry and has to explain its actions to its people. Israel will need to walk a thin line between protecting its own security interests and avoiding a very unwanted clash with Russia.

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Read more at Israel Hayom

More about: Hizballah, Israel & Zionism, Israeli Security, Russia, Syrian civil war