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The West’s best bet in Syria: Stay out of it


The recent chemical attack on civilians, allegedly by the Assad Regime in Syria, should not blind us to the fact that there is no good outcome to the civil war. Michael Ledeen argues to the effect that Assad is a satrapy for the Iranian regime. To deal with Assad, he asserts that you have to confront Khamenei and the so-called “Great Moderate” President Rouhani. As far as it goes, Ledeen’s analysis is valid. Unfortunately, it now appears to be only half the story.


The other half of the story is the increasing control of the Syrian opposition by the Muslim Brotherhood under the sponsorship of Turkey’s Islamist-leading government led by Recep Erdogan. As Caroline Glick tells it, the Obama Administration fecklessly ignored the pleas for support from a consortium of Syrian Kurds, moderate Sunnis, Christians and others at the outset of the civil war, two-and-a-half years ago. Instead, he outsourced the development of Syria’s opposition to Erdogan.

According to Glick, Erdogan, with the full support of the US Government, stacked Syria’s opposition forces with radical Muslims like himself, which has resulted in the Muslim Brotherhood comprising the majority in Syria’s US-sponsored opposition. She goes on to argue that the Muslim Brotherhood has no problem collaborating with al-Qaeda, because the latter was formed by Muslim Brothers. The West is focused on alleged chemical atrocities by the Assad Regime but chooses to ignore growing persecution of Christians by the largely Islamist Opposition. See here, here and here.

The choice appears to be between the Assad Regime, sponsored by Iran, the key lifeline to Hezbollah in Lebanon and a prospective Muslim Brotherhood regime, sponsored by Turkey with the help of other Sunni regimes such as Saudi Arabia. Of Erdogan, Glick writes:

Under the façade of democracy, Erdogan has transformed Turkey into one of the most repressive countries in the world. Leading businessmen, generals, journalists, parliamentarians and regular citizens have been systematically rounded up and accused of treason for their "crime" of opposing Turkey’s transformation into an Islamic state. Young protesters demanding civil rights and an end to governmental corruption are beaten and arrested by police, and demonized by Erdogan. Following the overthrow of the Muslim Brotherhood government in Egypt last month, Erdogan has openly admitted that he and his party are part and parcel of the Muslim Brotherhood.

If Glick is right, the secular Turkey of Kemal Ataturk has been largely superceded and we can no longer pretend that nation is a friend and ally.

Based on this analysis, it is not in our interest that either side wins the war. Indeed, the recent rocket attacks on Northern Israeli towns by the Abdullah Brigade, a spinoff of al Quaeda, is a foretaste of what we can expect if the Brotherhood wins in Syria.  Daniel Pipes argues that we should keep both sides fighting to their mutual destruction and confine our efforts to humanitarian aid for civilians caught in the crossfire.

Michael Ledeen argues:

When the intel and military “experts” say, as they have been saying for many months, “there is no good outcome in Syria,” they’re talking about that war, the wrong war.

We invaded Iraq in the name of the War Against Terror, which President George W. Bush defined as a war against terrorist organizations and the states that supported them.  That should have made Iran the focus of our strategy, since Tehran was (and still is, now more than ever) the world’s leading sponsor of terrorism.  

He is right that the focus should be on the sponsor, not simply the proxy. But the problem is not only Iran but also Turkey, a still notional member of NATO and the Western Alliance.

What about other notional Western allies in the Arab world?  Saudi Arabia walks both sides of the fence. Simultaneously, it is an ally against Iranian ambitions, opposes the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt but supports it in Syria, funds radical Islam in the West but opposes the radical Islamic challenge to the House of Saud. It has been simultaneously an ally and cultural enemy of the West. In other words, we have forged an alliance of convenience against common foes analogous to our alliance with the Soviet Union against Nazi Germany.

Unfortunately, the reality of the Middle East does not afford us the luxury of choice between the ideal and the bad. We can only choose the least bad alternative. For example, it is a nonsense for Senator John McCain to denounce the Egyptian military coup against the “democratically elected” President Mohammed Morsi. Would there have been similar outrage if the German Army had removed the “democratically elected” Adolf Hitler in 1933? In any case, we might care to recall the close relationships between the Muslim Brotherhood and Nazi Germany before and during World War II.  Does not the recent burning of numerous Christian churches and acts of violence against the Copts in Egypt conjure up reminders of Kristallnacht in November, 1938?

Finally, there is a world of difference between allies of convenience and friends. It is high time that the United States and other Western powers recognised that Israel is the only nation in the region which shares attitudes and values similar to our own.

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