United States Must Not Delay Intervention in Syria
Published: Friday, September 6, 2013
Updated: Friday, September 6, 2013 01:09
Despite recent revelations of chemical weapon usage resulting in the deaths of 1,429 people outside of Syria’s capital city, a recent Reuters poll claims that only 9 percent of Americans support military intervention. This is a serious miscalculation, as not intervening in Syria would have dire humanitarian and geopolitical implications.
As an Iraqi-American, my Arab roots have led me to travel all over the Middle East. I studied in Damascus over the summer of 2010 — less than six months prior to the start of the Arab Spring. There I observed a country that had potential and a middle class growing in a country that was slowly opening up. Though I returned to the United States optimistic about Syria’s future, my parents warned me that I was being naive about Bashar al-Assad and his Ba’ath party. Their experiences with the Ba’ath party in Iraq led them to believe that it would just be a matter of time before Assad started to mass murder his own people, in a pattern similar to the way Saddam Hussein attacked Kurds and Shi’as in Iraq. At the time, I had no idea how correct their predictions would be.
Assad has displayed no remorse about killing thousands of his own people. Reports from Human Rights Watch illustrate mass torture and the murder of innocent children and adults alike. Mutilations, bodies dumped on the side of the roads and random snipers are now commonplace in many parts of the country. Assad’s behavior over the past two years has made it abundantly clear that, barring a massive turn of events, he will torture and slaughter every man, woman or child who stands remotely in his way toward complete control.
I believe that the geopolitical implications of nonintervention are just as dire as the humanitarian. Internal conflicts in Arab countries often last for years on end, and it is becoming clear that Syria is set to follow this destructive pattern. Saudi Arabia and Qatar are funding the rebel forces, while Iran and Hezbollah have been supporting Assad. This foreign finance means that Syria could become a major proxy war for the Arab World. Syria’s location also makes it a major threat to America’s closest ally and friend in the Middle East: Israel.
Many observers worry about what Syria would look like after the fall of Bashar al-Assad and predict that an extreme Islamist government could follow him. This is a fair concern. However, if Bashar al-Assad succeeds, he will be indebted to Iran and Hezbollah in the future. The effects of this will be, at least, comparable to the radical Islamist government that might follow Assad.
By now we have reached a point of no return with Assad’s regime. If it succeeds, our relations with Syria or the rest of the Arab World will be negatively altered. On the other hand, a new regime would give America a fresh slate, a new chance with a government who we could potentially turn into an invaluable ally in the region.
To be sure that we do not have a repeat of Afghanistan, where the weapons we gave to fighters against the Soviet Union were later used to attack American soldiers, we need not provide weapons directly to Syrian rebels but rather use our own capabilities to defeat Assad. While this is much more than the Obama administration plans to do, anything less would fail to add real value in the conflict.
Consequences of inaction in Syria would be enormous. The current death toll in Syria is 110,000. If this war lasts for eight more years — as did the Algerian civil war — millions will die. Assad’s victory would embolden Hezbollah and Iran while creating a serious security threat to us and our close allies: Israel, Saudi Arabia and Qatar. Not sending a message against the use of chemical weapons, not trying to blunt Assad’s recent successes and not trying to work with those who oppose him would be a serious regret for the United States down the road.
Ziad Jawadi is a junior in the college with a concentration in Arab Studies.