Archive for the ‘Middle East’ Category

Originally published in RURAL RUMINATIONS

President Trump says constantly that he is an extraordinary negotiator (The Art of the Deal).  That may be true, but in considering the relevance of his self-centered praise, one has to understand that his experience as a negotiator was established in the dangerous canyons of New York City,  and the way he discusses his negotiating style makes it clear that he does not feel he has to abide by many rules. That may work in New York and the USA and maybe even in the international commercial world.  The real question is whether it is likely to work in the far more complicated world of foreign policy.


The world is a frightfully complex place.  It is beset by regional, political, tribal, economic, military, and confessional issues.


Take the issue of Syria.  Mr. Trump would like to depose the Syrian leader, Bashar al-Assad.  In pursuit of that goal, he has enlisted the military assistance of the Kurds.  The Turks despise the Kurds, constantly referring to them as “terrorists”.  In fact, the Kurds, who live in a number of countries in the Middle East as well as Turkey, are the largest ethnic population in the world that does not have a country of its own.  All told, they total 35-45 million souls.  The Turks are members of NATO and at least until we brought the Kurds on board on the volatile Syrian issue, were among our best friends in the Middle East.  The Turks are infuriated with this new Trump policy and are rapidly turning against us on many other issues that are important to us.


Or look at Palestine/Israel.  In recognizing Jerusalem as the capital of Israel, Mr. Trump has created a firestorm of anger, not only in the Islamic world which favors a mutually negotiated solution to that issue, but also in thoughtful countries, most prominently in Europe and in many other countries around the rest of the world. This Trump position on Palestine/Israel, a radical American departure from the past seventy years, is clearly a move to court ideological Americans who strongly support Israel.  It is certainly not the first time US foreign policy has been designed purely to woo American voters, but it has been focused on a region that does not need further foreign meddling causing further tensions.  And that is precisely what it has done.  It may please some of Mr. Trump’s political base, but it has further destabilized an area that desperately needs stability.


Despite the fact that Mr. Trump calls himself a “stable genius” on many issues, most emphatically including foreign policy, he presents as the exact opposite.  He doesn’t like to read and says that for him it is not necessary. So, he insists that all policy papers submitted to him be limited to one page in length. Issues like Israel/Palestine and Syria simply cannot be appropriately covered on one page.  Policy decisions based on insufficient information are always dangerous.


Mr. Trump acknowledges that, rather than reading, he gets his critical information from watching a lot of TV. Apparently his choice of stations is highly focused on the most politically partisan.  In this case, only the word “partisan” is important.  It makes absolutely no difference if it is far right or far left.  Either way, he is not getting the impartial information that is critical to, first, understanding this complicated word and, second, formulating foreign policy.  And this is true both for a “stable genius” and for a blithering idiot!


Assuming that he really is an extraordinary negotiator, he got his expertise in the commercial world.   Clearly that world thrives on uncertainty and instability, the kinds of things that make  businessmen and commercial companies say yes to avoid financial chaos.  That is the exact opposite of what is needed in the world of international relations.   What is needed there is stability and predictability.  Those were the elements that got the world through the Cold War.  Both sides understood that and followed policies that were predictable and stable.  We survived.


So far, Mr. Trump has followed policies that have been unstable and unpredictable.  That’s OK if you are buying a new hotel, or talking about an irrelevant country like Monaco, but it is not the case for places like North Korea, China, Russia and now, additions like Pakistan, which he has recently offended – all of which have atomic weapons.


It would be nice and almost certainly potentially productive to see and hear some more dignified and less inflammatory verbiage both within and emanating from the White House.  It might even make us some international friends, the exact opposite of what our current modus operandi is bringing us.


Haviland Smith is a retired CIA Station Chief who served during the Cold War in East and West Europe, and the Middle East, focused on the Soviet Union and Eastern Europe.  He also served as Executive Assistant in the Director’s office and as the first Chief of the Counterterrorism Staff.

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First published in VERMONT DIGGER

 In 1953, America participated in the overthrow of the only democratically elected government Iran has ever had by removing Prime Minister Mohammad Mossadegh from office and installing the shah in his place. Iranians of all political persuasions have never forgotten that fact and the act itself has since played a critical role in souring bilateral relations between our two countries.

Viewed against the realities of official Iran’s hatred for all things American, it is not surprising that any number of Iran’s regional sectarian surrogates have run paramilitary operations, now labeled “terrorist operations,” against regional American interests. The bombing of the U.S. embassy and the Marine barracks in Lebanon come immediately to mind.

President Donald Trump has decided to decertify the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, commonly known as the Iran nuclear deal. This will transfer to the American Congress the right to reinstall sanctions on Iran. Ultimately, if the agreement is killed, the Iranians will be able to resume their currently suspended nuclear weapons programs.

Many Americans, including many of today’s senior military advisers and professional foreign policy specialists, think that the suspension of the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action and the concomitant reinstallation of sanctions is a really bad idea. Along with virtually all the European countries, even Russia and China think the suspension could preface a disaster, putting the potential for the unfettered development of nuclear weapons back in the hands of the Iranians.

It appears that Trump, believes the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action was poorly negotiated. He believes that we should have gone after other activities in which Iran is involved, even though Iran made it crystal clear during the original negotiations that they were prepared to discuss and negotiate only the nuclear weapons issue. To have done otherwise would have been to renounce their perceived sectarian responsibilities to regional Shia minorities.

What seems perfectly clear is that Trump believes that the plan is essentially worthless without the inclusion of provisions banning what he sees as unacceptable behavior on the part of the Iranians. First and foremost in this behavioral arena is the involvement of Iran in supporting its Shia co-religionists in their centuries-old struggle with Sunni Islam. Ongoing since 632 AD, this activity is now often labeled “terrorism.” America condemns Iranian behavior simply because we, along with most of the West, have traditionally supported Sunni Islam, probably because that is where we have traditionally found critical supplies of petroleum.

Islam split into Sunni and Shia with the 632 AD death of the prophet Muhammad and the question of who was going to succeed him. That rift continues to this day. The most influential Sunni state is Saudi Arabia. Iran is clearly the most influential Shia state. As self-appointed leaders, and like their opponents on the Sunni side, they feel an overwhelming motivation to protect Shia interests in the Muslim world — and thus their own.

Shia majority countries are Iran, Iraq, Azerbaijan and Bahrain. They are also the largest group in Lebanon. Shias constitute 36.3 percent of the entire local population and 38.6 percent of the Muslim population of the Middle East. In addition there are many countries in the Muslim world where Shias are in the minority but still have significant populations. Where that is the case, those Shia minorities are almost always under the Sunni gun and thus worthy of Shia (read Iranian) protection. Such situations exist and are currently critical in Yemen, Syria and Lebanon.

In Syria, the Shia, known there as Alawites, are less than 20 percent of the total population, but run the country. They are under the gun from the large Sunni majority of the population (supported by America) and, as a result are supported in every way by Iran.

In Yemen, Shia Houthis comprise about 35-40 percent of the population and are involved in a civil war against the Sunni majority. Here we see the perfect international sectarian struggle with Saudi Arabia (supported by America) openly supporting the Sunnis and Iran supporting the Shia.

In the uneasy situation in Lebanon, Iran gives material and political support to the Shia Hezbollah in their ongoing political and military struggles with the Sunni and the Christians (supported by America).

In addition to the fact of Iranian support to Shia minorities in the Muslim world, Iran is virtually always condemned here in America as “supporting terrorism.” This is not to say that Shia minorities do not use terrorist tactics. They clearly do. What it does say is that many American political leaders, most emphatically including Trump and his “alternative facts,” indiscriminately use the words “terror and terrorist” to marshal public opinion in support of their policies.

It may not change your opinion of Iran and its activities in the region, but what they are doing is what any nation or group might do. They are trying to protect their fellow believers who are under the guns of traditional enemies in other countries.

We have been known to do the same.


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Originally published in RURAL RUMINATIONS

The development and implementation of the Trump administration’s current Afghan policy appears to have been deferred to the Pentagon. All we know about Trump policy toward that region is that he vowed during the presidential campaign to completely destroy ISIS, Al Qaida and any other threatening terrorist organization.

Estimates coming out of the Pentagon indicate the likelihood of an additional commitment of several thousand troops to Afghanistan. Before we make any moves in Afghanistan, it is important to look critically at the past and at our motivation for what to do now and in the future.

We got to Afghanistan based on two realities. The immediate catalyst was 9/11. Second, we saw it as a key element in our oil interests in the region, a way to get our foot in the door. The outgrowth of that was our fabricated rationale for the invasion of Iraq. which morphed into our current array of difficult dilemmas in Libya, Iraq, Syria, Yemen, Iran, Saudi Arabia and the Gulf states.

In short, that momentous decision in 2001 launched us into a region which our government studiously never chose to understand and which was so incredibly complicated that it flummoxed one US administration after another.

So, what do we want or expect from our continued military involvement in Afghanistan and the Middle East? Apparently, we would like to see a stable region under democratic rule. We never hear US officials talking about self-determination, only about regime change and democracy.

In fact, it makes no ultimate difference what the US wants for Afghanistan and the Middle East. It only matters what they want for themselves and as long as we are pushing values and ideas that are alien to them, we will never see the end of chaos.

Afghanistan’s geographic location has made it an important cog in the Middle East. It has been fought over and occupied for millennia by big powers seeking regional hegemony. That has relatively recently included England, Russia and the United States and none of those powers has succeeded in changing the country or the minds of its peoples. Over many centuries, those and other struggles have caused hundreds of thousands of Afghan deaths and significant resentment.

Given recent developments in the world, oil no longer plays the role that it did 25 years ago.   That alters one of our reasons for remaining militarily engaged in the region.

Terrorism is our other worry. We were hard hit on 9/11, but that sort of operation against us seems to be far better controlled now than it was in 2001. The fact is that the nature of terrorism has changed. It no longer requires hideaways in the mountains or deserts of the Middle East where terrorists can be given rigorous military training. Terrorism today involves self-motivated, highly disaffected individuals who volunteer to ISIS or any other terrorist organization to carry out suicide attacks. They work with automatic weapons and murderous vehicles. Even bombs are within their reach and recent operations have shown that those weapons can be developed undetected in apartments in major western cities.

Terrorists have no need for “bases” like those previously operated in the Middle East. All they need are volunteers and central direction and that can be found, as is now the case, in countries that are not in the reach of US troops assigned to Afghanistan or the Middle East, making them no longer critical to our counterterrorism needs.

What, therefore, could possibly motivate US policy makers to continue and even augment a decades-long war that is today virtually irrelevant to the realities and motivations that got us there in the first place? It would seem that the only rationale that stems logically from that is that we are interested in regime change and the subsequent maintenance of a democracy imposed on them by us. And yet, we know that doesn’t work.

Perhaps it is time to acknowledge that Middle Eastern nations have values that differ from ours. In doing that, we would also have to acknowledge that there are major, conflicting differences between some of the states in that region and that to leave them to the resolution of their own conflicts would likely be a violent process.

Yet, the only real peace and stability that can ultimately exist in the region is that engineered by the people involved. Perhaps we should give them the opportunity to work that out in the absence of on-site US military power while limiting ourselves to diplomatic, political and economic involvements.



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Fifty-one State Department officials have just signed an internal memo protesting U.S. policy in Syria, calling for targeted U.S. military strikes against the regime of Bashar al Assad and urging regime change as the only way to defeat ISIS.


The internal memo was sent throughout the “dissent channel” which is defined as “a serious policy channel reserved only for consideration of responsible dissenting and alternative views on substantive foreign policy issues that cannot be communicated in a full and timely manner through regular operating channels and procedures” and “which will not be subjected to reprisal, discipline action or unauthorized disclosure of its use”. It was established in the 1960s during the Vietnam War to ensure that senior leadership in the department would have access to alternative policy views on the war.


The views expressed by the U.S. officials in the cable amount to a scalding internal critique of a longstanding U.S. policy against taking sides in the Syrian war.


It is safe to say that our incredibly counterproductive military involvement in the Middle East during the past dozen years was a outgrowth of the powerful influence held by neoconservatives in the Bush administration.


It is equally safe to say that “liberal interventionist” ideology has played a role in foreign policy under the Obama administration.  Obama’s first Secretary of State, Hilary Clinton is widely described as “hawkish” in her foreign policy views and her administration has always contained liberal interventionists, many of whom have remained there after her departure from State and the arrival of Secretary Kerry.  They still play important roles in the formulation and conduct of foreign policy.


However different the origins of liberal interventionism may be from those of neoconservatism, the net result in foreign policy is not that different.  Both ideologies believe in the export of democracy and regime change, policies that have rightly come under attack here and abroad, given the negative results of our recent military activities in the Middle East.


So, the question is, are the State department “51” simply a continuation of our old notions of the export of democracy and regime change?


In all of this and regardless of the motivation behind the “dissent channel” memorandum, the only important question to be asked is, what would be the result?  That assumes we become more heavily involved militarily against the Assad regime which would be an act of war in itself.  What do we do about al Qaida’s Al Nusra front?  With Iran?  With the Russians? With the Chinese?  With the Saudis?  With the Iraqis?  Who is on our side?  Who is against us?


Assuming we can successfully engineer this regime change, whom do we then pick to run the country?  Do we pick the remaining Alawites with their Shia allies in Iraq and Iran?  Do we pick Sunni Syrians with their confessional ties to ISIS and Iraqi Sunnis?  Do we install the military?


Irrespective of what we do, how will the competing confessional groups in the broader region react?  How have they already reacted in Libya, Yemen, Iraq and Syria?  Does America really have a dog in this fight?


Whomever we pick under these circumstances, we will own the responsibility for the Syria of the future, a Syria that will always be contested by the ethnic and confessional forces that rule and roil the Middle East.


It is difficult to determine the precise motivation of these 51 co-signees in favor of military intervention.   However, regardless of that motivation, given our recent history in the region, it seems like a crazy, no-win thing for America to want to do.



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Originally published in The Herald of Randolph

How many readers remember the old saw that “one man’s terrorist is another man’s freedom fighter”? And isn’t that the truth! Well, a senior United States Government official has recently reported that Iran is the greatest supporter of terrorism in the world.


As difficult as it is for any American to stomach, that can be viewed in a number of different ways. Ask yourself, “How would I label an American Christian missionary caught in a fight for his life in a country wildly hostile to his Christian beliefs. If he took up the sword and smote someone, would he be a terrorist?”


Now take a look at Iran, the leading Shiite nation in a world of Sunnis who clearly would like to eliminate all Shias. In fact, the Pew Center, in a comprehensive demographic study of more than 200 countries, finds that there are 1.57 billion Muslims living in the world today. Of that number, 10-13% or 1.57-2.04 million are Shia and 87-90%, or 1.37 – 1.41 billion are Sunni. There are 9 Sunnis for every Shia on the face of the earth and these are people who are happy to kill each other. Not very good odds if you are a Shia.


The Shia are like a gigantic tribe in Islam, but one wildly outnumbered by their main competitor, the Sunnis. Add to that the fact that the Shia are spread out all over Islam, existing in countries that are majority Sunni, and the picture becomes more clear. In the Middle East, the only Shia majority countries are Iran 90-95%, Iraq 65-67%, Azerbaijan 65-75% and Bahrain 65-70%.


In Syria, the ruling Shia represent only 17% of the total Syrian Muslim population, in Lebanon they are 30-35%, Yemen 35-40%, India 25-30%, Kuwait 30-35%, Saudi Arabia 10-20%, Turkey 10-15%, Pakistan 10-20%, Afghanistan 10-15%, Qatar 10% Oman, 5-10% and the UAE, 10%.


As the country with the largest Shia population, Iran can be viewed as self-appointed protector of the world’s Shia. When the Shia come under Sunni attack as they have in Syria, the Iranians commit whatever is necessary to their defense. There is nothing covert about this support. In fact, Iran has set up an entire governmental structure designed to support any and all Shia groups in the Middle East. The Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps (IGRC) plays a preeminent role in the defense of Shia Islam. The IGRC is designed to protect the country’s Shia Islamic system by preventing foreign interference as well as hostile coups. The IGRC is comprised of about 125,00 military personnel which includes ground, naval and air capabilities and in addition, controls roughly 100,000 troops in the Basij paramilitary militia and an additional 2-5000 members of the Quds force, the successor organization to the Shah’s Imperial Guard.


Over the past decades, Iranian military and paramilitary assets have been involved, either directly or indirectly in just about every Middle East conflict that involved Shias. The Iraq war, the Lebanese civil war and unrest, the Syrian war, Hizbullah operations against Israel, and support for the Shia Houthi rebels in the Yemen conflict are all concrete examples of Iran assisting fellow Shia Arabs in their conflict with Sunni Arabs.


It probably seems convenient for American administrations to refer to these operations as “terrorism” or “terrorist operations”. The term “terrorist” carries with it a connotation that simply would not obtain if American officials were referring to these operations as military or as sectarian, either of which would be far more accurate. But of course, this will not happen because it does not meet the needs of any of our recent administrations, Republican or Democrat. No, on an emotional level and to keep the American populace on the “right track”, we need to label our enemies as “terrorists”.


If you are one of those Americans who wants to try to understand what is really happening around the world, you mlght consider the strong possibility that the Shia Iranians see themselves locked into a death struggle with Islam’s Sunnis and that in order to preserve their beliefs, they have to confront the Sunnis any time they or any of their Shia brethren feel threatened. Further, add in the fact that the Iranians, probably rightly, see American involvement in their region as anti-Shia and pro-Sunni and you will probably begin to see the depth of distrust that has existed between Iran and America since we engineered the 1953 Coup.


The Sunni-Shia schism has existed since the 7th Century. It doesn’t have much to do with Terrorism, but far more with regional power politics.   Since it is not going away, it’s important that Americans understand the nuances of this divisive situation.




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Originally published in the Rutland Herald on December 10,2015

There is one basic reality in the Middle East. The region contains a number of “countries” that were created out of whole cloth during the 19th and early 20th centuries by European colonial powers to suit their own purposes. The artificiality of those “countries” makes for a very unstable region.

Those “countries” are not in any sense internally cohesive, and many contain the seeds of their own disintegration. Historically, those “countries” have been governed repressively simply because the tribal, sectarian and national mixtures of residents are sufficiently volatile to require relatively strict repression for the maintenance of cohesion and public order.

The divisions that exist within those “countries” go back decades, centuries and millennia. Internal conflicts now exist where central, often repressive control has disappeared, as in Lebanon, Libya, Yemen, Syria, Afghanistan and Iraq. Where open conflict has not broken out, some form of repression continues in force, as in Iran, Saudi Arabia, Jordan, Egypt (for the moment) and the Gulf States.

The American compulsion to export democracy and concomitant peace to that world has been proven incredibly naïve, largely because the only elements in the region that matter — tribal, sectarian and national — have no experience with democracy and are largely unprepared for and do not seek its introduction.

And in the midst of this instability, we find ourselves required to deal with ISIS. Some Americans believe that we are capable of “beating” ISIS and its allies and support boots on the ground. That may or may not be, but that is not the real issue. The real issue is, what comes after the defeat of that enemy?

An examination of Iraq shows that tribally, Iraq has approximately 150 groups; Nationally, 72-75 percent Arabs (Palestinians, marsh Arabs, Bedouins), 20-22 percent Kurds (Feylis, Yazidis, Shabaks and Kakais), 2 percent Assyrians, 2 percent Turkmen and 1 percent Armenians, Circassians, Persians, Sabians, Baha’is, Afro-Iraqis and Doms; and most important, the sectarian split between Sunni (35 percent) and Shia Muslims (65 percent).

An absence of conflict between all these groups has existed only when Iraq has been governed repressively, and that most emphatically includes the period, 2003-2011, when American troops supplied the muscle. Now that we have largely left, Iraq is settling into a period of internal conflicts between inimical groups.

Let’s assume that we send American troops into Syria and that those troops ultimately “beat” ISIS. What happens then? Syria is not populated by a cohesive or happy bunch. Nationalities present in Syria include Arabs, Armenians, Assyrians, Circassians, Greeks, Kurds, Mandeans, Turkmen and Turks. Religions include Alawite, Christian, Druze, Mandean, Salafi, Shia, Sunni and Yazidi. There are tribes aplenty, particularly Bedouin.

On the issue of religion, it is worth noting that the Alawites, a branch of Shia Islam, who have repressively governed Syria for decades, represent about 12 percent of the population, while their rivals, the Sunnis, comprise around 75 percent. This situation is opposite to the one in Iraq where a minority of Sunnis governed repressively over a majority of Shia. The ongoing result in Iraq has been internecine warfare featuring the Shia who clearly seek retribution for decades of mistreatment by the Sunnis. It is not at all unlikely that the same would happen in Syria if the minority Alawites were to lose power to the majority Sunnis.

The way things now stand, with a majority of our 2016 presidential candidates favoring military intervention in Syria, it would seem that American boots on the ground in a struggle against ISIS, even if successful, could have some very unpleasant long-term results.

First, If we destroy ISIS, many of those “volunteers” now fighting with ISIS will more than likely go home and become self-motivated terrorists. The only likely difference between them and folks like the San Bernardino pair is that the new ones will be better trained and motivated and far harder to neutralize.

Then, assuming we are successful, who will govern? Russia, Hezbollah and Iran want Assad. We seem to want anyone but Assad. If we decide to impose a solution, it will be up to us to police it in a hostile and highly unsettled environment, which our boots on the ground will have created. The tribal, sectarian and national frictions that exist in Syria have been there and may remain forever. In short, the success of an American invasion, if we hope to change anything, will depend on our willingness to accept that there will be no predictable end to our occupation.

American boots on the ground is insanity. It’s simple: We can’t afford it. Let it be carried out by the neighbors, with our direct support, but without our direct involvement.



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Originally published in the Rutland Herald on October 07, 2015

Our military involvement in the Middle East began with Operation Desert Shield in 1990. At the end of that invasion, we did the only intelligent thing we have done in that area, we withdrew without ending Saddam Hussein’s rule in Iraq.

In the 15 years since then, we have invaded Afghanistan and Iraq. We have been militarily involved in Syria, Yemen and Libya. The purpose of this involvement clearly was a desire to bring democracy to the Middle East, based on our idea of American exceptionalism.

Thus, we effectively ended the reign of the existing governments as the first step in establishing democracy. However hard it was pushed by the neoconservatives as part of a “regime change” policy during the administration of President George W. Bush, democracy was a goal we never reached. It never took because the countries and people in question had never had any exposure to democracy and had none of the prerequisites for reaching it successfully.

What we did was remove or try to remove the repressive governments in question. We succeeded in Afghanistan, Iraq and Libya and essentially, brought chaos to those countries, which previously had enjoyed stability brought on by repressive governance. We created that chaos by militarily removing those regimes and then not being able to install the kind of benevolent democratic governance we wanted to see in place.

Our current administration has been severely criticized by its political opponents for not having stayed on and maintained order in Afghanistan and Iraq. Theoretically, we could have done that. The problem is that there would have been no end to those occupations because the countries in question have inherent internal religious, tribal and ethnic conflicts that have never been fixed and that may never be resolved.

These are problems that have been contained over the past 14 centuries through repressive governance. Any continued successful occupation of those countries by U.S. forces would have had to have been repressive as well as open-ended. Under those circumstances, the result of our ultimate withdrawal would most likely have ended in instability as it has today.

Essentially, what we have done is destroy existing, repressive order expecting to install democracy. Democracy doesn’t take, and we end up, inevitably, with chaos.

Consider Egypt. The Arab Spring brought a revolution to Egypt. A military dictator was deposed and a new, allegedly fundamentalist government was installed. That terrified the military establishment, which engineered a coup and reinstalled a military dictatorship which in turn, reestablished stability on their own terms. Egypt went full circle from military dictatorship through free elections back to military dictatorship and imposed order.

It seemed to many that the Obama administration would have a different attitude toward the cycles described above. They would get us out of the convoluted messes that neoconservative policies had created in the Middle East. Unfortunately, the Obama administration swapped their very own “liberal interventionists” for the Bush era neoconservatives. We began hands-off wars with drones and “clean” air power. No troops on the ground. We got involved in Libya, Yemen and Syria, adding to our declining popularity in the Middle East and to the mass exodus to Europe now under way.

Where are we heading in Syria? Our government opposes both Syrian President Assad and all the fundamentalist groups aligned against him. We have supported some of the groups opposed to the government and trained a pathetically small number of others, but we have frequently said that it is too difficult to identify those who are really sympathetic to our democratic goals.

To further complicate an already complicated scene, Libya and Saudi Arabia support the rebels (most of whom are Sunni) against the Assad government, which is Alawite (a branch of Shia Islam). On the other side of the issue, Shia Iran and Russia support the Assad government. Russia’s President Putin has said, somewhat cynically, that he is interested only in stability for Syria. It is difficult to say precisely what we seek for that same country, but let’s arbitrarily stipulate that it’s some form of democracy.

You can’t get there from here. If we depose Assad, whom do we support when he is gone? What we might consider, since our real enemy is ISIS and the other fundamentalist groups, is simply turning a blind eye, for the moment, to Assad and joining in a fight, which others are now conducting against those real enemies without moaning about Assad.

What we stand to gain from this is imposed, repressive stability, an end to the killing and to the terribly dangerous migration of hundreds of thousands toward our friends in Europe. Politically, Syria will have to evolve on its own through self-determination, not imposed democracy.



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