Syria, America’s Unwinnable Game – OpEd


By Arash Zahedi

In its latest foreign diplomacy move, the US State Department has recalled its ambassador to Damascus Robert Ford citing safety reasons.

Tensions were running high as the ambassador had recently been touring different Syrian cities and been involved in talks with the heads of the country’s opposition.

The ups and downs in the Syria-US relations in the past few months definitely represent a gesture of anything but good will as they now host no envoys in one another’s lands.

The situation has been aggravating even more with the death of Libya’s once long-time ruler Muammar Gaddafi. America, having been more or less disengaged from the Libya game, is now building up pressure against Syria by escalating accusations against it.

The once US presidential hopeful, Republican Senator John McCain, best known for its “Bomb, Bomb” rhetoric, is now describing Syria as the focal point of the US attention. He has also talked of the use of military force against Damascus. A choice always on the US’s famous “table of options”, that can be considered when it unilaterally deems it necessary or when it fails to meaningfully engage in talks.

There are growing fears among political circles now that Damascus might, to some extent, play the next Tripoli given the recent US rhetoric that comes along with sanctions and intimidations.

Given the UK and France’s recently emboldened anti-Damascus views as well as the role the allegedly foreign-backed armed gangs play in today’s Syria, one has to watch the events of the next few weeks or months with caution.

The West’s Libya adventure is largely characterized by the block’s hunger for Libya’s riches and energy resources. Syria, however, is not of great energy or resource significance when compared with Libya. So what is at stake for the US in Syria?

Experts say it is the geographical location of Syria which makes it extremely strategic to Israel’s existence. Syria is so far the only country with upheaval that as well shares borders with Israel. The two sides have never enjoyed the best of ties and even have a history of war.

Given the reality that almost all the uprisings in the Middle East were, to some extent, fueled by Arab nations’ anti-US and anti-Israel sentiments, one can quickly realize why Syria has become the “focal point” at this juncture and not Yemen for instance.

Yemen, a poor regional country, has seen its own wave of uprising along with other countries in the Middle East and North Africa. But, unlike Libya and now Syria, it has never been threatened militarily by the US or any of its Western allies.

But what if such, as some term it as, Western sabre-rattling turns into an all-out war?

Experts warn seriously against such a move. They argue this is going to turn the whole region into a burning ball of fire which the US will by no means be able to handle. Many say it will be the West’s unwinnable war.

Another argument is that seeing the end of Gaddafi and speculations over the future conditions of Libya or studying the fate of Iraq’s Saddam Hussein and the situation in that country today after 8 years of its US occupation will even unite the Syrian government and supporters with some of today’s dissidents against a foreign threat, enabling Syria to put up a genuinely strong resistance. Thus, making losses greater than gains for the Western countries whose public opinion resent the 30,000 loss of lives in Libya and the 2 million that died in Iraq and Afghanistan.

In terms of the military might, Syria and Libya belong to two different leagues. Unlike Libya, Syria’s army is one of the strongest in the Arab world and observers say it resolves to fight to the end in case of war. This means a longer war with far too many casualties for both sides.

In the meantime, let’s not forget about Israel’s geographical proximity to Syria. If Syria cannot reach the US soil in Washington, it obviously has the comfort of easily hitting any target inside Tel Aviv. After a meeting with Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, Turkey’s Foreign Minister Davutoglu quoted the Syrian president as saying he would “shower Israel with missiles if NATO or the US attacked Syria.”

As mentioned, the anti-Israeli and anti-US feelings, to a certain degree, characterized the Arab world’s recent Islamic awakening. A US attack on Syria and a likely Israeli involvement will cause people in other countries to put pressure on their governments to intervene. The issue will not be overlooked in Cairo, for instance, where people had even attacked the Israeli embassy deeming Tel Aviv as the root cause of many of their historical miseries. Also of immeasurable concern to Israel and the US will be the reaction of other regional sympathizing powerhouses.

There is no doubt the West will have to pay dearly in case of opening another front, with Damascus this time around, and the price will not be the same as Libya’s.

Launching another war for the US that is seeing its Wall Street occupied by angry tax payers, if not an empty threat, may mean the nation will, for a long time to come, completely fall out with a government that needs their support in these hard economic times and their votes in future elections.

Press TV

Press TV is a state funded news network owned by Islamic Republic of Iran Broadcasting (IRIB). Its headquarters are located in Tehran, Iran and seeks to counter a western view on news.

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