May 9th is Victory Day. With 11 million people forced from their homes due to conflict in 2014 alone and that number only expected to grow, the Peoples of the world need a victory. Targeting the country with the largest number of internally displaced persons, recent developments in the Syrian Civil War offer a chance to give the world a victory over extremism and tyrannical government.
It is first important to recognize the Assad regime started the Civil War by attacking peaceful protesters while sustaining the conflict by continuing attacks on areas populated by civilians. Consequently, the Syrian Civil War will not end unless the Assad regime is subdued.
Recent losses in the northwest and south, which even Bashar al-Assad publicly concedes, directly threaten Assad’s capital Damascus, thereby offering the Syrian People hope that the Assad problem may soon disappear. Perhaps more importantly, US allies Saudi Arabia and Turkey are partnering to intervene in the Syrian conflict and support rebel factions as a bid to take more responsibility for their own regional security.
Unfortunately, the Islamic State and the Al-Qaeda affiliated al-Nusra Front played a major role in those recent victories while it appears Turkey does not view al-Nusra as a security threat. Given Turkey’s earlier reluctance to combat the Islamic State in Iraq and assist the Kurdish Peshmerga in Kobane due to fears that they would empower Turkish Kurds, US concerns are justified.
Where Assad must go in order to restore stability to Syria, so too must the Islamic State and all other destabilizing extremist groups. In other words, the Saudis and Turks must not pursue a short-term victory over the Assad regime and the Islamic State by strengthening terrorists groups like al-Nusra and making them bigger threats.
Should the Assad regime fall, groups like al-Nusra will eventually be forced to either aligned with or against the Islamic State. Should al-Nusra survive the fall of ISIL, it will become the enemy of countries like Turkey and Saudi Arabia.
Conversely, the US must not pursue a short-term victory over the Islamic State by giving the Assad regime room to weaken pro-Western forces. Quite frankly, it is within the interests of Assad for the Free Syrian Army to weaken itself fighting the Islamic State and al-Nusra. Any “space” the International Community gives the Assad regime will be used to fight Assad’s enemies that the world supports, not the enemies it shares with the world.
The Iranian nuclear deal, however, complicates the situation. Where Iranian government’s attempts to free its economy from crippling sanctions should force the rogue state to choose between its objectives to dominate the region through troublemaking, e.g. Yemen, and its national interests, the US is allowing the prospect of a nuclear deal with Iran, i.e. America’s main interest in dealing with Iran, over the regional interests of the United States.
If the divide between Iranian moderates and hardliners exists and hardliners are trying to derail nuclear negotiations, an American failure to react to the negative actions of these hardliners only empowers them. This, in turn, weakens the moderates who are trying to secure a nuclear deal and reset diplomatic relations with the West.
Fighting back, however, adds credibility to the efforts of the moderates. If there is no division between moderates and hardliners, no honest nuclear deal is possible and standing up to Iranian provocations is still the best option.
This is particularly true when considering Iran might be facing another round of mass civil unrest as seen in Northwestern Iran over the death and attempted-rape of a hotel maid by a government official.
Finally, resisting the collective efforts of Saudi Arabia and Turkey to tackle the Syrian Civil War will only negate US influence in the conflict while alienating moderate factions in Syria and the rest of the Middle East. On the other hand, the US will have far greater influence over Turkey and Saudi Arabia when it comes to dealing with threats like al-Nusra, if the US fully joins their cause. Solving the Syrian problem will also help free Iraq of the Islamic State threat.
In fact, it would also be wise for Israel, with the support of the US, to seek a role in the Saudi-Turkey initiative as freeing Muslims from war, instead of warring with them, serves the interests of Israel , the US, and the entire Middle East.
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