Over the past week, President Barack Obama and his senior advisers have told us that the US is poised to go to war against Syria. In the next few days, the US intends to use its air power and guided missiles to attack Syria in response to the regime's use of chemical weapons in the outskirts of Damascus last week.
The questions that ought to have been answered before any statements were made by the likes of Secretary of State John Kerry and Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel have barely been raised in the public arena. The most important of those questions are: What US interests are at stake in Syria? How should the US go about advancing them? What does Syria's use of chemical weapons means for the US's position in the region? How would the planned US military action in Syria impact US deterrent strength, national interests and credibility regionally and worldwide? Syria is not an easy case. Thirty months into the war there, it is clear that the good guys, such as they are, are not in a position to win.
Syria is controlled by Iran and its war is being directed by the Iranian Revolutionary Guards Corps and by Hezbollah. And arrayed against them are rebel forces dominated by al-Qaida.
As US Sen. Ted Cruz explained this week, "Of nine rebel groups [fighting the regime of Syrian President Bashar Assad], seven of them may well have some significant ties to al-Qaida."
With no good horse to bet on, the US and its allies have three core interests relating to the war. First, they have an interest in preventing Syria's chemical, biological and ballistic missile arsenals from being used against them either directly by the regime, through its terror proxies or by a successor regime.
Second, the US and its allies have an interest in containing the war as much as possible to Syria itself.
Finally, the US and its allies share an interest in preventing Iran, Moscow or al-Qaida from winning the war or making any strategic gains from their involvement in the war.
For the past two-and-a-half years, Israel has been doing an exemplary job of securing the first interest. According to media reports, the IDF has conducted numerous strikes inside Syria to prevent the transfer of advanced weaponry, including missiles from Syria to Hezbollah.
Caroline B. Glick is the senior Middle East fellow at the Center for Security Policy in Washington, D.C., and the deputy managing editor of The Jerusalem Post, where this article first appeared.
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