Saturday, July 21, 2007

Middle East Strategy

Lots of good stuff discovered this weekend, I may have to take a gander at some of my regular sites on the weekends from now on. Michael Gerson points out one of the many problems facing us in Iraq - its neighbors.

"In a kind of malicious chemistry experiment, hostile powers are adding accelerants to Iraq's frothing chaos. Iran smuggles the advanced explosive devices that kill and maim American soldiers. Syria allows the transit of suicide bombers who kill Iraqis in markets and mosques, feeding sectarian rage. This is not a complete explanation for the difficulties in Iraq. Poor governance and political paralysis would exist if Iran and Syria meddled or not."

He is also quite vexed (understandably so, in my view) that Americans don't seem to care that Iran and Syria's meddling in Iraq is killing US service personnel. He also points out our options for response are limited, but applauds recent efforts to target Iranians in Iraq and the ratcheting of economic pressure on Iran to increase the costs of its involvement. Obviously, military escalation against Iran is problematic to such an extent it's pretty much off the table for now.

Syria, however, might be a different situation, and one that I've always thought should be addressed sooner than the Iranian issue, in that it is likelier to be solved more quickly. The Syrians claim they cannot control the flow of suicde bombers into Iraq, so it might behoove us to "assist" them in doing so, in tandem with some economic "incentives", although this would not be without risks as well, particularly to Lebanon.

Gerson summs up his thoughts quite nicely:

"Increasing pressure of all types on Syria would demonstrate that being part of an anti-American alliance with Iran brings unpleasant consequences. And when that pressure builds sufficiently, it becomes possible to offer Syria a way out that separates it from Iran. These are realistic responses to the serious provocations of Iran and Syria: Ramping up economic pressure on both regimes; intensifying operations within Iraq against foreign influence; and taking limited but forceful actions against Syria's Ho Chi Minh Trail of terrorists. In combination with the Petraeus strategy, these measures hold out the promise of something unthinkable a few months ago: America, once again, on the strategic offensive."

Imagine that.

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