Monday, November 13, 2006

Assad's Syria: Time for a Change of Course? (Part 1)

The war in Iraq has shattered the old geopolitical orthodoxy in the Middle East, and out of the ruins Iran led by the Mullahs has stepped up, presenting a grave threat to regional stability. With the belligerence of Iranian president Ahmadinejhad toward American regional allies, primarily Iraq and Israel, our main concern in the Middle East is not simply maintaining stability within Iraq, but also containing Iran and ensuring the radical Shi'ism endorsed by its leaders remains in check. With this goal in mind, foreign policy scholars have isolated two primary routes to this goal.

The first way to balance Iran is the stabilization of Iraq, primarily with regards to the secular conflict which claims thousands of lives each month. An important note with regards to the secular breakdown of Iraq is the split between Sunni's and the Shia which is where most of the violence begins. While most of the Middle East is led by Sunni leaders, Iran remains the largest (and only) Middle Eastern nation controlled by Shi'ite politicians.

The implications of this religious division of the Middle East are profound, as American allies around the Middle East are confronted with increasingly belligerent Shia populations, sponsored in large part by the Iranian administration. Robbins, a senior policy fellow from the conservative American Enterprise Institute, demonstrates in "Let’s Be Friends with Syria" that this split between Sunni and Shia is so wide, that Iranian doctrine holds that the Sunni's must be killed, holding the position of an 'Apostate', a Muslim who believes in Sunni doctrine. These Apostates are (in the minds of the radical Mullahs in charge) worthy of death, because unlike Christians and Jews, they are not simply 'deluded', but they OUGHT to know better. This divide between Sunni and Shia has been exacerbated by the instability in Iraq, and Iran's main strength outside of its borders has been its ability to exploit this shift to destabilize its neighbors.

Therefore, a key part of the American strategy in Iraq must be to ensure Sunni integration into the political process (with many Sunni's creating the foundation of the insurgency against Iraq's Shia majority). Without their participation, it is unlikely that any truly effective coalition government can prevent escalation of secular violence, and create a major counterbalancing force to Iran's growing strength. It is for this reason that many scholars on the conflict have suggested that the United States actively pursue a stronger relationship with Iraqi Sunni communities, regional Sunni allies, and Sunni militant groups.

The second approach is entirely geopolitical in its nature, splintering Iran's regional coalition, and isolating it diplomatically. While Iran maintains close ties with many nations, two remain the most important in the Middle East's balance of power. The first nation is Russia, with its strong ties to the development of Iranian petroleum and nuclear energy reserves, their aid has allowed Iranians to develop their nuclear program, and modernize their military forces. The second nation is Syria, whose leadership under president Assad has found itself diplomatically and politically isolated from regional powers. Despite its strong Sunni majority, and opposition to Shia expansionism, Syria has found itself FORCED into a stance supporting Iranian military strength.

Syria in particular is important in this regard. The Hezbollah terrorist organization, infamous for its war of terror against Israel this last July, receives most of its monetary and logistical support from the Shia leadership of Iran. This terrorist organization is just one example of Iranian extended influence in the region, spreading and exacerbating the conflict between Sunni and Shia Muslims in the western Middle East. Syria's support of Iranian political doctrine has also allowed Iran to help block Israel from exerting its influence farther east, and has continued to prevent the stabilization of the region, particularly with regard to Iraq. Finally, Syria's connections with Iran have fostered the creation of a terror-friendly border between Syria and Iraq, fueling the insurgency movement. Clearly, Syria's geo-political alignment with Iran has been problematic for the region, and for American regional interests.

(This Post will be continued with PART 2 posted later)

Have Questions/Comments/Disagreements? Post them!


Post a Comment

<< Home

My Ecosystem Details