The extent of U.S. military involvement in Syria
With the Syrian army’s escalation of military operations, primarily in Homs, much is being said about U.S. military options in Syria. U.S. Senators John McCain and Lindsey Graham have already called the administration to consider its military involvement against the Assad regime.
The calls for the military intervention of the United States in Syria comes amid the failed motion by Morrocco and the Arab League to get a resolution passed in the United Nations Security Council, demanding end of violence against civilian population in Syria by the Assad’s government and his immediate resignation from the post of the president. The draft document specifically asked Assad to step down within the given 15 days handing over the power to the Vice President who would subsequently call for free elections. However, as much as the alliance of Arab nations and the West wanted to establish legal grounds for subduing Assad, Russia and China hastily vetoed the resolution.
As the violence continues in Syria, the insurgent opposition groups are being heavily hammered by heavy artillery of Assad’s army, reportedly, leaving many unarmed civilians dead as well. The U.S. government, in turn, discusses military options. Whether these options include an outright invasion of Syria, covert operations, or both is unknown. Preliminary military intervention analysis is normally laid out before the president to give him more options on the ground, if other measures don’t fall through. However, as many military experts contend, the decision to use military force on Syria is not that easy, as it was in case of Libya. Unlike Libya, Syria had acted as a more visible Russian and Iranian satellite for decades. Shiite Iran, in a close relationship with Alawite leadership and community of Syria, has reportedly used it for terrorist groups such as Hezbollah. Moreover, Syria is often regarded as a shield and leverage of Iran against both the West and Sunni Arab nations. Russia, contrary to Iran, is in an open developing military and economic relationship with Syria. Having heavily invested in its economy, Russia had been modernizing its Tartus naval base on the Mediterranean cost of Syria and in an explicitly bold display, supplied Assad with modern cruise missiles and other weaponry while the Western powers criticizing the massacres by the Syrian army, watched with an awe.
Rhetoric coming out of the United States and Israel vis-a-vis Iran and possible airstrikes on Iranian nuclear facilities embolden the Iranians and Russians on the Syrian issue. It is hard to understand that once Assad’s regime falls – if it does in the near future – U.S. and its allies will be more vocal and affirmative on the issue of military intervention in Iran. In other words, Iranian regime, is likely to then become the only regional troublemaker ready to be removed from the “axis of evil”, thus also tighting the knot around Russia’s influence, or undermining of U.S. interests thereof, in the region.
These realities make it very hard for the United States which has been fighting wars on two fronts in the last 10 years, to invest as heavily in a military campaign as it had in the near past. The fact of the matter is that the U.S. can’t endure another lengthy operation in the Middle East, where the playboard is unlikely to differ much from one in Iraq. Considering Russia’s special interest and military presence in Syria, a factor that will likely keep the U.S. army extra sensitive and careful not to “accidentally” harm any Russians or their property, and considering Iran’s multitiered involvement in Syria’s social and political life, which facilitates its funding, supplying and directing of potential anti-Western insurgency and guerilla groups, the U.S. and any NATO-led coalition force would have a hard time bringing peace and establishing tranquility in Syria.
This would leave one remaining option for the United States which is enhancing its network of covert operations, supplying and heavily funding its opposition insurgency against the Assad regime and increasing diplomatic pressure on the Syrian government in the United Nations. Nonetheless, both military and covert interventions are likely to prolong the hostilities in the country and are unlikely to remove Bashar al-Assad from power for a long time.
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