- The American presence in Syria had formed the primary obstacle in the way of Iran’s completing an unbroken corridor of political influence from Tehran to Beirut on the Mediterranean shore. With only 2,000 soldiers, the U.S. was controlling, indirectly, about a third of the country, yet this small force was still large enough to overwhelm any potential combination of adversaries, as it proved last February when it annihilated some 200 Russian mercenaries in a matter of hours, with no losses on the American side. No question, the American withdrawal will create a vacuum in the region that Iran and Russia will inevitably seek to fill.
- As America withdraws from the Middle East, the choice is between, on the one hand, a withdrawal of American power based on the conviction not just that the situation has become hopeless but that over the decades the U.S. choice of allies, including Israel, has made it worse – the Obama position – and, on the other hand, a withdrawal of direct American military engagement while ensuring that the U.S. will continue reliably to support those same historic allies and others drawn to its and their side, thereby enhancing the possibility of a stabilized Middle East in the next decade.
- In the Trump administration’s conception, three key obstacles stand in the way of American interests in the Middle East. The first is jihadistans, zones of chaos defined by failed states like Syria and Yemen. The jihadistans are problems that must be managed. The second is the problem posed by Sunni terror groups like al-Qaeda and Islamic State, which take root and prosper in the jihadistans. The third is the rise of Iran, which, abetted by Russia, is training and equipping Shiite militias based on the Hizbullah model; these it deploys to project its power into Iraq, Syria, Lebanon, and Yemen.
- If the Israelis have any hope of preventing Syria from becoming a permanent Iranian military base, they must act alone. Only independent military action can solve their problem. Israel is more powerful militarily than at any time in its history, and it is not at all isolated. The U.S. fervently desires to see Israel succeed in curtailing Iranian power. Trump and his foreign-policy advisers, led by Bolton and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, will likely be eager to provide Israel with any weapons and intelligence it may lack to do the job.
The writer, a senior fellow at the Hudson Institute, is a former deputy assistant secretary of defense and a former senior director of the U.S. National Security Council.
(Click on the article’s title to see the whole article…Ed.)