Sign up now to receive our regular news briefs.

Message to Congress: Forget Syria, Focus on Iran

September 10, 2013 8:41 am 1 comment

Capitol Hill. Photo: Wiki Commons.

Here’s advice to the members of the United States Congress as they are asked to endorse an American-led attack on the government of Syria:

Start your consideration by establishing priorities, clarifying what matters most to the country. The Obama administration rightly points to two urgent matters: stopping the Iranian nuclear buildup and maintaining the security of Israel. To these, I add a third: reestablishing the U.S. deterrent credibility laid low by Barack Obama himself.

Note that this list conspicuously does not mention the Syrian regime’s chemical arsenal (the largest in the world) or its recent use. That’s because those pale in horror and in danger by comparison with the nuclear weapons now under construction in Iran. Also, the attack in Ghouta, Syria, on Aug. 21 was appalling, but not worse than killing a hundred times more civilians through other means, including torture. Further, that attack breached multiple international conventions, but surely no one expects “limited strikes” to restrain desperate dictators.

How best, then, to achieve the real priorities concerning Iran, Israel, and U.S. deterrence? Several options exist. Going from most violent to least, they include:

1. Knock off the Assad regime. Attractive in itself, especially because it takes out Tehran’s No. 1 ally and disrupts supply lines to Hizbullah, this scenario opens a can of worms: anarchy in Syria, foreign intervention by neighbors, the prospect of Al-Qaeda-connected Islamists taking over in Damascus, hostilities against Israel on the hitherto-quiet Golan Heights, and the dispersal of the regime’s chemical weapons to terrorist organizations. Overthrowing Bashar al-Assad threatens to recapitulate the elimination of long-standing dictators of Iraq and Libya in 2003 and 2011, leading to years, or even decades, of instability and violence. Worse yet, this outcome could rejuvenate the otherwise dying career of Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, the bully of Turkey, currently nearly overwhelmed by his missteps.

2. Bust the regime’s chops without overthrowing it – the Obama administration proposed approach. This scenario takes us no less into the unknown: evidence exists that the Assad regime does not worry about the U.S.-led “punishment” but already plans to use deploy chemicals again, perhaps against civilians, as does Tehran against American targets. Further, as I have pointed out, a limited strike can lead to “violence against Israel, an activation of sleeper cells in Western countries, or heightened dependence on Tehran. Surviving the strikes also permits Assad to boast that he defeated the United States.” This step risks almost as much as overthrowing Asad without the benefit of getting rid of him, making it the worst of these three options.

3. Do nothing. This scenario has several disadvantages: letting Bashar al-Assad get away with his chemical attack; eroding Obama’s credibility after his declaring the use of chemicals a “red line”; andstrengthening the hardliners in Iran. But it has the even greater advantages of not further inflaming an already combustible war theater, maintaining the strategically beneficial stand-off between regime and rebels, and, most importantly, not distracting Washington from the really important country – Iran.

By all accounts, the mullahs in Tehran are getting ever closer to the point where they at will can order nuclear bombs to be made and readied for use. Unlike the use of chemical weapons against Syrian civilians, this prospect is a matter of the most direct and vital personal concern to Americans, for it could lead to an electromagnetic pulse attack on their electrical grid, suddenly returning them to a nineteenth-century economy and possibly a couple of hundred million fatalities.

Such prospects make the methods by which Syrians kill each other a decidedly less vital matter for Congress than Iranian plans to bring the United States to its knees. In this light, note that Barack Obama has followed his fellow Democrat Bill Clinton in a readiness to use force where American interests precisely are not vitally involved – Somalia, Bosnia, Kosovo, Haiti, Libya, and now Syria. Need one really argue that American troops be deployed only to protect their own country?

While the Saudi foreign minister and the Arab League haughtily demand that “the international community” do its duty and stop the bloodshed in Syria, this American suggests that Sunni Muslims who wish to protect their kin in Syria do so with their own plentiful petrodollars and large armies.

In this light, I recommend that Congress reject the sideshow proffered by the administration and instead pass a resolution endorsing and encouraging force against the Iranian nuclear infrastructure.

Mr. Pipes ( is president of the Middle East Forum and author of three books on Syria. © 2013 by Daniel Pipes. All rights reserved.

This article was originally published by The Washington Times.

1 Comment

  • Iran is not the trouble maker in the Middle East/North Africa. The USA and friends are the killers; the warmongers.

    It was the USA/UK in 1953 the created the coup upon a democratic Iran.
    It was the USA’s CIA the murdered and dissidents from 1953 to the Iranian Revolution of 1979.

    It is the USA and its bs movies that lie about Iran.

    It was President Reagan that helped Saddam Hussein in Iraq’s invasion of Iran.

    It was Reagan the helped Iraq get the materials, chemicals, know-how to create the poison gas that was used to kill thousands of Iranian and 100,000 Kurds.

Leave a Reply

Please note: comments may be published in the Algemeiner print edition. Comments written in all caps will be deleted.

Current day month ye@r *


  • Arts and Culture Features Opinion Playwrite Iddo Netanyahu: ‘Hitler Always Talked About Peace’ (INTERVIEW)

    Playwrite Iddo Netanyahu: ‘Hitler Always Talked About Peace’ (INTERVIEW)

    Late Friday night, on November 13, I was headed for bed when an ominous news bulletin flashed across my computer screen – something about a shooting in Paris. It wasn’t long before the “small number” of shootings and casualties began to double and triple and quadruple. The locations of attacks seemed crazily disorganized, and the tweets and videos became more and more horrifying. It was a long night for many stunned observers. We tried to understand what was happening, and […]

    Read more →
  • Israel Theater BDS Gives Belgian-Jewish Actress New Lease on Life in Tel Aviv

    BDS Gives Belgian-Jewish Actress New Lease on Life in Tel Aviv

    In an interview with the Israeli site nrg on Wednesday, Belgian-Jewish stage actress Noemi Schlosser recounted immigrating to Israel after her career in Europe was destroyed by BDS. Schlosser said she had enjoyed success in Belgium and international acclaim until she was targeted by the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement for her pro-Israel stance during Operation Protective Edge — last summer’s war against Hamas in Gaza. She described watching the theaters where she performed go from packed to nearly empty over a short period of […]

    Read more →
  • Israel Sports In Israel for Champions League Soccer Match, Chelsea Manager Says Team Not Worried About Security Situation

    In Israel for Champions League Soccer Match, Chelsea Manager Says Team Not Worried About Security Situation

    The manager of the Chelsea Football Club said on Monday that he is looking forward to playing in Israel this week against Maccabi Tel Aviv, in spite of the security situation, Israeli news site nrg reported. Jose Murinho, who is already in Israel with his team to compete against Maccabi in the Champions League soccer match, was  asked whether he was worried about the current wave of Palestinian violence sweeping the country. “I have no worries at all regarding the security situation, and neither do […]

    Read more →
  • Book Reviews Opinion In the Middle East, ‘The Tail Wags the Dog’ (REVIEW)

    In the Middle East, ‘The Tail Wags the Dog’ (REVIEW)

    Blaming the West has become the most pervasive method of teaching for many Middle East studies departments, which are becoming the heart of pop-culture academia. Efraim Karsh, a distinguished professor of Middle Eastern studies at Bar-Ilan University and professor emeritus at King’s College London, in his latest book The Tail Wags the Dog: International Politics and the Middle East, dispels this myth. “Britain’s ‘original sin,’ if such was indeed committed, lay not in the breaking up of Middle Eastern unity but […]

    Read more →
  • Features Spirituality/Tradition With Popularity and Sales up, ‘Mensch on a Bench’ Has Much to Smile About

    With Popularity and Sales up, ‘Mensch on a Bench’ Has Much to Smile About – The Mensch on a Bench is so much happier now than he was a year ago. Look carefully and you will notice that, whereas the previous Mensch had a decidedly worried look, this latest version of the popular Hanukkah toy is flashing an exuberant grin. Is the erstwhile Mensch smiling because he expects to be in some 100,000 homes by year’s end? In truth, the change in visage was suggested last year by the “sharks” on ABC’s Shark Tank […]

    Read more →
  • Music US & Canada Adam Sandler Updates Famous ‘Chanukah Song,’ Includes Hulk Hogan, David Beckham and Scarlett Johansson in Latest Version

    Adam Sandler Updates Famous ‘Chanukah Song,’ Includes Hulk Hogan, David Beckham and Scarlett Johansson in Latest Version

    Actor Adam Sandler unveiled a new version of his famous “Chanukah Song” on Saturday, adding a slew of Jewish celebrities to the ditty’s updated lyrics. The comedian — who released the original song about being Jewish during Christmas in 1996 — performed the latest version of the comedic track during the New York Comedy Festival at Carnegie Hall. Marvel Comics creator Stan Lee, actor Jake Gyllenhaal and “the two guys who founded Google” are among the famous Jewish celebrities now in the line up. Sandler also included lyrics about Star Wars‘ Princess […]

    Read more →
  • Music US & Canada Famed Israeli Violinist Itzhak Perlman to Receive Presidential Medal of Freedom

    Famed Israeli Violinist Itzhak Perlman to Receive Presidential Medal of Freedom – Famed Israeli violinist Itzhak Perlman will be among the 17 recipients of America’s Presidential Medal of Freedom next week. He is the fourth Israeli to receive the highest civilian honor in the US. “A native of Israel, he came to the United States at a young age and was introduced to Americans broadly when he appeared on the ‘Ed Sullivan Show’ in 1958. Mr. Perlman made his Carnegie Hall debut in 1963 when he was 18,” a White House […]

    Read more →
  • Features Spirituality/Tradition Don’t Think Israel is a Luxury Destination? Check Out These 6 Spots

    Don’t Think Israel is a Luxury Destination? Check Out These 6 Spots – While Israel is a common destination for cultural and religious pilgrimages, travelers seeking the best hotels, fine dining, and upscale relaxation less often find themselves in the Holy Land. Yet in recent years, the country’s burgeoning tech scene has attracted a business crowd accustomed to ritzy accommodation. Besides, the permanent summer of Tel Aviv and Eilat makes them prime destinations for European vacationers. Israel’s populace managed to tame the swamps and irrigate the desert — so going luxury should […]

    Read more →