By Barry Rubin, RUBIN REPORTS
A case can be made that the Syrian rebels must not be defeated because it would be an Iranian victory. But what is disturbing is that even if one could argue that the rebels must be helped it is a policy being conducted dishonestly. People do not know that the weapons given by the United States will almost all end up in the hands of pro-Muslim Brotherhood units. How would the American people feel if they knew that truth? At this point, almost 100 percent of the fighters on the front lines–are radical Islamists. The exiled political leadership is overwhelmingly Muslim Brotherhood. This is a choice of Sunni anti-Christians, anti-Americans, and antisemites rather than Shia anti-Christians, anti-Americans, and antisemites. The United States–after Egypt and Tunisia–is now promoting the Muslim Brotherhood as regional hegemon. This is not a good idea and certainly not one to be made by honestly debating whether the United States wants to do this.
A new, important development has taken place in the Syrian civil war: Western panic that the rebels are losing has replaced optimism. This has spurred a desire to do something about the war. But how can the West do enough to prevent the feared rebel defeat? It isn’t going to intervene directly, nor with a big enough effort to save off a defeat. Anyway, is a defeat imminent?
This has been a war in which every week somebody different is proclaimed the victor. I don’t believe that the Syrian regime is poised for a victory but a lot of people in Washington and other world capitals do.
What this round has done, however, is to raise alarms, both in the West and in the Sunni Muslim world, that the Shia Muslim side is winning, that is Iran is emerging triumphant over the United States. What are the implications?
Remember some important points. Iran is not going to take over the Middle East nor is it about to win a lot of Sunni followers. Iran’s limit of influence is mainly in Lebanon and Syria (where its ally only controls half the country) and to a lesser extent Iraq. Tehran can fool around in Yemen, Bahrain, and southwest Afghanistan a bit, too. But that’s about it. There are real limits.
Why, though, has the Iran bloc seemed to have been winning?
First, Iran’s proxies are better organized than the Syrian rebels. They are unified, with Hizballah and the Syrian government coherent forces and a new People’s Army as a single militia. In contrast, the rebels are divided into a dozen groups which may cooperate but also battle among themselves and don’t coordinate very well.
Second, the Iran bloc gives more support to its proxies than the Sunni bloc or the West. Among the Sunnis, they are also divided into Islamists (Muslim Brotherhood, Salafists, and al-Qaida) and what might be called non- or anti-Islamists. The United States will not intervene in a big way. …read more