Commentary Magazine


While Obama Dithers, Iran and Hezbollah Mobilize to Help Assad

While the Obama administration continues to do nothing about the ongoing violence in Syria, the Assad regime’s allies in Iran and Lebanon are not sitting around waiting to see whether the dictator will fall. Ha’aretz reports Iran’s Revolutionary Guard is operating throughout Syria helping the government suppress dissent and possibly being involved in the slaughter of protesters.

Sources told the newspaper men in beards (which are banned in the Syrian army) speaking poor Arabic or Farsi were seen among the forces backing the government. The Iranians were also seen along the border with Israel on May 15 and June 5, when Syria organized protests aimed at penetrating the international frontier between the two countries.

Meanwhile, other reports have surfaced that if Assad is viewed as being in big trouble, his allies in Lebanon will seek to start a war with Israel in order to create a diversion.  According to Reuters, Hezbollah will do whatever it takes in order to help the Assad regime, up to and including starting another border war with Israel that would serve to reduce pressure on Damascus. With the help of Iran, Hezbollah has completely re-armed since its last all-out fight with Israel in 2006.

This illustrates the notion of a regional movement for democracy is somewhat misleading. The idea the “Arab Spring” would overturn all the tyrants in the Middle East was a misnomer. Islamists in Egypt backed the protests against Mubarak because that put them in position to gain power. But in Syria, they are determined to defend a dictator closely aligned with Iran, Hamas and Hezbollah.

These developments again show just how clueless is the Obama administration’s timid approach to Syria. Assad is not  just another Middle East dictator whose people should be encouraged but not supported as they strive for democracy. He is a key element in a regional alliance orchestrated in Tehran whose goal is the perpetuation of war against Israel and the struggle against the West. Sitting back and waiting to see what will happen in Syria has not simply given Assad and his cohorts the leeway to conduct massacres against their own people. It has also given Iran the time to mobilize help for Assad and increased the chances his Hezbollah surrogates will unleash more bloodshed.

The stakes involved in the outcome of the struggle in Syria are enormous. But Obama is still too obsessed with engaging with Islamists rather than confronting them to act decisively as did his predecessor.  The result of this American dithering has been an opening for Iran to preserve its regional empire.