Source: Boston Globe
DURING SEVEN DEVASTATING years, war in Syria has killed at least 150,000 people, turned more than ten million into refugees, and reduced once-thriving towns and cities to rubble. Finally it is winding down. Syria now has a chance to begin rebuilding. The country can be reunited, its economy can start to function again, and a measure of political stability can return. None of that, however, is likely to happen. American military and security planers are determined to prevent it as long as President Bashar al-Assad is in power. The specter of a peaceful and prosperous Syria under Assad’s leadership terrifies them. They believe that until he is gone, it is in America’s interest to keep Syria divided, unstable and impoverished.
Much of Syria’s water, much of its oil, and much of its best agricultural land lie in regions controlled by US-backed rebel factions. This gives the Americans a magnificent opportunity. We could encourage our Kurdish allies and other rebel groups to negotiate a peace accord with Assad, who seems likely to remain in power for years to come. That would lay the foundation for a stable Syria—which is why we are unlikely do it.
According to the logic behind American strategy in the Middle East — and the rest of the world — one of our principal goals should be to prevent peace or prosperity from breaking out in countries whose governments are unfriendly to us. That outcome in Syria would have results we consider intolerable. First, it would signal final victory for the Assad government, which we deluded ourselves into thinking we could crush. Second, it would allow Russia, which has been Assad’s ally, to maintain its influence in Syria. Most frighteningly, it might allow stability to spread to nearby countries. Today, for the first time in modern history, the governments of Syria, Iraq, Iran and Lebanon are on good terms. A partnership among them could lay the foundation for a new Middle East. That new Middle East, however, would not be submissive to the United States-Israel-Saudi Arabia coalition. For that reason, we are determined to prevent it from emerging. Better to keep these countries in misery and conflict, some reason, than to allow them to thrive while they defy the United States.