talk a bit about the Syrian situation becoming a proxy for international
tensions over Iran. How and why is Syria
specifically becoming this proxy, and
who right now is seeing it this way?
the way that Iran, its allies, as well as the West see it right now. Same with
Israel. Syria is a very strategic location, right on the borders of Israel,
Lebanon, and Iraq. Because of its strong relationship with Iran, it was almost
inevitable that this would become something of a proxy conflict between Syria
and its allies Iran and Hizbollah against the West and its allies in the
region, including Saudi Arabia and Qatar (who are taking the lead in the Arab League
as well because they too see that if the regime falls it will be a weakening of
Iran in the heartland of the Middle East on the border with Israel). Israel has
been prudently quiet over the situation in Syria.
will be severely hurt with the loss of its Syrian ally if, in fact, what comes
into power in Syria is anti-Tehran, which is not a guarantee, by the way. Iran
as well as Hizbollah have made contact with opposition elements in order to
hedge their bets a little bit. Hamas has taken a stance against the Syrian
regime, which has backed them for a very long time.
there are many players here in a complex game. The fact that Syria is so
geo-strategically located and has played such a prominent role in the
Arab-Israeli arena makes this much more than an internal civil war.
that part of what makes the range of options for international players
different in Syria than it was in Libya?
Libya was a fairly self-contained uprising. There was very little fear of it
spreading or causing trouble elsewhere. There was no proxy war being fought.
The only thing of that kind the U.S. had to worry about was maybe Russian
resistance, but Russia abstained in the UN Security Council resolution.
is a whole different story because of its geostrategic nature, because it has
traditionally been at the forefront of the anti-Israeli coalition in the Arab
world, and because it has such a close relationship with Iran and Russia.
talk a little bit about what the West loses from not intervening. You quoted
Robert Fisk in Beirut talking about the Obama administration's response to the
Arab Spring "destroying the U.S.'s remaining credit in that region." What are
the risks of not supporting the insurgent elements in the Arab Spring?
I think the Obama administration has been fairly prudent in not intervening in
Syria. It's a difficult situation that they deal with country by country.
Unfortunately, from the perspective of those in the region, the U.S. is seen as
acting on its strategic interests alone rather than taking a strong stance in
support of democratic elements region-wide. The U.S. supported Egyptian and
Tunisian rebels yet supported the government in Bahrain, as well as Saudi
attempts to send troops in there to quash the rebellion. And then of course we
hesitate with regard to Syria. And rightly so: Syria is not Libya, and is much
more of a challenge militarily and in every other way. But the people in the
region itself, fighting and dying on the streets, don't see it that way.