Syria: Americas love letter to Iran

Bomb Syria, so we don't have to bomb Iran? Photo: Wikimedia Commons

WASHINGTON, September 17, 2013  As talks of a deal to disarm Syrian President Bashar al-Assad press forward today which would rid the embattled dictator of his chemical weapons, President Obama has reminded the World that a punitive military strike against President Assad is not off the table.

Citing the 1925 Resolution banning the use of chemical weapons in warfare, the Obama Administration has made their case for punishing the Syrian dictator for violating the rules set by the accord. However public support for such a move is minimal, leaving President Obama scrambling to find footing for his current position.

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Some major questions have risen out of all of this. Despite the fact that Russia and President Putin have managed to get President Assad to agree to disarmament, despite the fact that the United Kingdom wants little to nothing to do with this endeavor, and despite the fact that the American people have cried out and rallied against another possible war, President Obama keeps pushing for the green light to strike.

Why? What does the United States have to gain in the region, and in the World, by striking Syria? Is potentially helping al-Qaeda in Syria worth the reward of what a military strike would get us?

In 1945, towards the tail end of WWII, The United States and the Allies were planning Operation Downfall, which was the invasion of mainland Japan. Some estimates put the cost of the invasion to be nearly half a million lives, causing many to think about alternative US options. As the Soviet Union invaded Manchuria in China and planned to invade Japan in the north, the United States realized that they needed to end the war quickly so it was the US in complete control of Japan.

With the completion of the Manhattan Project, the US had their answer and issued the Potsdam Declaration urging Japan to surrender. Two bombs and hundreds of thousands of dead later, and with pressure exerted by the Soviets in Manchuria, Japan surrendered. But there are those still, after nearly seventy years, speculate over why the United States dropped the bomb(s) on Japan, when many believed Operation Downfall would have been successful including Gen. George C. Marshall.

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Many believe that by dropping the bombs on Japan, the US sent a clear message to the Soviet Union that it would be foolish to consider war against America. The idea was that the destructive power of the atom bomb was so devastating, that it shocked the Soviets into realizing the strength of American military might, urging caution in their dealings with the only other World super power.

Why the history lesson? Why are you be reading this when you could be watching cat videos or trying to finds things for your Pintrest page? World events, kids! Pay attention!

Who fits the bill of the Soviet Union in the current Syrian Civil War conundrum? And please do not reply with the obvious answer of Russia, because you are wrong. Who in the region is the United States attempting to intimidate into inaction or caution?


On a much smaller scale, Iran represents a lot of the same history and a lot of the same feelings towards the United States as the former Soviet Union did during the Cold War.

Shall we break it down? Why yes, we should.

The United States is fundamentally and ideologically opposed to the Iranian government, and as a result they constantly seek to undermine one another’s interests. Iran is a religious oligarchy run by a highly corrupt and unpopular government, however its oil reserves and position on the Persian Gulf make it a regional powerhouse.

The United States once sponsored a coup in Iran, installing a Western friendly government which was eventually overthrown giving rise to the Ayatollah and decades following of American resentment. Cuba was forced to suffer a similar fate at the hands of the United States with their support of Batista, and the eventual rise of Castro.

Not to mention, that after World War I the West attempted to overthrow the Bolsheviks during The Polar Bear Expedition, and the Soviets never forgot about that.

Iran is developing a nuclear program that is by any estimate between five and ten years from being able to produce a nuclear warhead. The USSR had a nuclear stockpile, though it took them until 1949 to set off their first hydrogen bomb at the limits of their airspace just close enough for US sensors to pick up the radiation.

In the case of Iran, they have been keeping their heads down while slowly moving towards their goal of nuclear armament, while maybe also vowing to white Israel off of the face of the planet. And like actions against the Soviet Union, the US has backed Iran’s enemies on multiple occasions, making American Pie leave a sour taste in their mouths.

Yes, they are relatively similar circumstances. US waging war on Iran would trigger a wider and catastrophic conflict that would threaten to bring the entire planet to battlefields all over the World.

 But why now, and why Iran?

In dealing with radical Muslim groups and hardliner nations such as Iran, the credible threat of force, whether or not it is mentioned, is the most potent tool any statesman or state leader has in their diplomatic arsenal.

The threat of force carries more weight than gold.

And the threat of force is far more effective when the nation in question believes that the threat will be carried out. They have to know that you mean it, and that you are willing to bleed to prove it.

It may not happen soon, but eventually there will have to be a showdown over getting Iran to cease their nuclear weapons program and disarm. The cry will most likely be led by the United States, while Russia and China have to either send their ally Iran to the dogs, or intervene on their behalf.

When the West begins negotiations with Iran they will have to eventually make threats, and if those threats are hollow, and the US is seen as weak and unwilling to take military action, Iran will have the upper hand and threats will do nothing but embarrass the US.

Syria is President Obama’s lesson for Iraq, in order to show Iran and the rest of the World that the United States backs up their threats, President Obama will push for military action against Syria. It is possible that President Obama sees Syria as his Nagasaki and Hiroshima, as a way to display to the World that when the United States makes a threat and draws a line in the sand that it must not be crossed.

In this way, when the US sits across the table with Iran their words carry weight instead of being perceived as the words of a nation unwilling to act or keep its word.

The problem is that Syria is not the place to do it. While President Obama may want to send a message to the World that one does not cross lines the United States draws in the sand, he has chosen the wrong platform to do so. On one side of this conflict is President Bashar al-Assad, brutal tyrant backed by Russia and Iran. Those two countries make up the origin of probably 75% of Hollywood spy movie villains, they have not been historically friends of the United States.

On the other side is an Opposition force comprised of elements supported by al-Qaeda and radical Islam. You know, the name of the organization responsible for thousands of American dead. There is no good or bad side here, this is the choice between eating a cactus or a larger cactus. Either way, it is going to be painful and probably require medical care of some kind.

The idea that Syria has been chosen by the Obama Administration to serve as a warning to Iran makes sense, if you look at the big picture. The problem with that idea is that no one wants to go to war with Syria, rendering President Obama’s threat not only hollow but without support of the American people.

Syria was not sheltering al-Qaeda, Syria was not actively supporting terrorist organizations to hurt the US, and Syria while not exactly a friend, is not exactly a threat to us either. Basing future efforts of  removing Iran’s nuclear capabilities, off of the present efforts of disarming and punishing President Assad seems somewhat ineffective.

Though it would explain why the Administration is so hell bent on making President Assad suffer for the alleged use of chemical weapons.

With Iran watching events unfold in Syria very closely, any foreign relations move the United States makes now will have far reaching consequences for our involvement in the region in the future. President Obama  has miscalculated the potential public support for this effort he thought would rally the American people behind him, and has chosen the wrong time to make such an example.

Unfortunately, the manner in which the Obama Administration has handled the Syria crisis may only serve to embolden our future enemies, and weaken our resolve in the eyes of the World.

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Conor Higgins

Conor Higgins has a B.A. from Catholic University in DC in American History, with a concentration on guerrilla warfare on American soil. He has an M.A. in US History from George Mason University in Fairfax, VA, with a concentration on Cold War insurgency. He believes that all news and all information should be taken with a grain of salt, and implores people everywhere to seek news stories everywhere. 

Higgins is also a fervent believer in the traditional role of media, in terms of acting as a balanced check on government policies and individuals regardless of party affiliation. But in the end, he believes that no matter how heated an issue is, there is nothing that can't be discussed over a smoke and some whiskey. 

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