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Syria: U.S. must use restraint

IranBashar AssadKofi Annan

Bashar Assad, Syria's deplorable tyrant who has slaughtered children and women in his brutal grab for power, is proving himself to be worse than most Middle East dictators. But political hawks and others who would have the U.S. intervene in his messy massacre, salivate recklessly that somehow the might of the U.S. war machine can reduce him to cinders. As Iraq and Afghanistan have shown, not so simple or easy is the obliteration of theocracies and authoritarian regimes. In Syria, Iran is fighting a proxy war against the rebels through Assad. Saudi Arabia, meanwhile, arms the rebels in pursuit of a regional confrontation with Iran.

The rebels themselves form a diverse group of rival interests. Christians and Muslims have joined against Assad, but there is no proof that once he is defeated they won't have another internecine war for religious or tribal supremacy in Syria. There is also a large swath of Syrians who neither support the rebels nor the government. For now they are lying low, going about their business as much as they can, but the middle is a dangerous place to be in a war for the soul of a nation with two distinct sides claiming moral and physical superiority. The middle may be forced to take sides by either warring party through torture and intimidation.

And in this bloody conflict, Hezbollah lies in wait, like a panther for its prey. The complete collapse of Syria will give the Lebanese and the Iranian Hezbollah the perfect opportunity to set up camp in an anarchic nation to advance their terrorist agenda. Syria, already a rogue nation, could descend even further into a place more wonderful than Pakistan for terror cells to hatch international plots and have a fun time with machinations against Israel.

Bashar Assad has dug his heels in because he has the backing of Iran. He is practically challenging the West to come and get him. And Iran is smacking its lips for this proxy war. Other secretly belligerent and vengeful Arab nations have no interest in a peaceful solution. They see in this war the perfect opportunity to make brawny statements at the cost of innocent lives. Are we fools enough to play white knights on steeds to the rescue of the victimized women and children of Syria or will we wisely stay our hand to allow the Kofi Annan peace mission to move forward, however slowly? We would be fools to react emotionally to every sordid picture that emerges from Syria. If we get into Syria now, brandishing our air power and our arms and weapons, we will kill more innocents, we will find ourselves in the center of a bloody guerrilla warfare not of our making and not under our control, and we will be unwelcome visitors to a snake pit with no antivenin to save us from our own stupidity.

Usha Nellore, Bel Air

Copyright © 2014, The Baltimore Sun
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