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It’s about Iran. The bomb Syria crowd has been pretty open about this. And war opponents would be wise to pay more attention. Iran helps to explain why the Administration insists on going forward with a military action that is unlikely to make much of a difference in Syria itself (bear with me as I’m going to spend some time on context).

Iran is Key to Obama’s Case For Syria Strikes

“Iran is hoping you look the other way,” Secretary of State John Kerry bluntly told members of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee today. “Our inaction would surely give them a permission slip for them to at least misinterpret our intention if not to put it to the test.”...

“Our refusal to act would undermine the credibility of America’s other security commitments, including the president’s commitment to prevent Iran from acquiring a nuclear weapon,” testified Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel....

“Iran will view us as a paper tiger” if we don’t act, warned Sen. Barbara Boxer, D-Calif.
Doing nothing “would guarantee … an emboldened Iran,” said Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla.  “It will also send a message to the world that there is no red line that they should fear crossing. So Iran will move forward toward nuclear weapons.”

A lack of international action to the chemical attack in Syria would risk sending Iran the wrong message over its nuclear program, France's Prime Minister Jean-Marc Ayrault warned on Wednesday.
(more below the fold)

There has been much discussion that the President has boxed himself in with his "redline" in Syria and indeed he is boxed by a redline but it is the one he has drawn in Iran. When you see Barbra Boxer agitating for military action you can bet that her pro-Israel stance is overriding her anti-war impulses.

From AIPAC's Statement on Syria (bolded in the original)

We believe that Congress’ failure to grant the President this authority would  be interpreted as a sign of American weakness, and cast doubt about whether America will act to carry out its commitments in the Middle East – including the President’s and Congress’ pledge to stop Iran from acquiring nuclear weapons.
The President has done his best to stay out of a new war with Iran and more importantly to keep Israel from starting one but now he is confronted with having to provide Israel with reassurances that his "all options are on the table" stance toward Iran is for real.
Israel's state-run Army Radio was more explicit: "If Obama is hesitating on the matter of Syria," it said, "Then clearly on the question of attacking Iran, a move that is expected to be far more complicated, Obama will hesitate much more - and thus the chances Israel will have to act alone have increased."
And Israel is not the only ally needing "reassurance". (From the same Reuter's piece)
If President Barack Obama has disappointed Syrian rebels by deferring to Congress before bombing Damascus, he has also dismayed the United States' two main allies in the Middle East.

Israel and Saudi Arabia have little love for each other but both are pressing their mutual friend in the White House to hit President Bashar al-Assad hard. And both do so with one eye fixed firmly not on Syria but on their common adversary - Iran.

Saudi Arabia, like Israel heavily dependent on the United States for arms supplies, is engaged in a historic confrontation with Iran for regional influence - a contest shaped by their leading roles in the rival Sunni and Shi'ite branches of Islam.

Riyadh is a prime backer of Sunni rebels fighting Assad, whose Alawite minority is a Shi'ite offshoot. It sees toppling Assad as checking Iran's ambition not just in Syria but in other Arab states including the Gulf, where it mistrusts Shi'ites in Saudi Arabia itself and in neighboring Bahrain, Yemen and Iraq.

Saudi King Abdullah's wish for U.S. action against Iran was memorably contained in leaked U.S. diplomatic cables, including one in which a Saudi envoy said the monarch wanted Washington to "cut off the head of the snake" to end Tehran's nuclear threat.

The Israeli's and Saudi's are playing a larger game here. Not only do they hope to keep Iran bogged down in a never ending conflict in Syria but more importantly they hope that "sending a message to Syria" will close the window that has opened for improved relations between the US and Iran with the election of new Iranian President Hassan Rouhani.
But that message may be clashing with a simultaneous effort by American officials to explore dialogue with Iran’s moderate new president, Hassan Rouhani, in the latest expression of Washington’s long struggle to balance toughness with diplomacy in its relations with a longtime adversary.

Two recent diplomatic ventures have raised speculation about a possible back channel between Washington and Tehran. Last week, Jeffrey Feltman, a high State Department official in President Obama’s first term who is now a senior envoy at the United Nations, visited Iran to meet with the new foreign minister, Mohammad Javad Zarif, and discussed possible reactions to an American airstrike in Syria.

At the same time, the sultan of Oman, who has often served as an intermediary between the United States and Iran, was in Tehran meeting with Iran’s supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei.

It is not in our interests to have a war with Iran over it's nuclear program. Yet bombing Syria increases that likelihood.
“I am convinced that Rouhani and Zarif want to overcome the hostility between the U.S. and Iran, but a military strike on Syria could be a spoiler,” said Hossein Mousavian, a former nuclear negotiator for Iran who is now a visiting scholar at Princeton University.
However, working with Iran toward a diplomatic solution in Syria could build confidence toward a larger set of negotiations to resolve the nuclear issue and help stabilize Iraq.

Iran has already proposed a starting point for such diplomacy. From the European Council on Foreign Relations

Last autumn Tehran proposed a six-point peace plan to end the crisis. It called for an immediate end to hostilities, the lifting of sanctions, the release of political prisoners, a national dialogue, the formation of a transitional government, and elections (for a parliament, constituent assembly, and the presidency). However, the plan was rejected by the Syrian opposition outright, since it did not fulfill one of their key pre-conditions: the removal of Assad from power. In Munich in February, the Iranian foreign minister, Ali Akbar Salehi, held talks with the head of the Syrian National Coalition, Ahmad Moaz al-Khatib, to discuss a political solution to the Syrian crisis. On the regional level, Ahmadinejad’s visit to Saudi Arabia last year, Iran’s participation in the quadripartite talks in Cairo last autumn, including Turkey and Saudi Arabia, and, most recently, the visit by Salehi to Jordan are part of a diplomatic effort to prevent Tehran’s complete isolation and convey a strong message that any political resolution to the Syrian crisis cannot be attained without Iran’s active presence and participation in multilateral talks.
It seems clear that neither Saudi Arabia or Israel want to see this rapprochement with Iran. if you oppose war in Syria and you really don't want war with Iran, it is vital to discuss the impact of US actions on relations with Iran and to move this question front and center. It will be more than a tragedy if the chance to reset relations with Iran is sqaundered in this fashion.
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Comment Preferences

  •  Tip Jar (14+ / 0-)

    I am not going to sit here and be an idle spectator to the diminution, the subversion, the destruction, of the Constitution. Barbara Jordan

    by Lcohen on Thu Sep 05, 2013 at 11:18:58 AM PDT

  •  Here's another piece you can add (7+ / 0-)

    "When dealing with terrorism, civil and human rights are not applicable." Egyptian military spokesman.

    by Paleo on Thu Sep 05, 2013 at 11:23:38 AM PDT

  •  Meddling in Syria has always been about (8+ / 0-)

    taking Iran down a notch. What else would get Israel and the House of Saud on the same side of an issue? It's all really quite revolting.

    Compassion is not weakness, and concern for the unfortunate is not socialism.

    by Zutroy on Thu Sep 05, 2013 at 11:27:35 AM PDT

  •  20K-30K US troops are supposed to be leaving... (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Orla, chuckvw

    ...Afghanistan (depending on the various different plans announced) in the next quarter leaving less than 30K there. The availability of those US troop being redeployed might be another factor that impacts timing on Syria/Iran.

    The hollow, capricious, & creeping case for Syrian intervention, as well as the principle of not announcing war plans to pending targets, means it's reasonable to assume that the true basis & intentions haven't and won't be revealed.

  •  Sounds like the rationalization for Vietnam (5+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Lcohen, crystal eyes, T100R, Orla, maryabein

    We have to make sure that communist nations realize we are willing to engage militarily to combat their advance.

    Gah! Just start talking to each other. Bombing is a failure of talking.

    The road to excess leads to the palace of Wisdom, I must not have excessed enough

    by JenS on Thu Sep 05, 2013 at 11:50:45 AM PDT

  •  War is an addiction (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    for those who get high on lavish "defense" spending.

    The junkies who got rich off of Iraq and Afghanistan are looking  for another fix.

    If cats could blog, they wouldn't

    by crystal eyes on Thu Sep 05, 2013 at 11:54:16 AM PDT

  •  Assad would lose an election, so why not (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Orla, whizdom

    go with Iran's plan? If Iran withdrew its support for Assad, I'm guessing China would too, to keep their oil supplier happy; then Assad's left with only Russia in his corner and it'd take no more than to guarantee a continued naval base to get them on board.

    Assad gone, region stabilized, and it'd cost us no more than letting Iran do something good, and letting Russia keep sailing its little ships around.

    "The war on drugs followed by the war on terror has eliminated protections we have had since the Magna Carta." -Horace Boothroyd III

    by mookins on Thu Sep 05, 2013 at 12:01:48 PM PDT

    •  Seems so reasonable (3+ / 0-)

      It's hard to say how an election might turn out. Some reports say Assad still has the support of 50% of Syrians. He definitely has strong support from various minorities afraid of Sunni extremists. Even if Assad has less than 50% the opposition is badly splintered and he may still keep a plurality.

      The sticking point is going to be if the Assad forces will accept a different standard bearer. Getting Assad to go along with this without guarantees of personal safety will be pretty tough. But Iran and Russia have leverage if they choose to use it by suspending arms shipments.

      Of course I believe that Saudi Arabia and Israel will do everything they can to thwart this for their own interests.

      I am not going to sit here and be an idle spectator to the diminution, the subversion, the destruction, of the Constitution. Barbara Jordan

      by Lcohen on Thu Sep 05, 2013 at 12:08:17 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  The smart strategic play.... (0+ / 0-)

    Rapprochement with Iran is a pipe dream.  The moderates there get dragged out every once in awhile as a delay tactic.  But they will never have any real power.  There is nothing there resembling a real democracy.  They have the trappings, but 98%+ of candidates are routinely disqualified for ideological reasons, and the elected leaders have limited power anyway, everything remains firmly in control of the Council of Guardians and the Supreme Leader.  

    But is Iran is the real target, and there's little chance they will change course, then wouldn't the smart strategic play for Iran hawks be to back down on Syria?  

    So what if Iran is emboldened by this?  So what if this leads them to doubt our sincerity on the nuclear program?  Fine, then hit them hard when that happens.  Hell, if you really want a confrontation with Iran, then you wouldn't have to look far for an excuse.  

    There were some people calling for bombing Iran 7-8 years ago, even though estimates at the time were that it could take as long as a decade for them to develop an actual weapon.  But today, reasoned estimates suggest it will take less than a year (President Obama stated the one year estimate 6 months ago).  

    So if there is going to be military action on Iran over this, it very well may have to occur within the next 6 months.  It even appears the use of chemical weapons by Assad at this time could have been intended of a test of how we would respond on Iran.  

    So why get bogged down now in attacks on Syria?  If anything goes wrong here, isn't that going to make action on Iran in the near future politically more difficult?  If Iran is the real target, wouldn't the smart play here to be to leave Syria to the ICC and the UN, and go more directly after Iran?

    One thing to watch here is how any authorization in Congress is worded.  We could very well see something worded in such a way as to allow an attack on Iran without any further authorization.  

    •  First smart play and hawks don't belong in same (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:

      sentence. As per Kerry's selling of this adventure, things going wrong are never contemplated. Second, the hawks see an attack on Syria as an attack on Iran. In their view removing Syria as an ally weakens Iran's ability to arm Hezbollah and retaliate against Israel through Lebanon.

      Lastly, I remain skeptical of the six month time frame. Particularly since the IAEA inspectors report that Iran has converted more of its stockpile of enriched uranium to medical uses. Actually Netanyahu, who is the primary source for this nonsense has ben predicting an Iranian bomb in one year since the early 90's.

      I am not going to sit here and be an idle spectator to the diminution, the subversion, the destruction, of the Constitution. Barbara Jordan

      by Lcohen on Thu Sep 05, 2013 at 04:30:23 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

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