A recent Huffington Post poll shows that only 5% or Americans support sending troops to intervene in Syria while a not-so-lofty 12% supported arming the rebels. Meanwhile the Obama administration has repeatedly claimed that their hands are tied and cannot intervene unilaterally citing the United Nations Charter which the US government presumably only got around to reading sometime after 2001/2003. History proves public opinion and international charters don’t prevent the US from getting involved in foreign conflicts so what makes Syria different? The answer is that the US benefits from a prolonged Syrian Civil War on a geopolitical level. Here are five benefits of civil war that the US is currently enjoying:
1. Iran is losing it’s influence in the region.
Iran has been a thorn in America’s side since 1979 and is the US’s main competitor for Mid-East influence. Syria is Shi’ite Iran’s biggest and arguably only real strategic ally among the predominately Sunni Middle East. The challenge to Assad’s Alawite government has destabilized and threatens to nullify Iran’s foothold in the region. Iran is further economically weakened through souring relations with the oil-rich, anti-Assad Arab states who’ve previously proved to be valuable allies to Iran in the wake of economic sanctions from the West. The US benefits from reduced competition for Middle Eastern influence as well as a less threatening, economically ailing, and preoccupied Iran as long as the Syrian Civil War rages on.
2. Syria is attracting and preoccupying Islamist groups like Al-Qaeda, ISIS, and Hezbollah.
While these groups are in Syria fighting the regime and each other, they are not attacking or planning attacks on American interests and Israel. In fact, the US National Terrorism Advisory System hasn’t issued a threat level update since the Spring of 2011 (around the time the Syrian Civil War started). Even more interestingly, the infighting and brutality of these Islamist groups is severely reducing any popularity they enjoyed among Middle Easterners rendering them less of a threat in the future.
3. Chinese relations with oil producing Middle Eastern countries is strained due to their support of the Regime.
China is highly dependent on Middle Eastern oil, especially as the Chinese economy expands and demand for oil grows. It’s vital for China’s economic interests to maintain a good relationship with oil-producing Arab states but as China shows support for the Assad government, it’s relationship with the Middle East has grown more precarious. As the US’s most prominent economic adversary in the region, China’s dwindling influence bolsters American economic interests in the Middle East because as far as opinions on Syria are concerned the US becomes an ally while Arabs view China as an adversary.
4. Israel is safer than ever.
Syria and Iran were arguably the biggest threats to Israel before the Syrian Civil war. Syria’s military is occupied in the civil war while their stockpile of chemical weapons are in the process of being dismantled (although there is some evidence that chemical weapons are still being used by Assad troops). Iran’s nuclear program is on hold and their Middle Eastern ally is unstable. Iran funded Hezbollah is occupied with maintaining their weapon’s pipelines in Syria as well as supporting Syrian troops against the rebellion. Israel seems to be in the clear. In fact, Israel recently bombed military targets on Syrian soil and there has been virtually no response from the Syrian government.
5. America finally occupies the moral high ground in a conflict without having to get involved.
The United States in the eyes of most of the world and at home has finally chosen the correct side to support. The story of scrappy Syrian Rebels fighting an uphill battle against an evil regime is now a sounding board for the US government. President Obama pays some lip service to the rebels, paints red lines, and looks good in the media all while never getting the US involved. Mix in some Al-Qaeda, chemical weapons, a little Israel and every politician from President to ombudsman is talking about Syria and looking like a good guy on TV.
The rebels are fractured, disorganized, and spend as much time fighting each other as they do the regime. Assad’s regime is holding on to power through its superior firepower but is unable to completely stomp out the rebellion. It looks like there is no end in site for the Syrian Civil war and that suits the United States just fine.