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Assad’s Fall Should Be an American Strategic Goal

And not just because helping folks fight bad guys is the right thing to do.

Syrian dissident Farid Ghadry is the founder of the US-based Reform Party of Syria, which has been advocating regime change for a long time. He takes no prisoners in his recent blog post on the world’s response to the slaughter of Syrians by their own leadership:

It is unconscionable to think that people are dropping like flies on Syrian streets, the injured are hiding in private homes to avoid capture or cold-blooded murder, the funeral processions are being shot at with many killed at a time they bereave the dead, the detained are tortured and many die and are buried in mass graves, yet the international community seems only willing to extend words of comfort. Where is your conscience, people? It’s Easter Sunday for heaven’s sake.

Then comes Erdogan who thinks Gaza is tragic with its people under siege and tyranny while Syrians, under his buddy Assad, enjoy comfort and freedom. Where is your humanitarian flotilla to Syria, Erdogan?  Our injured, attacked by the snipers of your dear friend Assad, cannot go to hospitals for fear of being either killed on the spot or arrested to die under torture. Or does that not fit with your understanding of what a human tragedy is?

Are Gazans better people than Syrians? Is Assad too dear a friend for you to bother?

And where are the Hamas Palestinians who seem to forget everyone else’s tragedy except their own? Where are their voices? Never expect Syrians to come to your aid again. When elections come, we will make the MB in Syria pay for your silence.

That last point assumes a successful outcome to the uprising, which is by no means certain, particularly in view of Iran’s assistance to the Syrian despot and the Americans’ and Europeans’ reluctance to wade into the fray. Still, the sentiment Ghadry is voicing augurs a potential sea change. Tzachi Hanegbi argues in today’s Jerusalem Post that the Syrian revolt, if successful, will have “a more decisive impact than those in any other Arab country” because of the disruption of Iran’s sole regional strategic alliance:

If [Syrian] opposition leaders survive the conflict, overcome the current oppressive regime and fill key positions in Syria, they are unlikely to show a surplus of sympathy toward the Shias of Iran and Hezbollah. To know what would really serve Israel’s interest, we should look toward the Islamic Republic. Nothing currently worries the ayatollahs’ regime more than the loss of Syria as its intimate partner in the “axis of evil.” Iran has invested enormous resources in maintaining this partnership, including a willingness to compromise on its own interests to satisfy Syria’s desires. Syria’s defection from the radical camp into the arms of the pragmatic Arab camp would leave Iran isolated and vulnerable.

There’s an opportunity here, in other words. Can Obama see it? Is he missing it, or is he acknowledging it and choosing to let it pass? Why? Because it’s too risky? Too difficult? Or because in his view, it simply isn’t America’s place to involve itself in the easing of Syria out of the radical camp?

I suspect Obama went into Libya for two reasons: his blindsided, stumbling approach to the Egyptian revolt was embarrassing, and Qaddafi looked like an easy target. Libya’s turning out to be tougher than expected, though, so the appeal of another engagement in the region is slim. But that’s where things like leadership and vision come in. It’s difficult to explain or defend an involvement in Libya when we refuse to assist Syrian citizens who are themselves trying to oust a violently oppressive regime — a regime that has had a hand in the killings of Americans and American allies for decades.

Although the two regimes are not analagous, a willful blindness to the Syrian people’s struggle against Assad would be akin to Obama’s apparent blindness to the struggle of the Iranian people against the mullahs. And most importantly from an American strategic standpoint: the success of Assad’s regime against his domestic uprising could have similar consequences to the success of Ahmadinejad and his cohort at crushing their own dissenters, in terms of the emboldenment of Iran. That emboldenment will come at a cost of American security and possibly American lives.

We cannot foresee what will arise in Assad’s place. But if Farid Ghadry is to be believed, a walkover by the Muslim Brotherhood is hardly a foregone conclusion. Assume nothing, stay informed, take steps when necessary to act as a force for good, and keep the strategic interests of the American people as a beacon before your eyes. That seems like a reasonable job description for the leader of the free world.