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Allying with Assad Still Doesn’t Make Sense

The U.S. would be ensnaring itself in an unnecessary conflict while saddling itself with a despicable partner.
Bashar al-Assad

Rand Paul appears to have endorsed the bad idea of allying with the Syrian and Iranian governments against ISIS:

“Right now, the two allies that have the same goal would be Iran and Syria, to wipe out ISIS. They also have the means, and the ability, and they also have the incentive to do so because [Syrian President Bashar al-]Assad’s clinging for power and clinging for life there,” the junior Kentucky senator told Sean Hannity on Wednesday, while appearing on his radio show.

It may seem superficially appealing to cooperate with these regimes on this, but it is mistaken for several reasons. First, Assad benefits from ISIS’ continued existence. As long as ISIS appears to be the main alternative to him and his regime in Syria, he is much more secure, and so at least in the short to medium term he has little reason to want them destroyed. One might think that he would have an incentive to destroy this group, but in practice he hasn’t been trying to do this. Second, ISIS has made its gains in Iraq in part because of Sunni resentment and grievances against sectarian rule in Baghdad, and Assad has been far more brutally sectarian in his conduct of the war in Syria, so a sure way to further inflame Sunnis in both countries and to direct their hostility towards the U.S. is to be perceived as working with the Syrian and Iranian regimes. There is already some danger of provoking more attacks on Americans by striking at ISIS, and allying with Syria and Iran ensures that the U.S. will be widely seen as hostile to Sunnis throughout the region and in league with dictatorships that oppress them. As I’ve said before, this just takes the flawed “enemy of my enemy is my friend” logic that Syria hawks were using to justify intervention against Assad and turns it on its head. The U.S. would be ill-served by taking any side in Syria’s civil war, but in taking or even appearing to take Assad’s side the U.S. would be ensnaring itself in an unnecessary conflict while saddling itself with a despicable partner.



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