Just when it seems like things have hit a stride in the Middle East, something new happens and turns everything on its head.
On Thursday, the U.S. announced its plans to intervene in Syria on behalf of the rebels, and many loud voices—including hawkish senators John McCain and Lindsey Graham—who have been calling for the U.S. to implement a no-fly zone over the country.
So right now, the U.S. isn’t going to try a no-fly zone, but it is going to arm the rebels, despite the fact that 70 percent of Americans oppose doing so, according to a Pew Research Center poll.
Assad warned that Europe would “pay the price” for arming the rebels, which he sees as terrorists who would return to the West with “extremist ideologies.” I hate to agree with Assad, but he isn’t exactly wrong. His motivations aren’t pure, but we know that al-Qaeda is in Syria and taking an important role in the opposition.
G8 countries aren’t the only ones getting involved. Saudi Arabia has provided anti-aircraft and anti-tank missiles to the rebels, and Egypt announced its support for a no-fly zone while cutting all diplomatic ties with Syria.
Iran, which has been Assad’s strongest ally, has even proposed expanding the Syrian conflict to the Golan Heights, which is Israeli territory. If Iran attacks Israel in the Golan Heights, Israel is likely to respond with the full force of the IDF. Such a conflict could escalate quickly.
This news from Iran came right after so-called “moderate” Hasan Rowhani won the Iranian presidential election. The media might be calling him a moderate, but Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu wasn’t caught up in the delusion.
The international community must not become caught up in wishful thinking and be tempted to relax the pressure on Iran to stop its nuclear program
We need to remember that the Iranian ruler [Ayatollah Ali Khamenei] at the outset disqualified candidates who were not in line with his extreme worldview, and from among those whom he did allow, the one seen as least identified with the regime was elected.
But we are still speaking about someone who calls Israel the ‘great Zionist Satan.’
Rowhani’s moderate stances are on issues like instituting a civil rights charter, not stopping the country’s nuclear program and opening up relations with Israel. The IAEA chief announced that Iran’s nuclear program continues to make “steady progress” despite sanctions against the country, so it doesn’t seem like Rowhani has any real reason to reverse course.
At this point, it’s tempting to think the Middle East is ready to self-combust, with the West and Russia providing plenty of the dynamite.