Majid Rafizadeh writes: My cousin, Ramez, was dead before the echoes of the gunshot that killed him stopped ringing. His 4-year-old daughter, Zeynab, watched him fall on a narrow street in Damascus, but she never heard the shot because she is deaf. She held onto his lifeless hand until a second bullet tore into her chest. She survived.
I tell this story to make it clear that my family and I have experienced the civil war firsthand. Ramez was just one of several family members who lost their lives in the battle against Bashar Assad’s police state. My mother, sister and brother, alongside millions of other war-torn Syrian refugees, were forced to flee to Lebanon and then on to Baghdad.
But despite the seriousness and severity of the situation, I don’t believe that the United States should intervene militarily in Syria. Any direct or indirect intervention by the U.S. would exacerbate Syria’s internal conflict and increase the number of people being displaced and killed.
One argument advanced by those advocating U.S. military intervention is that it would advance America’s national interests and security in the region. If the U.S. were to help topple Assad, the argument holds, Iran would lose its most consistent regional ally. In addition, they say, the next Syrian government would probably be led by Sunni Muslims, and therefore more likely to align itself with Saudi Arabia, a U.S. ally, than with Iran.
But these arguments ignore an important history lesson: Iran has a track record of finding a way to benefit from instability in neighboring countries. The protracted civil war in Lebanon during the 1970s and ’80s, for instance, created a ripe environment for Iranian leaders to nurture one of the strongest nonstate actors in the region: the militant group Hezbollah. And after the 2003 U.S.-led intervention in Iraq, Iranian leaders were able to create a powerful Shiite Muslim proxy there.
The Iranian leadership’s tactical strategy has always been to clandestinely invest in local groups that can serve as proxies for its interests, capable of fighting not only regional governments but also world powers such as the U.S. and its Western allies. [Continue reading…]