Michael Young writes: If Iran and Hezbollah appear worried about the attacks being directed by the United States and its allies against the Islamic State, or ISIS, the reason is simple. They realize that the logical outcome of military operations in Syria is likely to be pressure for a political solution that leads to Bashar al-Assad’s departure.
The connection between the anti-ISIS campaign and the Syrian conflict was made on Thursday at a Friends of Syria foreign ministers’ meeting in New York. Saudi Foreign Minister Saud Al-Faisal expressed it succinctly: “For as long as the strife in Syria continues, the growth of extremist groups will continue.”
Applying the same logic as in Iraq, the Americans are also likely to soon conclude that only a more inclusive government in Syria can consolidate the gains made against ISIS. In Iraq, the aim was to bring Sunnis into the political process, in the belief that they are necessary to defeating ISIS, and to do so the Obama administration helped remove Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki. Why should Syria be any different?
Perhaps what disturbs Iran and Hezbollah the most is that their strategy in both Iraq and Syria is crumbling. When Mosul fell to ISIS, Qassem Suleimani, the head of the Quds Force in the Iranian Revolutionary Guard, was asked what was to be done. “We must rely on Shiite solidarity,” Suleimani allegedly replied.
That was decidedly not the solution that the United States pursued, nor one that would have allowed the Iraqi government to prevail over ISIS. If anything, Shiite solidarity would only have solidified the Iraqi divide, allowing ISIS, with its core of Saddam-era officers, to reinforce its hold over Sunni areas. [Continue reading…]