The LA Times reported this morning that the CIA might be drawing contingency plans to attack the extremist elements in Syria using its expanding arsenal of drones. As these considerations are being contemplated to protect US interests and the interests of US allies in the region, a word of caution to the wise is in order.
Whether these considerations will go in effect or whether this leak to the media is a scare tactic, there are many elements to consider I am certain the CIA analysts are fully aware of.
Here is a perspective, though, from someone whose blood is Arab and whose values are American.
- Extremist elements in Jabhat al-Nusra (JAN) and Ahrar al-Sham (ASH) who flex their muscles by claiming they will free the Golan Heights must learn a lesson that Israel is not the enemy. During countless hours of Skype meetings, I have counseled the Syrian opposition connected to elements in JAN and ASH that Israel is not our problem now and when we need to free the Golan, Syrians will do so with words, not with guns or with unholy bravado. In other words, they have been warned. Time to learn the hard way Assad is the enemy, not Israel.
- JAN and ASH will, when attacked, accuse Israel and the US for standing by Assad or for repressing the Syrian Revolution. The US must take into consideration that Iran may use this opportunity to re-focus the energies of JAN and ASH, using friendly proxies, against both America and Israel instead of fighting Assad. It is a win-win for Iran.
- The axis of evil is as much a terrorist axis against Arab civilians and the American military as any of the extremists arriving from Saudi Arabia are with their verbal threats. Not attacking Assad, Hezbollah, or IRGC assets with drones at the same time exposes the US across the Arab world. In other words, with every attack against JAN or ASH, mirror it with an attack against Assad military targets or Hezbollah in Homs to cushion the effect. It is enough that Arabs erroneously believe the US is behind the suffering of the Palestinians through its support of Israel. Adding to this list the Syrian Sunni population is detrimental to US diplomatic efforts because the atrocities committed by Assad dwarf anything the Arab street has ever seen before (First time Arabs see these atrocities through YouTube bypassing the censorship so prevalent in the Arab media). Thousands of “Mohammad al-Durrah”™s” have died at the hands of Assad and if one caused so much trouble for Israel when it had nothing to do with the child’s death, imagine the trouble thousands will cause for America.
Further to the above and because:
- Al-Qaeda terrorized civilians and military targets alike, there is no love lost for AQ amongst Muslims; however, the majority of Sunnis in the Arab world view JAN and ASH as the saviors of the Muslim Sunni civilians in Syria suffering untold atrocities. Any attacks against them will increase the pressure against stable Arab Governments, especially the House of Saud and the Hashemite House in Jordan. Right or wrong, some extremists whose passage to Syria was facilitated by a wink from the Saudi Government may conclude al-Saud are behind these American attacks. Furthermore, you can rest assured the Islamists of the Muslim Brotherhood will use this opportunity to expand their influence in Jordan and elsewhere.
- Do take into consideration that, extremists, and Muslims in general, may see one attack in one zone as an attack against all their fighters.
It is, therefore, imperative, because of the two above factors, to deliver a direct American message to JAN and ASH after the first attack is carried out not only to cease threatening US interests and allies, but also to recant their latest threats by issuing a “Fatwa of Focus” against Assad, Iran, and Hezbollah.
The Middle East is a complicated region because it blurs the lines between identities, loyalties, and short-term goals to produce a moving target in the service of often-secretive long-term goals (i.e. Caliphate or control, terror or self-preservation, wise ruler seeking stability or a psychopath seeking chaos?). It behooves the US, whose familiarity with what causes lines to shift is still nascent, to be cautious and to plan based on predicaments and expectations rather than immediate results.
Take the least resistant road to leave breadcrumbs behind that may serve in another battle and for another day because even Islamic extremists can serve useful purposes in a region whose culture centers on acts of revenge.