Why now? UPDATE
The Obama Administration's decision to send weapons (don't know what kind) to the Syrian Opposition (don't know which ones) makes you wonder what the president is thinking. This is unlikely to turn the tide against President Assad and his forces; it is unlikely to bring the government and the opposition to any negotiating table (no matter how hard Secretary Kerry begs them); and it is unlikely to gather many allies outside of England, France, and the Arab nations already supporting the opposition. If the administration really wants to stop the killing, it would not be adding to the supply of weapons in Syria. If Assad is going to win anyway, let it be soon and move on. Support the Iranian call for Syrian elections (which Assad would likely lose) and heed the Russian observation that claims of chemical weapons use can be legitimated only by the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons and not by U.S. intelligence services.
UPDATE: June 16. A thoughtful assessment, "The Commitment Ploy," by Paul Pilar: How Obama has been boxed in by advocates of war with Iran and secondarily, but necessarily with Syria. National Interest HT, LobLog
UPDATE: June 15. A sobering assessment: "For nearly two years, the Obama administration has described the Syrian regime as having “lost all legitimacy” and “clinging to power.” And yet, it has surprisingly endured. That’s because neither assertion is really accurate. Mr. Assad still has strong support from many Syrians, including members of the Sunni urban class. While the assistance Syria receives from its external allies, like Iran and Russia, is important, it would be inconsequential if the Assad regime were not backed by a significant portion of the population." And goes on with several points on the many errors of the Obama Administration in Syria. From NYTime Opinion page.
Iranian Troops to Syria!? Robert Fisk: "The Independent on Sunday has learned that a military decision has been taken in Iran – even before last week’s presidential election – to send a first contingent of 4,000 Iranian Revolutionary Guards to Syria to support President Bashar al-Assad’s forces against the largely Sunni rebellion that has cost almost 100,000 lives in just over two years. Iran is now fully committed to preserving Assad’s regime, according to pro-Iranian sources which have been deeply involved in the Islamic Republic’s security, even to the extent of proposing to open up a new ‘Syrian’ front on the Golan Heights against Israel.
"In years to come, historians will ask how America – after its defeat in Iraq and its humiliating withdrawal from Afghanistan scheduled for 2014 – could have so blithely aligned itself with one side in a titanic Islamic struggle stretching back to the seventh century death of the Prophet Mohamed."
About the Author
Margaret O'Brien Steinfels, a former editor of Commonweal, writes frequently in these pages and blogs at dotCommonweal.