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US and allies bomb Syria. Now what?

America and its allies are faced with the choice of confronting the ayatollahs and Islamic Sunni terrorism in the trenches of the Middle East.

The “USS Monterey” guided missile-cruiser fires a Tomahawk missile in the U.S. 5th Fleet area of operations against Syria over its use of chemical weapons, April 13, 2018. Credit: Navy Photo by Lt. j.g Matthew Daniels.
The “USS Monterey” guided missile-cruiser fires a Tomahawk missile in the U.S. 5th Fleet area of operations against Syria over its use of chemical weapons, April 13, 2018. Credit: Navy Photo by Lt. j.g Matthew Daniels.
Yoram Ettinger
Yoram Ettinger
Yoram Ettinger is a former ambassador and head of Second Thought: A U.S.-Israel Initiative.

The U.S. bombing of Syria could resurrect the America’s posture of deterrence and evolve into a geostrategic game-changer in Syria, the Middle East and throughout the globe. That’s provided that President Donald Trump learns from, rather than repeats, critical errors committed by his predecessors in their battle against Islamic terrorism.

Trump’s predecessors assumed that their counter-terrorism mission could be accomplished through a series of limited, immediate and tactical operations, bringing the troops back home ASAP. However, contrary to their expectations, their well-intentioned actions undermined the comprehensive, long-term, sustained and strategic mission to clip the wings of Islamic terrorism and enhance homeland security. While they won certain battles, they failed to clip those wings and did not win the overall war.

For example, on Aug. 20, 1998, President Bill Clinton declared victory following the U.S. bombing of a few terrorist bases and a deadly nerve agent VX processing plant in Afghanistan and the Sudan, in retaliation for the Aug. 7 truck-bombings of the U.S. Embassies in Kenya and Tanzania that killed 224 people. However, resting on the laurels of the tactical bombings and failing to intensify a long-term offensive against Islamic terrorism only exacerbated the latter’s assault on the United States. It led to the Oct. 12, 2000 suicide-vessel bombing of the USS Cole (killing 17 sailors) and the Sept. 11, 2001 suicide-aircraft bombing of the Twin Towers and the Pentagon, killing 2,996 persons and injuring some 6,000.

On May 1, 2003, President George W. Bush declared that major combat operations in Iraq ended with the United States and its allies prevailing. A large “Mission Accomplished” banner provided a backdrop to Bush’s speech on the USS Abraham Lincoln. On June 5, Bush told American troops in Afghanistan: “America sent you on a mission to remove a grave threat and to liberate an oppressed people, and that mission has been accomplished.”

In 2018, both Afghanistan and Iraq are major global platforms for Islamic terrorism, which is increasingly afflicting larger parts of the globe.

The George W. Bush Administration overthrew Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein and purged members of Saddam’s Sunni Baath Party from the civilian and military sectors, which catapulted Iraq’s Shiite majority to domination; incentivized former Sunni government officials and military personnel to join Sunni terrorism; exacerbated Sunni-Shiite violence; and provided an unprecedented springboard to the Shiite Ayatollahs’ aspirations to control Iraq as a critical bridge to Syria, Lebanon and the Mediterranean, as a prelude to an Iranian domination of the Middle East and the Muslim World.

In 2012, President Barack Obama was determined to topple Libya’s ruthless Gaddafi regime by leading a concerted bombing campaign by NATO forces. The effective bombing was initiated, irrespective of the fact that Moammar Gaddafi had been engaged in the dismantling of Libya’s nuclear, chemical and ballistic missile infrastructure since December 2003, as certified by U.S. and international inspectors. Moreover, the vicious Libyan dictator was consumed with an intense battle against anti-U.S. Islamic Sunni terror organizations and provided the United States with vital counter-terrorism intelligence. The execution of Gaddafi by his domestic terror-driven opponents transformed Libya—the fourth-largest country in Africa—into a leading and chaotic platform for international Islamic terrorism.

Will President Trump learn, and refrain, from the critical errors of his predecessors?

Will Trump focus on the primary, rather than secondary, source of clear and present threats to the national security and homeland security of the United States, the Free World and the pro-U.S. Arab countries?

While one must not underestimate the savagery of Syrian dictator Bashar Assad (the “Butcher of Damascus”), his regional and global destabilizing impact is dwarfed by the impact of the ferociously tectonic Shi’ite Ayatollahs, a minority regime that has repressed the Iranian people since 1979.

The Ayatollahs have played a key role, next to Russia, in sustaining the Alawite (branch of Shi’ite Islam) Assad regime, investing some $10 billion annually in the form of credit lines, oil and military assistance, including the funding of some Russian military systems and the maintenance of Hezbollah terrorists.

In fact, regional chaos (Syrian-style) has fueled the Ayatollahs’ rise to regional prominence. Their expanding presence in Iraq and Syria has adrenalized their megalomaniacal aspirations, which aim at uprooting the American presence in the Persian Gulf, the Arabian Peninsula, the Indian Ocean and the entire Middle East.

Moreover, the unprecedentedly effective regional profile of the Ayatollahs brings their machete closer to the throat of every pro-U.S. Arab regime such as Jordan, Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, Abu Dhabi, Dubai, Kuwait and Oman, fueling subversion and terrorism, and providing anti-U.S. Islamic terror organizations with easier access to chemical and biological weaponry and ballistic capabilities.

Furthermore, the considerable entrenchment of the Ayatollahs in Iraq and Syria has been accompanied by the Ayatollahs’ upgraded destabilization and anti-U.S. presence—directly and through terror elements—in Asia, Africa, Europe, Australia, Canada, Mexico, Central and Latin America, and the United States.

The increasingly global village—and the unprecedented global proliferation of Islamic terrorism—have eliminated the option of isolation. America and its allies are faced with the choice of confronting the Ayatollahs and Islamic Sunni terrorism in the trenches of the Middle East or at homeland. One may assess such a dilemma against the background of an old American football rule: The closer you get to the end zone of the other team, the closer you are to scoring a touchdown; however, the closer you get to your own end zone, the closer the other team is to scoring a touchdown.

Ambassador Yoram Ettinger is a consultant on U.S.-Israel relations and the Middle East. He served as Minister for Congressional Affairs at Israel’s Embassy in Washington, D.C., Israel’s Consul General to the Southwestern USA and director of Israel’s Government Press Office.

This article was originally published at www.TheEttingerReport.com

The opinions and facts presented in this article are those of the author, and neither JNS nor its partners assume any responsibility for them.
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