The Best Way to Stop an Iranian Nuclear Weapon is to let Syria fester
Over the last week there has been an increasing cacophony of calls for aiding the rebels in Syria not just diplomatically, but militarily in a fashion similar to that of our recent Libya campaign. The primary justifications are the nebulous "responsibility to protect", a totalitarian notion that will be discussed elsewhere, and the assertion that liberating Syria will undermine Iran.
This sounds logical, and the loss of its ally in Syria would cost Iran. However, it is not black and white. Russia and China are backing both Iran and Syria. Both have protecting Syria in the UN. Russia has a port in Syria has ships off Syria in a show of force. Would these fire on NATO warplanes; probably not. But, there will be repercussions. Depriving them of Syria will only make their ties with Iran closer, making any move to prevent an Iranian nuclear weapon that much harder. Compared to the increase in power and prestige that come with nuclear weapons, the loss of Syria is a pittance to Iran.
If the benefit of overthrowing Assad is questionable, what are its costs? For all the cute "liberal" intelligentsia put up by Western foreigners as the spokesmen of the rebellions, the fact remains that the most organized contingent is the Muslim Brotherhood. If Syria falls to the Sunni majority, the leadership will go to the Muslim Brotherhood just as it has in Algeria, Libya and Egypt. It is no co-incidence that Al Qaeda has come out in support of the Syrian opposition. Are we to wage war for Al Qaeda in Syria as we did in Libya? Shall we blithely hand over Damascus, home to two caliphates, to the fundamentalist Sunnis who wish to create a new one?
In the name of human rights, are we going to help the Syrian Salafis and other angry Sunnis slaughter Alawites, Druze and Christians, just as we helped the Libyan Salafists settled their ethnic grievances, and the Egyptian Salafis to kill Coptic Christian and formally re-impose Dhimmitude upon them? What of President Al-Assad's threat to attack Israel if NATO attacks Syria alone or with the help of Hizbollah? Will NATO be forced to bomb Hezbollah to protect Israel, or will Israel respond angering the Muslim world? And what happens if Al-Assad uses one of his weapons of mass destruction? The price for Israel would then be an end to deterrence or a nuclear response. The implications of that are mortifying, not least of which would be a justification for an Iranian nuclear weapon program and a Saudi and Egyptian one as well.
So in exchange for helping the Muslim Brotherhood encircle Israel and helping Al Qaeda take another state, Israel will be attacked and Russia and China may seek stronger ties to Iran and Iran's nuclear program would be protected.
As callous as it may sound, the best option for the US is to do nothing. The worse the situation becomes in Syria, the harder it becomes for the Muslim Brotherhood and Al Qaeda to work with Iran. In fact, the more bloodshed there is between the Muslim Brotherhood and any Iranian Quds militia operating in Syria, the less the proverbial Arab (Sunni) Street will care about US and NATO actions to pre-empt Iran's nuclear program.