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Syrian Frying-Pan Dilemmas
Israel - Middle East
Friday, September 06, 2013
Alf Cengia

There's a chapter in J. R. R. Tolkien's, ''The Hobbit'' where Bilbo the Hobbit, the Dwarves and Gandalf the Wizard have just escaped the clutches of the goblins in the deep dark caverns of the Misty Mountains. As they continue along their journey, they come to a glade in a forest and hear the howl of a wolf (a Warg), immediately followed by another one. Their only escape is to climb the trees that surround the clearing.

As they scramble to safety, Gandalf devises a desperate plan to light the pine combs and fire-bomb the Wargs, thereby setting them on fire. But that plan presently backfires. The Wargs are soon joined by their allies, the goblins, who aren't afraid of fire at all. The goblins quickly begin feeding the fires around the trees which the Hobbit and his company are trapped in. The hapless Hobbit and his friends are only saved by the intervention of the Great Eagles who, at the very last minute, swoop down and snatch them to safety.

That chapter in Tolkien's book is appropriately called Out Of The Frying-Pan Into The Fire, and it pretty well sums the predicaments the West faces with this never-ending, ever-conflating Syrian crisis. More importantly, it parallels the situation that the Syrian people find themselves in - especially the non-Muslim population. The glaring discrepancy in my awkward analogy is that there are no Eagle Helpers to bail out the Syrian people.

As I write, there's that discussion brewing about sending some vague military message to Assad about his alleged use of chemical weapons, and who should sanction it. President Obama needs someone to share the blame if, and when, it goes pear shape - and it will. He doesn't want to stand alone unless it turns into a resounding success - and it can't. The only reason he's considering any action at all is because he's painted himself into a political red-flag corner. Maybe media spin will help him out.

There are so many questions and so few answers.

Why intervene in Syria and ignore Darfur? Why attack Assad yet give the genocidal Boko Haram a free pass? Are strategic politics trumping humanitarian concern? One irony is the flexibility on war displayed by some. While it once wasn't right to attack Iraq, it's now okay to send Assad a "military message".

Why would you telegraph your intentions of a possible attack to the Assad regime and its allies? Iran and Syria have now threatened retaliation against Israel if the West attacks Damascus. The very fact that Israel has come into that equation speaks volumes about Tehran and Damascus.

Why would Assad use chemical weapons and risk Western intervention? Is he cocky enough to think he can get away with it, or is he desperate? The rebels might have more to gain. How good is the evidence against Assad, and how do the Israelis see the conflict?

A regime change in Syria might temporarily put the Iranian-Syrian-Hezbollah connection on the back burner. But evidence suggests that that regime will quickly become a worse option than Assad.

Ultimately, no intervention is going to help the Syrian people. A subtle slap on Assad's head would be analogous to the Eagles pecking the heads of the goblins and wolves, yet leaving the Hobbit and his friends stranded in the burning trees. Any minor Western intervention would only serve to further infuriate the Assad regime.

A crippling blow to Assad would favor the Syrian rebels. What would that mean for Syrian Christians? Despite John McCain's optimism, according to OrthodoxNet:

"...the so-called “Syrian rebels” continue to bring death and destruction upon Christians and Christian churches in Syria. They’re nothing more than bloodthirsty killers seeking to impose Islamic law on the Syrian people."

There hasn't been a regime change in the Middle East that has ever brought lasting peace. There's no peace in Afghanistan - not even after the Taliban were supposedly bombed into oblivion. The Taliban just keep regrouping and rebuilding. Islam is like a machine that keeps popping out Islamist terrorists faster than that the West can vanquish them. It's an inexhaustible and, ostensibly, cheap supply.

Even after Saddam Hussein fell to the Coalition forces, Iraq is still in a political mess and state of civil unrest. Back in July, the Washington Times noted:

"A dramatic uptick in violence and political instability in Iraq has raised fears that Baghdad once again is tilting toward civil war."

I had the privilege of riding in a taxi driven by a post-Saddam expatriate. He told me that, as bad as Saddam Hussein was, Christians enjoyed a protection of some sorts. After Saddam's demise, this taxi driver fled to Australia because of the steep rise of violence against non-Muslims. A 1987 census indicated that there were 1.4 million Christians in Iraq compared to 400,000 in 2013.

Chaldean Archbishop of Mosul, Amel Nona noted that after Hussein, a radical Islam arose throughout Iraq which Islamized and radicalized Iraqi society. He stated that, "This is the result of all these fundamentalist groups and a policy which exploits religion to achieve its objectives."

Joel Rosenberg rightly calls Syria a Humanitarian Nightmare with 110,000 dead, 2 million refugees and 5 million displaced.

While Syria sits prominently in the headlines, let's not forget the unrest in Libya and in Egypt. These and other examples expose the nature of Islamist extremism and paint an even grimmer picture for Syrians, whichever side ultimately wins.

One thing that sticks out like a sore thumb for me is America's loss of power and initiative in the Middle East. It has given way to Russian President Vladimir Putin. He is the new Sheriff in the region and appears to call the shots.

The Syrian crisis is a no-win situation with the potential to escalate to global ramifications if the super powers engage militarily. Israel will be quickly drawn into such a conflict.

The people in that region need our prayers.

And so does Israel.

About Alf Cengia

Last week: This Rebellious Planet

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