Inaction in Syria means a nuclear Iran more likely (JERUSALEM POST OP-ED) By DAVID MEYERS 06/12/12)
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For more than a year, the international community has dithered and
delayed action to stop the bloodshed in Syria, and there is no end in
But the biggest beneficiary of the world’s inaction lies next door in
The Iranian regime has seen a world community unwilling and unable to
stop a ruthless dictator from killing his own people. And Iran’s
leaders have surely calculated that the world will never act to stop
them from obtaining a nuclear weapon.
The reasons for the world’s inaction in Syria are myriad.
Major powers such as Russia and China would rather see Assad murder
his own people than see Syria become a precedent for possible action
against their autocratic regimes. The Arab League has grown weary of
Western and military intervention after watching Libya descend into
Syria is a major player in the region, and there is fear of who (or
what) would fill the void left by Assad. The West is also concerned
about arming and aiding al- Qaida and other terrorist groups in
Syria. Finally, the thought of Assad using chemical weapons (or those
weapons falling into the wrong hands) has also delayed action.
But there are equally strong arguments for taking bolder action in
Among them, the need to protect the Syrian people in their struggle
for freedom and democracy. The fact that the world’s past tolerance
for Middle Eastern autocrats is directly responsible for the rise of
terrorism and extremism in the region. And if Assad falls without our
help, we may not have influence with the new Syrian government as it
The situation in Syria is complex. But in the end, it should be easy
for the world community to take decisive action to stop a despot from
killing his own people.
It has not been. The Annan peace plan is going nowhere, and its best-
case scenario is probably one where Assad remains in power. Russia
and China continue to block any meaningful action at the UN. And the
Arab states appear unwilling to take meaningful action to stop the
This inaction is disastrous for the people of Syria. But it’s also
disastrous for the world, because it will embolden Iran in its
pursuit of a nuclear weapon.
The inaction in Syria means the international community will never
embrace meaningful sanctions on Iran. It practically guarantees that
Iran will never negotiate in good faith with the world community. It
means that regime change in Iran, our best hope for stopping a
nuclear weapons program, is probably an unrealistic option at this
point. And it means that Iran (rightly) believes there will never be
international consensus for a military operation if all diplomatic
If the US can’t get international support to stop the bloodshed in
Syria, it’s a guarantee we won’t be able to get international support
for meaningful sanctions on Iran. Russia and China have publicly
opposed stringent sanctions, and their position appears inflexible.
Furthermore, even our allies such as India and South Korea continue
to purchase oil from Iran. Granted, sanctions were never likely to
stop Iran’s nuclear weapons program. But it’s becoming increasingly
clear that Iran knows that truly multilateral sanctions will never
Critics of my argument will say that the US-European sanctions have
forced Iran to the negotiating table. They would be wrong. While Iran
may be at the negotiating table, it has no interest in doing any real
negotiating. As it has done in the past, Iran will offer false or
meaningless concessions in a bid to delay international action as it
continues to develop its nuclear program. After seeing what’s
happened in Syria, Iran knows there will be no consequences if
negotiations fail. Iran will simply use negotiations and the promises
of concessions as an excuse for Russia, China and some European
powers to oppose further action against Iran.
The world’s inaction in Syria is also benefiting Tehran because it
has demoralized democracy activists inside Iran. Regime change in
Tehran is probably our best chance of avoiding a nuclear Iran. That’s
why the world’s appalling response to the 2009 Green Revolution was
one of the biggest foreign policy errors in recent memory. Had the
Green Revolution succeeded, there’s a good chance the Iranian weapons
program would now be defunct.
Instead, the mullahs continue to press ahead with the program.
And thanks to the world’s dithering on Syria, we’re unlikely to see
any new democratic movement arise in the country. The Iranian regime
has spent the past three years jailing and murdering prominent
And now, after seeing the world fail to react to the 10,000 dead in
Syria, the Iranian people know that the international community will
not come to their aid if they rise up again.
All of this means that Iran will continue pressing ahead with its
nuclear program. And it means that a military attack, which the
international community fears so much, might unfortunately become the
only realistic option for stopping the program. The international
community continues to oppose any action on Iran without UN support.
But because of its failure to achieve consensus on issues such as
Syria, action outside of the UN appears more likely.
The writer is a former White House staffer who is pursuing a PhD in
political science. (© 1995-2011, The Jerusalem Post 06/12/12)
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