- - Friday, September 19, 2014

America suffers a profound lack of intellectual clarity in its policy regarding Syria. We are torn between the urgent need to halt the explosive growth of the Islamic State, also known as ISIS, and the desire of policymakers such as Hillary Clinton, John F. Kerry and John McCain, to vindicate their flawed Mideast strategy.

Syria is the bulwark of defense between radical Islamic forces and the Western world. Were Syria to fall, ISIS would seize Damascus. Jordan and Lebanon would collapse within weeks, and the victory of ISIS would profoundly radicalize Turkey — a nation that is steadily moving into the jihadist orbit.

President Obama has authorized overflights in Syrian airspace, yet he refuses to coordinate attacks with Syrian forces. Opposition forces, anxious to embroil the United States in the civil war, cannot be trusted. Only Syria has the battlefield intelligence and necessary ground forces to exploit successful airstrikes. It is foolish to forgo effective airstrikes because of a petulant refusal to cooperate with Syria.

In Syria, the United States is paralyzed by past errors, while responsible state actors, like Egypt, have severed ties with Syrian terrorists. Some U.S. allies who supported our bellicose drive to oust Syrian President Bashar Assad, have grown wary of the resultant explosion of Islamic radicalism rocking the Middle East.

The Free Syrian Army (FSA) is America’s “go-to” force for “moderate rebels.” Yet close examination shows that “moderate rebels” are simply a myth. On Aug. 15, 2014, The New York Times reported that a rebel leader told a reporter that half of ISIS terrorists came from the FSA and other rebels. “ISIS fighters didn’t come from Mars,” he said. “Fifty percent of them are from [Syria].” He said they left the FSA because of its corrupt leaders. On July 31, 2014, Al Nusra also fired its No. 2 leader over defections to ISIS. Beyond that, it is widely understood that ISIS is the favored destination of Western jihadists. The gravitation of an array of jihadists toward ISIS makes locating reliable “moderates” an exercise in futility.



Only Mr. Assad commands sufficient loyalty among Syrians to defend against ISIS. Continuing to undercut his efforts may well tip the balance against Syria, and unleash the vile extremism of ISIS against the world.

History has been harshly punctuated by Muslim assaults against the Christian world. Europe was barely saved when Charles Martel defeated their armies in 732 A.D. at the Battle of Tours; again, they were defeated at the Battle of Lepanto in 1571; and King Sobieski finally crushed the Ottoman Turks at the Battle of Vienna in 1683.

Unless we seize this moment, we risk facilitating the next great clash of civilizations between Islam and the Western world. Having spawned a demon in the Middle East, it is incumbent upon us to crush it now. It will be impossible to do so without the active assistance of Mr. Assad.

RICHARD H. BLACK

Virginia state Senate, 13th District

Richmond

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