Anthony H. Cordesman holds the Arleigh A. Burke chair in strategy at the Center for Strategic and International Studies.
Americans cannot afford to forget that they face more than one crisis in the Middle East. Critical as Egypt is, the situation in Syria continues to spiral out of control, affecting the security of Lebanon, Turkey, Iran and Iraq and giving Iran new opportunities.
The Assad regime continues to make gains and has less and less reason to negotiate. For all the talk of U.S. arms transfers, the Syrian rebels have problems moving arms and supplies across the Lebanese, Turkish and Iraq borders. Meanwhile, Lebanon and Iran are supplying the regime with volunteers and arms. The lack of outside support weakens the moderates among the rebels, while the upheavals in Egypt polarize Syria’s Sunnis and tend to empower the more extreme factions.
Even “success,” or the fall of Bashar al-Assad’s government, would result in a new government whose structure is unpredictable and that will inherit enduring political problems and regional tensions. On balance, however, there are clear humanitarian and selfish reasons for the United States to intervene.