First, some blame President Obama for withdrawing U.S. forces from Iraq too early and enabling such outcomes as the current airlift to Syria. But, while keeping the U.S. forces there longer may have delayed the moment of truth, it is doubtful that doing so could have achieved any eventual outcome that would have justified sacrificing additional American lives.
Though Obama himself has wrought much harm in the Middle East, the seeds of an Iran-allied Iraq were planted well before his term, as already understood at the time by a knowledgeable, realistic Middle Easterner like Abdullah. In this cruel region, removing an evil like Saddam Hussein’s vicious Sunni regime can mean clearing the path for a possibly even greater geopolitical evil like Maliki’s Shiite regime.
Second, and by the same token, the growth and consolidation of the Shiite crescent does not necessarily mean Assad’s downfall is desirable. In the Syrian imbroglio—in something of a mirror image of the situation in Iraq ca. 2003-2004—the demise of Assad’s vicious Alawite regime could mean clearing the path for the Sunni radicals now increasingly prominent in the forces arrayed against him. The regime’s fall would also—while undoubtedly a blow to Iran’s alliance—weaken the alliance less now that it also includes Iraq.
Which leads, finally, to the fact that the only place where Iran’s axis can be dealt a decisive blow is Iran itself. With a nuclear-armed Shiite crescent now just over the horizon, any rational Western statecraft would not just be considering but planning that step.
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