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Using Syria to Get to Iran

3:29 PM, Mar 7, 2012 • By DANIEL HALPER
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Josh Rogin reports on the debate over whether the U.S. should intervene in Syria, where strongman Bashar al-Assad is killing and torturing his own citizens. Rogin discusses the views of Senators John McCain and Carl Levin, and then writes this:

McCain also quoted CENTCOM chief Gen. James Mattis, who testified Tuesday that "Assad is clearly achieving what he wants to achieve" that his military campaign is "gaining physical momentum on the battlefield." Mattis also noted that Assad's downfall would be "the biggest strategic setback for Iran in 25 years." 

This particular point offered by Mattis is worth considering, especially given recent debate over how to deal with Iran--and how to prevent Iran from achieving nuclear weapons and capabilities. Intervention in Syria could be used as a way to destabilize their close ally, the Iranians. 

As former Mossad chief Efraim Halevy said at a security conference in Herzliya last month:

"Look at Syria and see it as the Achilles heel of Iran." There is "enormous opportunity" in Syria, said Levy. "We should have a main interest in ensuring that the Iranian interest is booted out of Syria."

"In facing Iran, like facing any other threat, we should look at where there is vulnerability and where can we gain maximum effects… not only regionally but internationally," Halevy said.

Whether the Obama administration decides to act ... well, that's a different story.

The administration is saying that no option is off the table. "Yesterday, President Barack Obama said that no option in Syria has been taken off the table," Rogin reports. But this is the line that comes before the president's in Rogin's report: "In his testimony, Panetta clearly ruled out any unilateral military action by the United States in Syria, but he left the door wide open to a multilateral mission inside Syria at some later date."

So all options are on the table--except for unilateral action. Or, more precisely it would seem, the administration is not really sure what it's going to do about Syria, or if it's going to do anything at all. 

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