Dan Drezner Explains
To your humble blogger, this is simply the next iteration of the unspoken, brutally realpolitik policy towards Syria that’s been going on for the past two years. To recap, the goal of that policy is to ensnare Iran and Hezbollah into a protracted, resource-draining civil war, with as minimal costs as possible. This is exactly what the last two years have accomplished…. at an appalling toll in lives lost.
This policy doesn’t require any course correction… so long as rebels are holding their own or winning. A faltering Assad simply forces Iran et al into doubling down and committing even more resources. A faltering rebel movement, on the other hand, does require some external support, lest the Iranians actually win the conflict. In a related matter, arming the rebels also prevents relations with U.S. allies in the region from fraying any further.
If you believe that there is a strategy, that’s a pretty compelling argument. It does, however, require you to believe that a lot of what the president has said over the last couple of years about Syria has been window-dressing and that the Russians will allow Assad to fall. I do agree, however, with the implied view of a strategic Iranian loss: at this point a strategic Iranian loss would be, in fact, a strategic gain for us.