"Havens in Syria, in other words, could play the same role that Afghan refuges offered al-Qaeda before 9/11. As the West cold-shouldered moderate and secular forces, extremist ranks have swelled in Syria to as many as 26,000, including 7,000 foreigners, Clapper said."
Not surprisingly, given the always-hawkish views of McCain and Graham, their proposed "new approaches" to this new threat involved military interventions in Syria. Graham wanted to unleash armed drones over the country, while McCain called for establishing "a safe zone in which to train the Free Syrian Army and care for refugees, protected by Patriot missiles based in Turkey," Hiatt wrote.
Of course, a big part of the Syrian problem is that al-Qaeda-connected extremists are fighting as part of the rebel coalition against Assad's army. Indeed, the jihadists are considered, by far, the most effective part of the rebel force. To a significant degree, the Sunni jihadists -- funded and armed by Saudi Arabia and other Persian Gulf states -- are the rebel army.
In other words, the semantic trick that the Post is pulling off is to conflate the existence of al-Qaeda affiliates in Syria with the Syrian government when they are actually on opposite sides, bitterly fighting one another. The Post's argument is a bit like blaming Fidel Castro for harboring al-Qaeda operatives in Cuba without mentioning that they are locked up at the U.S. military base at Guantanamo and thus outside Castro's control.
Currently, the Syrian government is engaged in a brutal campaign to root out these "terrorists" -- as well as other armed rebels -- and is killing lots of civilians in the process. While there may be no easy solution to this catastrophe, the idea of another U.S. military intervention could easily lead to even more death and destruction.
As Hiatt noted...
"Obama has doubted that the United States could intervene in such a messy conflict without making things worse. He reportedly worries that even a limited commitment would inexorably suck the nation into something deeper. There certainly is no public clamor to intervene."
But lack of public support for another Mideast war is no concern to Hiatt and other Post editors who have never really apologized for helping to mislead the American people into the Iraq invasion which resulted in the deaths of nearly 4,500 U.S. soldiers and hundreds of thousands of Iraqis. Indeed, the Iraqi bloodbath -- initiated by President Bush and promoted by the neocons -- has already been forgotten, as the Post cited the Syrian civil war as the worst humanitarian disaster since the Rwanda genocide in the 1990s, jumping over the Iraqi carnage of the past decade.
Now, Hiatt and the other neocons are promoting "themes" designed to maneuver Obama into another Mideast conflict, pushing the hot button of al-Qaeda "refuges" as if Assad is protecting the extremists, not trying to kill them.
Yet, if preventing al-Qaeda from establishing a safe haven in Syria is now the top U.S. concern -- and not just the latest neocon excuse for another U.S. invasion of a Muslim country -- then a more logical approach might be to seek a power-sharing arrangement between Assad's government and the more moderate opposition, creating a united front against the jihadists.
Such an agreement could be followed by a coordinated strategy to rid Syria of these extremists. Obama also might put the squeeze on the Saudis and other oil-rich sheiks to stop funding the Sunni jihad inside Syria.
But the U.S. insistence that Assad negotiate his own surrender -- especially when his forces have gained the upper hand militarily -- will simply ensure more fighting and killing, while the neocons ramp up their pressure on Obama for one more "regime change."