While he supports giving aid to Syrian rebels in their fight to topple President Bashar al-Assad, Middle East expert Dr. Walid Phares tells Newsmax that he is concerned the Obama administration waited too long.
“It would be the equivalent of entering World War II in ’42, and not in ’41, and not in ’40,” said Phares in an exclusive interview on Thursday. “So yes I am with the principle of crumbling the Assad regime and eliminating [al-Qaida elements] from the opposition.”
He said that he is not convinced that the Obama administration has a plan for intervening in Syria, which apparently crossed President Barack Obama’s so-called red line by using the lethal nerve agent sarin against as many as 150 of its own people.
Phares, a Newsmax contributor, said the ideal time to intervene in Syria would have been back in 2011, when the U.S. still had a significant military presence in Iraq.
“We left Iraq at the end of 2011 so Iran moved to Iraq and then to Syria,” he explained. “Everything has changed. And because we did not intervene early in ‘11 and ‘12 al-Qaida has penetrated the opposition.”
He also said that it is unclear whether the Obama administration plans to see the U.S. intervention in Syria through to the fall of Assad.
“What we have right now is a decision which on the humanitarian level and moral level if fine, but it is late and it’s not well prepared,” asserted Phares.
Unlike the situation in Libya, he said, the Assad regime is part of an axis that includes Iran, Iraq, and Hezbollah.
“We have to be conscious that if we begin this project in Syria it is going to basically widen,” he explained. “We are not dealing with a regime that is isolated as was the case in Libya.”
He described the Obama administration’s announcement on Thursday as a political decision that does not appear to be backed up with a well thought out plan.
“What seems to be happening is a political decision in front of the international community, in front of the Syrian opposition and people that we are doing something,” observed Phares. “But I don’t see the long term result of today’s decision. So we are forced to support the principle but at the same time question the plan. What is the plan?”
Phares, author of "The Coming Revolution" and an advisor to Congress on the Middle East, said that the Obama administration should officially demand that Iran and Hezbollah withdrawal their forces from Syria.
“My question is whether the Obama administration is ready to confront the Iranians — and my estimate it is not,” added Phares.
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