The U.S. is considering a military attack on Syria to weaken the Bashar Assad regime. Sometimes making a decision is a lot easier than dealing with the consequences.
Consider some of the possible consequences of a U.S. attack on Assad:
1. While an attack may certainly weaken Iranian influence in the area as Assad is an Iranian ally, it may push the Iranians to use nontraditional warfare tactics against U.S. interests in the region. This will be much more difficult to control, and may actually cause more damage than traditional warfare.
2. Radical Islamists who lead the opposition army against Assad will wreak a horrible vengeance on Assad supporters, especially those Christian minorities and liberals who do not want to live under a barbaric and oppressive Islamist regime. It is likely that we will see massacres of these groups, and also of the minority Shia Alawites who largely support Assad. I fear such massacres will make the chemical weapon attacks look trivial by comparison.
3. Should that occur, the Shia in Iraq may take revenge on the Sunnis (who will likely support their Syrian Sunni brothers in the east of Syria). This will further divide Iraq and may push the Kurds in the north of Iraq to separate themselves from the conflict.
4. The Shia majority in the eastern part of Saudi Arabia and in Bahrain may react to Sunni massacres of Syrian Shia in a manner that endangers the oil supply coming from the area.
5. The Kurds in the north of Syria will likely separate to avoid living under a Mujahidin regime. If this happens, it is possible that the Kurds in Turkey and Iraqi will at last join with their Syrian brethren and push to make the dream of a united Kurdistan a reality. This would be a nightmare scenario for Turkey, which would fight to prevent its Kurds from separating from Turkey and joining the new Kurdistan.
6. The collapse of the staunchly pro-Russian Assad regime is likely to force Russia to seek new allies in the region. The extremely negative perception of the U.S. by many Egyptians — due to U.S. failure to show clear support for their revolution against the Muslim Brotherhood — could provide a huge opportunity for the Russians to establish a very strong foothold in Egypt, with its strategic access to both the Mediterranean and the Suez Canal.
7. Islamists in Egypt will celebrate a U.S. attack on Assad as it will help their Mujahidin or Radical Islamist brothers in Syria. This will be seen as an act of betrayal by most Egyptians and will result in more crackdowns on Islamists in Egypt.
8. A new political paradox will be created in which Egypt and Saudi Arabia are united on the removal of Mohammed Morsi (the Saudis are rightly worried about the Muslim Brotherhood’s global and pan-Islamic ambitions) but divided on an attack against Assad (Egyptians believe such an attack will empower radical Sunni Islamists in the area while Saudi Arabia is interested in removing Assad to weaken Iranian influence in the region). This political division over the removal of Assad is unlikely to weaken the strong Egyptian-Saudi relationship.
9. Iran may respond to the fall of Assad by attacking Israel, which could drag Israel into the conflict and end in a devastating attack on Iranian nuclear facilities.
10. Sleeper Shia loyalist cells may try to attack the Suez Canal in retaliation for an attack on Assad. Such actions against U.S. interests may also be supported by the extreme left wing and anti-American groups in Egypt (who are already plotting a possible boycott of U.S. products). The U.S. must guard against this possibility by supporting the Egyptian Military — which is responsible for protecting the Suez Canal. Such support could significantly ameliorate the potential backlash against U.S. interests in the area.
Irrespective of whether or NOT the U.S. ultimately decides to attack Syria, U.S. decision makers need to be fully aware of the possible consequences, and need a plan to deal with them. Taking action without anticipating its consequences is not only irresponsible but utterly irrational.
U.S. decision makers also need to answer this question: If it turns out that radical Islamist rebels — and NOT Assad — are actually responsible for the chemical attack, would the U.S. then attack the rebels?
Dr. Tawfik Hamid is the author of "Inside Jihad: Understanding and Confronting Radical Islam." Read more reports from Tawfik Hamid — Click Here Now.
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