In the Leaders print edition, The Economist argues that the rise of “Persian power” in the region is reason enough for the West to intervene in Syria:
The growing risk of a nuclear Iran is one reason why the West should intervene decisively in Syria not just by arming the rebels, but also by establishing a no-fly zone. That would deprive Mr Assad of his most effective weapon—bombs dropped from planes—and allow the rebels to establish military bases inside Syria. This newspaper has argued many times for doing so on humanitarian grounds; but Iran’s growing clout is another reason to intervene, for it is not in the West’s interest that a state that sponsors terrorism and rejects Israel’s right to exist should become the regional hegemon.
The West still has the economic and military clout to influence events in the region, and an interest in doing so. When Persian power is on the rise, it is not the time to back away from the Middle East.
Daniel Larison scoffs at the Economist’s reasoning, after the jump:
There are several things wrong with this. Because of its own nuclear arsenal, its far greater conventional military superiority, and its greater economic power, Israel is much closer to being a regional hegemon than Iran. Indeed, the open secret of the the U.S. and Israeli obsession with Iran’s nuclear program is that the program could potentially threaten their freedom of action in the region. The fact that Iran’s ally in Syria has been fighting off an internal rebellion backed by several other regional governments for the last two years suggests that Iranian power in the region isn’t waxing. It is at best holding steady, and it has clearly declined from where it was a few years ago. Put simply, Iran is in no danger of becoming the region’s hegemon.
Andrew Sullivan echoes Larison’s view and labels what the Economist is asking for as a “Nineteenth Century Proxy War“:
The leader fails to persuade me for a few reasons. There is no analysis of theconsequences of entering a civil war as decisively as The Economist wants. And there is an assumption, not an argument, that Iran is obviously the biggest threat in the region, and that a nuclear Iran cannot be contained, as every other new nuclear power in history has been. And I suspect crippling a rising Shia power – by brutal sanctions – will not end well for the US and has already failed to achieve its stated goal.
I’m also unsure whether it is better for the US for the Sunni or the Shia factions of Islam to prevail in the growing regional religious war. I’m only sure that we should not care enough to ask the question. These are not our religious wars. We had ours in the 16th and 17th centuries. No one intervened to police ours – and because of that, we arrived at our own liberal evolution. Non-intervention can be a blessing in resolving core internal conflicts that need to be resolved internally before a new order can arise. That may take decades or centuries.