Five Views on U.S. Military Action in Syria


Sep 9, 2013

USS Normandy (CG-60) conducts Tomahawk missile 500th operational test launch (OTL-495) July 20 off Southern Florida.

The USS Normandy conducts a Tomahawk missile operational test launch.

Official U.S. Navy photo

President Obama is scheduled to give a speech tomorrow about possible U.S. military action in response to the Assad regime's use of chemical weapons in Syria's ongoing civil war. Meanwhile, Congress continues to debate the wisdom of U.S. involvement in the conflict. Below, RAND experts offer insights into the potential scope of U.S. action and the ramifications it could have on Iran, Israel, al Qaeda, and the Assad regime.

Limited U.S. Military Strikes Do Not Unseat Dug-in Dictators

open quote icon Facing the possibility of U.S. military attack, Bashar al-Assad should worry about his long-term future. But based upon the historical record, any American military attack is more likely to be aimed at coercion than at threatening his immediate survival as president of Syria. close quote icon

Brian Michael Jenkins, senior adviser to the president of the RAND Corporation

U.S. Should Keep Focus on Syria, Not Iran

open quote icon The United States is going to find it hard enough as it is to respond effectively to Syria's chemical weapons use. Israel and its supporters in Congress should not complicate matters by trying to make this about Iran. close quote icon

— Dalia Dassa Kaye, director of the Center for Middle East Public Policy

Syria's Growing Jihad

open quote icon [The conflict in] Syria is contributing to a resurgence of extremism that is becoming reminiscent of Afghanistan in the 1980s. It is increasingly a critical training ground for committed fighters and an ideological incubator for violent jihad. close quote icon

— Seth Jones, associate director of the International Security and Defense Policy Center

Rouhani's Syria Dilemma

open quote icon Syria is Iran's only real state ally in the Middle East. But Syrian President Bashar al-Assad's behavior also puts Iranian leaders, especially the newly elected President Hassan Rowhani, in a quandary. close quote icon

— Alireza Nader, senior international policy analyst

A Measured Red-Line Response

open quote icon Not acting threatens the credibility not just of Obama's red-line threat, but of all U.S. threats going forward. In addition, without a response from the United States the Syrian people can expect Assad to launch even more severe chemical attacks. The conundrum for the United States is that it is not clear what kind of response would best support its interests. close quote icon

— Julie Taylor, Middle East policy analyst