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How Syria's Neighbors View A Possible Military Strike

Syrian refugees stand in line for food at Kawergost refugee camp in Irbil, Iraq, on Aug. 21. The Syrian civil war has already sparked a refugee crisis in the region. Now, many countries are waiting to see the effects of a possible U.S. military strike.
Hadi Mizban
Syrian refugees stand in line for food at Kawergost refugee camp in Irbil, Iraq, on Aug. 21. The Syrian civil war has already sparked a refugee crisis in the region. Now, many countries are waiting to see the effects of a possible U.S. military strike.

Syria's neighbors have all felt the impact of the country's war, and they will be keeping a close eye on any U.S. military action against Syria for its alleged use of chemical weapons.

But, says Anthony Cordesman of the Center for Strategic and International Studies, "the reality is that they don't particularly see this [military action] by itself as being that critical."

Cordesman noted that the neighboring states are already dealing with the ongoing flow of refugees out of Syria, a rise in Sunni militancy in the region and the increasingly active role played by Hezbollah, the Lebanese Shiite group.

"All of these things are the subject of serious concern," he says.

Here's a look at the countries in Syria's neighborhood and where they stand on the prospect of U.S. military action.


Assad's fall would be a major blow to Iran.

Iran sees Syria as its only regional ally. They've been close since Iran's 1979 Islamic Revolution, uniting against Iraq's Saddam Hussein, who was their common enemy. They both support Hezbollah in Lebanon as well as Palestinian militant groups.

The BBC notes: "Syria has consistently provided Iran with an element of strategic depth. It gives Iran access to the Mediterranean and a supply line to Iran's Shia Muslim supporters in southern Lebanon next to the border with Israel."


Iraq has been careful to maintain neutrality in Syria, but its prime minister blamed the recent increase in violence on what was happening next door.

"The internal situation in Syria is playing a major role with what's happening in Iraq," Nouri al-Maliki said last week.

He was also critical of the proposed U.S. military action in Syria.

"The military solution is a dead end that has nothing in it but the destruction of Syria," he said. "Nothing is obvious on the horizon other than destruction, catastrophe and a civil war that has no winner."

Maliki previously warned that a victory for Syrian rebels would further destabilize the region.

In recent years, Iraq has drawn closer to Iran, and, the U.S. says, has granted Iran access to its airspace to deliver weapons and fighters to Assad.

It's worth pointing out that the Obama administration, in its attempt to make a case for military action in Syria, has insisted it won't be another Iraq, where the U.S. spent more than eight years until the withdrawal of troops in 2011.


Israel is concerned that Syria might retaliate against it in the event of a U.S.-led attack. Israel is also worried that a weak or nonexistent response to Syria's alleged use of chemical weapons will embolden Iran.

Shmuel Sandler, a professor of international politics at the BESA Center at Bar-Ilan University, told USA Today that Israel's main concern is that President Obama "has drawn red lines, and if he doesn't act, he will lose credibility in Tehran."

Here's more from the newspaper:

"Sandler said most Israelis want the U.S. administration to make a precision strike — ideally by targeting weapons depots — but not necessarily to remove Assad from power, creating a power vacuum.

"Nor do Israelis want to see the U.S. once again fighting a long, costly war in the Middle East.

"Israel 'is fearful the American public will blame Israel if the U.S. gets stuck in a protracted war,' Sandler said. 'It is trying to stay uninvolved.' "


Jordan is already feeling the weight of Syrian refugees. The Zaatari refugee camp inside its borders is home to more than 120,000 Syrian refugees. It is now the country's fourth-largest city by population.

The Wall Street Journal reports:

"Across the region, Syrian refugees are competing with locals for mid- to low-wage jobs. Within Jordan, Syrians are also taking some work from Egyptian migrants, who are starting to complain. Water has stopped flowing into some northern Jordanian villages for periods of a month or more as demand soars, village residents say."

Jordan says it won't allow any military strike to be launched from its territory, but nevertheless it has placed its forces on high alert. A Jordanian official says they'd prefer a diplomatic solution to the Syrian crisis.


The tiny country may have the most to lose in the event of an attack. It's already home to tens of thousands of Syrian refugees. For years, Syria was the main power broker in Lebanon and, as the International Crisis Group notes, it has "seldom has been immune to the travails of its neighbor."

The Washington Post says:

"Its economy has suffered, sectarian fault lines have been agitated, and kidnappings, rocket attacks and clashes increasingly punctuate daily life. Over the past month, tit-for-tat bombings have joined the fray. ... Adding to concerns is how the Lebanese Shiite movement Hezbollah might react to a cruise missile strike on the regime of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, its ally."

Hezbollah fighters are fighting on Assad's side in the civil war. Syria is the main conduit for Iranian arms to the Shiite group.

As we previously noted: "Hezbollah views any threat to the Assad regime as a threat not only to Syria but also the Palestinians and Lebanon."


Turkey's views are of particular importance because it's a Syrian neighbor, a U.S. ally, a key NATO member and a strong supporter of military action in Syria.

Here's what we said about Turkey's thinking: "The exodus of Syrians fleeing the civil war in their country has stretched resources in southern Turkey. There have also been attacks inside Turkey, which the country's prime minister has blamed on Turks connected to the Assad regime, as well as border incidents between the two countries."

But there are reasons for Turkey to worry, too.

Bloombergsays that Assad's possible ouster could embolden the region's Kurds, Turkey's largest ethnic minority.

Bloomberg said: "The government is concerned that power gains in Syria [are] fueling aspirations of its own Kurds for self-rule that goes beyond what Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan is ready to offer under the ... peace process" with Kurdish separatist rebels.

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Krishnadev Calamur
Krishnadev Calamur is NPR's deputy Washington editor. In this role, he helps oversee planning of the Washington desk's news coverage. He also edits NPR's Supreme Court coverage. Previously, Calamur was an editor and staff writer at The Atlantic. This is his second stint at NPR, having previously worked on NPR's website from 2008-15. Calamur received an M.A. in journalism from the University of Missouri.
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