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September 03, 2013 10:58 AM The Road To War With Iran Runs Through Syria

By Ed Kilgore

The administration has now put itself into a position where it must convince Republicans to place their hatred and contempt for the president in abeyance just long enough to give him authorization for military action in Syria. It must do so, moreover, without offering concessions on the fiscal issues hanging fire at the moment; once that door is open, the demands will surely escalate and GOPers may even see a glimmer of hope that the implementation of Obamacare can be put on the table.

So the White House badly needs Republicans to reach the conclusion that it is in their own interests to back a strike against Syria, even though they have a thousand excuses for claiming it’s too late or too early or too much or too little or simply the occasion for a “no confidence vote” against Obama’s leadership.

One argument we are going to hear frequently and loudly from some on the Right was, unsurprisingly, articulated today by WaPo’s Jennifer Rubin:

[F]or isolationists, there is no amount of dead Syrians, refugees and WMD deaths that would justify us doing anything effective.
Is that the world we want to live in? Once Assad used chemical weapons, then all despots will feel free to do the same. And the green light would not entice merely rogue regimes in Syria and North Korea.
As for Iran, it isn’t clear whether hard-core isolationists would think sanctions and resolutions are in order. (When a former senator, Chuck Hagel, didn’t think so.) In any case, sanctions haven’t worked. So, in their view, now we would do nothing of consequence to prevent Iran from getting the bomb?

As recently as last year’s Republican presidential nominating process, the one unifying foreign policy objective among Republicans (with a lonely dissent from Ron Paul) was a desire for military action against Iran. There are no particular signs that has changed. Yes, some non-Paulite conservatives oppose action against Assad for their own reasons (notably fears about the Islamist element of the rebel forces and/or solicitude for the Syrian Christians who look to Assad’s Alawite sect for protection). But Iran’s another story.

So you will begin to hear Republican voices essentially arguing that letting Obama hit Syria today is a necessary sacrifice in order to preserve the ability of a future Republican president to hit Iran tomorrow. I don’t know how many votes that will sway; after all, as Byron York notes today, every instinct will lead congressional Republicans to vote “no.” But visions of Tehran in flames will be tempting for some.

Ed Kilgore is a contributing writer to the Washington Monthly. He is managing editor for The Democratic Strategist and a senior fellow at the Progressive Policy Institute. Find him on Twitter: @ed_kilgore.

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