As Syria is a Russian ally/client state, U.S. intervention in Syria's civil war was bound to anger Russia and draw them into the conflict to protect their sphere of influence. It has turned into a proxy war between the USA and Russia, and in the process Syria is becoming a bombed-out wasteland that has precipitated a humanitarian catastrophe with unwanted refugees pouring into Europe and providing a staging ground for ISIS and other terrorist factions.

What does the USA get out of this? I genuinely don't understand. Relations between Russia and the west are terrible right now, Syria is a recruiting and training ground for radical Islamists, and the refugee crisis has emboldened right-wing nationalist factions within western nations. What was the upside for the USA and the west? What was the point?


4 Answers 4


What does the USA get out of this?

Quite simple. They are trying to deny Russia a strategic naval base in the Mediterranean sea. Syria is just another pawn for complete global hegemony.

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    @userLTK The missile strikes? That if anything is an oversimplification, it's not about the missile strikes, but about the whole war. Why does U.S spend millions to arm, train and fund these rebels/terrorists? What happened to 9/11 never forget never forgive? Yet here they are again funding, arming and training terrorists, even giving the propaganda arm of the Al-Nusra Front, the White Helmets (Al-Qaeda) an Academy Award. You really cannot make this up (not even in a Hollywood movie). Yet after swearing that Osama Bin Laden was the true enemy, here they are again, doing the exact same thing. Commented Apr 7, 2017 at 21:36
  • Fair enough. I think I got this question and another question transposed, the other one asking about the missile trikes. I'll delete the above, but as an answer to this question, I think your answer is still too weak on detail.
    – userLTK
    Commented Apr 7, 2017 at 21:55

There are any number of reasons for involvement in Syria, I will list some shortly, but the primary goal has been to remove a terrorist haven for ISIS and to prevent them from expanding. Other goals include humanitarian ones and stemming the refugee crisis, mostly failed, as the exodus continues and the bombing of Aleppo proceeds. Likewise, prevention of the use of chemical weapons, which also has failed. Other concerns include prevention of a broader war into our ally Israel, general destabilization of the Middle East and prevention of adversaries like Russia having influence in the region.

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    Sad that all of those initiatives have either failed or were bad ideas. 🙁 And who cares if Russia has influence over a state that is already aligned with them and is in their geographic backyard? We were really pissed when they interfered with Cuba... Why can't major powers have their own areas of influence? What's so awful about that?
    – iLikeDirt
    Commented Oct 21, 2016 at 19:07
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    This comment sounds a little as if you believed that people living in those "areas of influence" should have no voice about who and how rules their countries.
    – SJuan76
    Commented Oct 21, 2016 at 19:25
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    Not at all, but let's acknowledge reality. World powers always want to carve out spheres of influence for themselves,rightly or wrongly. Syria is within Russia's; just like Taiwan, South Korea, and Pakistan are in the USA's. When a world power intervenes in the affairs of a country that is within another world power's sphere of influence, it angers the other power and provokes a proxy war--this happened endlessly during the (first) cold war. I'm updating the title to reflect what I really want to know--what is the upside for the USA here?
    – iLikeDirt
    Commented Oct 21, 2016 at 19:40
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    Only those who are living under US vassal states should have no voice. You put everything upside down. You praise terrorist regimes where people have no voice and promote them under the guise of "democracy". There is no voice for those who out of line with US empire Commented Oct 22, 2016 at 8:41
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    ISIS gained foothold because of the Iraq invasion wouldn't you say? So doing the same in Syria would be better? Kinda like fighting fire with fire, or doing the same thing over and over again and expecting a different result. Commented Apr 7, 2017 at 18:07

What does the USA get out of this? I genuinely don't understand. Relations between Russia and the west are terrible right now, Syria is a recruiting and training ground for radical Islamists, and the refugee crisis has emboldened right-wing nationalist factions within western nations. What was the upside for the USA and the west? What was the point?

A lot of people don't understand US involvement and it's a little bit tricky. Syria is strategically very important, not just towards Russia but also towards Iran, Iraq and Isis. The US likely had significant military interests in Syria the whole time.

That said, it's important to recognize that the US involvement in Syria was never all that much. If the US was a war-strategy-above-all-else nation, we'd have sent troops into Syria. We never did that.

The Arab spring happened, which may have been encouraged and even facilitated somewhat by the CIA and the darkweb, but lets get real. The CIA can't cause protests over multiple Muslim nations all at the same time simply by websites and propaganda. That's preposterous. The Arab spring happened in the Muslim world and the US got involved here and there, for better or worse, the biggest military involvement was Libya. Syria, there was significant supplying to the resistance, but no direct assistance, not one US air strike or missile strike against Assad, at least until 2 days ago. Some strikes against Isis, and remember, this is calendar year 2011-2012 when the US involvement started that I'm speaking about.

Why would the US aid the resistance? One - Assad's a Russian Allie. Two - Assad had blocked a natural gas pipeline to Europe, which would have been good for Syria, but bad for Russia - Assad blocked it as a favor to Russia. Natural gas doesn't ship well, it's expensive and needs to be transported under pressure on cargo-ships. It's ideal for pipeline transfer, unlike oil, which can be moved by cargo ship very efficiently. Three, if Assad falls, they have a foothold into setting up military bases, which Assad would never let the US set up, and four, the resistance looked like it had a shot at wining. Assad was unpopular. I'll throw a small 5 in there too. Assad demonstrated he can be quite un-humanitarian, using starvation and chemical weapons in addition to traditional warfare. But that came later in the civil war, the first 4 were the primary reasons the US was interested and offered some support and weapons.

Now, the Resistance didn't overthrow Assad and Syria entered into a long civil war. Over 200,000 were killed. Was this the fault of the US for supporting the resistance? Was this the fault of Assad for being brutal and arguably, making martyrs out of his enemies and making things worse? Was this the fault of Russia for giving aid to Assad? Probably some of all 3. I don't like to blame the resistance as a "cause" because when people are angry enough to try to overthrow a government - that's a symptom. I think the blame needs to be on the parties who had choice. The US - chose to encourage and give weapons to the resistance, Russia chose to give aid to Assad and Assad, basically chose genocide.

At this point, Obama and Syria got in the news and Obama wrestled with this one, big time. Hillary wanted to go in. She's more of a war hawk than Obama. (she was still there, so this had to be 2012). I heard an Obama staffer talk about this. Obama was genuinely unsure what to do. The Military intervention in Libya was seen negatively, the US population was largely anti-intervention after Iraq and Syria was a bear-trap, being so easily supplied and allies with Russia.

But to your question - why would Obama consider going in and why did people like Hillary and McCain want to? Because 1) strategic advantages to "winning" Syria - and setting up military bases there. 2) Assad was a butcher. He really was. He killed more people than anyone in the 2010s, and he used and maintained a supply of chemical weapons even though Syria was a nation that signed an agreement to not use them. And 3) at this point, Assad was a key player in driving the refugee crisis and he'd even worked with Isis, buying oil from them directly and exchanging military information - Assad had no problem with Isis attacking the anti-Assad Syrians. His ties with Isis and reluctance to fight them was a major thorn to the US. and 4) the Natural gas pipeline that the US wanted them to build. So there were, in 2012, strategic, economic and humanitarian reasons for the US to want to overthrow Assad - big big time. That's the real answer to your question. Overflow Assad and maybe the refugee crisis gets cut in half - overnight. That's HUGE.

But the risks, with Russia so close, where very high. In the end, Obama chose not to do it. Some CIA supplying continued, but basically Obama chose non-involvement.

After that, the Russians came in and promised to get rid of Assad's chemical weapons (which they never did), and it became the one sided massacre that it is today.

U.S. intervention in Syria's civil war was bound to anger Russia and draw them into the conflict to protect their sphere of influence.

Lets be clear. The civil war started with the Arab Spring. The US favored the anti-Assad rebellion and supported them. But the US didn't want to draw Russia into the conflict.

Russia was smart, they played the waiting game and after the chemical attacks from a few years ago, and after Obama considered sending in the military but chose not to, Putin said "I'll deal with their chemical weapons" and Russia came into Syria and among other things, built huge military airbases. The US, probably assumed that those were for bombing Isis, but Russia and Assad were more interested in the Syrian resistance than Isis.

I don't think our involvement in Syria angered the Russians too much cause I think Putin figured he always had the upper hand. I think Putin thought that the US involvement wouldn't work and it was too timid an involvement, and he was right.

Even Trump's missile strikes, the US alerted Russia ahead of time. An effort was made to not hit a single Russian plane or member of military. Whether the US wants to anger the Russians is a fair question, too long to get into here, but I don't see it. The lack of involvement in Syria was in part, caution to not get the Russians involved.

And, lets not forget, the Russians have gone out of their way to anger the US on several different occasions in recent years - frankly, angering them back would be justified - IMHO. But, why poke the bear just to make the bear mad. It makes no sense.

The US has made an effort to not step on the Russian's toes with Syria. If the US had sent in a ton of troops and overthrown Assad, that would have probably angered them quite a bit, but the US never did that. It was discussed though.

and in the process Syria is becoming a bombed-out wasteland

Lets me be very clear on this. Russia and Assad would bomb Aleppo into rubble no matter what the US does. At this point, US intervention might save lives, not cost them, cause the Russians and Assad are showing zero restraint. They're perfectly happy to drop thousands and thousands of bombs and even use chemical weapons.

This is one of the things I think you have mixed up. This isn't the US vs. Russia at war. This was the US wanting the resistance side of the civil war to win, but never committing their army behind it and after a few years, mostly pulling out. Then Russia came in and it was their baby. It was US then Russia, more than US vs. Russia. Russia kind of watched and waited, then came in as the US left.

A Proxy war isn't this, then that. A proxy war is 2 big powers pushing at the same time. Maybe you could say it was a proxy war in 2013 but I don't think the degree of supplying the Syrian resistance quite meets that criteria. The US was never all in. It was never more than a secondary buildup. There was no massive air-strike support like we gave the Libyan resistance against Qaddafi.

Assad has worked with ISIS. I very much doubt that claim.

I don't know why so many doubt that claim when it's not hard to look up.

Multiple sources: Jan 2017, Dec 2016, April 2016, Sept 2015, Feb 2015, June 2014.

As I said - complicated. Assad is funding Isis, while at the same time, telling the west, You need me to fight Isis. Take that in for a minute.

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    You complicate a very simple thing. A regime change in Syria is a geopolitical win for U.S and a loss for Russia. It's really not more complicated than that. Commented Apr 8, 2017 at 16:32
  • @dan-klasson Not everything is simple. There's some complication to Syria. Most people don't even realize it's a 3 way war. They think it's Assad vs Isis. It's not. Assad has at times worked with Isis, against the Syrian rebels. The original question asked about it being a proxy war. The US mostly got out when the Russians got in. I don't think this is a circumstance that should be simplified. But yes, A regime change in Syria would be a win for the US against Russia AND Isis AND Iran - and I said all that in the answer, so your simplification was already part of my answer.
    – userLTK
    Commented Apr 8, 2017 at 17:19
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    Assad has worked with ISIS. I very much doubt that claim. Why does ISIS even exist? Yes that's right, because of the Iraqi invasion and the Syrian intervention. Which brings me back to my original statement. You are complicating this issue for no reason. Commented Apr 8, 2017 at 17:22
  • @dan-klasson instead of doubting it, research it, because it's true. And "Why does Isis even exist?" is a separate question. And, just to be clear, I'm not saying the US is perfect or right. OMG, far from it. The question asked "what was the upside in intervening", and I answered that specifically with 5 upsides. Now, those upsides only come about if the side the US backed had won, but I didn't think that needed to be pointed out cause it's fairly obvious But there was clearly a desired goal (5 of them) which is why the US provided support. That specifically answers the question.
    – userLTK
    Commented Apr 8, 2017 at 17:30
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    I would like evidence of the claim that Assad worked with ISIS. There is plenty of evidence that U.S indirectly funded ISIS, but I have seen none of the Syrian regime doing anything remotely like that. If it exists I am interested to see it. Commented Apr 9, 2017 at 11:46

U.S. dont intervene in Syria "only" ; but intervene in whole world because of "controlling the world". Now, about Syria case:

  • Of course it is not because of democracy or human rights (Why? because dictators in middle east such as Saudi and Bahrain are US allies. US is main supplier of Saudi Arabia with weapons).

  • US former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice named Israel’s 2006 aggression against Lebanon as "the birth pangs of a new Middle East". At the time mission failed, but "Arab Spring" was a new opportunity for US (and allies). The new Middle East they want is like this:
    enter image description here

You can see unrest towards the new borders (e.g Kurdistan is a new country separate from Syria, Iraq, Turkey and Iran)

  • Assad is Russia ally. US want to limit Russia.
  • Assad is Iran ally and connect Iran to Hezbollah and Hamas.
  • Assad is Israel's enemy. Removing Assad or weakening Syria (and as consequence Iran, Hezbollah, and Hamas) is good for Israel.
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    Can you provide evidence for the US wanting the middle east to look like this map?
    – Golden Cuy
    Commented Oct 22, 2016 at 7:52
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    This answer makes great claims, but doesn't back them up with any proper sources, except some out-of-context half-sentence by Condoleezza Rice from ten years ago. I don't understand why people upvote such answers.
    – Philipp
    Commented Oct 22, 2016 at 10:05
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    At the beginning of the century these were Conspiracy theory. Now these are the facts on the ground.
    – user 1
    Commented Oct 22, 2016 at 15:58
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    @Philipp Lots of answers that don't provide sources gets upvoted all the time. The reality of it is that this answer got downvoted because people disagreed politically with it. Commented Apr 7, 2017 at 18:05
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    Actual politics in politics.SE, who'd of thought it! Commented Aug 14, 2017 at 20:32

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