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The costs of a U.S. intervention in Syria

A demonsrator shouts slogans against President Bashar Al-Assad of Syria during a demonsration on August 4, 2012 at Beyazit Square, in Istanbul.

Jeremy Hobson: In Syria, rebel forces are battling with the government for control of the economic hub of Aleppo. It's being called a must-win area for the Assad regime, if that regime is to maintain control of the country. Now at crucial moments like this in the Libyan conflict, there was assistance for the rebels from the U.S. and NATO -- in both money and materials.

Marketplace's Mitchell Hartman looks at how a similar intervention in Syria might price out.


Mitchell Hartman: The highest-cost scenario might be called the "Iraq Option."

Ken Pollack of the Saban Center for Middle East Policy at the Brookings Institution says that's the U.S. going in more-or-less alone to crush Assad.

Ken Pollack: Two hundred thousand to 300,000 American troops, and would probably cost, at least in its first years, $200 billion to $300 billion.

The "Libya Option" costs a fraction of that. But a U.S.-European air campaign might not work, given Syria's military strength. And with the euro in crisis, there's little appetite for expensive military adventures.

Plus, Pollack says Syria lacks one thing Libya and Iraq both have: oil.

Pollack: Syria may be a humanitarian tragedy. But it doesn't engage American vital interests, in large part because it is not connected to the oil.

The Gulf States do see Syria as vital. So they may ramp up funding of the rebellion. Pollack says they bankrolled the first Gulf War, saving U.S. taxpayers a lot of money.

I'm Mitchell Hartman for Marketplace.

About the author

Mitchell Hartman is the senior reporter for Marketplace’s Entrepreneurship Desk and also covers employment.

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