U.S. State Department official Frederic Hof referred to Syria’s Assad regime a “dead man walking” yesterday in a speech before Congress. He also described Damascus as the “Pyongyang” of the Levant. The Syrian capital isn’t that oppressive, but at least the United States is no longer whitewashing or downplaying or telling make-believe stories about the tyrannical and warmongering nature of the dictatorship.
Hof’s boss Hillary Clinton sent a similar signal recently when she met with the opposition Syrian National Council in Geneva.
I’m not much more optimistic about a happy post-Assad ending in Syria as I’ve been for one in post-Mubarak Egypt, but I’ll nevertheless be happier to see Assad fall for a couple of reasons. First, he is a much more vicious oppressor. Second, he’s the worst state-sponsor of terrorism in the entire Arab world. And, third, even a Muslim Brotherhood regime would be an improvement.
Of course a Brotherhood government would be hostile to the United States and Israel and would back Hamas in Gaza, but those things are already true of Assad. What a Brotherhood regime would not do is bolster Hezbollah in Lebanon or be Iran’s regional sidekick.
A Brotherhood government, though, is hardly inevitable. Syria isn’t as Islamicized as Egypt. A large percentage of its citizens are not even Muslims. Syria’s Alawites, Christians, Druze, Kurds, and liberal and secular Sunnis will overwhelmingly back movements and leaders that are hostile to radical Islam. We’ll have to wait and see how it goes, but even a bad outcome would be better than what we have now.