Belmont Club

Hard Choices

The Christian Science Monitor asks “Is Assad losing Syria?”

A realization appears to be growing in the West and the Middle East that Assad’s regime is falling apart amid its crackdown on dissent. The State Department urges him to accept political dialogue.

Analysts believed that “if Syria collapses into Libya-style chaos or Mr. Assad is ousted like his counterparts in Tunisia and Egypt, it will have major strategic ramifications on Syria’s close regional allies – Iran, Hezbollah, and Hamas – and possibly alter the balance of power in the Middle East.” Whether Syria will be a boon or a bane to the West depends on what the post-Assad situation looks like.

Iran will be looking for a state hostile to Israel and the West and willing to maintain the existing strategic relationship.
Saudi Arabia will want Syria to abandon its ties to Iran, limit Tehran’s influence in Lebanon, and return fully to the Arab fold. The US will aspire for a democratic secular Syria open to the West and peace with Israel Israel’s primary concern is to prevent the country falling into the hands of Islamist Sunnis, such as the Muslim Brotherhood.

Tony Blair argued that with the region experiencing what amounted to a revolution, the West could not stand by and watch. It had to help shape the outcome. “This situation in Syria can’t hold. There needs to be a truly credible process of reform or there will be change.”

What exactly anyone can do was unclear. Amnesty International has a bright idea: take Syria to the International Court. “Urging the United Nations to refer Syria to the International Criminal Court, the human rights group said nine people died in custody after being captured during the operation in the town, close to the Lebanese border.” But Haaretz suggests that Syria and its allies are more believers in action than in International Court orders.

Iran and Hezbollah are actively assisting Syrian President Bashar Assad’s regime in cracking down on anti-government demonstrations, [Israeli] Military Intelligence Chief Major General Aviv Kochavi said on Tuesday.

The Islamic republic and the Lebanon-based militant group have been transferring information, technical assistance and equipment to Syria to disperse demonstrators, said Kochavi. …

Iran operated directly in Lebanon to help organize Nakba Day and Naksa Day events and was making every effort to prevent anti-government demonstrations in Syria from continuing.

“Iran is taking total advantage of the unrest in the Middle East to push itself deeper into the states and organizations in the [region], including Syria, Lebanon, Egypt, Bahrain, Sudan, Yemen, Gaza and Iraq” said Kochavi.

The unwillingness of certain countries to respond to diplomacy has always been a source of frustration to the enlightened statespersons of the world. But just because International Law has almost always failed to achieve a result unless backed by some form of coercion is no reason not believe it won’t work this time. This upheaval in the Middle East occurs precisely at the time when there are a large number of people in Washington who pride themselves in seeing past simplistic solutions.

And while one hopes they are correct about their own exalted opinions of themselves, there is still the chance that Camile Pissaro was right when she said, “God takes care of imbeciles, little children and artists.” Who knows but that the world may still luck out.

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