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Hopeless But Not Syri-us

Over at the new Gatestone Institute, some longstanding friends and I conduct a regular electronic meeting to dissect crisis situations, and let the public read the results after we're done. There are too many moving parts for any individual to follow, and Syria is a case in point: It resembles one of those Quentin Tarantino standoffs in which everyone has a gun pointed at everyone else. Our last exercise came to a striking conclusion: Nothing is going to happen in Syria, except more of the same. Syria will stand as a living monument to the delusions of the Democracy Exporters.

UPDATE: My friend Lee Smith writing at Tablet thinks that Assad will fall, that a Sunni government will replace him, and that this will diminish the Iranian threat. Lee is a terrific journalist, but I disagree on all counts: Assad can't be dislodged from an Alawite enclave as long as the Russians back him (and they will; there's no combination of Sunni forces that could form an alternative government; and the problem of Iran's nuclear weapons development has little to do with Syria. To deal with the Iranian threat, there's a simple solution: Neutralize their nuclear program with air strikes and related pinpoint attacks.

The Turks won't push in, because it's a booby trap for them. The Russians won't intervene, unless Syria's chemical weapons are at risk of passing into the hands of terrorists who might use them against Russian targets. Basher Assad will keep power, at least in the coastal mountains where his Alawite supporters hold sway. Syria's Sunni majority won't push him out because tribal and confessional differences keep them at each others' throats.

Among the journalists involved at the Gatestone project are David Samuels, a contributing editor at Harper's Magazine and one of the most experienced Middle East reporters in the US; Pepe Escobar, the roving correspondent for Asia Times Online; and Rotem Sella, a correspondent for the Israeli daily Ma'ariv. Last weekend we were joined by Tony Badran of the Across the Bay blog, and a Russia expert. I helped assemble this group mainly for selfish reasons: what we came up with surprised me.