Syrian Regime: Safe for Now

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Finding himself both fiercely and unexpectedly fighting for his regime’s very survival, Syria’s President Bashar Assad took to the airwaves to deliver a sweeping condemnation of the unrest sweeping the Syrian nation. Assad’s hardened stance was a welcome sign for those in the region — both friend and foe — who have a vested interest in his political survival, a prospect that makes his removal from power fairly unlikely.

In a televised address, Assad openly blamed the growing turmoil on unnamed outside forces, declaring “Syria today is being subjected to a big conspiracy, whose threads extend from countries near and far.”

For many pro-reform Syrians, Assad’s attempt to assign blame for the nation’s current turmoil to outside conspirators seemed truly off the mark. If anything, the cause of Syrian unrest has mirrored all Mideast uprisings in 2011: high unemployment, deadening poverty, political repression and official corruption.

Moreover, Assad’s initial response to the unrest has been to utilize the same unsuccessful methods employed by his Arab counterparts: promise reforms, fire his cabinet, and free a few political prisoners. Predictably, the result of those cosmetic concessions has only served to intensify both the spread of the protests and the efforts of the regime to quell it.

Yet, even though the scenario being played out today in Syria may be similar to what happened in Tunisia and Egypt, the end result may be quite different. To that end, evidence abounds that Assad may not suffer the same fate as what befell the deposed leaders of those two nations.

For starters, as both the Arab world’s foremost Israeli antagonist and Iran’s closest Arab ally, a Syrian civil collapse – one facilitated by Assad’s ouster — would have broad and highly negative regional implications. As one analyst said, “Nobody has an interest in Syria going aflame. Syrian instability has the potential of destabilizing the entire region.” It is a core reason why a bevy of nations and groups — albeit for differing reasons — have hopes that Assad can ride out the storm.

Syria’s closest friends, Hezbollah and Iran, have much to lose from an Assad removal. For Lebanon’s Hezbollah, an Assad ouster will cost them a political and military patron, as well as a geographic link to Iran.

For Iran, which recently had Syria open its port of Latakia as an Iranian base, it has more than enough incentive to ensure the continuation of the Assad relationship. As one Israeli foreign ministry official noted, “Syria is an Iranian acquisition, and it is clear that Iran is afraid that its investment will go down the drain.”

To that end, an Iranian command structure has already been setup at Syrian armed forces headquarters in Damascus. In fact, so acute is Hezbollah and Iranian concern over a Syrian implosion, reports have surfaced that both are now actively participating in quelling Syrian demonstrations.

For Turkey, a Syrian collapse would place in jeopardy Prime Minister Recep Erdogan’s primary diplomatic and economic strategy, one squarely focused on Syria, Iran and Russia. Moreover, according to journalist Amotz Asa-El, “Assad has shared Turkey’s hostility to Kurdish statehood and shelved Syria’s demand for sovereignty over the Alexandretta region.”

As for the United States, the Obama administration has long engaged in an effort to peel Syria away from its ties to Hamas, Hezbollah and Iran. While these efforts have been wholly unsuccessful, the administration still believes Assad’s continued control of Syria to be an integral part of America’s Mideast foreign policy.

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  • Chezwick_mac

    "Better the devil you know?"

    Sometimes, but not in this case…at least in my humble opinion. Yes, the Syrian-Israeli border has been scrupulously quiet for decades…because Syria can use its Lebanese proxies to injure Israel without repercussion.

    The real issue is the Iranian connection. Remove Assad, and you end the Alawite hegemony, opening the door to majority (Sunni) rule. Iran and Hezbollah will indeed be the losers in such a development. The strategic equation in the region will be dramatically altered.

    Israel and America ought to be thinking more creatively than resorting to the lowest common denominator. It is folly to squander this opportunity by propping up this stooge of the Iranians.

    • nina

      How does the writer know what the Israeli government thinks? Becouse one commentator said so? I agree with you that in the case of Asad's defeat, Iran would be the loser. What I don't understand is why the West, is so set on Kaddafi's demise, and doesn't lift a finger to help the unarmed protesters in Syria. To the logical mind, this would be a perfet opportunity to weaken Iran.

  • Misfit

    Hillary Clinton is right, after 20.000 Islamist are killed by his father, Assad, his son is a "reformer" I guess it takes a real dentist to make a "root cannal"

  • WilliamJamesWard

    Does Assad have Russian support, can he call on them for help or
    is he isolated and drawn back with Iran in a corner? Hamas and
    Hezbollah with Palestinians are being tested and out of this rumble
    there may arise the final alliance against Israel and the West. It is
    and opportunity to see all of these bandits kill each other off and
    thus a substantial weakening of jihadist threats and political
    savagery from the Mullahs while civil war continues, in the end
    we will be fighting all of them but for now it seems the can is
    being kicked down the road. Not until we have a new President
    and Senate will America be a real player for American interests,
    until then whatever elivates and improves Islam, Obama is
    there for them……………………………………………………William