Syrian Regime: Safe for Now


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To demonstrate that point, the administration went out of its way to assure Assad that — unlike Libya’s Moammar Gadhafi – he will not face military reprisals from the United States for any actions he takes to quell the Syrian rebellion. This assurance was delivered in Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s recent pronouncement that American intervention into the unrest “was not going to happen.”

While Clinton did say she found the Syrian crackdown on the protests to be “deeply concerning,” Assad’s role as “reformer” had given him immunity from any US intervention, which probably came as somewhat of a shock to the thousands of Syrians currently protesting, fighting and dying in Syrian streets.

Finally, Israel, for its part, has primarily viewed Assad as “better the devil you know than the devil you don’t.” This belief comes despite the fact that since his ascension to power in 2000, Assad has deepened ties with Iran and Hezbollah; undermined the pro-Western Lebanese government of Saad Hariri; and actively pursued a nuclear program.

Therefore, many Israelis fear that a collapse of Assad’s regime might imperil decades of relative peace along its shared border. As Israeli analyst Eyal Zisser said: “It was a regime that had really scrupulously maintained the quiet. And who knows what will happen now — Islamic terror, al-Qaida, chaos?”

Still, while Assad has quite the favorable backing to potentially ride out the current crisis, events and circumstances could still spiral out of his control, forcing him into some unpleasant options.

For example, Assad’s brother Maher Assad, commander of Syria’s 4th division, is tied down suppressing riots in Deraa. As the only military unit manned by Allawites — the other units by Sunnis — Assad may find himself short of trusted soldiers in which to defend his regime. If he determines his army to be unreliable, he may choose to concentrate on saving Damascus and, like Bahrain, call for outside help, most likely from Iran, Hezbollah, and pro-Iranian Palestinian groups with bases Syria.

However, Assad, if truly desperate enough, could do what no threatened Arab leader has done to date: provoke a war with Israel in order to divert popular outrage from being directed at his regime. In a way, a move like that is fairly plausible in that Assad’s anti-Israeli, anti-American bona fides have never been questioned by the Syrian people.

Such a possibility certainly hasn’t been lost on Israel Defense Forces (IDF) officials who have recently begun to prepare for such a scenario, one in which Assad launches an attack either directly or indirectly through his terrorist proxies.

Still, while many might conclude such an outcome to border on the highly implausible, it would be wise to remember that the Mideast rebellions of 2011 have borne one consistent lesson: the only certainty is uncertainty. It’s a lesson Bashar Assad’s contrasting supporters may soon be taught.

Frank Crimi is a writer living in San Diego, California. You can read more of Frank’s work at www.politicallyunbalanced.com or follow him at twitter.com/@frankcrimi .

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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