Darkness in Syria

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There are possibilities, but none are attractive. The Assad family are Shiite Muslims of the Alawite sect, and the overwhelming majority of Syria’s population are Sunni, setting the stage for a split of the country along religious lines (though it should be said that the protests thus far have not taken on overtly sectarian tones). There are other large minorities in Syria, including a tenth of the population that is Christian and nearly as many that are ethnically Kurdish. It should also be noted that according to early reports, the crackdown by security forces has been conducted by units dominated by Alawites — furthering concern that the collapse of Syria into civil war could rapidly become a fight along religious and ethnic lines as military units of one religion or ethnicity turn against other units composed of members of a different sect. Such a civil war would raise the grim specter of widespread ethnic cleansing along the lines of what was seen in the Balkans during the 1990s.

The possiblity of an ethnic or religious civil war is alarming, but is not the only unpleasant possibility to consider. The Muslim Brotherhood has long been an enemy of the ruling regime and the Assad family. In 1982, the Syrian military attacked the Brotherhood stronghold of Hama, virtually destroying the city. Civilian deaths in that operation ranged from a low estimate of 10,000 to a high of 80,000. The annihilation of Hama marked the end of the Brotherhood’s terrorist insurgency against the Assad family and drove its leadership into hiding or exile. But it has continued to call for an end to Assad’s rule (even receiving funds from American taxpayers) and for elections to replace him — elections it would of course participate in. CNN has reported that witnesses to the fighting in and around Jisr al-Shoghour claim the violence involved members of the Muslim Brotherhood attacking government forces. And the Canadian Press reports that a recent meeting of Syrian opposition leaders in Turkey included a representative of the Brotherhood. While its strength is unknown, the Islamist organization is clearly interested in a role in a post-Assad future that many believe to be imminent.

In an excellent column, The New York Times’ David Brooks heaped scorn upon the brutal Syrian regime, whose depravity is now on full display to the world. He also singled out for ridicule those who would have expected Israel to ever reach a fair and lasting peace treaty with those who machine-gun their own civilians or torture small boys to death and send the body to the family. Mr. Brooks is exactly right. But if Assad should fall in the days to come, and should Syria collapse into civil war or fall under the control of the Muslim Brotherhood, Israel will be no better off.

Matt Gurney is a columnist and editor at Canada’s National Post. He can be reached on Twitter @mattgurney.

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  • Chezwick_mac

    I've thought about this a lot and have come to one inescapable conclusion: Though many in Israel would say "better the devil you know"…comprehending that the Assad regime's base is a minority and therefore perpetually vulnerable (and therefore preferable to a radical Sunni government), no one can deny that the political-religious orientation of the regime suits Iranian interests. It remains a conduit for Iranian backing of Hezbollah.

    A Sunni regime may end up being even MORE antagonistic towards Israel (if that's possible)…and may actually INCREASE support for Hamas, but the natural proclivity for doing Iran's bidding and for perpetuating Hezbollah's domination of Lebanon will no longer exist.

    In other words, this is an occasion where "better the devil you know" may NOT be the heart of wisdom.

  • spinoneone

    The Assad regime is supported by and supports the Alawi sect of Islam. The Alawites comprise about ten percent of the population of Syria; Sunnis are about 60 and Shi'ia about 30 percent, respectively. Given the nature of most populations in the Middle East, there will be some settling of scores with the Alawites if Assad goes. The Alawi sect is an off-shoot of Shi'ia, but not accepted as "Islamic" by a majority of Imams. If the Sunnis do revolt and win, Hezbollah will find slim pickings in Syria. In fact, one shouldn't be too surprised if they go back into Syria and join Assad and the other Shi'ia against the Sunnis.

  • imnokuffar

    Exactly as I predicted.

    The Muslim Brotherhood is well organised, financed and has a coherent ideology – even if you disagree with it, that I obviously do.

    The west has opened the door to them and they are only too pleased to step through it.

    We had the Arab Spring now get ready for the Muslim Brotherhood winter.

    Our politicians are fools and knaves and can no longer be depended upon to protect they populations of the west.

  • Dispozadaburka

    Our President is good friends with Louis Farakan.
    What more needs to be said?
    He believes the Muslim Brotherhood should take over the US too.
    Remember Muslim Prayer Day September 2009-
    Obama and 50,000 Muslim Men prayed "For the SOUL of America."
    The concept has already been conceived,
    for that single act, (in Freemasonry)
    Determines the "FUTURE DESTINY" of America.

    • CAROLE63

      I am afraid you`re right!
      The people were too quick to put their trust in him, they thought how wonderful to have the first black president!
      I pray they will be able to get him out of the Whitehouse soon!
      Anyone can see he is a muslim and is just for America`s downfall!

    • Fred Dawes

      thank you but people will not atc out of the ideals of P.C And will know total evil and Americans will see the end of freedom and the ideals of Liberty. in fact liberty has disappeared in many things and in many ways.

  • Gamaliel Isaac

    If they fight each other it's harder for them to fight Israel and to support terror against the West and to develop nuclear weapons.

  • Wesley69

    Obama intervened in Libya to protect the rebels, not even knowing much about their political-religious ideology. However, in Syria, we have a similar situation, but no US intervention or even statements severely condemning Assad's actions against his own people.

    Is it because Syria is on the border with Israel and has been engaged in hostile actions since the 70's? Why intervene, when such intervention could help Israel? Obama is, by far, the most anti-Israel president, the US has had, saying that Israel should return to the pre-67 borders. That would return the Golan Heights to Syria. Obama's plan would reward the Syrians for their belligerent behavior. Even Iran's growing nuclear threat should make it a target of the Obama administration, yet he has done little to arrest their march to nuclear power status.

  • Jim_C

    Stephen, that's my philosophy as well. We KNOW that significant change is only going to happen from within, and we know there's a risk it won't go "our way." In any case, if it ever came to fighting, I'd much rather be at war with a nation than with a concept. Then you can actually ask your military to do what it's designed to do.

    • Fred Dawes

      No risk the system of islam will attack and attack until all non muslims are dead or freedom becomes the law of all people.

  • WilliamJamesWard

    Look for the unexpected, Iran may invade Syria to keep information out of
    the hands of the UN concerning the Iranian-Syrian Nuclear program which
    is potentially explosive, (no pun intended)………..Remember Putin is involved
    with Iranian and Syrian Nuclear programs and much of the information that
    could get out would have very damaging results for the three collaborators.
    The worst case would be a devolving situation with Russia, Iran and Syria
    dropping down and attacking Israel…………………………………..William

  • kblink45

    Islam, an atavistic cultural artifact, cannot defeat freedom. We can only defeat ourselves.

  • flowerknife_us

    Primates with modern weapons. May the most righteous of them lead the charge up the hill till the last reaches the top.

  • Fred Dawes

    Each Day we see the evil one at work inside this country and outside this country soon people will see THE COLLAPSE and the conquest of freedom by the phony governments now in power in places we don't want to see. This Brotherhood is total evil and the end game is mass killing. And kblink45 i hopw you are right, but freedom and right against wrong and total darkness can and will happen to a world of stupid people who will not act against insane governments.

  • Eraina

    eeeny meeny miney mo — which is the more cruel, violent or bloodthirsty? — Assad's forces or the Al Quaeda/Moslem Brotherhood rebels? Hmmmmm……no difference! So why should I care about what Assad does? If he were deposed, do you think his successors would be any different?

  • Fred Dawes

    You are so right but inside the USA People are fools and with a want to be communist country with obama as president for life we will be the countries that will be leaved by its own government. and we do have al Qaeda monkey in power here inside the nut house.

  • antileft

    I am shocked with what has been going on in Syria, but –as a modest student of the 20th century history, with communism in all its forms and shades and unmarked graves, I must but conclude that the BESTIAL cruelty that has been thrown on All -children,women, all and sundry is a LOGICAL AND ONLY ´strategy´, tool or what have you that communist Asad family could use, as this is the basic tenet of bolshevism, titoism,castroism, socialim,and asadism, widespread and nonselective,all-inclusive and merciless, it´s stalinism or leninism at its worst!! The 21 st century with all its technical achievements has not been able to ´cleanse ´ the man of its most essential, darkest, call it his evil self,what asadism in fact is, a stale form of everything previously stated. People here and everywhere else, who have NOTHING else left, who do not have even enough bread to feed themselves, have got the biological and divine right to storm any wall, to cross any barbed wire to throw the dictator and his henchmen into the pits of the Dantesque hell, and when the last drop of patience is lost, you have war !! I think that whatever happens in Syria, and the present system is doomed, there is no face-saving now, is also in the vital interests for Israel, which has always had to fight against its pinko neighbour, winning ,thankfully, all wars, and conducting justified and effective sporadic aerial campaigns agains the select Syrian targets, the last being the destruction of a nuclear reactor site in 2008. If the anti-asad forces win, and I think according to the above text, this is inevitable, Israel has a great opporunity to permanently secure a huge chunk of its borders. And that , methinks, would really be a tremendous achievement.

  • Maximus

    "We will fight to death" Soon this phrase will become everyone's reality, the world is not far from a world war. The U.S. economy is expected to collapse. Once America is weak, Arab countries will take advantage, the Arab spring has made it even easier to bring all Islamist regimes together. We are entering some dark times. Can't you feel it?

  • g_jochnowitz

    Assad hasn't fallen, but stories like this keep occurring in Syria: http://www.haaretz.com/news/mideast-in-turmoil/sy