Syria Lurches Toward Civil War

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Former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice believes that this is the path that President Assad is on, whether he desires it or not. Rice told Politico, “He is driving his country to the brink of civil war. That’s very clear. And it’s a very dangerous circumstance.” She also pointed out the boon to American interests if Assad were overthrown: “Syria is the handmaiden of the Iranians throughout the region. And so the fall of Bashar al-Assad would be a great thing, not just for the Syrian people – that’s first and foremost – but also for the policies of the United States and those who want a more peaceful Middle East,” Rice said.

On one level, that may be true. But what Rice doesn’t mention is the comeback being made in Syrian politics by the Muslim Brotherhood and other Islamist groups. Banned for decades under both Bashar Assad and his father, Hafez, the Brotherhood is re-emerging as a player in the fractious and disorganized Syrian National Council, the major umbrella opposition organization that is seeking regime change. Randa Slim, writing in Foreign Policy’s Middle East Channel, describes the Muslim Brotherhood as “one of three major political factions inside the SNC.”

Other Islamist groups include “Syrian based Islamist scholars and activists and the Salafis,” according to Slim. She writes that the Salifis are based along the border with Lebanon and “were given safe haven by Syrian intelligence services that relied on their services and networks to field suicide bombers and fighters into Iraq.” Having turned against their former masters, the Salfis have evidently been busy fomenting sectarian violence by carrying out some revenge killings.

This has been the nightmare of the secularists in the opposition since the uprising began; that the boiling kettle of differing sects and religions in Syria might overflow and turn into a conflict — not to get rid of Assad, but to kill their religious enemies. This is evident in the city of Homs where the small Alawite community has been carrying out tit-for-tat murders of Sunnis who have been returning the favor.

The violence is close to being out of control as many residents of both Islamic sects fear for their lives if they venture outdoors. One resident told the New York Times that “There are shabeeha on both sides now” — referring to the black clad militia that is the spearhead of Assad’s crackdown on civilians. The Times describes a harrowing situation, with “beheadings, rival gangs carrying out tit-for-tat kidnappings, minorities fleeing for their native villages, and taxi drivers too fearful of drive-by shootings to ply the streets.” Both sides blame the government for encouraging the sectarian violence, but the bitter rivals hardly need a push from anyone to kill each other.

This is what a real civil war in Syria could look like: minorities like the Christians, the Druze, the Shias, and the small but dominant Alawite sect, fearing a Sunni takeover (Sunnis make up 75% of the population), would largely look to Assad’s regime to protect them, while some of those minorities and the Sunnis would seek to overthrow the regime. The conflict would quickly degenerate into a bloodbath similar to what was witnessed in Iraq during the violence after Saddam’s overthrow.

This scenario is becoming more likely because of the inability of the Syrian National Council to agree on an agenda that would lead to Assad’s departure. The more the opposition dithers and is unable to unite the various factions, including the groups of young people who have been on the front lines of the revolt, the less likely it is that sectarian tensions can be kept under wraps.

There is also the question of maintaining a peaceful character to the revolution. Most of the younger activists don’t want anything to do with the Free Syrian Army while the SNC wants to maintain an arms length relationship with the defectors. The SNC argues that embracing the FSA will make it easier for other soldiers to defect. “[T]he others [soldiers] in the army are our sons too,” said one SNC member.

The Arab League, the international community, and Syria’s neighbors are scrambling to come up with a formula that will force Bashar Assad from office and avoid an even larger bloodbath than the carnage being visited upon the Syrian people by the military forces of the Syrian president. With tens of thousands of prisoners being held without charge, and at least 3,500 dead, time appears to be running out for a happy ending to the human rights tragedy currently unfolding in Syria.

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  • UCSPanther

    I wonder how Iran would react should Assad be forced to flee. Iran appeared to be the one to benefit from the Arab spring, but Assad's regime coming under fire could be considered the game changer.

    I also suspect the Ayatollahs know that they are a few misteps away from sharing the same fate as Gaddafi…

    • Herman Caintonette

      They are. Remember the Green Revolution?

  • oldtimer

    Isaiah 17?

  • StephenD

    “The Arab League, the international community, and Syria’s neighbors are scrambling to come up with a formula…There will be no action taken by the Security Council because both Russia and China oppose any sanctions on Syria and are unalterably opposed to any Libyan style intervention.”
    So what are we supposed to do? I say step aside. We have no dog in this fight. Just make it clear to the world we will not suffer any interference with our oil supply or any aggression toward our ally, Israel. Leave them to their own and see what emerges. Russia and China want a say in this, let them have it. Put the mess squarely on their shoulders for resolution…like the world has done with us lo these many years.

    • Herman Caintonette

      For once, I agree with you — apart from the point that Israel is not threatened by this situation, and protecting Israel is not our job. T'ain't our fight.

    • StephenD

      I LOVE that no one is responding to Herman "killing Jewish kids is morally legitimate" Caintonette.
      Invalidation is what he deserves here on FPM.

  • Herman Caintonette

    The beauty of this is that this was all brought about by commodity traders in Chicago.

    • jacob

      I dare say you don't bray because the anathomical comformation of your
      throat prevents you from, as otherwise you would communicate the way
      jackasses do….

      I believe your statement of CHICAGO commodity traders brought all it
      about deserves deep analysis and I don't doubt for a split second many
      jackasses will….
      By the way, which commodity does Syria sell ?????

      • skulldiggerin

        I agree with you on every point, except your demeaning of the jackass.
        Donkeys are noble animals.
        A donkey rebuked the venal prophet Balaam.
        Another one along with its ox pal kept The Baby Jesus Warm.
        And a young donkey served as Mount For our LORD When HE RODE Into Jerusalem.

    • nightspore

      Are you saying that commodity traders set policy – such as corn for ethanol?

      Of course, in the funhouse-mirror world of the Left this is the Way Things Are.

      • Herman Caintonette

        By implication. Remember when oil was $125 a barrel? How much of that was due to speculation?

        That's what happened to food. The dictators couldn't absorb the costs. It was the straw that –appropriate for Egypt — broke the camel's back.

  • Attila the Hun

    Eventually Assad will go but not without setting the entire region on fire. No wonder why Erdoğan is hesitant to take any action. He knows what will happen after Assad. Unavoidable Syrian civil war will spread into Turkey, Iraq, Lebanon and who knows where else. What we are seeing is the unraveling post WWI middle east map based on artificial boundaries. With. Americans leaving Iraq, Iran getting closer to nuclear bomb, Egypt drifting into chaos and Syria in a verge of civil var 2012 will be the historical crescendo for the ME

  • matt

    It is not civil war yet, the first phase was peace protests calling for reform, that was met with extreme violence, so the peace protests turned into a peaceful uprising regime change. Now it has turned into armed uprising, it is in the form of an insurgency not civil war. The insurgency could lead to civil war. What did the world expect just because Russia, Chine, Iran say it is so does not make it so. People are going to arm themselves and defend themselves and rightly so. The FSA do not agree to a peaceful end, because it is an illusion.

  • matt

    It takes time for the weapons to get from Libya to the FSA. The Russia, China, Iran believed he could crush phase one, then two and now three. It may take years but Assad will lose the insurgency. Just as he lost the first two phases. Because people are stupid when the FSA inflicted loses and makes the Syrian security forces weaker, then sectarian groups some via fear others that supported the regime will enter into conflict, others wanting to gain a position of strength as the regime collapses, then it will be civil war, but that is for the political suits.

  • matt

    The US is the best armed, most modern professional military in the world and we had a hard time in Iraq, so you can see what Assad is in for with the insurgency he faces. BTW that office they hit is where they run foreign terrorism out of. The Russian know that the UN will not intervene so any naval presence is to prevent arms smuggling. Blame Qaddafi and Russia it is their weapons that are awash in the Mid East. The AL is talking about the killing of civilians, not the insurgency between Assad and the FSA. They know the regime and the man if they say the war must go on then it must go on.

  • matt

    Why don't the Russian invade Syria. Put you manhood where your mouth is, save your base. Sand on the boots. Because that is the only way you are going to save that regime, and I mean prolong it and that base. Come on in the weather nice, the waters warm and the blood runs free. I always got one well with people in the Mid East, Jews, Arabs, perhaps it was my upbringing my best friends were both a Jew and a Syrian, perhaps it is that I always remembered that I was merely a guest in someone else neighborhood.