The Syrian regime of Bashar Al Assad is on its last legs. Despite support from Iran, Hezbollah, and Russia the Alawi dictatorship has been battling insurgents in its capital, Damascus, and leaders in its government have been assassinated.
Much has been said about the Syrian opposition being fragmented, without a central leadership, and increasingly dominated by radical Sunni fundamentalists with ties to Al Qaeda.
There can be little doubt that Al Qaida is in the thick of anti-Assad revolution, Save Jerseyans.
Whenever there is a power vacuum in the Middle East Sunni, fundamentalists seek to co-opt revolutionary movements and, in violent uprisings, they are often part and parcel of the vanguard. This much we have all born witness to in the Arab Spring – whether it was the Muslims Brotherhoods sweep of the recent Egyptian elections or fundamentalist elements gaining ground in the anti-Qaddafi Libyan forces. They had different modus operandi and different results, as Egypt’s future vacillates between the military and the Brotherhood and Libya looks to be on the right track, but the same goals: Sunni Islamic theocracy.
Yet many on the right have advocated more American intervention in Syria. This writer did so in a past piece published here at Save Jersey which advocated covert military support for the anti-regime forces in Syria. Indeed, our clandestine support was recently leaked and made public in a recent Reuters story. Left and Right, there are members of our political class who rightly posit that we must stand against dictators wherever and whenever they stand, more so when they are being opposed by their people and engaging in acts of wanton mass murder.
Juxtaposed is the historical example of some South American and East Asian nations which successfully and peacefully transitioned from dictatorship to democracy. This, of course, does not apply tow Syria which is an inherited dictatorship and particularly violent towards its people and the West. This brings us to several questions:
1. Are American national interests served by supporting the anti-Assad forces?
2. Is the, not inevitable but probable, militantly Sunni regime that would take over preferable to the current one?
3. Should Assad’s possession of WMD’s, in the form of chemical weapons, factor into the equation?
The answers are to all three is yes.
The Assad regime has aided and abetted terrorists sent against the US in Iraq and allied with Syria and its puppet Hezbollah to upend the pro-freedom Cedar Revolution in Lebanon which we supported. A successful toppling of the regime would be sweet revenge for an old thorn in our side who helped murder thousands of Iraqi civilians and kill scores of our servicemen. Just as importantly, it would be a severe blow to Iran which has Revolutionary Guard and Hezbollah troops on the ground. An American supported ousting of Assad would show the Iranians we are not the impotent paper tiger they think us to be.
A Sunni militant / Al Qaida like take over of Syria is a serious consideration made all the more so by the presence of chemical weapons. Supporting rebel groups with a secular or non-religious bent would help strengthen their hand after Assad’s is defeated. We may also find that the violence transforms from anti-Assad to sectarian conflict and with the Gulf States and the Saudis supplying weapons to insurgents; we can safely bet the lions share are going to Sunni radicals. This is all the more reason to arm liberal, secular, heterodox, and minority group elements within the insurgents.
It is assumed that Syria’s three biggest minority groups, apart from the ruling Alawi, the Christians, Shia, and Druze, are on the regime’s side yet even they can read the writing on the wall. This is of course not to mention the Kurds, who though mostly Sunni, have been the most pro-Western of Middle Eastern peoples. We can also not write off the Sunni masses of Syria who may, like the Sunni of Al Anbar province did when given a viable alternative, rejected al Qaeda.
But even assuming Sunni radicals (with or without Al Qaida membership cards) took power, the danger posed by their possession of Syria’s chemical weapons stockpile would be to great for us not to act. How easy would we sleep if the next train bombing in Spain, subway bombing in London, or attack on America had a chemical weapons component?
At some point American involvement in Syria is going to be a required. The earlier accept it, and send meaningful support to anti-regime elements, the better. We needed to do so yesterday.