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Syria - A Minefield

by Leslie J. Sacks

Senator Clinton's vocal (though not military or financial) support as well as the White House's ambivalent backing for the Free Syria Coalition, now after 7,000 deaths and a year of violent revolution, may come back to haunt us.

Too little, too late. Early sanctions and support may have saved most of these lives. Yet in Libya by contrast, with a neutered, secular and defanged Gadhafi, the West intervened in an ambiguous revolution that brought NATO to the same side as Al Qaeda elements and the Muslim Brotherhood.

The same dangers exist in Syria, multiplied.

Already Hamas and its prime minister Ismail Haniyeh, have thrown their weight behind the uprising against Syrian President Bashar Al-Assad, the groups long-time patron and host. Also the leader of Al Qaeda, the Sunni aligned global terrorist movement, as well as Muslim Brotherhood, have thrown their support behind the Syrian opposition. I can't imagine Hillary Clinton is entirely comfortable with her radical new Sunni partners in the expanding anti-Assad opposition.

Daniel Pipes of the venerable Middle East Forum writes (Syria: Arguing for U.S. Inaction) that inaction by America may be the best policy. Na�ve sentimentalism and umanitarian goals may just indeed result in far worse consequences. Some Sunni revolutionaries in Syria, when asked as to their plans about the Alawites after the fall of Assad, reflected quite honestly that they would merely "kill them of course". In the insanity of the Middle East, this is a tried and tested normalcy.

Assad's Alawite minority (12%) dominate a Syria of 23 million people, controlling the army, sources of revenue and power. They have oppressed and murdered their way for decades now, first with Assad senior, Hafez, and then with his vicious but spineless son Bashar.

Remember that Hafez Al-Assad (President from 1971-2000) and leader of the Baath party massacred at least 10,000 fellow Syrians in Hama in 1982 (some sources cite 20-40,000 casualties) in putting down protests there.

Were the despicable Assad to be violently deposed, we could expect a backlash against the Alawites, the Christians (9%) and other minorities, that would make historical Hama and current casualties pale into insignificance. Bosnian ethnic cleansing would seem mild by comparison.

A weak but continuing Assad dynasty, beset with troubles, forced to eventually compromise and share power, may indeed be the least damaging and dislocating solution:

Syrian supporters - Russia, China, Iran and Hezbollah will continue to be embarrassed and compromised;

More Sunni anger at Assad and his Shiite wetnurse, Iran means less vitriol for America and Israel;

The more Syria and Iran are tied together in this no-win situation, the less likely they will ferment trouble and the more likely Iran's green revolution will be emboldened.

Genocidal post-revolution tendencies in Syria will be stayed. Ultimately as Daniel Pipes succinctly puts it, it may serve us to see the rotting corpse of Syria remain chained to an intransigent Iran for a while longer.


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