by Barry Rubin
“Remember the war against Franco?
That’s the kind where each of us belongs.
Though he may have won all the battles,
We had all the good songs!”
–“The Folk Song Army,” Tom Lehrer
The United States is depending on a partner that denies to the UN that Syria even carried out a chemical attack (See: “Russia: Aug 21 Syria Chemical Attack Was ‘Staged’”). The Asad regime, which has ruled Syria since 1963 (happy 50th anniversary!), has the backing of Iran and Russia.
What do you think is going to happen? These two countries are going to back them up. That means that the United States ultimately won’t be able to do anything to the Asad regime. If Syria’s regime is backed by these two powers that the United States does not want to challenge, it cannot touch them. And that means if the United States does not want to counter them, Asad’s regime will win (except the Kurds, who are actually becoming extremely competent fighters).
If the Syrian regime–which has Iranian, Hizballah, and Russian supporters–wins the civil war, it will have another card. There are seven rebel forces. They include Salafists, the Muslim Brotherhood, the Islamic Front, and al-Qa’ida. Six of these rebel forces are Islamists. The other is the FSA, the group that up until now the United States has preferred.
Now, who are the moderates? Answer: First, the moderates are backed by the United States, and Europe can be presented as the hope of infidels, or at least Arab nationalists (former Ba’thists).
Many of their leaders are former members of the professional Syrian army. You would think that is a good thing, since they are professional soldiers, but they are the people who were oppressing the Sunnis for many decades. And the fact that they are backed by the West is now an additional disadvantage for the moderates, and they are representing an ideology that they hate. “Infidel nationalists” plus “Western stooges”–this does not put them at an advantage.
The fact that the Kurds keep winning their battles gives them a chance, but if I were a betting man, I would not place the odds of the Syrian rebels so high–at least not the Kurds.
Why not? Because the United States is concluding that the “moderates” are not going to be influential. So the United States will even side with “hardline Islamists.” Clearly the Obama administration had no trouble working with the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt, until the Egyptians decided they were going to back the military regime to stop it. In Syria, however, there is no military regime that would be acceptable to the Sunni bloc. As for al-Qa’ida, they are going to have to steal weapons for themselves.
So far there are 2 million Syrian refugees and an estimated 200,000 people have been killed. Basically, this will be a Western defeat and a human tragedy. Out of approximately one million Syrian Christians, only about 100,000 now remain.
At an academic conference, an Israeli professor was standing next to an Egyptian academic, and proudly said (to show tolerance), “You know my institute is called the Begin-Sadat Institute.”
The Egyptian says, “Why Begin?”
In the Middle East the “you give an inch and they take 2 miles” principal works for everything. Poor Syria.
Dedicated to Staff Sgt. Major Shlomi Cohen, Killed on the Lebanese Border, December 16, 2013.
Copyright - Original materials copyright (c) by the authors.