Saturday, February 11, 2012

Why Syria Matters

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American intelligence officials are now saying that al-Qaeda was responsible for recent bombings in Syria designed to further incite regime opponents. They also claim that al-Qaeda is not new to the insurgency but has been part of the uprising since the beginning.

The vengeful part of me thinks this is excellent since Bashar Assad is now fighting violent insurgents in his own backyard after assisting insurgents battling the US in Iraq. Another part says that this could be the spark that truly sets the Middle East ablaze.

A year ago, we watched as Tunisia and Egypt overthrew despotic regimes with Libya doing the same--with NATO help--later in the year. We've also watched as the vacuum created by the downfall of the dictators has been filled by hard line Islamist's with a goal of changing these states into Muslim-only nations with Sharia being the law of the land. Al-Qaeda stands to benefit from these new regimes more than any other group. Zawahiri needs state sponsorship to continue his jihad and now he may just have it in northern Africa thanks to the disarray brought on by the uprisings.

But back to Syria. If the insurgency in Syria is successful and Assad is ousted, does anyone really believe that a moderate will take over? Does the Obama administration as a whole and Hillary Clinton in particular really expect that a new Syria will become a democracy and elect a secular leader? No, al-Qaeda will push for some group in the mold of the Muslim Brotherhood to ascend and asset them in doing so. Essentially we'd see a caliphate from Morocco to Pakistan (except Shiite-led Iran) led by like-minded Muslims who wish ill-will to the US and our allies.

And what about Israel? Can Israel idly sit by while Syria and Egypt continue down the road to becoming a Pakistan clone? Of course they can't and if Syria falls, it will not be long until Jordan and Lebanon do as well. Yes, Assad is a thug and a despot but he's also managed to keep Syria stable after his vile father died and went to hell. But he's a thug and despot that we know and he's predictable. The same when Mubarak led Egypt, we knew a thugocracy was better than theocracy. Israel will have to protect itself and no one with any understanding of the history of the region can honestly say that these new regimes will be peaceful towards their only non-Muslim neighbor. The conflagration that will arise is scary as hell to consider. A massed Islamic army would be very disconcerting to Israel and once the fighting starts, the US will be forced to aid Israel while China and Russia will reap huge benefits from double-dealing and arms deals.

Am I saying we should prop up Assad? No f-ing way. What I am saying is that we should learn from what happened in Egypt, Libya and Tunisia and not be so quick to fan any flames against Boy Assad because that fire could burn us and our allies just as easily.

Exit questions: How are the Sunni al-Qaeda able to stir up so much trouble in Syria, which is a proxy of Shiite Iran? Has Iran lost that much clout in the Muslim world?

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