Bashar Assad in the Balance

(Los Angeles Times) David Schenker - Based on the actions of Syrian President Bashar Assad's longtime friends, the collapse of the regime is not far off. With the notable exception of Iran, Syria's closest allies - terrorist organizations and states alike - are jumping ship, or at least readying the lifeboats. In recent months, Hamas, which had been based in Damascus since 1999, has started divesting its assets and withdrawing its personnel from Syria. Hizbullah in Lebanon is also taking steps to mitigate the damage of regime change next door. Since this summer Hizbullah reportedly has been moving its heavy weapons positioned in Syria into Lebanon, including its long-range Iranian Zilzal, and Fajr 3, 4 and 5 missiles. "There's so much stuff coming across the border Hizbullah doesn't know where to put it," one well-informed observer in Beirut told me in June. Before the uprising, Turkish Prime Minister Erdogan and Assad were friends who once vacationed together with their respective spouses. In November, Turkey started to provide safe haven to military defectors known as the Free Syrian Army (FSA), a policy that exponentially increased desertions. It's difficult to imagine Turkey providing sanctuary to Assad opponents across the frontier without being confident that the regime would fall. The writer is director of the Program on Arab Politics at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy. From 2002 to '06 he served as Syria advisor to then-Secretary of Defense Donald H. Rumsfeld.

2011-12-16 00:00:00

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