Portents All Bad for Syrian Bloodbath

(The Australian)- Greg Sheridan- On balance, it is right that Western policy seek the overthrow of Bashar al-Assad's brutal regime, which has killed nearly 15,000 of its own people in the past 16 months. Syria is Iran's only state ally in the Middle East. Depriving Iran of its key ally is a sound objective. But the dangers are acute. By making the conflict sectarian, Assad does three things. He consolidates Alawite control of vital areas of the country. He binds the whole Alawite community to his fate, because Alawites now know there will be fearsome revenge killings of their people if Assad is toppled. And he radicalizes the Sunni opposition. A certain number, probably 1,000 or more, of international jihadists, some with al-Qa'ida connections, have flooded into Syria as the latest jihad battleground. Expect more. This dynamic, ironically, takes advantage of networks Assad himself set up to send extremists into Iraq. Where is America in all this? As recently as five years ago, you would have expected Washington to take a leading hand in promoting moderate Syrian leaders. The U.S. is not a significant player, which means whatever moderate oppositionists there are will receive no significant outside help. This, sadly, is a general sign of the decline of U.S. influence in the Middle East. The contrast many Arabs draw is with the way Russia is sticking to its Syrian ally. Moscow has substantial interests in Syria. More than that, Russia sees its prestige tied up in its loyalty to an ally.

2012-06-18 00:00:00

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