Syria's President Bashar al-Assad is seen during an interview to the American magazine Foreign Affairs in Damascus..
(photo credit: REUTERS)
The imminent fall of Bashar Assad’s regime had been predicted many times over the past few years since the advent of the misnamed “Arab Spring” in Syria. So far, however, all announcements of Assad’s demise have proven premature.
This, though, does not mean that he’s holding on.
We are merely witnessing a plodding process of disintegration whose direction, nonetheless, is unmistakable.
Assad already doesn’t rule his county, except for a few undersized, beleaguered enclaves whose prospects for survival are steadily diminishing.
The decision by the Russians to pull out most of their advisers and seconded personnel from what remains of Assad’s strongholds has fueled speculation in recent days that the Kremlin has finally given up on its floundering protégé and that he can no longer expect its automatic support.
Moscow’s move only underscores the obvious, considering that all of Assad’s major military installations are now controlled by his foes.
Coupled with these signals is the near-hysteria broadcast by Assad-ally-in-chief Hassan Nasrallah of Hezbollah.
He now suggests that his outfit might go so far as to order compulsory conscription for all Lebanese Shi’ites to come to Assad’s aid. Many Shi’ite families have ceased sending their teenage sons to school, lest they be forcibly mobilized there.
From Israel’s vantage point, Hezbollah may be bleeding but it is still very much a force to be reckoned with, whereas Assad is a lost cause. The tacit trust that he would keep our northern frontier quiet has long dissipated.
Any way we look at it, Assad – the semi-rational “devil we know,” strong enough to maintain calm on the border but not strong enough to endanger Israel – is no longer a player.
The sides fighting over the scraps of his erstwhile empire offer Israel a choice between the frying pan and the fire. It is only a matter of time till the battling Syrian militias turn their guns on reviled Israel to garner glory and win the contest for the coveted title of “most anti-Zionist.”
Islamic State, which fully controls half of Syria and its borders with Iraq and Jordan, is not only duking it out with Iranian proxy Hezbollah but it is also fighting fierce battles against fellow Sunni jihadists from the al-Qaida front organization in Syria, Jabhat al-Nusra.
To be sure, Assad’s absence won’t bring peace to his crumbling country. Syria’s bloodbath will continue with Islamic State controlling the biggest chunk and threatening Jordan’s monarchy. If they are semi-successful, the Kurds will set up a fiefdom in the northeast, the Alawites in the northwest, the Druse in the south and the Hezbollah Shi’ites will straddle the border with Lebanon.
Post-Assad Syria is likely to become every bit as unstable as post-Gaddafi Libya.
The evolving new Middle East will imperil Jordan, Lebanon and Saudi Arabia. It will betoken a victory for the Muslim Brotherhood, progenitor of al-Qaida and Islamic State both.
Syria as a powerful entity that figured in Western diplomatic genuflections is gone, as are Iraq and Libya. The medieval chaos of rival Arab tribes and clans has reappeared with all the internecine carnage of old.
The mind boggles at how much worse things would have been had Israel not destroyed both Saddam Hussein’s Iraqi nuclear reactor in 1981 and Assad’s more recent Syrian counterpart in 2007. Israel was viscerally condemned for both feats – not only by outright enemies baying for its blood by also by fellow democracies that purportedly abhor “violent actions.”
Israel’s castigators in the West, if they were honest, should now admit the error of their hasty renunciations and thank Israel for removing the menacing potential of nuclear power falling into rogue hands.
Most of all, those powers that desire to purchase a temporary respite by appeasing Iran should think twice, and be afraid.
They need to remember in whose hands they are ready to entrust nuclear weaponry. Nothing they consider as a sturdy given in the Middle East is what it seems. Just as Saddam, Gaddafi and Assad weren’t the dependable despots they were once assumed to be, no one has the right to assume that anyone can safely cut deals with Tehran’s ayatollahs and put their nukes out of mind.