Bashar Assad must have felt a chill when he saw the pictures of Muammar
Gaddafi’s final moments, knowing that Syrian crowds were chanting, “Assad is
There are differences between the uprisings in Libya and Syria,
but the outcome will be the same: one more tyrant dumped on the dung heap of
history. The only question facing Assad is whether he goes out vertically or
While he contemplates his fate and the death toll passes
3,000, Assad’s international isolation grows. International sanctions are taking
a heavy toll, despite his Chinese and Russian enablers blocking stronger
measures by the United Nations.
US Ambassador Robert Ford, the bête noire
of the Assad regime, said, “There is not an armed opposition capable” of
defeating Assad’s security forces, but that does not make him secure. Support is
crumbling around the country, even in his army.”
Ford had to be evacuated
from Damascus this week in the face of “credible threats” against him by the
regime, the State Department revealed.
He had been the target of an
incitement campaign and repeated incidents of intimidation as a result of his
high profile visits to conflict sites and his harsh criticism of the regime’s
violent attacks on unarmed protesters.
The vast majority of the protests
are peaceful but the rising violence around the country coupled with the
regime’s deliberate provocation of ethnic and religious friction could spark
civil war, Ford told a group of journalists and foreign policy professionals at
the Washington Institute for Near East Policy by Skype from Damascus shortly
before he was forced to leave. Civil war is not inevitable, he added, but the
possibility cannot be ignored.
Syria expert Andrew Tabler called for a
two-pronged approach. International opponents of the regime should begin working
with dissidents to train them in civil disobedience, particularly general
strikes, while helping the opposition “develop a plan for post-Assad
Tabler, who spent years working in Syria and is now at the
Washington Institute, said US policy should focus on regime change and assemble
a “Friends of Syria” group of international and regional countries to coordinate
pressure on the regime outside of the United Nations framework because of
Russian and Chinese support for Assad.
Jordan’s King Abdullah II told CNN
no one has a clue what to do about Syria, and even if they did Assad is “not
interested” in taking advice from anyone, including him.
America’s former ambassador to Morocco, said the success of the US and NATO in
removing Gaddafi may bring pressure from Syrian demonstrators for similar
SOME IN the Syrian resistance have called for armed rebellion and
NATO intervention in the wake of Gaddafi’s downfall, but the young activists who
sparked the uprising have successfully maintained the largely non-violent nature
of the demonstrations.
Ford said some armed gangs linked to Islamic
militant groups may be contributing to the violence for their own ends. But no
one is buying the regime’s consistent insistence that the unrest is caused by a
“Western, American and Zionist conspiracy.”
The economy is in deep
trouble and bound to get worse. Consumption is down, business is hurting and the
economy is contracting.
A rapidly growing population facing rapidly
shrinking opportunities for jobs while demanding greater freedom makes up the
backbone of the protest movement, Tabler said.
The Syrian National
Council that was formed in Turkey last month was an attempt to bring together
opposition leaders and present an alternative to the Assad regime. There is
widespread concern about the disproportionate influence of Islamists,
particularly the Muslim Brotherhood, within the Council, at the expense of
Kurds, Druse, Christians and other minorities. Another concern is influence of
the Islamist government of Turkey, which seeks to spread its foothold across the
old Ottoman Empire.
Meanwhile, Assad is spreading tentacles abroad into
Lebanon, Turkey and even into the United States. Syrian troops have crossed into
Lebanon to capture or kill Syrian dissidents and defecting soldiers, according
to the State Department, which called on the Lebanese government to do a better
job policing its borders and protecting those fleeing Assad’s “violence and
Similarly, Syrians fleeing across the Turkish border have
been pursued by Assad’s soldiers, and the Turkish government has warned of
A Virginia man was recently arrested by the FBI and charged
with heading a network collecting information on peaceful anti-Assad protesters
for use by the intelligence services to intimidate, arrest, torture and even
kill family members in order to silence critics in exile.
The toll of
tyrants, dictators and terror kingpins has grown dramatically during the Obama
years, most notably Osama bin Laden, Anwar al-Walaki and Muammar
Is Bashar Assad next? Inshallah
be missed, but what is most important is what will come next in a troubled,