Has Assad Reached Our Breaking Point?
Harsh repression continues, Iran’s ally remains
As reports of mass arrests and open violence against restive cities and their peaceful protesters mount—and we’re going on two months now—and the hard-line leadership pledges, literally, to fight ‘to end,’ it is getting more and more difficult to distinguish the situation in Syria, where the United States has not come close to threatening military intervention or suggested President Assad step aside, and Libya, where the U.S. has intervened militarily and has called on the dictator, Muammar Gadhafi, to leave power. (Put another way: I wrote much the same post I’m writing now almost exactly a month ago.) The argument for treating the two differently stems primarily from practical considerations, in which Assad provides a classic devil-we-know for the U.S. and Israel as compared to the relatively unstable devil-we-don’t should he leave and somebody else takes over. But at some point, as Mideast columnist Lee Smith has argued, doesn’t the regime become worse than any conceivable alternative, to say nothing of just absolutely heinous enough to warrant stronger action from the West?
Moreover, it looks increasingly likely that a Syria run by somebody other than Assad could be less close to Iran. The Assad dynasty belongs to the minority Alawite sect, which, like Iran’s leaders, is Shia; Syria’s majority is Sunni. And now that there are reports that Iran is shipping conventional weapons to Syria to aid its crackdown—in violation of U.N. sanctions, it so happens—have we maybe reached the point where, even for the U.S. and Israel, the cons of Assad staying outweigh the pros?
Elliott Abrams makes some assumptions I would refrain from making in his helpful blogpost on Syria. I simply don’t think that any remotely influential member of the Obama administration still harbors any illusions about Assad’s reformist inclinations, and I worry about what happens in Syria the day after Assad leaves more than Abrams seems to. But I find myself nodding when he concludes, “whatever the basis for U.S. policy, it is failing and must be abandoned in favor of a far more assertive opposition to the vicious Assad regime and a far more energetic defense of the Syrians now struggling, and dying, to end a regime that has brought decades of repression, violence and terror.” There are still plenty of steps to take before there is military action, much less boots on the ground. But, watching and reading from my comfortable distance, and considering also the myriad ways in which the Assad regime has been an enemy to the Israeli, Lebanese, and Syrian peoples, I plain old want the guy gone.
Syrians Report Shelling of City and Mass Arrests [NYT]
Syria Elite Vow to Fight Protests ‘to End’ [NYT]
Iran Violated Ban on Arms Exports, But Sanctions Working, Says U.N. [WSJ]
Can Anyone Explain Our Syria Policy? [CFR]
Related: Crack-up [Tablet Magazine]
Earlier: Sanctions, Anxiety, Horror Greet Crackdown
Silence on Syria
Daily rate: $2
Monthly rate: $18
Yearly rate: $180
WAIT, WHY DO I HAVE TO PAY TO COMMENT?
Tablet is committed to bringing you the best, smartest, most enlightening and entertaining reporting and writing on Jewish life, all free of charge. We take pride in our community of readers, and are thrilled that you choose to engage with us in a way that is both thoughtful and thought-provoking. But the Internet, for all of its wonders, poses challenges to civilized and constructive discussion, allowing vocal—and, often, anonymous—minorities to drag it down with invective (and worse). Starting today, then, we are asking people who'd like to post comments on the site to pay a nominal fee—less a paywall than a gesture of your own commitment to the cause of great conversation. All proceeds go to helping us bring you the ambitious journalism that brought you here in the first place.
I NEED TO BE HEARD! BUT I DONT WANT TO PAY.
Readers can still interact with us free of charge via Facebook, Twitter, and our other social media channels, or write to us at firstname.lastname@example.org. Each week, we’ll select the best letters and publish them in a new letters to the editor feature on the Scroll.
We hope this new largely symbolic measure will help us create a more pleasant and cultivated environment for all of our readers, and, as always, we thank you deeply for your support.