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Sunday, March 27, 2011

The US should seek Assad regime's demise

Elliott Abrams writes that the United States should seek the end of the Assad family's rule in Syria.
The demise of this murderous clan is in America’s interest. The Assad regime made Syria the pathway for jihadists from around the world to enter Iraq to fight and kill Americans. Long a haven for terrorists, Syria still allows the Hamas leadership, among other Palestinian terrorist groups, to live and work in Damascus. Moreover, a government dominated by Syria’s Sunni majority — the Assad clan is from the tiny Alawite minority — would never have the close relations with Hezbollah and Iran that Assad maintains; it would seek to reintegrate into the Arab world. Iran will lose its close Arab ally, and its land bridge to Hezbollah, when Assad falls.

Since the wave of Mideast revolts has spread to Syria, Assad is responding the only way he knows: by killing. What should be our response?

First, the strongest and most frequent denunciations, preferably not only from the White House but also from people such as Sen. John Kerry, who has repeatedly visited Assad and spoken of improving relations with his regime. All those who were taken in by Assad should be loudest in denouncing his bloody repression.

Second, we should prosecute Syria in every available multilateral forum, including the U.N. Security Council and the Human Rights Council. Others should refer Assad to the International Criminal Court. With blood flowing, there should be no delays; this is the moment to call for special sessions and action to prevent more killing. Even if these bodies do not act, the attention should give heart to Syrian demonstrators.

Third, we should ask the new governments in Egypt and Tunisia to immediately call Arab League sessions to debate the violence in Syria. Libya was expelled; let’s demand that Syria be, too.

Fourth, press the Europeans to speak and act against Syria’s regime. U.S. sanctions against Syria are strong and probably cannot be increased effectively now, but the European Union has far more trade and investment. The French have spoken out and may be willing to take the lead again.

None of these steps will bring down Assad’s regime; only the courage of young Syrians can do that. But we must not repeat the wavering and delays that characterized the U.S. response in Egypt. We must be clear that we view Syria’s despicable regime as unsalvageable, which suggests a fifth step: recalling the American ambassador from Syria. The Obama administration erred badly by sending an envoy — in a recess appointment — for this move was understood in the region as a reduction of U.S. pressure on Syria despite its increasingly dominant role in Lebanon. We should pull our ambassador, as we did in Libya, and unveil a hard-hitting political and human rights campaign against a bloody regime whose people want it gone. Our principles alone should lead us to this position, but the memory of thousands of American soldiers killed in Iraq with the help of the Assad regime demands that we do all we can to help the Syrian people free themselves of that evil dictatorship.
I hate Assad as much as the next guy, but what is going to replace him? Abrams assumes that a new Sunni regime would distance Syria from Iran. Would it? Iran supports Hamas despite the fact that Hamas is Sunni - why wouldn't a Sunni Syria? Would a Sunni Syria shut down Hamas' offices and those of other Sunni terror groups on its territory? How would getting rid of Assad avenge all those American troops in Iraq in a meaningful way?

I'm all in favor of getting rid of Assad (and recalling the US ambassador) but none of us should full ourselves that what follows should be any better, and I wouldn't expend American or Israeli troops on doing it.

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At 7:44 AM, Blogger NormanF said...

As I mentioned a few threads ago, a change of regime in Damascus won't effect the underlying anti-Israel sentiment of Syrian Arabs.

If the secular Alawite regime is overthrown, it will be probably be replaced with a radical Sunni Islamist regime.

As we have seen, every change in the Arab World that has taken place has been for the worse. I am no fan of the Assads but its worth keeping in mind that regime change in Syria is unlikely to produce a Western-style democracy that would seek peace with Israel and avoid harming Western interests in the Middle East.

I have to part company with Eliot Abrams here and in this situation the devil we know is a lot better than the devil we don't know. Regime change won't serve the interests of the West and Israel if even more radical Islamists take over a country like Syria. That's not a reason to seek it.

At 9:01 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Take Mark Steyn's latest article, substitute "Assad" and "Syria" for "Gadhafi" and "Libya".

Pretty much the same thing.


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