Thursday, July 19, 2012
Assad Moves To Coastal Alawite Stronghold As Damascus Erupts
It appears that I called it in yesterday's piece on Syria.
After yesterday's bombing that killed three high level members of his regime, Syrian leader Basher Assad appears to be moving his family and shoring up his redoubt in northwest Syria, where most of the Alawites and Christians live. It's also the commercial hub of Syria, and includes the port of Tartus, which is handy for Russian arms shipments and a possible exit if necessary.
Meanwhile, in Damascus, troops loyal to the Assad regime launched ferocious attacks on rebel bases in retaliation for the Damascus assassinations, using helicopters and heavy artillery. They are claiming they will have Damascus 'cleansed of rebels before Ramadan', which starts this Friday.
I had to chuckle, just a bit at British PM David Cameron's remarks on the subject. Speaking today during a visit to Afghanistan, he said: "I have a very clear message for President Assad. It is time for him to go. "It is time for transition in the regime. If there isn't transition it's quite clear there's going to be civil war." I can't even imagine what he thinks is going on now besides a sectarian civil war.
Meanwhile, at the UN, Russia and China joined to veto a UN Security Council resolution today that would have imposed new sanctions on the Syrian regime.
Susan Rice, the U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, referred to the s two countries' previous vetoes were "very destructive," and that this latest one is "even more dangerous and deplorable."
"Despite paranoid, if not disingenuous, claims to the contrary, it would in no way authorize nor even pave the way for foreign military intervention" she said.
I wonder what Libya's Moamar Khadaffi would say to that if he were available.
The Russians made the point that the proposed sanctions target only one side in this civil war, with Russia's ambassador to the UN Vitaly Churkin responding that Russia had "very clearly and consistently explained" that it would not accept a resolution that "would open the path for pressure of sanctions and further to extend military involvement in Syrian domestic affairs". Western diplomats "could have done something, anything, to promote dialogue" rather than "fan the flames of extremists," he said.
Considering that the Saudis and Qatar are bankrolling the Sunni rebels and the Obama Administration is shipping them arms via Turkey and Jordan, I must admit he has a point.
Given his continued enablement of the Islamists of the Muslim Brotherhood, the dominant faction in both the Syrian Free Army and the Syrian National Council who make up the two main rebel groups, I only hope President Obama doesn't get us further involved in a civil war on their behalf, as he did in Libya.
There's absolutely no doubt in my mind that Assad could hold out in Northwest Syria for some time...especially if, as I also mentioned, the Kurds in the northeast of Syria who despise the regime and the Islamist opposition equally decide to carve out their own enclave with the help of their compatriots in Iraqi Kurdistan just over the border.
We may actually see the birth of an independent or at least autonomous Kurdistan soon, something the US should have facilitated years ago during the Iraq occupation. Had we done so, we'd have another strong, democratic, western friendly ally in the region besides Israel.