Thursday, August 25, 2011

One to go

Three down, one to go! Now that Muammar Qaddafi has been defeated in Libya, after 42 years in power, following Ben Ali in Tunisia (30 years) and Mubarak in Egypt (32 years), now is the turn of Pres. Bashar Assad of Syria. Although he has been in power a mere 11 years, his regime is that of his father Hafez Assad, who ruled for 30 years before his death in 2000. Bashar Assad has used the same ruthless means to try to retain control of Syria, but few believe that he can ultimately survive.

However, in the case of Syria there are a few differences:
1. Assad is very ruthless, he has no compunction in using his army and secret service to shoot down, arrest, torture and murder opponents. According to reports 6,500 demonstators have been killed, 20,000 injured and about 20,000 arrested in 6 months of the uprising.
2. However, Assad has refrained from using his air force, seeing that that was what triggered the Western military reaction to Saddam Hussein in Iraq and to Qaddafi in Libya. In both cases they established a no-fly zone that was an excuse to bomb the regime's facilities to protect civilian lives.
3. Syria is supported by Iran and Hizbollah in Lebanon, that has a formidable army. No Western nation wants to get involved in a conflict with Iran that could escalate into a major war, and it is thought likely that Iran would react if Syria were threatened from outside. Neither Saddam in Iraq nor Qaddafi in Libya had any major allies that would go to bat for them. On the contrary, Saddam had invaded Kuwait, a fellow Arab country, and Qaddafi has been despised by most Arab leaders.
4. While Iraq and Libya are remote from Israel and share no common borders with it, Syria does, and it is feared that if there were a western attack on Syria, Assad would not hesitate to counter-attack Israel.
5. Assad comes from the minority Alawite group (12%) and if he is overthrown there is certainly going to be a bloodbath against them by the majority Sunni Muslims for what they have suffered in the past 40 years. No western nation wants to be associated with that.

There are other Arab dictators whose rule is in jeopardy, such as Abdullah Saleh who was injured in an assassination attempt in Yemen. But noone is going to intervene there, it's not worth it. So we shall wait and leave it to the Syrian people to overthrow the nasty repressive Assad regime in Syria and wait to see what happens when the dust settles. While they are intent on killing each other they are not trying to kill us.


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