It’s bad in Syria, and it seems to be getting worse. This is not good news for the United States, or the world.
Fighting between Syrian government troops and rebels apparently is raging across the country. The rebels are reporting that 95 people were killed in clashes that reached the suburbs of Damascus. Syrian President Bashar al-Assad is clinging desperately to power while the international community debates how to proceed and whether to approve a UN resolution that calls upon Assad to step down and hand power to a deputy. Russia and the United States are on opposite sides of the issue, and Iran, as always, is a wild card.
These are perilous times in the Middle East. Old governments have fallen, Islamist groups have assumed power in formerly secular states like Egypt, and the United States is trying to redefine its role. Any kind of armed conflict could spill over into other countries, further destabilizing the region.
Assad obviously is not a significant historical figure — but he could become one if his downfall leads to broad-scale conflict in the Middle East. No one today would remember Austrian Archduke Franz Ferdinand but for his assassination, which plunged the nations of Europe into the First World War.