Syria On The Brink Of Chaos

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.

10 thoughts on “Syria On The Brink Of Chaos

  1. OK, mister, yous got some explaining to do heres.

    First, why does you think toppling Assad will lead to broad scale conflict in the Middle East? Certainly, madness at a soccer match does not count as widespread conflict. Me fails to see the connection.

    Second, Tunisia, Iraq, Egypt and Libya have all had their governments toppled fairly recently. Was there broad-scale conflict as a result?

    Which of these arguments be you making:

    Assad is the proverbial straw that will break the camel’s back.
    Assad should be propped up to prevent this wide-scale conflict.

    Out with it, Mr. Webner.


    • I think you make some fair points, Action, and I hope I am wrong — but here is why I think Syria is of more concern than the other countries you mention. In Iraq, of course, America was intimately involved in the regime change process, so that is different in kind. Iraq under Saddam Hussein also was not a country closely tied to Iran. In Egypt, the regime that was toppled was a putative American ally that also was not a good friend of Iran; I’m sure the fall of Mubarak was welcomed by the powers that be in Tehran. Tunisia and Libya are distant geographically and culturally from Iran and therefore of less concern.

      In contrast, Syria is a neighbor and close ally of Iran. I’m sure the Iranians don’t want to see one of their few good friends deposed, and I doubt that the Iranian regime would be happy to have a secular, pro-democratic country on its borders. The temptation for Iran to do something to prevent that from happening must be great.

      I’m certainly not in favor of propping up a brutal dictator like Assad — I’m just more concerned about whether his eventual downfall could trigger a larger conflict in what has consistently been, during our lifetimes, the most volatile, violent, and unpredictable region in the world.


      • Bob –

        Think you should focus your analytical skills on what will happen when Israel bombs the Iranian nuclear facilities. The U.S. is saying they expect an attack in the spring — which certainly undermines the value of surprise in the Israeli strike, but perhaps has value in telegraphing the criticality of the situation. While the Iranian nuclear facilities are thought to be out of reach of our biggest bunker busting bombs ( See Emergency DoD request to enhance bunker busters), the Israelis only need to seal the entrance and exit to the facility to derail the operation.

        I believe you make a giant leap of faith with your statement about Iran ending up w a secular, pro-democratic country on its borders.


      • You’re right about your last comment, of course. I didn’t mean to suggest that a secular, pro-democratic Syria was likely — instead, I simply wanted to make the point that Iran would do whatever it could to prevent such an outcome.

        As for Israel and Iran’s nuclear facilities, you are on target again. Obviously, an armed action by Israel against Iran would be a more immediate risk than the more long-term uncertainty raised by the Syrian situation. The problem with the Israel-Iran situation is that Israel really doesn’t have many options. How do you disregard a foreign leader who has consistently said he wants to wipe you off the face of the Earth, and who has been readily accepting international sanctions in order to assemble the means of doing so?


      • Bob – Perhaps you would like to join me at Goody Boys for a burger on Friday to discuss the possibility that the Arab Spring might take hold in Iran — even though they are not Arabs.

        I will be in Columbus Friday to attend a swim meet at OSU. Will be staying at Blackwells near the campus. Departing Saturday to drive to Cleveland to re-join family.


      • Bob –

        We fly Friday from BWI to CLE. Will spend a couple hours in Cleveland w in laws and then depart around 1 PM via horseless coach to Columbus.

        Could report directly to rendezvous point to meet you or could check in a the Blackwell to adjust timing to meet your schedule.

        Would defer to your judgement regarding best place to meet. I suggested Goody Boy based on your review. Assume I arrive Columbus around 3:30 or 4 PM.

        Pls advise recommended course of action.


      • How about meeting at a place in the campus area for an adult beverage? It would be Friday afternoon, after all.


      • BW – pls pick a place and advise time. I would say Papa Joes, The Travel Agency, Serene Lounge or the Agora. Also, if you provide cell number, I can touch base Friday to coordinate rendezvous. JTD


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