Tuesday, April 26, 2011

"We want to avoid "owning" a post-Bashar Syria because we had so much trouble 'owning' the post-Saddam Iraq"

(Alterman/ CFR)-
Do you have any thoughts on how this Syrian turmoil is going to resolve itself?
Syria is not like the other places. It is less internationally connected than Egypt is. It is less internationally isolated than Libya is. It is more ruthless than Tunisia. The Syrians also have the advantage of being able to learn from what other leaders have done and what their mistakes have been. The Syrian instinct is to talk soft; but to act hard...
Can you give an example?
They've announced that they are lifting the emergency law established in 1963, but they are not about to give up power. They reportedly have deployed more than three thousand troops to Deraa to put down the uprising there. I assume the intention of the Syrian leadership is to demonstrate that they have the capacity for so much force that they don't have to use it. It also seems to me, however, quite clear that we are not close to the final denouement here. There are probably several more rounds [to go]...
We haven't seen the decisive moment in Syria. The fact that Syria is so isolated in the world may make it easier for the Syrians to act with impunity...Syria's self image, on the contrary, is that of a country that's hunkering down, a country that has real enemies. When the national narrative is about real enemies, it makes it easier to cut yourself off, to use your force, and to keep the world from knowing much. In terms of the Syrian people, there has not yet been the sort of catalytic moment ... We haven't gotten there yet. I don't know if we will, or when we will, but that point hasn't come.
Some people have been speculating that a change in leadership in Syria would be a plus because it would reduce Iran's influence in the region. Do you share that view?
Syria is Iran's closest state ally in the Arab world – there are also non-state allies [like] Hezbollah [in Lebanon] and Hamas [in the Palestinian territories]. I think the fear of many is that a post-Bashar Syria would actually empower non-state proxies of Iran to action and in the net, help Iran in the Arab world.
You've worked in the U.S. State Department on Middle Eastern policy. So far the United States has been publicly critical of the repression in Syria, but it also seemed that the United States was hoping that Assad would actually institute reforms and solve the situation that way.
The Obama administration has been struggling to find its footing, faced with all the revolts in the Middle East... When we look at Syria, we not only have the question of what the United States wants, but the complicating factor that many U.S. allies [in the region] seem to want to keep Bashar in power... Syria's significant neighbors, all of whom have close relations with the United States, are deeply concerned about events in Syria. That only underlines concerns in the U.S. government about what might follow after Bashar al-Assad. Many officials are reluctant to get too far out in front, partly because of the unanswerable question of what are you going to do to follow up if Bashar leaves. U.S. officials do not want to alienate allies. And there is a desire to avoid "owning" a post-Bashar environment in Syria because we are having so much trouble having influence over the post-Saddam environment in Iraq.
What would be the worst case scenario in Syria that Israelis, Saudis, and Turks are worried about?
The worst case is sustained turmoil with jihadi groups operating out of the country; extreme sectarian violence and a period of proxy wars throughout the region..."


Anonymous said...

Proxy wars are coming, it's inevitable...followed by hundreds of Tribes with flags in MENA, Eurasia & Africa....it all goes back to the war criminal Kissinger and Sharon, two butchers let loose by CIA....

Anonymous said...

this whole situation looks like a hollywood movie .