What Follows Assad Still Far From Clear as Syrian Conflict Enters Final Stages

The recent revelation that the Syrian military is preparing chemical weapons is the latest indication that the situation in Syria is slipping increasingly out of Bashar al-Assad’s control. Fighting in Damascus has intensified, the USS Eisenhower is off the Syrian coast, Turkey is ready to defend itself, Russia is withdrawing its support, and the international community has promised an “immediate response” if Assad decides to use chemical weapons.

Some are arguing that the conflict in Syria is in the endgame stage, with the preparation of chemical weapons an indication of Assad's desperation. 

From the Saudi Gazette:

Put bluntly this is a writhing serpent in its death throes, which is still capable of spitting out its venom, in one final despairing assault on its enemies. The Free Syrian Army has been making considerable headway in recent weeks, overrunning military bases and airfields. Indeed the FSA currently claims to have surrounded another government airbase in Damascus. This has not only robbed the regime of key installations, but it has also allowed the insurgents to arm themselves with heavier weapons, including tanks.

The situation is not looking good for Assad, and those who have been putting pressure on the regime must be prepared for the aftermath of the civil war.

Although many will welcome Assad’s downfall it is far from obvious that whatever government follows will be able to ensure stability. The Syrian rebels are not a homogeneous group, and some of the more worrying elements of Assad’s opposition are motivated by holy war, oftentimes with American weapons.  Militants with links to Al Qaeda have dismissed the National Coalition for Syrian Revolutionary and Opposition Forces and have called for the creation of an Islamic state in Syria. Once Assad falls these Islamic extremist groups will almost certainly cause problems for whoever takes over.

Although the civil war in Syria is often portrayed as a conflict between a brutal Assad regime and an oppressed opposition the reality is that the conflict involves unpleasant groups on both sides in a situation U.S. policy makers would do well to avoid. 

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  • Fist of Etiquette||

    Put bluntly this is a writhing serpent in its death throes, which is still capable of spitting out its venom, in one final despairing assault on its enemies.

    Why can't our journalists write like that?

  • Hugh Akston||

    What about Thomas Friedman? Show me one journalist anywhere who is more capable of waterboarding a metaphor until it spills its secrets.

  • R C Dean||

    Ewww?

  • Fist of Etiquette||

    ...it is far from obvious that whatever government follows will be able to ensure stability.

    A lesson we learned just recently.

  • MWG||

    Dude, Obama's not that bad.

  • Hugh Akston||

    Although many will welcome Assad’s downfall it is far from obvious that whatever government follows will be able to ensure stability.

    Oh come on, what about the successful transitions to democracy in Ira..., Afghanist..., Liby..., Egy...

    Uh, so, how 'bout those Broncos?

  • db||

    The US will keep sticking its nose into this. The only way we would stay out of it is if Russia invaded to secure the chemical weapons stocks.

  • db||

    Just thought of this...how ironic would it be if Assad smuggled his chem weapons into Iraq in exchange for asylum there? Does the US still have enough pull in Oraq to prevent that kind of a move?

  • R C Dean||

    Not sure about the geography or logistics, but I would think Iran would be the natural home for the chemical weapons.

    I keep hearing these breathless reports about how Syria has mixed the ingredients for Sarin, has loaded it into bombs, etc., and all I can think is:

    How do they know that? That's awfully detailed information about what must be a highly classified operation, in a frickin' war zone.

    I mean, we have no idea, at all, about what's going in Lybia, but we know exactly what Assad's elite forces are doing with their most powerful and secret weapons, during a war?

    I'm having a hard time believing it, is all.

  • Scarecrow Repair||

    Fast and Furious, Desert Edition.

  • ||

    How do they know that? That's awfully detailed information about what must be a highly classified operation, in a frickin' war zone.

    Intercepted communications?

  • Ken Shultz||

    "The reality is that the conflict involves unpleasant groups on both sides in a situation U.S. policy makers would do well to avoid."

    Well, obviously, if the conflict involves unpleasant groups on both sides, then the United States has no choice but to subject the implications for American security to the whims of whatever group emerges as king of the hill in Syria...

    ...Or! We could be responsible and look after our own security interests regardless of who wins. And, incidentally, there isn't any way Assad being deposed by the rebels could be good news for Iran.

    Sometimes, it feels like some of my fellow libertarians treat every conflict like a replay of Iraq...as if we're in some imminent danger of invading Libya or Syria or wherever. Honestly, just because we don't want to invade Syria is no reason to bad mouth the people fighting for their freedom there.

    It's sometimes hard to tell between the people who are bad mouthing the rebels and the people who think dictators are the solution to fundamentalist terrorism. That's another great definition of libertarians we should remember--a libertarian is someone who doesn't think a vicious dictator is the solution to such problems.

    For the sake of American security and free people everywhere, here's hoping that Assad's head ends up on some rebel's stick.

  • GILMORE||

    Syrian rebels are not a homogeneous group, and some of the more worrying elements of Assad’s opposition are motivated by holy war...

    Worrying... meh. I think the "Islamist kata'ib" (jihadist) fighters are all going to find themselves shown the door by the FSA as soon as major fighting stops.

    or at least be politely told they can go start an Emirate somewhere else, or else get shot.

    http://www.tnr.com/blog/plank/.....hold-its-#

    "...The good news is that, Syrians mostly distrust the hardcore Islamists... they remain deeply suspicious of the numerous, independent jihadist groups taking root throughout the country. A public opinion survey conducted by the US Institute of Peace in September 2011 found that only 35 percent of Syrians see religion as an important issue in the anti-government demonstrations, with less than 14 percent preferring religious leaders or parties to lead a post-Assad Syria as compared to 66 percent who viewed “democratically-elected leaders” as the most qualified."

  • Ken Shultz||

    Regardless of what the Syrian people choose after Assad's gone, hopefully it will be their choice.

    And it's not like the Assad regime was friendly with the United States--and it's going to be replaced with someone not so friendly.

    Assad is an ally of Iran, and if he gets replaced by someone the rebels support, then that leader--unless he's a traitor to the rebel's cause--will not be someone who is a friend of Iran.

    That's why Iran is doing all it can to support Assad. I'm thinking really hard, and I can't come up with a reason why depriving Iran of an important ally is a bad thing for American security.

  • Lyle||

    Don't be afraid of liberty Matthew Feeny.

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