Contributor Post Created with Sketch. When Syria Explodes

 

It’s not a secret that Syria is imploding. But the key thing to grasp is that it won’t stop there: There is a real possibility that this regime will take its neighbors down with it. I’m not sure that the West — which from what I can tell is now completely preoccupied with itself and its economic problems — is sufficiently grasping this.

According to Reuters, the international community is beginning to “plan for a Syria without the Assads.”

The risks of a slide into sectarian war are significant, most Syria-watchers nonetheless say, believing Assad will fight to the end, and start to regionalize the conflict by inciting violence in Lebanon, Turkey and across the borders with Israel. …

Analysts say the risks are high that Syria, an ally of Iran and Lebanon’s Shi’ite Hezbollah guerrillas and with a sectarian and ethnic mix of Sunni, Kurdish, Alawite and Christians, could slip into war.

Syria, they add, can make trouble in the region by trying to incite another war between Hezbollah and Israel. Recent demonstrations on the Israeli-Syrian frontier, which had been quiet for 38 years, were encouraged by Syrian authorities in an attempt to broaden the conflict.

“The Syrians have their fingers in many pies. They have many levers to put pressure on their neighbors and create problems between Hezbollah and Israel, between Sunni and Shi’ites in Lebanon and the PKK (Kurdistan Workers Party) and AKP (Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan’s party) in Turkey,” the diplomat said.

As a Syria-watcher myself, I agree. But what I don’t see mentioned anywhere in that article is anything to suggest what this “plan” for a Syria without the Assads might be — or any evidence that there is, in fact, a plan.

Judith reported with surprise that the Mavi Marmara dropped out of the Gaza flotilla. Of course it did, Judith. Turkey’s scared to death by this situation. Expect a nice warming in Turkish-Israeli relations now. The AKP has just received such a loud phone call from reality that even they can’t pretend it was just a wrong number.

Before you say, “Well, that’s good news!” re-read my last sentence: This is a phone call from reality so loud that even the AKP can’t ignore it. That means the phone just jumped off the nightstand and body-slammed them. If you’re still sleeping well, that’s your clue that you shouldn’t be.

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  1. Paul A. Rahe Contributor

    I hate to put a damper on things. But my bet is that, like his father before him, Assad will survive these massacres and emerge to be embraced by all and sundry as “a source of stability” in the Middle East.

    The so-called “realists,” who are utopians of another kind, have no place in their models for genuine revolutionary change — and yet, time and again, these changes come. I do not know of a single professional Sovietologist who predicted the implosion of the Soviet Union. All their learning and all of their expertise went to naught.

    The Alawite tyranny in Syria is unnatural, and it will not last. When it will go is hard to tell. That it will go is certain. My guess, however, is that the younger Assad has the moxie to hold on . . . this time. Perhaps, in a few years, Vogue will do another lovely spread like the one it did quite recently on Asmara al-Assad, Rose of the Desert.

    • #1
    • June 18, 2011, at 7:51 AM PDT
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  2. Margaret Ball Inactive
    Claire Berlinski, Ed.: I’m not sure that the West–which from what I can tell is now completely preoccupied with itself and its economic problems–is sufficiently grasping this.

    You’re overestimating us again. Most of my neighborhood has yet to grasp that the West has serious economic problems. And if somebody paid me enough, I would walk around the block and verify that none of my neighbors, with the possible exception of the retired professor next door, can locate Syria on a map.

    But I bet you can guess what they do know all about. Yep. A certain Congressman playing with his instrument while the Middle East burns – now that’s news.

    • #2
    • June 18, 2011, at 7:53 AM PDT
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  3. Roberto, Crusty Old Timer LLC Member
    Roberto, Crusty Old Timer LLCJoined in the first year of Ricochet Ricochet Charter Member
    Paul A. Rahe: I hate to put a damper on things. But my bet is that, like his father before him, Assad will survive these massacres and emerge to be embraced by all and sundry as “a source of stability” in the Middle East.· Jun 18 at 7:51am

    You are no doubt correct on this point Professor Rahe. The more fruitful speculation would indeed be what Ms. Berlinski mentions, what effect will Assad’s actions have on the stability of his neighbors? We have seen some hints so far with regards to Israel and Turkey and it is easy to imagine some of the possible nightmare scenarios there. However it hardly need end there, I find it unusual how little Jordan and Iraq are mentioned with regard to the situation in Syria. Is it truly all quiet on those frontiers? Are Assad’s troubles completely absent in the parts of the country bordering those nations? I find that difficult to believe.

    • #3
    • June 18, 2011, at 8:59 AM PDT
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  4. Cas Balicki Inactive

    I know it’s suicide to even suggest that a lady might be showing her age, but do telephones still ring? Well, maybe in Turkey. Here phones chime, warble, vibrate, blink, and flash, and I’m sure some would, if submerged in milk, snap, crackle, and pop, but rings, dear Claire, are, I’m afraid, now only found on fingers.

    • #4
    • June 18, 2011, at 9:46 AM PDT
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  5. The Masked Motorbiker Inactive

    The current global situation shows vibrant echoes of the 1930s —

    1. Economic chaos, banks becoming over-extended through outright stupidity, with governmental responses ineffective and inappropriate.

    a. Increasing regulation of domestic businesses on all fronts, causing the businesses to freeze in their tracks due to an uncertain future.

    b. Increasing ‘market isolation’ as a resistance to free trade (cf. free trade agreements with Chile and S. Korea).

    2. An encomium to “Democracy” as the results of the pressures of a prior war in the name of “Democracy”, with the end result being the rise of totalitarian ideologies.

    3. A so-called populist drive towards further state control in freer countries.

    4. Scapegoating of various targeted people in an effort to raise the ire of the populace — Kurds, Israelis, non-socialistic political types….

    It smacks of roughly 1931, although ironically Germany is one of the more stable states this time around.

    Note that the places of greatest chaos and turmoil are also the ones where the vile germ of National Socialism has taken root the most effectively.

    • #5
    • June 18, 2011, at 10:38 AM PDT
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  6. Claire Berlinski, Ed. Editor
    Cas Balicki: I know it’s suicide to even suggest that a lady might be showing her age, but do telephones still ring? Well, maybe in Turkey. Here phones chime, warble, vibrate, blink, and flash, and I’m sure some would, if submerged in milk, snap, crackle, and pop, but rings, dear Claire, are, I’m afraid, now only found on fingers. · Jun 18 at 9:46am

    Edited on Jun 18 at 09:47 am

    Did I say it “rang?” No, I did not.

    • #6
    • June 18, 2011, at 10:41 AM PDT
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  7. The Masked Motorbiker Inactive
    Claire Berlinski, Ed.

    Cas Balicki: I know it’s suicide to even suggest that a lady might be showing her age, but do telephones still ring? Well, maybe in Turkey. Here phones chime, warble, vibrate, blink, and flash, and I’m sure some would, if submerged in milk, snap, crackle, and pop, but rings, dear Claire, are, I’m afraid, now only found on fingers. · Jun 18 at 9:46am

    Edited on Jun 18 at 09:47 am

    Did I say it “rang?” No, I did not. · Jun 18 at 10:41am

    Game, point, match.

    BTW, Ma’am, your writing is a great deal of the reason I chose to join Ricochet, along with the dulcet voice of the smooth and debonaire James Lileks.

    That, and perennial guilt over listening to the podcast for free :)

    • #7
    • June 18, 2011, at 11:00 AM PDT
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  8. Cas Balicki Inactive
    Claire Berlinski, Ed.

    Cas Balicki: I know it’s suicide to even suggest that a lady might be showing her age, but do telephones still ring? Well, maybe in Turkey. Here phones chime, warble, vibrate, blink, and flash, and I’m sure some would, if submerged in milk, snap, crackle, and pop, but rings, dear Claire, are, I’m afraid, now only found on fingers. · Jun 18 at 9:46am

    Edited on Jun 18 at 09:47 am

    Did I say it “rang?” No, I did not. · Jun 18 at 10:41am

    Did I say I was an idiot. No, but I sure proved it!

    • #8
    • June 18, 2011, at 11:11 AM PDT
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  9. Stuart Creque Member
    Stuart CrequeJoined in the first year of Ricochet Ricochet Charter Member
    Paul A. Rahe: I hate to put a damper on things. But my bet is that, like his father before him, Assad will survive these massacres and emerge to be embraced by all and sundry as “a source of stability” in the Middle East.

    Baby Bashar is not like Daddy Hafez. Daddy Hafez focused his mass murder on the town of Hama, all at once, targeting the Muslim Brotherhood. (Undoubtedly there was much more widespread regime murder under Hafez, but of the ordinary hauled-away-in-the-dark-of-night variety.) Syrians could tell themselves that if they didn’t cross Hafez, he wouldn’t kill them.

    When Bashar decided to go past the bounds of secret police murder, he started with tentative steps, not targeted to a specific ethnic or ideological group. The tentativeness emboldened the protesters and the protests swelled; the repression became less tentative, which hardened the protesters’ attitudes and stiffened their resolve; and by the time the mass murder became full-blown, the die was cast. No Syrian can pretend any longer that he is safe if he just keeps his head down. Alawites fear the majority’s retribution; the majority fears escalating repression and murder.

    • #9
    • June 18, 2011, at 11:33 AM PDT
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  10. Stuart Creque Member
    Stuart CrequeJoined in the first year of Ricochet Ricochet Charter Member
    Claire Berlinski, Ed.

    Cas Balicki: I know it’s suicide to even suggest that a lady might be showing her age, but do telephones still ring? Well, maybe in Turkey. Here phones chime, warble, vibrate, blink, and flash, and I’m sure some would, if submerged in milk, snap, crackle, and pop, but rings, dear Claire, are, I’m afraid, now only found on fingers. · Jun 18 at 9:46am

    Edited on Jun 18 at 09:47 am

    Did I say it “rang?” No, I did not. · Jun 18 at 10:41am

    What is Erdogan’s ringtone? “Crazy Frog”?

    • #10
    • June 18, 2011, at 11:34 AM PDT
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  11. Claire Berlinski, Ed. Editor
    Bill Walsh: Lesson that should have been obvious: Even if you want “no problems” with your neighbors, they can still cause trouble for you. (Particularly if they’re a crime syndicate and a fascist terrorist factory.) · Jun 18 at 12:40pm

    About the only good thing that I can see coming from this is–possibly–the AKP realizing that we’ve been warning about certain regimes in this region for a reason, and no, no one is trembling in awe of Turkey’s soft power.

    • #11
    • June 19, 2011, at 1:46 AM PDT
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  12. Bill Walsh Member
    Bill WalshJoined in the first year of Ricochet Ricochet Charter Member

    I’m pretty sure Erdoğan’s ringtone is a mix of that theme they play over and over in Muhteşem Yüzyıl and “We Are the Champions.”

    Here’s the thing, Claire, I’m not sure whether the U.S. is in a position to really respond to the crisis. In addition to the factor of political will and strategic decision-making that you’re mentioning, I’m not sure how our military assets and budget would shape up to dealing with another state crisis over there. We’ve been running things on the cheap for a number of years. The Europeans, of course, have almost completely negligible abilities in this area, and consequently, “The West” may be reaching the limits of its capabilities at the moment.

    I suspect we could do something, if only providing logistics, C⁴I, and support to the Turkish military. I think that would have been a no-brainer as recently as the beginning of the Erdoğan govenment, but even our military-to-military relations have been steadily downhill since the Iraq-invasion vote (is my understanding).

    • #12
    • June 19, 2011, at 12:32 PM PDT
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  13. Bill Walsh Member
    Bill WalshJoined in the first year of Ricochet Ricochet Charter Member

    Lesson that should have been obvious: Even if you want “no problems” with your neighbors, they can still cause trouble for you. (Particularly if they’re a crime syndicate and a fascist terrorist factory.)

    • #13
    • June 19, 2011, at 12:40 PM PDT
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  14. Evan Meyer Member
    Paul A. Rahe: …my bet is that, like his father before him, Assad will survive these massacres and emerge to be embraced by all and sundry as “a source of stability” in the Middle East. Jun 18 at 7:51am

    This does seem to be the likeliest outcome, but what if the unlikely happens? I’d hate to be caught unprepared if Assad doesn’t manage to hold on. Not only do we not have a plan for that scenario, as Claire points out there’s precious little public or political awareness or concern about it. There are serious questions that haven’t been addressed or worse, aren’t even being asked. One that’s got me wondering: what will our policy be toward Syrian refugees flooding into Iraq while we still have a military presence there? It’s a tricky one, one I’d like to think we have an answer for in advance, but suspect we don’t. There are many more.

    • #14
    • June 20, 2011, at 3:13 AM PDT
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