Assad Delenda Est: The Case for Aiding Syria’s Rebels
Syria’s tyrant Bashar al-Assad is in the middle of a life-or-death struggle. He might be overthrown. He should be.
The Arab Socialist Baath Party regime, beginning with its founder Hafez al-Assad and continuing through the rule of his son Bashar, is the deadliest state sponsor of terrorism in the Arab Middle East. It assisted the bloodthirsty insurgency in Iraq that killed American soldiers by the thousands and murdered Iraqi civilians by the tens of thousands. It has used both terrorism and conventional military power to place Lebanon under its boot since the mid-1970s. It made Syria into the logistics hub for Hezbollah, the best-equipped and most lethal non-state armed force in the world. It has waged a terrorist war against Israel and the peace process for decades, not only from Lebanon, but also from the West Bank and Gaza. And it is Iran’s sole Arab ally and its bridge to the Mediterranean.
Tehran is the head of the Iranian-Syrian-Hamas-Hezbollah resistance bloc, and Syria is the junior partner in the alliance, but both governments have American blood under their fingernails. Unlike Damascus, however, Tehran may acquire nuclear weapons capability within the next couple of years. If we could take only one member of that bloc off the board, we’d be wise to pick the Iranian government. The Syrian government, though, is the second-best option. And it’s lower-hanging fruit right now because Assad is facing an armed insurrection.
Short of regime change in Tehran, the overthrow of Assad is the worst thing that can happen to the Iranian government and to Hezbollah. Iran will lose its only ally in the Arab world, and Hezbollah will lose one of only two patrons and its entire overground logistics network. Scud missiles and other enormous weapons can’t exactly be mailed to Hezbollah from Iran through the Beirut international airport.
A fresh government in Damascus will almost certainly be less friendly toward Iran and Hezbollah and more friendly toward Lebanon. Beirut will be able to make more of its own decisions, which are naturally closer to what the US and Israel would like, even if they aren’t ideal. So many of Lebanon’s politicians are currently bribed and bullied by Assad into doing his bidding, inducing their support for Hezbollah and violent “resistance” against Israel. Even Hezbollah’s most powerful tactical “allies” only support the organization under duress.