The Assad regime is coming apart. The defections of the last few weeks, which included a general who is the son of a former defense minister, are one sign. The spread of fighting into Damascus is another. Today, both the defense minister and the deputy chief of the army, Assaf Shawkat, who more significantly was Assad’s brother-in-law and for many years a pillar of the regime, were killed in one of the regime’s inner sanctums in Damascus.
So the regime will fall, and it may not take the six or twelve months that pessimists suggested. The opposition forces are doing better in July than in June, better in June than May, and so on — presumably in part because outside help is arriving in the forms of weapons, ammunition, and money.
#more#Young decries America’s absence from the scene:
It is astonishing that at such a crucial stage in the Arab world, Washington is doing little hard thinking. Obama has written himself out of the script, a distant apparition alien to the peoples of the Middle East. But the region remains critical, no matter what the president believes, and it can still bite the world in the rear end. When that happens, the Americans cannot afford to lead from behind. They need to be up front, knowing precisely what they want.
What now? First, let’s hope those who call Syria a hopeless quagmire are quieter. It is a war that can be won, or rather two wars: a civil war between the Assad regime and the vast majority of Syrians, and a proxy war between the United States and our allies on one side, and Iran, Hezbollah, and Russia on the other. The American goal should be victory: to oust the Assad regime and thereby defeat the axis supporting it. This goal is in sight, but it will not be brought about by Kofi Annan; it will be the result of fighting in Syria’s streets. If there is a role for the U.N., it will be after the regime collapses, in helping avoid or at least limit intercommunal strife.
With the regime appearing increasingly weak, there are two other matters to keep in mind. First, Assad might in extremis conceivably try to use chemical weapons against the populace. If he does, the United States should organize a group of nations, including the Arab League, Turkey, the UK, and France, to intervene militarily from the air as we did in Libya, and help the rebels win quickly. Second, there is no sensible reason to make deals now with Russia that guarantee its access to a naval base in Syria or a role in Syria’s future. Most Syrians hate Russia for its role in defending the regime and supplying it with the weapons it has turned against the people. Let the Russians cope with that problem without our help.