One of the administration’s excuses for inaction in the face of mass slaughter of some 60,000 Syrians, according to the U.N., is that “everyone” knows Bashar al-Assad is going. This is a non sequitur, but is also wrong.
Our refusal to act in meaningful ways to accelerate his departure (and thereby let the death toll mount) has sullied the U.S. image among Syrians, revealed our fecklessness to Syria’s patrons in Iran and left us at a disadvantage in fending off jihadist elements that have drifted into Syria while the war has dragged on and on. (Note the connection between U.S. inertness and the festering of jihadist terrorists in North African, Libya and Syria. You’d think someone would spot the pattern by now.)
But the assumption that Assad is going anyway is also questionable. Reuters reports that the French, who certainly are more on the ball in the region than we, now say “there were no signs that Syrian President Bashar al-Assad is about to be overthrown.” The report continues:
France, a former colonial ruler of Syria, has been one of the most vocal backers of the rebels trying to topple Assad and was the first to recognize the opposition coalition.
“Things are not moving. The solution that we had hoped for, and by that I mean the fall of Bashar and the arrival of the (opposition) coalition to power, has not happened,” Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius said in his annual New Year’s address to the press.
Fabius told RFI radio in December “the end is nearing” for Assad. But on Thursday, he said international mediation and discussions about the crisis that began in March 2011 were not getting anywhere. “There are no recent positive signs,” he said. . . .
Paris and other Western allies have so far failed to convince Russia and China, who have continued to block stronger U.N. action against Assad, to change their stance.
“France continues, like others, to try find a solution so that Bashar is replaced and that a united Syria that respects all communities is achieved. However, we are far from it,” Fabius said.
This is, to put it mildly, a big deal. We have no policy and frankly no real idea what we are doing. (Perhaps France should be — or effectively is – the new superpower.)
The potential that Assad could hang on for months or years longer would be a human rights disaster, ratchet up the refugee outflow and represent a triumph for Iran. The administration and its national security nominees should be confronted about their assumption that Assad is on the verge of collapse (not unlike Spain’s Franco who was on the verge of dying for an interminable time). Are we prepared to live with Assad’s continued rule, and if not, what are we doing about it?