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The Real Crisis In The Middle East Is Not Palestinian Statehood

Most of the eyes that follow the Middle East are focused on the Palestinian bid for statehood at the UN this week; that is not the biggest question facing the region or the United States.  Egypt, Turkey, Libya, Tunisia, Palestine, Bahrain, Yemen: for now, these are sideshows.  The main event, the thing that history is most likely to take note of one way or the other, is taking place in Syria. Washington appears to be paying attention, although it is as uncertain as everyone else about what to do. According to the NYT:

Increasingly convinced that President Bashar al-Assad of Syria will not be able to remain in power, the Obama administration has begun to make plans for American policy in the region after he exits…

“There’s a real consensus that he’s beyond the pale and over the edge,” the senior Obama administration official said. “Intelligence services say he’s not coming back.”[…]

In coordination with Turkey, the United States has been exploring how to deal with the possibility of a civil war among Syria’s Alawite, Druse, Christian and Sunni sects, a conflict that could quickly ignite other tensions in an already volatile region.

The controversy over the Palestinian bid for statehood should not distract policymakers from the main event. Assad’s fall — or his attempts to cling to power — could easily trigger prolonged armed conflict that could well spread beyond Syria’s frontiers. The situation is exacerbated by the interests of Saudi Arabia, Iran, and Turkey, who all have much to gain or lose if Damascus is abandoned. Iran could lose an important ally; the Saudis want a Sunni majority government that might be more radical than its neighbors would like; and Turkey will be worried about the Kurds. And given the close links between Syria and Lebanon and the weakness Lebanon’s government and the sectarian factionalism of its politics, it is likely that anything that happens in Syria will have profound implications for Lebanon.

The US and Turkey potentially are the two countries whose interests in Syria’s future most closely align, but practical cooperation has real pitfalls.  Iraq’s call for Assad to step down simplifies the picture somewhat, but developing an effective response to potential political and humanitarian crises in Syria belongs at the top of Washington’s regional agenda.

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  • K2K

    Best for everyone else if Turkey has to focus on Syria so that Turkey does not have time or energy to meddle with Israel, Cyprus, or Libya.

    I wonder how Jordan will stay calm.

    What will Hezbollah do if Dr. Assad does relocate to ???? Bet he wishes he had stuck with being an eye doctor in London.

    Maybe Iraqi Kurdistan can annex Syria’s Kurdish area.

    Just keep Turkey on a leash!

  • Tom Holsinger

    The big concern here should be securing Syria’s biological weapons stocks and capabilities. Its chemical weapons stocks are so large those can’t be secured, which is mitigated by those not being effectively transportable.

    But Syria’s biological weapons are concealable as well as transportable. And they are hideously dangerous.

    There is a desperate need for a covert program to secure those, comparable to the 1992 public Nunn-Lugar Act which secured X-Soviet nuclear weapons in shaky X-Soviet republics (the ‘Stans). See:

  • Kris

    I am incensed that Israel did not acquiesce to previous American pressure to make a deal with the Assads. Had they but done so, surely none of this would be happening!


  • Danny Black

    Turkey and the US interests are not aligned on Syria. Turkey and the AKP in particular have alot of investments in Assad’s Syria that is going to look pretty insecure if he tumbles.

  • Tom Kinney

    I despair after reading one too many liberal comments on various websites today regarding this issue.

    If there were any doubts left that a significant part of the left isn’t more than willing to turn away from Israelis in a time of growing need, today’s sad postings put an end to them.

    A demographer recently determined that had there not have been the holocaust, today there would be approx. 55 million Jews in the world, not the 13 million who are here now.

    That’s a net loss of 42 million, not the “mere” 6 million of legend.

    Genocide works its way through time like a graveworm: it demolishes significant portions of the past; it ravages the present; and it invades and destroys the future.

    There is no question in sober and sane minds what the end goal of those Palestinians who hold power is in all this. To deny or dissemble about it is folly. And a particularly bitter and deadly folly at that.

  • Luke Lea

    “The Real Crisis In The Middle East Is Not Palestinian Statehood” but the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Always has been, always will be, until finally settled. Europe needs to start spending the kind of money we do in the region, only for Palestinian reparations and compensation for the many injustices inflicted on them indirectly by 19th cenntury European anti-Semitism and early 20th century European statesmanship.

    A European commitment to an ongoing program of aid and investment in any future Palestinian state, whose goal is nothing less than to establish parity between the Israeli and Palestinian standards of living — that is the true and only the missing ingredient for a just and lasting peace between these two peoples. Let the guilty party be responsible for its sin even as the whole world suffers the consequences.

  • nadine

    Don’t fret, Luke; America and Europe is already spending so much on the Palestinians that fully 60% of the GDP of the Palestinian Authority comes from foreign aid. And naturally, that doesn’t count what Hamas gets under the table!

    People who are THAT dependent never want independence. What kind of fools do you take them for? Indeed, just watch what the Palestinians do and not what they say, and you will see independence is the last thing on their mind; it always come second to any form of hurting Israel they can think of.

  • Common Sense

    “only for Palestinian reparations and compensation for the many injustices inflicted on them indirectly by 19th cenntury European anti-Semitism”

    What a bunch of drivel. The Palestinians are paying for their own long history of anti-Semitism and for the horrid moral mistakes of both their leaders and their public.

    Israel should be more insistent on offsetting Mizrahi losses against Palestinian.

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