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First Real Threats To Assad Strategy Emerge In Syria

As Via Meadia observes the slow burning resistance to the bloody regime of Butcher Assad in Syria, we’ve been bearish on his character and bullish on his strategy.  We think it’s a bad regime that deserves to fall, but that the forces trying to overturn it don’t have the ability to achieve their goals. The internal opposition doesn’t have the strength to push him out, and he has the ability to crush his internal opponents without levels of violence or instability so severe that the outside world intervenes.

Could that be changing?  News comes this morning that suggests the opposition is raising its game.  The attack on an intelligence facility on the outskirts of Damascus suggests that an organized, armed internal opposition, possibly with links to allies abroad, is forming inside the country.  That could be a game changer.

It’s not that the armed opposition of army defectors and others is strong enough to defeat loyalist forces in open, pitched battles.  Rebel army tanks aren’t about to storm into Damascus.  But the existence of a more organized and powerful internal opposition, along with a rising tide of sectarian chaos, could change the calculations both of outside actors and of significant regime allies inside Syria.

The list of outside powers who want Assad out is slowly growing; so too is the intensity of their desire to see him gone.  The primary reason isn’t the blood in the streets, although that helps.  It is the alliance with Iran.  The struggle of the Sunni Arab powers with Iran, and the struggle between Turkey and Iran, is growing — and Syria is the flashpoint.  Tossing Iran’s client out of Damascus is becoming a more important objective for everyone on earth who wants the mullahs curbed: that is a lot of people and their numbers are growing. If these outsiders start to smell blood in the water, their incentives to intervene either overtly or covertly could grow.  Fast.

But the effect of growing violence — organized and unorganized — on internal actors may be even more significant.  On the one hand, the appearance of a more organized military resistance suggests that the internal violence will last longer and be more disruptive than previously expected.  This will make Syria’s business elite unhappy; a few months of unrest is one thing, quasi-civil war with the prospect of outside intervention is something else.

At the same time, signs that the unorganized, popular unrest is mutating from political actions directed against the government into sectarian violence is going to make a lot of rich and powerful Syrians extremely nervous.  The Assad family is accepted because it brings stability; if it is driving the country into anarchy and meltdown, many powerful Syrian interests who have stuck with the Assads this long will begin to think about change.

Assad’s strategy (strike at the opposition hard enough to grind it down, not hard enough to provoke foreign intervention; bind top regime members to you by bathing them in blood and implicating them in your crimes; use sanctions to strengthen your hold over the economy; keep the commercial elite in Damascus and Aleppo on your side) is a good one (from a power seeking rather than an ethical perspective), but no strategy can succeed in all circumstances.

Butcher Assad’s grip on power seems a little less tight today.  We shall see.

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  • Jacksonian Libertarian

    What are the anti-Iranian Sunnis going to do? Send in the bomb makers? I confess that I would like to see terrorist bombs going off in Syria, it would be poetic justice. Although I think any Regime willing to kill large numbers of its own citizens can’t be removed from power.

  • Sandy

    ….c’mon train….!

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