The Saudi Summit
In Saudi Meeting Obama Faces Most Serious Challenge Yet
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  • Fat_Man

    Don’t worry about it. Obama has an incredible talent for finding the the sour spot in any relationship.

    • Ghosts of Benghazi

      And then exacerbating that sour spot……

  • JohnOfEnfield

    @Fat_Man…..especially in his relationship with me.

  • Andrew Allison

    Blind Man’s Bluff comes to mind.

  • gabrielsyme

    the path to even relative stability in the Middle East involves pushing
    Assad out of power—though it does not exclude power sharing deals to
    protect the interests of minority communities in a post-Assad Syria

    Was the Middle East stable prior to the Arab Spring? Certainly not perfectly (as indeed the Arab Spring demonstrated), but relatively so. Assad staying in power would be a restoration of the status quo ante; a rebel success would represent a significant shift in regional power. How shifting the regional balance of power away from Iran and towards Saudi Arabia promotes stability is a bit beyond me. Such an outcome seems more likely to drive Iran to take greater strategic risks, both nuclear and otherwise, which is exactly what we hope to avoid.

    More importantly, let’s dispose of the arguments that a minority-protecting power-sharing deal is plausible or, even if achieved, likely to hold. Syria’s rebellion manages to combine the main problems of post-Arab Spring Libya and Egypt. Like Libya, a rebel victory in Syria will see a panopoly of rivalrous armed groups holding sway over different areas of the country; like Egypt, politicised Islam will be highly influential. In Egypt, the Brotherhood presided over a period where attacks on religious minorities were committed with impunity; even though the Copts were not closely identified with the previous regime. Since Assad’s regime takes much of its support from minority religious groups – the Alawites most of all, but by no means alone – religious minorities are far more likely to come under attack in any post-Assad situation than was the case in Egypt; yet in Egypt, it still occurred. Any post-Assad government, even if inclined to defend minorities, will not have the benefit of a state monopoly on power to accomplish its aims. Instead, the various militarised groups will be effectively unconstrained in targeting undefended minority groups in their parts of the country.

    It is difficult to see any power-sharing arrangement that would protect minorities being stable or effective. The Sunnis, being a majority of roughly 75%, don’t have to share power, and would object to giving power to previously pro-Assad communities. Most minority communities are too small and geographically fragmented to be able to effectively provide for their own security even under a political settlement; and it is impossible to see the largest, the Alawites, permitted to maintain a militia in a post-Assad Syria.

    While Assad is vicious, he has every incentive to seek reconciliation in victory. There simply are too many Sunnis to attempt religious/ethnic cleansing or systematic persecution. If the rebels win, however, there are far fewer reasons for the victors to restrain their hatred: almost perfect conditions would exist for massacres of minority communities, religious/ethnic cleansing and severe persecution of any religious minorities remaining. Even full-scale genocide is a reasonable possibility. Those who have short-sightedly favoured the rebels should bear some responsibility for the even greater bloodbath which may well follow “victory”.

    • Anthony


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