UPDATES

Assad’s survival plan explained

Aug 16, 2011 | Tzvi Fleischer

Over the weekend in Syria, the regime was reportedly shooting people as they exited mosques after prayers near Damascus, and even used the navy to shell the port of Latakia, killing 21 people (see Daniel’s post earlier today for more details and discussion). Peripatetic Middle East reporter Michael Totten points out that Latakia is in the heartland of President Bashar al- Assad dominant Alawite minority. He note:

Unlike in the other “Arab spring” countries, the anti-regime demonstrations and the government crackdown [in Syria] have been decidedly sectarian… But if Assad feels he has to shell Latakia, of all cities, he has a real fight on his hands. That’s a bit like Saddam Hussein sending tanks into Tikrit or the Israelis dropping bombs on Tel Aviv…

Explaining why Assad is continuing to escalate the violence against his own people, noted American foreign policy pundit Walter Russell Mead has an excellent post describing Assad’s strategy for survival. He says it relies on systematically attacking the centres of protest one by one with overwhelming force while assuming what the rest of the world does, or thinks, doesn’t matter.

Judging from his actions, Assad believes that the key to survival is to keep the domestic protests contained.  To achieve this with a limited and in parts unreliable army he seems to be attacking the centers of protest one at a time.  He lets protests simmer in some cities while brutalizing the main target, then turns from that target to the next. This approach, ghastly and brutal as it is, seems to be working at present and time is probably on his side.

The question is whether forces outside Syria – the liberal west, angry Sunnis, ‘world public opinion’ whatever that is – can somehow shift the balance of power inside the country.  Assad thinks they can’t.  His calculation is that Libya has killed the appetite of the Atlantic powers for new humanitarian wars in the Middle East.  Britain and France are up to their eyeballs in an unsustainable military commitment, and the Obama administration is too weak and too busy to do much more than talk. Americans talk a lot; Assad and his father have ignored American lectures and advice for decades.  Russia and China will block military action at the UN even if anyone was asking; NATO’s reckless and cynical mandate-stretching in Libya has closed that door for a long time to come.

Sunni rage is as impotent, Assad believes, as the liberal west.  Saudi Arabia can bribe but to little effect.  Egypt is in no position to look beyond its frontiers… That leaves Turkey… Assad believes that Turkey will talk rather than strike; the costs of chaos on its southeastern frontier are too high.  More, Assad believes that Iran will offer whatever he needs to balance the Turks.

As for sanctions, and isolation, he can wait them out for decades if he must…

Mead concludes “This is his [Assad’s] calculation and so far he’s been right.”

Read all of Mead’s comments. He sets some useful parameters for the debate about what to do about Syria. The question should be, given all this, how can outside forces prove Assad wrong?

Tzvi Fleischer

Tags:

RELATED ARTICLES


The Abaham Accords normalising relations between Israel, the UAE and Bahrain (later joined by Sudan and Morocco) were signed on the White House lawn on Sept. 15, 2020. What has happened in the two years since then? (Photo: Flickr)

Two years of the Abraham Accords

Sep 21, 2022 | Update
A homemade gun captured by police when they arrested a Palestinian man from Nablus preparing to carry out a mass casualty terror attack in Jaffa on Sept. 8, 2022 (Photo Credit: ISRAEL POLICE)

Fears of West Bank unrest amidst PA succession struggle

Sep 9, 2022 | Update
Under the proposed deal "Iran’s nuclear program is largely on track; its missile and terrorism programs are untouched. The only hope for those who fear a nuclear-empowered Iran is that the Iranians may say no" to the deal being offered by the Biden Administration (Image: Belus, Shutterstock)

New Iran nuclear deal imminent?

Aug 30, 2022 | Update
Author Salman Rushdie, stabbed and severely injured last weekend in the US, with the novel The Satanic Verses, which led to an Iranian fatwa demanding his death, and ultimately this attack (Images: Creative Commons)

Iran and the Attack on Salman Rushdie/ Abbas’ Holocaust Controversy

Aug 19, 2022 | Update
Israeli soldiers are seen near the border with the Gaza Strip Aug. 5, 2022. The IDF is confident that the three-day operation achieved its limited goals (Photo: Israel Defense Forces)

Post-mortems on “Operation Breaking Dawn”

Aug 12, 2022 | Update
Palestinians rally in Rafah to commemorate murdered PA critic Nizar Banat, beaten to death by PA security forces in June 2021 (Photo: Anas-Mohammed, Shutterstock).

Deteriorating Palestinian human rights under PA and Hamas

Aug 2, 2022 | Update

SIGN UP FOR AIJAC EMAILS

RECENT POSTS

Aryeh Shechopek, the teenager killed in the terrorist attack (Image:Twitter)

AIJAC Condemns Jerusalem Terror Attacks

(Image: Wikipedia)

The View From Inside Saudi Arabia

(Image: Wikipedia)

Myths and Facts About Israel’s Left-Right Divide

(Image: Flickr)

Submission to the Inquiry into the Human Rights Implications of Recent Violence in Iran

(MK Itamar Ben-Gvir. Credit: Wikipedia)

Ben-Gvir and Israeli Liberal Democracy

Aryeh Shechopek, the teenager killed in the terrorist attack (Image:Twitter)

AIJAC Condemns Jerusalem Terror Attacks

(Image: Wikipedia)

The View From Inside Saudi Arabia

(Image: Wikipedia)

Myths and Facts About Israel’s Left-Right Divide

(Image: Flickr)

Submission to the Inquiry into the Human Rights Implications of Recent Violence in Iran

(MK Itamar Ben-Gvir. Credit: Wikipedia)

Ben-Gvir and Israeli Liberal Democracy

SORT BY TOPICS