The crisis in Syria is getting worse, and then worse.
Perhaps it’s too late to ask the question, How did we get here? Whatever the case, the struggle for political power in Syria is probably something that will be decided by guns, not diplomats. I don’t know if odds-makers in Las Vegas are taking bets on it, but I’d say that the chance that President Assad is still in power one year from now have dropped to about 10–20 percent; far more likely, at some point in the next months, the Syrian government and its armed forces will disintegrate. And then what? Well, that’s anyone’s guess.
According to some reports, Assad is already fleeing the capital, Damascus, for Latakia, a port city in the northwest, though Syrian media have shown images of Assad. That follows a bombing that killed several top officials, including the minister of defense and Assad’s brother-in-law. Lots of questions revolve around whether or not the Syrian military will hold together. It might already be the beginning of the end. There are widespread reports of fighting in Damascus, and as Syria pulls troops back from the Golan Heights and other far-flung areas, the rebels are seizing border posts near Iraq and Turkey.
The Obama administration deserves a little credit, and a lot of blame, for the civil war that’s unfolding in all its ugliness now. Credit, because President Obama has rebuffed war cries from hawks, neoconservatives, the Wall Street Journal and liberal interventionists alike to intervene directly, say, by using ground forces or air strikes, setting up no-fly zones, creating safe zones in Turkey protected by US troops to shelter Syrian rebels or shipping lethal weapons en masse to the anti-Assad forces. All of that, and more, has been proposed almost from the start of the struggle in Syria, and Obama has rejected it.
But Obama deserves a lot of blame, too. Let’s leave aside, for a moment, the question of whether or not the United States is already intervening in Syria covertly, through the CIA and the Pentagon’s ever-expanding black-ops units. It’s already been reported that the CIA is helping to coordinate the supply of some weapons to the fighters in Syria, and on the ground CIA officers are reportedly deciding which rebel units deserve support and which ones don’t, presumably trying to make sure that Al Qaeda and its ilk doesn’t get Western help. That sort of support is bad enough, and where there’s smoke there’s firefights: we’ll learn, I’m sure, after the fact that the CIA and Co. were more deeply involved in the Syrian crisis than we’ve been told thus far.