A Syrian soldier, who has defected to join the Free Syrian Army, holds up his rifle and waves a Syrian independence flag in the Damascus suburb of Saqba on January 27, 2012. REUTERS/Ahmed Jadallah
Let’s be clear what is and what is not happening in Syria.
Lined up in support of regime change in Damascus are the Middle East’s major Sunni powers, led by Saudi Arabia and Turkey. Also backing regime change, though less publicly, is the international network known as the Muslim Brotherhood, a Sunni powerhouse that is providing much, if not most, of the increasingly militarized Syrian opposition forces, especially in Sunni strongholds such as Homs. And backing the Sunni-led regional forces for regime change is NATO, the United States and its allies, who are outraged, just outraged, that Russia and China would dare to veto a carefully crafted UN Security Council resolution targeting President Bashar al-Assad.
The Syrian opposition, at least in its external form, is murky at best.
As Aisling Byrne wrote recently in the Asia Times:
What we are seeing in Syria is a deliberate and calculated campaign to bring down the Assad government so as to replace it with a regime “more compatible” with US interests in the region.
Various hawks, neoconservatives, think-tank denizens at places like AEI and the Washington Institution for Near East Policy, various pro-Israel right-wingers and most of the Republican candidates for president are demanding stronger action from the Obama administration, and some of them want outright military intervention, arms embargos, direct lethal aid to the insurgents and their paramilitary wing, and other support.
For Saudi Arabia, the Arab states of the Persian Gulf and Turkey, this is about building a Sunni, anti-Shiite coalition against Iran. Iraq, whose Shiite regime is more and more dependent on Iran, is tilting toward Assad, who’s getting strong Iranian support. (Although lately Iran seems to be hedging its bets, talking to the Syrian opposition, in case Assad collapses.) So in its fervor to isolate Iran, the United States is poised at the edge of joining the Syrian civil war. This is not good.
The killings in Syria are ugly, but no doubt wildly exaggerated. Nearly all, repeat all, of the information about the violence in Syria is coming from a handful of exiled Syrian opposition groups backed by Saudi Arabia, Qatar and various Western powers. Did 200 people really die in Homs this past weekend, conveniently just on the eve of the UNSC debate? Who knows? The only source for the fishy information, though ubiquitously quoted in the New York Times, the wire services, the network news and elsewhere, are the suspect Syrian opposition groups, who have axes galore to grind.