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Assad vs. Jihad

Reader comment on item: When Sunni and Shiite Extremists Make War

Submitted by Anton Bargielski (United States), Jun 5, 2013 at 10:12

Picking sides in the Syrian Civil War is tough from a Western standpoint. The Assad regime is a holdover from the Cold War and has not reformed significantly. The inherent obscenity of hereditary secular dictatorships makes it doubly hard to side with one of the most brutal governments in the world. Under the Assads, Syria has long been a troublemaker in a region that would surely be better off with regime change in the long run.

The rebels have squandered whatever good will the West had for the Syrian opposition. They are apparently among the worst jihadist elements in the world in terms of treatment of minorities, and a takeover by whoever ended up on top in post-Assad Syria would be ugly. Syria could easily become a global center for Islamic jihadist terrorism, much as Iraq did after Saddam Hussein's overthrow.

In light of all this, the idea of trying to get battling forces out of populated areas sounds like a benign and conservative (i.e., sensible) conclusion to an analytical piece. But in the long-term, Assad still has to go. The only conceivable alternative (by which Assad could obtain long-term legitmacy) would be for Assad to "crown himself" as formal absolute monarch of a new Syrian kingdom, but no one seriously believes that could happen. The dictatorship will become progressively destabilizing to an already volatile region, and there is no going back to the way things were before the uprisings started over two years ago.

If Islamists create another formal theocracy after Assad is gone, then the outside world will have to deal with them and whatever poison they proliferate outside their borders. But Syria will not be a superpower under theocrats, and it will not have nearly the regional clout even of theocratic Iran. It will almost certainly be bogged down in internal power struggles for years, and thus weak in comparison to the Assadist one-party state.

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Note: Opinions expressed in comments are those of the authors alone and not necessarily those of Daniel Pipes. Original writing only, please. Comments are screened and in some cases edited before posting. Reasoned disagreement is welcome but not comments that are scurrilous, off-topic, commercial, disparaging religions, or otherwise inappropriate. For complete regulations, see the "Guidelines for Reader Comments".

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