I never took Charles Krauthammer for an optimist.
According to Krauthammer, Bashar Assad’s fall would “deprive Iran of an intra-Arab staging area and sever its corridor to the Mediterranean. Syria would return to the Sunni fold. Hezbollah, Tehran’s agent in Lebanon, could be next, withering on the vine without Syrian support and Iranian materiel. And Hamas would revert to Egyptian patronage.”
It all sounds so fine and dandy. Too good to be true even. Wish it were so. But so often in the Middle East the best case scenarios turn out to be just that, scenarios, while reality stabs you in the back and takes a bite out of your ass. When Israel left Lebanon in 2000 we were supposed to get a good and quiet border. We left Gaza hoping it would become Singapore, instead it became Waziristan. America invaded Iraq to rid Saddam of WMDs he didn’t have and instead created hell-on-earth, a War of Mass Distraction, while, just over the border, the Iranians were cooking up real WMDs.
How can you be so sure, Charles, that post-Assad Syria “returns to the Sunni fold”? The truth is that we a) don’t know when and how Assad falls, b)what he’s capable of doing before he finally goes down, and b) what kind of Syria we’ll get after Assad goes (a strife-torn, hell-on-earth Iraq redux).
And what exactly is the “Sunni fold” nowadays? A Muslim-Brotherhood dominated region (from Morocco, Libya, Egypt, and Tunisia) – with secular groups pushed out of the centers of power. What do we know about the alliances, policies and aims of the new leaders of the Sunni fold? How can we be sure that they really won’t find ways to work and coexist with Iran? It’s not a stretch. If it’s in their interests, and in Iran’s interests, they’ll find ways to cooperate. And how do we know the new regimes in the Middle East will be pro-peace, pro-democracy and pro-West? In fact, all the indicators so far point in the opposite direction. Krauthammer’s pieces fit too neatly to be plausible in this uncertain region.
Hamas may “revert to Egyptian patronage” but it is an entirely different Egypt that they might revert to. The new Egypt, ruled by the army and Muslim Brotherhood gives Hamas a much more solid base of support and operations than they ever had in Syria. A base which they can use to further consolidate their grip on Gaza. A new Egypt, which has totally lost all control over the Sinai – which is fast becoming the world’s next terror mega-hub. Hamas, by thawing its relations with Jordan, will work to deepen its infrastructure in the West Bank.
So yes, we want Bashar Asssad to fall, hard, fast and painfully. We want Iran to be weakened and isolated. But let’s not have any illusions about what happens next. Bashar still has China and Russia, and so do the Iranians, incidentally.