Some of the news out of and concerning Syria is nothing new. President Bashir Assad is still slaughtering his country’s citizens, both those enlisted to arms in an attempt to dethrone Assad and those innocents, including women and children, not only caught in the crossfire and all too often the result of directed bombardments using tanks, helicopter gunships and various other heavy weapons. Demonstrators, resistance fighters and citizens continue to disappear during so-called security sweeps where often entire families are taken to undisclosed locations where it is rumored torture and summary executions are common. And lastly, on the brighter side, the slow drip of members of President Assad’s loyalists have continued to defect with the pace now approaching a steady stream which has included some general rank officers along with other high ranking military commanders often with their units joining the revolt and even Syrian Ambassador to Iraq Nawaf Fares. Former Ambassador Fares was also quoted as claiming that President Assad can only be removed through force of arms and that sanctions and other political measures will have minimal if any results. The United Nations and many Western nations continue to seek passive, non-interventional actions to end the violence and forming some new governance in Syria while Assad continues to denounce every attempt even before they have been crafted. The fighting continues throughout Syria with some of the conflict reaching all the way into the streets of outer Damascus. One can only hope that the end is near and whatever replaces Assad will be kinder and more peaceable governance.
Russian backing for President Bashir Assad has waned to the point where the Syrian National Council has petitioned Russia to assist them in the removal of Bashir Assad. Meanwhile, Russian warships have been monitored heading for the eastern Mediterranean near their installation on the Syrian coast. When questioned Russian officials responded that the movement was part of training maneuvers which have been planned for quite some time. The numbers and types of Russian ships moving towards Syria belie such an excuse as the majority of the ships are personnel carriers replete with amphibious landers and escort ships coming from the Black Sea along with three landing craft that have left their home port of Severomorsk in the Arctic Circle. This flotilla has a large capacity which could be utilized to evacuate the tens of thousands of Russians currently stationed within Syria when Assad is finally ousted. Russia has also refuted suspicions that they would offer refuge for Bashir Assad should he desire to abdicate his position and seek asylum.
Then there is the potential coming to fruition of the greatest fear of Israelis and others as rumors have begun to circulate that the Syrian chemical weapons stock has begun to be moved. Some reports suspect these weapons of mass destruction are being moved to Syrian borders with Turkey or Israel. Turkey already has activated numerous units including ground troops and both fighter jet and helicopter units along the Syria border in order to address any additional thrusts by Assad loyalist troops into Turkey. Some reports claim that Israel has readied troops to respond to any threatening moves made that utilize these chemical weapons. The claims are that Assad has set in place initiatives for arming Syrian ballistic missiles with chemical warheads or movement of chemical or biological weapons in a direction which would indicate their being turned over to Hezballah in Lebanon or along the Lebanon-Syrian border. According to the Wall Street Journal,
“The American and Jordanian militaries are jointly developing plans to secure what is believed to be Syria's vast stockpile of chemical and biological weapons, said U.S. and Arab officials briefed on the discussions.” Thankfully, numerous countries’ satellites are being aimed to monitor the storage area for any suspicious activity constantly. This might be the one action which would force an intervention by numerous countries as the extensive Syrian chemical weapons falling into the hands of al-Qaeda, Hezballah, Hamas, or any other terrorist organization would change the entire threat of world terrorism to a level higher than any precedent. It is hoped that this is one subject where the major powers and concerned nations of the Middle East and Eastern Europe, including Russia, will have spoken and made arrangements for working together to prevent the use or transfer of these weapons and immediately intervene as soon as it is suspected they are about to be moved. No amount of precaution would be unwise in this instance.
Even once President Bashir Assad has been toppled, there comes the next challenge which will likely be ignored by most of the world despite the potential for the establishment of a new government for Syria is likely to turn out just as poorly as things have in Egypt. What makes the likelihood that the next Syrian government will be composed mostly by Islamists and terrorists is the fact that unlike Egypt, there will be no remaining military force to take control or monitor the formation of the new government. Despite the attempt of many to disbelieve that al-Qaeda and the Muslim Brotherhood make up the majority of the Syrian rebels, ignoring such realities will not mean these influences will not rise to power after Assad falls. We have already witnessed strong showings by Islamists, Muslim Brotherhood, Salafists, and other extremists in the other nations who are changing government due to the results of their Arab Winter. Egypt will elect the Muslim Brotherhood and Salafists to be the majority in their Parliament no matter how many times the military and the courts dissolve that body and hold new elections. Libya will eventually fall to the Islamists and Muslim Sharia influences as there will be continuations of violence until such governance has been established. Tunisia has even elected a very strong Islamist influence in their elections after many Middle East experts had predicted they would be the definitive place where democracy would produce a secular government. As the Syrian revolutionists are a majority Sunni, they will establish a Muslim Brotherhood controlled government almost guaranteed. Such is the next step in the slowly evolving Muslim world moving steadily, even if slowly, towards some form of liberal governance which will recognize the freedoms and liberties which have come to the fore in much of the West and is making inroads in the rest of the world. Of the entire Muslim world, it will likely be Iran who will be the first among those countries to establish a modern democratic government which will support human rights, freedom of thought, and individual liberties. Turkey had established the closest governance that included such rights but has steadily slid towards Islamist Sharia under the leadership of Prime Minister Erdogan and his Islamic based AKP Party. We can only hope that such political evolution will occur sooner rather than later and with minimal death and destruction upon them and the rest of the world in the interim struggles.
Beyond the Cusp