Elliott Abrams

Pressure Points

Abrams gives his take on U.S. foreign policy, with special focus on the Middle East and democracy and human rights issues.

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Syria: No “Bind,” No “Quandary”

by Elliott Abrams
April 22, 2011

“Escalating protests in Syria put Obama administration in a bind,” says a headline in the Washington Post. Why is that? “Escalating anti-government demonstrations in Syria have put the Obama administration in a quandary as it tries to protect a range of wider U.S. interests while supporting what it has called the legitimate aspirations of the Syrian people.”

This is a grave misreading of American interests in the region and in Syria. The United States has significant national-security interests in the demise of the Assad regime. As I wrote recently in National Review Online, Syria under Assad is “Iran’s only Arab ally, able and willing to trans-ship arms to Hezbollah and through Hezbollah control Lebanon and give Iran a border with Israel. The demise of Assad would mean a tremendous setback for the ayatollahs, and second only to the fall of the Islamic Republic would be a great gain for the United States in the Middle East. The sense throughout the Middle East that Iran has been growing in influence in the last decade, and that the “Arab Spring” brought it more opportunities, would be erased by the fall of Iran’s allies in Damascus.”

Assad’s Syria also remains the headquarters of Hamas and several other Palestinian terrorist groups. For those in the administration still focused on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, it should be clear that the demise of the regime would weaken these violent and extremist Palestinian elements.

What’s more, Assad’s Syria made itself the funnel through which jihadis from around the globe entered Iraq to kill American servicemen and women during the Iraq war. From Pakistan or Libya, Kuwait or Saudi Arabia, they would fly into Damascus International Airport and from there be shepherded into Iraq. So this regime is covered in American blood, a factor that our government should never forget.

And then we come to human rights. For those with strong stomachs, the most recent State Department human rights report on Syria describes Syria this way: “The security forces committed arbitrary or unlawful killings, caused politically motivated disappearances, and tortured and physically abused prisoners and detainees with impunity.” That’s pretty antiseptic, but the report then acknowledges that this regime is medieval: “Former prisoners, detainees, and reputable local human rights groups reported that methods of torture and abuse included electrical shocks; pulling out fingernails; burning genitalia; forcing objects into the rectum; beatings while the victim is suspended from the ceiling and on the soles of the feet; alternately dousing victims with freezing water and beating them in extremely cold rooms; hyperextending the spine; bending the body into the frame of a wheel and whipping exposed body parts; using a backward-bending chair to asphyxiate the victim or fracture the spine; and stripping prisoners naked for public view.” According to that Washington Post story, some American officials have an “unwillingness…trade a known quantity in Assad for an unknown future.” After reading this U.S. Government human rights report, how is that position sustainable?

U.S. interests, moral and practical, will be advanced by the fall of the bloody Assad dictatorship. It is long past time to end all the references to Assad as a potential reformer, especially with more than two hundred peaceful protesters now dead in the streets of Syria’s cities. We should side clearly with the people of Syria, who want an end to the Assad nightmare. The Obama Administration should be in no “bind” or “quandary” about Syria.

Post a Comment 19 Comments

  • Posted by Haytham tabesh

    Eliott posted enough reasons to support the idea of a change in Syria.
    The fall of the Assad regime is a need that goes in line with US interests more than what is being gained now.
    I would ask the Obama administration, what are the US interests being served by Assad? Other than a calm Golan Heights front, i don’t see except playing evil here and there.
    What role did Damascus play in supporting the Gadhafi regime for instance? Now that Assad has not proved to be different from his father, 11 years are enough to prove though, I guess a change in Syria should be transferred into a belief along with the need.

  • Posted by Joe Aguiar

    The only concern I have is similar to the main concern with Qaddafi being overthrown in Libya; once Asad is out, who will rule the country? While this regime provides a crucial ally and buffer zone for Iran, its overthrow will not immediately change that, especially because it is likely to be replaced by an Islamist regime with no love lost for Israel. Still, I agree that Asad must go for moral and practical reasons and that the Obama administration ought to be more active, but the tangible effects of such a change will only be felt down the road.

  • Posted by Dean Smallwood

    With the leak of U.S. diplomatic cables which outlined covert aid to the Syrian opposition since 2005 , and the fact that Syrian Intelligence is now wise to that fact , the U.S. Ambassador appeared to fold like a cheap suit . This indicates that the United States is the least of Assad’s worries . Consequently , he can view Obama , with ample justification , as “a weak sister”.

    With the the Obama Administration’s feckless , rudderless foreign policy , it’s a wonder that the U.S. is trusted by ANYONE in the Middle East . If Assad does fall and the dagger pointed at Israel is blunted , the Obama Administration will receive neither credit nor blame . In other words they will have simply voted “present” .

  • Posted by Eddie Sansoul

    I am currently in Syria and observing everything is going on the Syrian ground, I see on the Aljazeera, Al Arabia news channels an immense campaign filled with false eye witnesses, faked videos for alleged fallen victims blaming the killing on the Syrian authorities, obvious pre-staged phone calls an army of human rights activists whom you’ve never heard of them before, all designed to provide evidence that Syrian are rebelling against Al Assad Regime. All such news which been spread on news channels have nothing to do reality. The population in Syria is 23 millions, in Aleppo city by itself live 6 million Syrians, life is normal and you never heard any attempt to rebel, not even one protest despite many calls on face book and other news sources to provoke them, sometimes by calling them cowards, sometimes by begging them to join, but the answer is coming as: NO!! On the contrary you can see and hear that Syrians in major cities such as Damascus and Aleppo are trying to campaign alongside Bashar Al Assad to spread awareness about the plans to destabilize Syria for the favor of Israel and US’s interests in the region. Syrians seem to know the US/UN plans very well. The heart of the problem remains in a small city called Daraa which counts about 1 million in population and among them few thousands who are Jihadist or extremists who are creating all the news you see in the main stream media. Aljazeera is playing big role in the call for ciaos. As days passes we see few trouble makers in some small cities such as Homs and Banyans but the remarkable thing is that in both these 2 cities the anarchists are coming out in streets known to be drug dealers hide outs and gun smugglers, this is why they have arms and weapons, basically it’s an organized Mafia paid by the US intelligence to carry out attacks on the Syrian people and Syrian government and also some Syrians protesters to steer fear and spread ciaos in order to provide valuable media materials to propagandists. Videos are been edited to show only what support their claims that there is a revolution in Syria and victims are killed by the Syrian’s regime forces. Aljazeera has became a laughing material among Syrians, because it seems to have lost its course when claiming to cover the situation in Syria, one can see on Aljazeera screen a title for what is suppose to be some city in Syria and you hear a phone call from mysterious eye witness calling for help to stop a massacre carried out by police against protesters, few minutes later the same footage is used but under different city name, and still the same eye witness calls and pretend to be reporting from the event location in different city. Not even one news channel is adopting the official Syrian explanation; no one TV channel outside Syria is ready to accept the real version of the truth. Some people are accusing the Syrian government of blocking all foreign media from entering the Syrian country to cover the event, Syrian government responded by that we have seen your performance in other countries and we do not trust you anymore. Syrian government blocked all news agencies whither it’s a friend or foe, as if it’s saying: we don’t know now who is with us and who is against us, we can’t take a chance. The truth is that 99% of Syrian support their president Bashar Al Assad, and stand on his side against the so called Syrian revolutionists. It is also notable that the revolution leaders and their outside supporters are getting frustrated because no matter how much they tried to escalate the situation no one is responding to their calls and their number is still count to hundreds, but with the help of advanced technology and computer s’ software you can multiply these hundreds and make them look as if they were thousands, also the media is taking footages from demonstrations which took place in Egypt and Yemen then claim it’s happening in Syria, the three countries’ flags is almost identical so it’s hard for a foreigners to distinguish between them, but when you give it closer look you can notice the difference in small details. Also pictures available, on the internet archives, portraying killed men and tortured people, sometimes go back to few years ago when it was posted on the internet, yet it’s claimed that these victims are Syrian protesters killed or tortured by the Syrians’ regime security forces. It seems that the Glogbolists are becoming more desperate with Syrians refusing to join, as Syrians shows more solidarity with President Assad who is very popular and admired not only in Syria but throughout the Arab World. Whoever planned the events in Syria is forced to go on with his pre-planned steps such as calling for US and UN to interfere and send its troops, the globalists are hoping that it will work at some stage; they seem to have lost touch with reality.

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    Thats not enough

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