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.

Print Print Cite Cite
Style: MLA APA Chicago Close


Syrians Turn Against Hezbollah and Iran

by Elliott Abrams
June 7, 2011

What kind of Syria might follow the fall of the Assad regime? For many years, a significant percentage of American and Israeli military officers thought things would get worse. A new regime would be dominated by the Muslim Brotherhood, many said—including some of the highest-ranking American generals.

I have always thought this was a foolish position, given what Assad’s Syria was actually doing. How much worse could things get than a regime that was Iran’s only Arab ally, gave Iran a port on the Mediterranean and a border with Israel (through Hezbollah in Lebanon), helped Iran arm Hezbollah to the teeth, built a nuclear reactor with North Korean help, brought jihadis to Iraq to kill American soldiers, and viciously repressed the Syrian people. Moreover, the notion that the Muslim Brotherhood would rule after Assad was just that, a notion, never supported with hard evidence about their level of internal support.

The strategic argument for getting Assad out is powerful: it would be a huge defeat for Iran and Hezbollah, and indeed the greatest defeat we could administer to Iran short of ending its nuclear program. As to the argument that the successor regime may follow worse policies, recent reports suggest that in fact Syrians hate the Assad/Hezbollah/Iran alliance and will end it once he is gone. France 24 reports as follows:

“Syrian opposition protesters are not just calling for the fall of President Bashar al-Assad: they have recently begun directing their anger against his regional allies, Iran and Hezbollah. Our Observer says this is a new and unexpected turn of events.

“Videos of recent protests in Syria show demonstrators chanting slogans against Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, the leader of Iran’s Islamic revolution, as well as the Hezbollah, an Islamist political party from Lebanon with a powerful armed wing. Even more surprising has been footage of protesters burning posters of Hassan Nasrallah, Hezbollah’s secretary-general and a widely respected figure throughout the Middle East.

“Their anger is a result of Tehran’s and Hezbollah’s unwavering support for the Syrian government, even as it ruthlessly crushes its own people’s calls for more democracy.”

The alliance with Iran and Hezbollah is seen by increasing numbers of Syrians, then, as one of the characteristics of the hated Assad regime. When Syrians get the chance, they will end both the regime and that alliance. The sooner Assad falls, the better—from every moral, political, and strategic point of view.

Post a Comment 6 Comments

  • Posted by Dean Smallwood

    This makes a lot of sense . Why would Syrians hate Assad and his domestic policies and yet embrace his alliances and foreign policies ? They appear ready to rid themselves of ALL things Assad and the sooner the better .

  • Posted by Maine's Michael

    Look for the Obama Admin to try and reward the Syrian replacement government with the Golan Heights.

  • Posted by Maine's Michael

    There is no geostrategic problem in the mid east that can’t be solved/lubricated with a bit of Jewish blood and tears.

    Much blood and tears went into the defeat of the Syrians on the Golan in ’67.

    What better inducement for whoever replaces Assad, in return for entering the western fold?

  • Posted by Garrard Glenn

    It will take the Israelis a long time before they feel comfortable returning the Golan Heights to any regime in Syria.

    The question is, how much is the C.I.A. backing the Syrian armed resistance via sympathetic Sunni groups in Iraq, and Lebanon?

    A bunch, I’ll warrant.

  • Posted by Salim Abdo

    Unlike what the writer concludes,any regime replaces Asad will be harder on Israel and the Syrian front will turn like the Lebanese before UN resolution 1701,the new rulers will overtake Iran in its stand against Israel ,they will move quickly to overthrow the regime in Saudi Arabia

  • Posted by Peter

    A consistent phenomenon is the number of Syrian security forces killed by opposition protestors. Of course the regime may be embellishing the numbers some, but in my view this still shows how different the Syrian picture is from Egypt — the Syrian population has a violent hatred for whole Baathist regime.

Post a Comment

CFR seeks to foster civil and informed discussion of foreign policy issues. Opinions expressed on CFR blogs are solely those of the author or commenter, not of CFR, which takes no institutional positions. All comments must abide by CFR's guidelines and will be moderated prior to posting.

* Required