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: How to Avoid Civil War, and What to Ask Ambassador Ford.

by Elliott Abrams
August 3, 2011

I’ve recently written two articles on Syria. In the Wall Street Journal, I discussed what actions might be taken to help avoid sectarian conflict. The longer the current violence continues the more likely it is that the struggle for freedom will become a Sunni vs. Alawite conflict, given the fact that the Assad regime is led by Alawites in a majority-Sunni country. It would therefore be useful to reach out to the Alawite generals, urging that they choose to be survivors not war criminals, and save themselves and their community by distancing themselves from Assad and his mafia. And it would be useful to ask the opposition to Assad to clarify that they are anti-Assad not anti-Alawite, and seek a country where all minorities (Christian, Kurd, Druze, and Alawite) will be fully protected.

In The Weekly Standard I offered a series of questions for U.S. Ambassador to Syria Robert Ford. Ford was sent to Damascus under a recess appointment and is now seeking Senate confirmation. His hearing was held Tuesday, August 2, and did no credit to the U.S. Senate: as most senators left town immediately after the debt ceiling vote, only one showed up to question Ford. But they can submit questions in writing, and I suggest ten questions about U.S. policy and his role in it.

Post a Comment 9 Comments

  • Posted by yuval Brandstetter MD

    It seems Mr Elliot is not looking at the evidence presented in Egypt. Six months after ousting the local strongman, a day prior to placing him in a death-bed show trial, the Islamistas cleared the young liberals off Tahrir square telling them they have no business in governing a Muslim State. Concurrently the Copts, a minority of millions in egypt are being hounded to extinction or emigration. So who are the powers that can goad the People to brave Assad’s cannon? The Muslim Brotherhood of course. Should Assasd fall, the brotherhood will take over, which is tantamount to Hamas takeover, or Somali shabibah takeover, or Al qaida takeover. The “alterntive” is Turkey, Islamist Turkey, where the Christian minority is also hounded into extinction, deaming of the resurrected Khaliphate, Syria first, then Israel. Is the US going to guarantee the life of the Alawaites should they lay down their weapons? Yea, just as they guaranteed the Jewish lives in Germany 1939-1945, or the south-vietnamese, or the Hmong in Cambodia. The Alawaites are no fools. They see by the way the world treats the Jews what happens when one trusts the “international” community. They are likely to fight to the death, because the only choice in the ME is living on the swond, or falling on it.

  • Posted by lord garth

    There may be an upside to prolonging the Syrian conflict, namely, the disgracing and humiliation of Hezbollah and Iran. As the conflict continues, these two will have to commit more prestige and resources to Assad. If Assad then falls anyway, both will be seen as major losers.

    Of course, the more the conflict goes on, the more people are killed by Assad which is the main reason to make Assad leave sooner rather than later.

  • Posted by canadiansyrian

    why is it that the sunnis of syria have to assure the world that nothing is going to happen to the other minorities .
    the people in syria that need assurances are the SUNNI MAJORITY , theY are the ones who were SLAUGHTERD by the alawi for 40 YEARS.
    they who paid the price for 40 years.
    it was the BUTCHER Hafez assad who convinced the COMPLACENT US,EUOROP,ISREAL,that the alawi in power are the gaurantee for stability towards small minorities in syria , and the stability of isreal`s border.
    when the Arminians fleed Turkey`s killings they came to Syria.When the Druz and lebanes Christians fleed lebanon 1860 civil war, they came to syria.when iraqis christian fleed iraq they came to syria,
    IT WAS THE SUNNI MAJORITY`S TOLORANCE that gave these people refuge , NOT the alawi assad`s.
    the SUNNIS lived with harmony with the other minorities.
    If it were`nt for the SUNNIS tolorance , the Alawis WOULD`VE NEVER RULED SYRIA.

  • Posted by Dan Friedman

    These people have been slitting each other’s throats for a thousand years before a European set foot in America. Now Abrams & Co. come along to tell us things will turn out if only the warring factions would be reasonable. Pathetic.

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  • Posted by mjabali

    The Sunnis of Syria today are not the same liberal Sunnis of the 1950’s, for example. The rise of Salafi thinking in the Arab and Islamic worlds, backed by the petrodollars, left little room for tolerance in the ideology of most of the current Sunnis. This Salafi/rigid interpretation of things, is enhanced by the current spread of TV stations that mushroomed to send that area back in time more. TV stations like Wisal and Safa for example, gets into the daily life on any Sunni in the Middle East. These stations are not airing pro America or pro West ideas, on the contrary, Jihad is the main tone and getting into politics, like that of Syria for example, became a rallying cry for Sunnis all over the Middle East, whose dreams of ONE MUSLIM UMMA (Caliphate) state is about to be realized. Look at the tone of Turkey and how its ruling party is allying itself with the agenda of Saudia Arabia and the rest of the Sunni bloc.

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