By Barry Rubin
Before I remark on the idiotic analysis of the day, I have to write a disclaimer. Up to now I usually don’t remark on what David Ignatius writes but this latest article is too good–meaning too bad–to pass up. But first some background so you can see how things work behind the scenes in Washington DC.
I grew up within about two blocks of Mr. Ignatius. One of my best friends went to school with him. After my friend defeated Ignatius for the chairmanship of the school’s most prestigious club by a landslide, Mr. Ignatius said to him, “I could have beaten you if I’d wanted to!”
In 1982 or perhaps in 1983, I spoke at a conference about media reporting on the Lebanon war. I had witnessed, for the first time in person, the most amazing distortions of truth by the journalists there.
One notorious example I remember was a reporter standing in front of a Lebanese house claiming it had been callously destroyed by the Israeli forces. This statement was somewhat belied by the fact that a rather large and healthy tree was growing in the middle of the derelict building, extending its branches well above the level of the walls.
Knowing that Mr. Ignatius, who had reported the war, was on the panel, I stated several times something to the effect that, “This doesn’t apply to David Ignatius who did a great job.”
To my surprise, after the event he came up to me and angrily said, “You [word unsuitable for family publications] me and I’m going to get you.”
Some time later, he reviewed one of my books in a tiny publication that few if any read. It was the nastiest review I’ve ever received. But, as I say, nobody saw it and I only noticed because the publisher sent it to me.
About four or five years later I was attending some conference sitting at the dinner table with him and Ignatius said something to the effect that I had served my sentence, been punished enough, and so his wrath had been sated.
There. So now you can judge whether I am biased against him.
Ignatius, who has all along been a defender of Obama Administration policy toward Syria, wrote in the Washington Post:
“U.S. officials see signs that Syria’s embattled president, Bashar al-Assad, has concluded that to survive the massive protests against his regime, which continued today across the country, he will have to distance himself somewhat from Iran.
“Whatever happens in the anti-Assad protests, Iran is likely to lose some of its easy access to Syria, its key Arab ally. If Assad survives, he will have to establish some distance from Iran to appease Sunni protesters, U.S. officials believe. And it he’s toppled, Syria is likely to be ruled by a Sunni-dominated regime that will be more hostile to Iran.”
Now this is a sparkling example of the kind of idiocy that passes for analyzing the Middle East on the part of “U.S. officials” and big-name analysts in the media. I have not seen a single example of the demonstrators demanding that Assad distance himself from Iran.
Remember that Assad has adopted a strategy of identifying his opponents with America, Israel, and al-Qaida. He is toughing it out. Why would be want to distance himself from an ally which:
–Provides Muslim religious credentials to his regime ruled mostly by Alawites who are not Muslims. (When I once told an emigre Syrian Muslim journalist that a lot of people disagreed with me about Alawites not being Muslims, she laughed and said that everyone knew they weren’t.)
–Gives it strategic cover against the West and Israel. When Iran has nuclear weapons that umbrella of protection would be even more valuable.
–Pays a lot of its bills through subsidies.
–Pays for its weapons and for supporting joint Iran-Syria clients like Hamas and Hizballah.
The possibility of any decision by Assad to move away from Iran? Zero.
And if he’s toppled would there be a Sunni regime more hostile to Iran? That’s possible but unlikely. If he is overthrown by military officers–the most likely possibility–they would not change Syrian foreign policy.
True, a Muslim Brotherhood dominated regime might well be anti-Iran, as well as anti-American and eager to go to war with Israel. A moderate democratic government would be anti-Iran. But there are plenty of Islamists and radical nationalists who would align with Iran as their only good choice of strategic ally.
At any rate what this all amounts to is merely another argument that Assad is a moderate at heart. Don’t try to overthrow him and he’ll come around to realizing that America is his best friend. Really?
Why is it that president Obama called for the overthrow of Mubarak and somehow believes that Assad is better for American interests than the former Egyptian president? There is a risk of an Islamist takeover in Syria but it is certainly lower than it was in Egypt when the White House helped push that regime over.
Remember the Syrian regime is the main sponsor of the terrorists killing American soldiers in Iraq. It is the main sponsor of Hamas and Hizballah. It is seizing control of Lebanon and turning that country into a satellite. And it subverts any chance of peace with Israel.
This is the regime that the administration and its pet journalists wants to preserve?
What really irks me is that one virtually never ever sees any of the points made above even mentioned in the mass media though they are all obvious and well-documented.
Here’s a good policy for the United States: Assad should go now! Yesterday!
Uh-oh. I better watch out for that next book review!
Barry Rubin is director of the Global Research in International Affairs (GLORIA) Center, editor of the Middle East Review of International Affairs (MERIA) Journal, and a featured columnist for PajamasMedia at http://pajamasmedia.com/barryrubin/. His latest books are The Israel-Arab Reader (seventh edition), The Long War for Freedom: The Arab Struggle for Democracy in the Middle East (Wiley), and The Truth About Syria (Palgrave-Macmillan). The website of the GLORIA Center is http://www.gloria-center.org. His PajamaMedia columns are mirrored and other articles available at http://www.rubinreports.blogspot.com/.