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By Barry Rubin

As I’ve reported, Secretary of Defense Robert Gates is horrified by White House policies in the Middle East. Indeed, he has an extra reason for being upset since it is his military forces that have to manage the Libyan mess while simultaneously fighting wars in Iraq and Afghanistan while, on top of that, facing cutbacks and administration social engineering experiments in the armed forces.

Just after visiting Egypt, Gates became the first administration official to call openly for the success of the Syrian opposition in overturning that dictatorship. Precisely, he urged the Syrian army to “empower a revolution” as happened in Egypt. His statement was made as demonstrations grow in parts of Syria. (If you want to know more about Syria, you might consider reading my book, The Truth About Syria.)

Was he reflecting White House orders on this point? Possible but I doubt it. Let’s see if the president says anything about Syria. The White House did strongly condemn the Syrian government’s “brutal repression of demonstrations.” But that’s the kind of language routinely applied by it to lots of countries. Will anything about the U.S. conciliatory effort toward Damascus change? Senator John Kerry, chief appeaser of the Bashar al-Asad dictatorship, will no doubt go on doing so.

Meanwhile, the administration is dumping another ally in Yemen, a country where few should be naïve enough to expect anything approaching democracy.

As for Syria, can anyone tell us why the Syrian army will stand by the regime? Okay, I’ll do it. Syria is run by the Alawite minority who simply aren’t real Muslims but pretend to be Shia when that suits them. The Alawites know that a revolution would almost certainly produce an Islamist takeover and certainly a Sunni Muslim one. And such a regime would line a lot of the Alawites up against a wall and…bang, bang, bang.

That’s a good incentive for shooting down unarmed demonstrators. Kill or be killed.

Barry Rubin is Director of the Global Research in International Affairs (GLORIA) Center and editor of the Middle East Review of International Affairs (MERIA) Journal. His books include Islamic Fundamentalists in Egyptian Politics and The Muslim Brotherhood (Palgrave-Macmillan); and The Long War for Freedom: The Arab Struggle for Democracy in the Middle East, a study of Arab reform movements (Wiley). GLORIA Center site: His blog, Rubin Reports, 

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