Three scenarios appear plausible for Syria’s future: agreed transition; segregation; or disintegration. It is imperative that friends of Syria help Syrians create a scenario they can live with.
AMMAN – In 1942, Winston Churchill famously drew a distinction between “the end of the beginning” and “the beginning of the end”. That distinction is equally applicable to the unfolding crisis in Syria.
While intense battles continue in Idlib, Aleppo and Damascus, equally intense discourse is already in full swing anticipating the “day after” or the beginning of post-Assad Syria.
Undoubtedly, the Syrian revolution has reached a critical point. Despite equipment shortages and government brutality, the Free Syrian Army (FSA) has been able to show some significant advances. Following the successful planting of the bomb that killed three top inner circle officials, the FSA now effectively controls most of the border crossings between Turkey, Syria and Iraq, and with them, the critical supply lines from Iran which has thus far kept the regime afloat.
Some of the FSA’s recent strides can be attributed to the growing list of defectors that now includes generals, pilots, diplomats and even inner-circle officials like Brig-Gen Manaf Tlas, the son of former defense minister Mustapha Tlas and a recent close ally of Assad.
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As intense battles continue in Aleppo and Damascus and as the future of Syria remains uncertain, it is becoming clear who will ultimately lose this round in the Middle East Spring. Aside from the Assad Regime and his Alawite clan, if Syria falls into the hands of the opposition, the two biggest losers will be Iran and its Lebanese proxy Hezbollah. The two continue to fight despite the fact that it is unlikely that Assad will prevail, but at the same time they are also getting ready to cut their losses and focus on one important front: Intelligence. The Iran-Syria-Hezbollah triangle has been operating for decades, well before Bashar replaced his Father Hafiz Al-Assad in June 2000.
It is well known that Syria provided a safe haven for some of the most notorious Hezbollah terrorists. One such terrorist is Imad Mughniyeh who was linked to some of the worst attacks in America, Israel and even in Arab countries. Mughniyeh was eventually assassinated in 2008 in Damascus. Iran has been Hezbollah’s main sponsor since the early 1980s, contributing between 60 to 100 million dollars a year. A Pentagon report on the post-2006 Lebanon war period documents an increase of up to $200 million dollars in Hezbollah support from Iran, this in addition to millions more in weapons, training and logistical support. Hezbollah’s significant seed money helped them develop further sources of revenue. Hezbollah operates a drug trafficking operation that stretches from South America to Western Africa. These operations are headquartered in places like Brazil, where over 6 million people with Lebanese roots reside, and the Ivory Coast, home to 80,000 Lebanese residents. The RAND Corporation estimates that $20 million of Hezbollah’s funding each year is from the Tri-Border Area (Paraguay-Argentina-Brazil). In addition to using these funds to finance terrorist activities, Hezbollah also funnels them towards social welfare programs which help them maintain popularity and political influence in Lebanon.
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Leaders from 40 countries are heading to Washington today to attend a nuclear security summit that will likely dominate the headlines in the coming days. North Korea and Iran, two states with disputed nuclear ambitions, will not be there. It appears , according to Associated Press, that Syria was left off the invitation list as well since the US believes Damascus also has nuclear ambitions. This is one American view on Syria. But another could be heard following Senator John Kerry’s recent meeting with President Bashar al Assad in Damascus where they spoke of “mutual interests” and a constructive role for Syria in the region. In the midst of this, a new American Ambassador is about to assume office in Damascus to carry out a new policy of engagement with Syria. My recent post attempts to outline a few agenda items with the hope that engagement will become constructive.
A Reason to engage
Iranian Times International
In the midst of another round of violence in Iraq and following a summit with the Iranian and Hezbollah leaders hosted in Damascus, Senator John Kerry met President Bashar al Assad last Thursday in Damascus talking about “a mutual interest” and a “very frank exchange.” The Senate, on its part, concluded the first confirmation hearing on the nomination of Robert Ford as its ambassador there. Manning the post, which has been vacant since 2005, might serve as another indication that the United States is moving to re-engage with Syria as president Obama seeks to resuscitate Middle East peace talks. Some are already criticizing the move perceived as one that will give the Syrian president an added legitimacy without a tangible return. Others argue that engagement, if used correctly, is a powerful policy tool that could promote American interests. But on the side of this debate – and away from the political corridors of Washington – there are those who have long been waiting for American intervention. Their lives depend on it. View full post…