Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Syria on the Brink

Is the Baathist regime in Syria cracking?

Syrian state-run television says the Cabinet has resigned as the country sees the worst unrest in decades.

President Bashar Assad accepted the Cabinet's resignation following a meeting Tuesday.

The resignation is the latest concession by the government aimed at appeasing more than a week of mass protests.

Hundreds of thousands are on the streets, however, protesting the regime. Will they accept these concessions or be emboldened by them?

And are the concessions being offered because the regime doesn't think it can crack down with force or because some in the ruling elite want one last chance to defuse the crisis before the slaughter is ordered? Are hard-liners straining at the leash to wade in with force?

The cabinet resignation is fairly irrelevant since it will just be musical chairs. Will enough Syrians out on the streets accept this as a victory? Maybe four months ago. But after seeing protesters bring down two governments and shake the pillars of power of other Arab rulers, I rather doubt it.

Strategypage has good background on this crisis. Sadly, the Christan minority (10% of the population) threw in their lot with the minority Allawite government (a common tactic of persecuted minorities). The 75% Sunni majority kept out of power should be told that foreign help requires restraint in handling the minorities if they defeat the Assad regime. I doubt the Baathists in Syria have the resources to mount resistance the way Iraq's Baathists did from 2003 to 2007 (and the Syrian Baathists won't have outside support the way Iraq's Baathists received from bordering Syria and Iran), but it would be best not to take chances.

Funny enough, Israel has become comfortable with the Assad regime's predictable hostility and in large part prefer the devil they know. Since they've managed this foe, they worry more about the chance of getting a more unpredictable enemy than they hope for getting a true peace partner.

This is a major development. Iran will work hard to keep their client Assad in power.

UPDATE: Thanks to Mad Minerva for the link.