Tag: Syrian Protests

« RÉFUGIÉS » EN PALESTINE, LE SOUTIEN D’OBAMA POUR LES FRÈRES MUSULMANS ET LA NAÎVETÉ OCCIDENTALE QUI AIDE L’IRAN

Compter les réfugiés de Palestine?

Daniel Pipes

National Review Online, 29 mai 2012

Adaptation française: Anne-Marie Delcambre de Champvert

Le cœur fétide et sombre de la guerre des Arabes contre Israël, ai-je longuement argumenté, ne réside pas dans les litiges sur Jérusalem, les points de contrôle, ou les "colonies". Il concerne plutôt les soi-disant réfugiés de Palestine.

Ainsi appelés [«soi-disant»] parce que de presque 5 millions de réfugiés officiels dont s'occupe l'UNRWA (l'abréviation pour «Office de secours et de travaux des Nations Unies pour les réfugiés de Palestine dans le Proche-Orient »), seulement environ 1% sont de vrais réfugiés qui correspondent à la définition de l'office « les personnes dont le lieu de résidence habituel était la Palestine entre juin 1946 et mai 1948, qui ont perdu à la fois leur maison et leur gagne-pain à la suite du conflit israélo-arabe de 1948 ». Les autres 99 % sont des descendants de ces réfugiés, ou ce que j'appelle les faux réfugiés

Pire: ceux qui étaient en vie en 1948 sont en train de mourir et dans une cinquantaine d'années pas un seul vrai réfugié sera encore en vie, alors que (extrapolant à partir d'une estimation faisant autorité dans Refugee Survey Quarterly par Mike Dumper) les faux descendants de réfugiés seront au nombre de 20 millions. Sans contrôle, la population va grandir très rapidement sans jamais s'arrêter jusqu'à la fin des temps. [L’origine de l'expression employée par Daniel Pipes « grandir comme Topsy » c'est la petite esclave Topsy dans la case de l'oncle Tom (NDLT)]

Cela est important parce que le statut de réfugié a des effets néfastes: Il gâche la vie de ces millions de non réfugiés en les privant de leurs droits tout en leur imposant un vilain, irrédentiste et irréaliste rêve. Pire, le statut de réfugié les garde comme un poignard permanent visant le cœur d’Israël, menaçant l'État juif et perturbant le Moyen-Orient. Résoudre le conflit israélo-arabe – si on le dit en peu de mots – exige de mettre fin à la mascarade absurde et nuisible de la prolifération des faux réfugiés de Palestine et de leur installation à vie [dans ce statut]. 1948 c'est passé ; il est temps de devenir réaliste.

Je suis fier d'annoncer que, se fondant en partie sur les travaux effectués par Steven J. Rosen et moi-même au forum du Moyen Orient, au cours de l'année passée, la commission du crédit budgétaire du Sénat américain, le 24 mai a voté à l'unanimité un amendement limité mais potentiellement important aux 52,1 milliards du projet de loi de l'exercice fiscal 2013 pour les crédits budgétaires du ministère des affaires étrangères. L'amendement, proposé par Mark Kirk (républicain de l'Illinois) exige que le ministère des Affaires étrangères informe le Congrès à propos de l'utilisation annuelle de 240 millions de dollars provenant de fonds directs des contribuables américains donnés aux réfugiés de Palestine via l'UNRWA. Combien de bénéficiaires, demande Kirk, répondent à la définition de l'UNRWA citée ci-dessus, pour être considérés comme de vrais réfugiés? Et combien ne le sont pas, mais sont les descendants de ces réfugiés?

L'amendement Kirk n'appelle pas à éliminer ou même à réduire les prestations aux faux réfugiés. Malgré son caractère limité, Kirk appelle l'obligation d'information légale "un tournant" En effet, cela a inspiré ce qu' un haut conseiller du sénat appartenant à ce vieux grand parti républicain [GOP « Grand Old Party » désigne le parti républicain(NDLT)] a appelé «une opposition énorme» du gouvernement jordanien et de l'UNRWA elle-même, causant ce que Josh Rogin du magazine Foreign Policy appelle une bataille qui fait rage.

Pourquoi cette rage? Parce que, si le ministère des affaires étrangères est contraint de faire la différence entre véritables réfugiés de Palestine et les faux réfugiés, le gouvernement des États-Unis et d'autres gouvernements occidentaux (qui, ensemble, recouvrent plus de 80 pour cent du budget de l'UNRWA) pourraient finalement décider de supprimer les faux [réfugiés]et par ce moyen porter atteinte à leur revendication d'un "droit au retour" en Israël.

Malheureusement, l'administration Obama a bâclé cette question. Une lettre du ministre adjoint des Affaires étrangères, Thomas R.Nides s'oppose à la version antérieure de l'amendement Kirk démontrant une incohérence complète. D'une part, Nides déclare que Kirk voudrait, en forçant le gouvernement américain à « rendre un jugement public sur le nombre et le statut des réfugiés palestiniens … préjuger et déterminer l'issue de cette question sensible. » D'autre part, Nides lui-même se réfère à « environ cinq millions de réfugiés [de Palestine], » ce qui amalgame les réfugiés vrais et faux – et juge d'avance précisément la question qu'il désire fortement laisser ouverte. Cette déclaration de 5 millions de réfugiés n'était pas un coup de chance ; quand interrogé à ce sujet, le porte-parole du ministre des Affaires étrangères Patrick Ventrell a confirmé que « le gouvernement américain soutient » le principe directeur consistant à «reconnaître les descendants des réfugiés comme réfugiés. »

En outre, en prédisant une « très forte réaction négative [à l'amendement] de la part des Palestiniens et de nos alliés dans la région, en particulier la Jordanie, » Nides a invité les Arabes à faire pression sur le Sénat des États-Unis, une sale manœuvre indigne du ministère des Affaires étrangères.

À travers l'ensemble des 64 ans d'existence d'Israël, tous les présidents américains, l'un après l'autre, ont décidé de résoudre le conflit israélo-arabe, mais chacun d'eux a ignoré le plus laid des aspects de ce conflit – l'exploitation délibérée de la question des réfugiés pour contester l'existence même de l'État juif. Bravo au sénateur Kirk et à son équipe pour avoir eu la sagesse et le courage de commencer l'effort pour aborder les réalités désagréables, initiant un changement qui va finalement parvenir au cœur du conflit.

Massacres en Syrie : la doctrine Obama en action

Guy Millière

dreuz.info, 30 mai 2012

Il n’est pas de bon ton de critiquer Barack Obama en France où il a toujours le statut d’un demi dieu, ou peu s’en faut. Il serait carrément sacrilège de le traiter de criminel de guerre. Cette expression pouvant paraître excessive, j’en choisirai une autre, et je dirai que c’est un irresponsable dont l’irresponsabilité fait des morts par centaines, si ce n’est par milliers. A son tableau de chasse, il y a l’arrivée des islamistes au pouvoir au Maroc et en Tunisie, le chaos qui règne en Egypte et en Libye, le pillage des arsenaux du régime Kadhafi et la dissémination de leur contenu vers l’Afrique subsaharienne, où vient de naître la République islamique de l’Azawad dans le Nord du Mali. On peut ajouter l’abandon de l’Irak à l’Iran et le retour, programmé, des talibans en Afghanistan, la mainmise accentuée du Hezbollah sur le Liban et le glissement progressif de la Turquie vers l’islam radical sans que celle-ci quitte l’Otan.

On pourrait ajouter aussi l’avancée de l’Iran vers l’arme nucléaire sans que des sanctions efficaces aient été prises (Obama a toujours refusé des sanctions efficaces, celles touchant la Banque centrale d’Iran par exemple), et l’abandon des modérés en Syrie au profit d’une cohorte menée par les Frères musulmans, eux-mêmes soutenus par le Qatar et l’Arabie Saoudite. Face à l’Iran, la plus grande crainte d’Obama était qu’Israël décide d’agir. Et il s’est employé à ce qu’Israël n’agisse pas, en contribuant à faire divulguer les projets d’action israéliens. Il est parvenu à obtenir du gouvernement israélien une promesse de non intervention pour une durée de six mois, qui conduira après les élections présidentielles de novembre, ce aux fins, a-t-il dit, d’obtenir un « accord » de Khamenei par l’entremise de la Russie.

Face à la Syrie, ce qu’Obama ne voulait pas était trancher. Et il s’est employé à ne pas avoir à trancher et à laisser le bain de sang se poursuivre. Il a, sur ce plan, l’intention de parvenir à un accord avec la Russie, qui soutient le régime Assad et entend garder sa base militaire à Tartous et avec l’Iran, sans offusquer le Qatar, l’Arabie Saoudite et la Turquie, ce qui ne sera pas simple (se courber devant tout ce monde à la fois n’est effectivement pas simple). Obama espère parvenir à l’accord dans la période de six mois susdite.

Les effets concrets de cette politique sont que l’Iran sait disposer de six mois de tranquillité pour vaquer à ses occupations et, fort du soutien de la Russie, peut envoyer des combattants en Syrie soutenir Assad. Ils sont qu’Assad sait ne pas risquer une intervention directe et pouvoir garder les mains libres. Les Casques bleus en Syrie font ce qu’ils font partout ailleurs, ils regardent passer les balles et ils comptent les cadavres. Les envoyés de l’ONU font ce qu’ils savent faire : ils parlent pour ne rien dire. Les tueurs font eux aussi ce qu’ils savent faire : ils tuent. Que va-t-il se passer ?

L’Iran va sans aucun doute accélérer ses travaux nucléaires, et il n’y aura pour les retarder que des virus informatiques, fort heureusement très performants. Obama et ses amis russes ne parviendront à aucun accord avec Khamenei avant l’élection présidentielle américaine : des réunions comme celle qui vient de se tenir à Bagdad se tiendront encore, avec Catherine Ashton et un Chinois pour jouer les figurants. Les communiqués finaux diront : « dialogue constructif, pas d’avancé significative ». Si Obama est réélu, il proposera sans doute un échange de l’abandon de son programme nucléaire par l’Iran contre une dénucléarisation générale du Proche-Orient qui visera au premier chef Israël. Israël devra, alors, agir, ou se soumettre, en sachant que les promesses de l’Iran ne vaudront que pour ceux qui croient aux promesses de l’Iran. Si Obama est battu, il sera urgent de changer d’orientation, vraiment urgent.

Que va-t-il se passer, disais-je. Le régime Assad va sans doute faire son possible pour massacrer le plus grand nombre d’opposants dans le minimum de temps. Puis, il pourra y avoir une continuation du régime Assad sans Assad, avec quelques compensations pour les Frères musulmans. Il n’est pas certain que les Frères musulmans acceptent le marché, d’autant plus que du côté sunnite, interviennent des gens d’al Qaida en nombre croissant. Si Obama est réélu, un régime Assad sans Assad allié à l’Iran sera en place dans un contexte où la guerre civile pourrait fort bien continuer. Si Obama est battu, il faudra là aussi changer d’orientation. Et ce sera très difficile. 

Bilan global pour l’heure? Les Frères musulmans sont les grands gagnants de l’hiver islamique qui a déferlé sur le monde arabe. Il n’est pas certain qu’ils seront gagnants aussi en Syrie. Le soutien qu’Obama leur a apporté jusque là se heurte, là, à la complaisance d’Obama vis-à-vis de l’Iran et de la Russie. Israël est isolé régionalement et se trouve contraint de tolérer la politique d’apaisement d’Obama vis-à-vis de l’Iran et de la Russie, jusqu’à novembre.

Les Etats-Unis sous Obama en sont réduits à être les alliés des Frères musulmans et à se soumettre, pour l’essentiel, aux exigences russes et iraniennes. Les Etats-Unis n’ont jamais été dans un tel abaissement depuis les années Carter. Et même Carter ne s’est pas aussi mal conduit qu’Obama vis-à-vis d’Israël, c’est dire. Il faudra un jour compter les morts provoqués par la politique Obama sur la planète. Mais il restera sacrilège de le traiter de criminel de guerre, bien sûr.

 La naïveté de l’Occident face au nucléaire iranien

Centre des Affaires Publiques et de l'État, Jérusalem, 31 mai 2012

Ces jours-ci nous entendons dans les capitales occidentales un son de cloche qui laisse à penser que les Iraniens sont cette fois-ci assez sérieux dans la volonté de discuter de leur programme nucléaire. Des diplomates soulignent que l’Iran s’est présenté aux pourparlers devant les représentants du Forum 5 + 1 (les cinq pays permanents du Conseil de Sécurité + l’Allemagne) sans conditions préalables. Yukiya Amano, directeur de l’Agence Internationale pour l’Energie Atomique (AIEA) a même déclaré qu’un accord entre les deux parties pourrait être signé prochainement. Catherine Ashton, la représentante de la Communauté européenne, a estimé que ces discussions « s’achemineront vers le début de la fin du programme nucléaire de l’Iran ».

Ces estimations optimistes, en particulier celles d’Ashton, sont incompatibles avec les amères expériences que l’Occident avait subies lors des précédents pourparlers. Déjà en 2002, suite à la première divulgation de l’infrastructure iranienne pour l’enrichissement d’uranium, une commission composée de la Grande-Bretagne, de la France, et de l’Allemagne (UE-3) avait négocié avec l’Iran pour qu’il cesse ses travaux. Le 21 octobre 2003, à Téhéran, le Forum UE-3 avait conclu avec les Iraniens « de suspendre toute activité d’enrichissement de l’uranium » ainsi que de cesser les efforts de production du plutonium. La suite est bien connue et illustre parfaitement les intentions de l’Iran. Ce pays n’est pas capable de respecter ses engagements et ses promesses.

Après la signature de cet accord, les diplomates iraniens ont trouvé toutes sortes de prétexte et ont affirmé que cet accord n’était valable que sur l’introduction du gaz uranium dans les centrifugeuses de l’usine de Nataz et qu’il ne se référait pas à toutes les autres étapes préliminaires nécessaires au processus. Les Iraniens ont réitéré leur droit de poursuive la construction de centrifugeuses. L’étape de pré-enrichissement est surnommée « conversion » et elle comprend l’utilisation de l’uranium intitulé « gâteau jaune ». C’est par ce processus que le gaz produit est introduit dans les centrifugeuses. En 2003, l’Iran n’avait pas encore de site de conversion. En 2005, juste après les négociations avec les Occidentaux, les Iraniens avaient déjà réussi à compléter l’installation à Ispahan et l’avaient mis en marche, et ce en proclamant la fin de la suspension du programme d’enrichissement.

Dans un discours tenu secret, Hassan Rouhani, chef de la délégation iranienne aux négociations, s’était vanté d’affirmer que les Iraniens ont profité de ces négociations pour pouvoir installer leur site à Ispahan. La manière dont l’Iran a utilisé les négociations est l’une des pierres angulaires de sa diplomatie essentiellement basée sur la diversion et l’abus de confiance. Dans son ouvrage, « régime islamique », publié avant la révolution de 1979, Ayatollah Khomeiny, explique à ses fidèles que « dans chaque discussion nous devons garder le principe de la « Takya », nous devons présenter un certain souhait tout en cachant nos véritables intentions. » Ainsi fonctionne la diplomatie iranienne au sujet du programme nucléaire. L’ancien ambassadeur britannique à Téhéran, Sir Denis Wright, expliqua le phénomène en disant un jour: « les Iraniens disent le contraire de ce qu’ils pensent et font le contraire de ce qu’ils disent ».

Ces remarques ne sont pas des propos racistes mais reflètent bien la manière dont est appliquée la tradition religieuse -chiite dans les débats diplomatiques disputés aujourd’hui entre l’Iran et l’occident. Dans toute négociation avec l’Iran le principe de transparence demeure essentiel. Le contrôle des installations secrètes a été à plusieurs reprises retardé en violation flagrante des engagements. Les Iraniens avaient profité du laps de temps pour enterrer les preuves incriminantes.

Pour exemple, les Iraniens ont retiré le carrelage des murs dans le site électrique de Kalia, pour empêcher les inspecteurs de l’AIEA à vérifier les restes des produits radioactifs issus des essais effectués dans les nouvelles centrifugeuses.  Dans l’institut de recherche de Levisane, destiné au recyclage à des fins militaires, les Iraniens ont simplement détruit six bâtiments et ont même retiré de profondes couches de terre afin qu’on ne puisse prélever des échantillons radioactifs. En janvier 2005, au cours d’une inspection à Parchine, les Iraniens ont également limité le mouvement des inspecteurs à certains bâtiments précis. Nous devrions comprendre que chez les ayatollahs, la différence existe bien entre un accord de principe et entre ce que l’on pourra faire sur le terrain.

Toutefois, afin de répondre à la question si l’Iran respecterait les accords conclus avec l’Occident, il est important de ne pas s’attarder uniquement sur les détails techniques. Déjà en juillet 1991, le guide suprême iranien, ayatollah Ali Khamenei expliquait que la stratégie de la sécurité nationale de l’Iran est surtout expansionniste. Le général Kassem Suleiman, commandant des forces d’al Qouds au sein des Gardiens de la révolution, a affirmé récemment : « l’Irak et le sud Liban sont sous contrôle de Téhéran. » Autrement dit, l’Occident ne négocie pas avec un des pays possédant une infrastructure nucléaire, tel que le Japon ou la Suède mais avec un Etat aux ambitions hégémoniques qui ignore éperdument l’optimisme qui s’est emparé actuellement chez les diplomates occidentaux!

SYRIAN DESCENT INTO DARKNESS CAN ENGULF HEZBULLAH, ISOLATE IRAN

 

 

SYRIA PROTEST LARGEST YET:
HUNDREDS OF THOUSANDS DEMONSTRATE, 17 KILLED
Zeina Karam & Elizabeth A. Kennedy
Huffington Post, July 15, 2011

 

Hundreds of thousands of Syrians mounted the largest protests Friday since the uprising began more than four months ago, pouring into areas where the government crackdown has been most intense in a sign that security forces cannot break the revolt.

Syrian authorities fired on the crowds, killing at least 17 people and wounding more than 100, activists said. In a significant show of the uprising’s strength, thousands turned out in the capital, Damascus, which had seen only scattered protests. Until now, much of the dissent against President Bashar Assad has been in impoverished, remote areas. “This is the heart of the regime,” said David Schenker, director of the Program on Arab Politics at The Washington Institute for Near East Policy. “So I think if these protests (in Damascus) continue and gain strength, it will be the beginning of the end of the regime.…”

Friday’s protests stretched from Damascus and its suburbs to Hasakeh and Idlib provinces in the north, Daraa in the south and Latakia on the coast. Thousands converged on the flashpoint cities of Homs and Hama in central Syria, among other areas across the nation of 22 million. Crowds chanted “We don’t love you Bashar!” and “Leave Bashar!” before security forces and pro-regime gunmen opened fire with bullets and tear gas.…

One of the largest protests Friday took place in Hama, Syria’s fourth-largest city and an opposition stronghold that has a history of dissent. Assad’s late father and predecessor, Hafez, crushed a Sunni uprising in 1982 by shelling the town in a massacre that has been seared into the minds of Syrians, contributing to the pervasive sense of fear that silenced nearly every rumbling of dissent for decades. Amnesty International has claimed that Hafez Assad’s siege on Hama killed 10,000-25,000 people, although conflicting figures exist and the Syrian government has made no official estimate.…

Friday’s death toll included 11 people in Damascus, three in the northwestern city of Idlib, one in the central city of Homs and two in Daraa in the south, according to the Local Coordinating Committees, which have a network of sources on the ground.…

 

SYRIA’S DESCENT INTO DARKNESS
Rick Moran

FrontPage, July 19, 2011

 

 

Violence erupted in three Syrian cities over the weekend as President Bashar Assad continues his efforts to put down incipient revolts against his 11-year rule. But while protests against the regime appeared to be spreading, the government mounted a number of massive demonstrations in support of the dictator in Damascus, as well as Syria’s second largest city, Aleppo.

Most troubling for Assad is the specter of sectarian violence in the city of Homs that raised its head for the first time in the revolt, and the defection of a significant military force in the Iraqi border town of Abu Kamal. This may be a signal that the conscripts that have been ordered to shoot down civilians in the streets are weakening in their allegiance to the regime despite brutal methods to keep them in line.

And in another sign that the rebellion isn’t going to be put down easily, Syrian activists met in Istanbul over the weekend and formed a 25-man “National Salvation Council” made up of all segments of the opposition to challenge President Assad’s hold on the country.…

In the four months of protests and revolt, there have been a few reports of Syrian troops defecting but nothing as large as what appears to have occurred in Abu Kamal. The Syrian army, about 200,000 strong, is made up largely of Sunni conscripts, officered by members of the ruling minority sect of Alawites. There is also a group of Alawite irregulars greatly feared by the population for their brutality. The shabbiha, black-clad loyalists about 10,000 strong, have been deployed in several trouble spots and have enforced army discipline by shooting soldiers who refuse to fire on civilians. They have also been accused of atrocities against protesters.

Mahar Assad commands Syria’s best combat unit, the 4th Armored Division, and the Republican Guard—each about 10,000 men. They are better paid and trained than the conscripts and can be counted on to follow orders if told to shoot down civilians.

The Alawites make up only about 7% of Syria’s population, but hold most of the important positions in government and the military, and dominate the economy. If Assad were to fall, the probability of a Sunni takeover would mean an end to favored treatment of officers and government employees. It is this base of support that Assad is calling upon as the protests against his rule mount.…

It isn’t only Alawites who are loyal to the Syrian president, but also members of other minorities including Christians, Druze and Shias who see Assad as their “protector” against rampant sectarianism represented by the 85% Sunni majority. As if to hammer that point home, sectarian violence broke out for the first time in the embattled city of Homs when the bodies of three Alawites who had been kidnapped turned up dead. This set off a reaction against Sunnis when Alawites stormed through a Sunni neighborhood taking their revenge. Up to 30 people were killed in the violence over the weekend.…

As in most Muslim countries, the possibility of violence between the sects is ever present. In Lebanon, Bahrain, and Iraq, domestic unrest brings long standing rivalries to the surface. A strongman like Assad or Saddam Hussein, or the draconian policies of the mullahs in Iran against minorities can usually keep the lid on by brutal repression. But let slip the bonds of civil society and the end result has been shown to be killings, which beget revenge murders, which lead to more deaths, until the spiraling violence engulfs the nation.…

(Rick Moran is blog editor of The American Thinker, and Chicago editor of Pajamas Media.)

 

THE SYRIAN CHALLENGE
Reuel Marc Gerecht
Weekly Standard, July 18, 2011

 

The administration’s policy toward Syria is shaping up to be the greatest missed opportunity of Barack Obama’s presidency. His failure of vision and nerve…has allowed Syria to drop off Washington’s radar screen. But if Syria were to break the right way and the regime in Damascus were to fall, the most tenacious state-sponsor of terrorism in the Arab world—Tehran’s strongest ally and the lifeline to the terrorism-loving Lebanese Hezbollah—would be taken out. Alas, an administration that came into office only a little less eager to engage Damascus than Tehran seems stuck in its stillborn Israeli-Palestinian peace process and the turmoil of the Great Arab Revolt.…

The uncertainties of the Arab Spring and the North Atlantic Treaty Organization’s air war in Libya have spooked the administration. Its “realist” tendencies are well known, and “realism” powerfully comes to the fore when a president doesn’t know what to do—or believes that the United States can do little. The safest and easiest bet then is to do nothing—the essence of most “realist” policy.

Such “prudence,” “restraint,” and “patience”—the administration is fond of these words—can be commendable when a situation is messy or murky. But neither applies in Syria. This is an easy call: We have a chance to eliminate one of America’s worst enemies in the region—the linchpin of Iran’s alliances and terrorist apparatus. We have a chance to traumatize Tehran: The world will look a lot more precarious to supreme leader Ali Khamenei and a lot more hopeful to the millions behind Iran’s pro-democracy Green Movement if Bashar al-Assad goes down. The importance of Syria to Iranian foreign policy and internal politics cannot be overstated.

Through Syria, we have a chance to convulse the politics of Lebanon, where Hezbollah, revolutionary Iran’s only Arab offspring, now reigns supreme. The organization does not own the majority Shia community of Lebanon; the potential political diversity of the Shia has been stymied by Hezbollah’s military and economic power, which depend on its ties to Damascus and Tehran.…

If Assad falls, Hezbollah will have no choice but to hunker down and avoid any conflict with Israel. If even the most rudimentary, morally repugnant, Islamist-felicitous, Israeli-cursing democracy arose in Damascus, we still might see the Arab world realign decisively toward representative government. Egypt, Iraq, and Syria have been the engines of modern Arab thought; if they all embrace popularly elected governments, Middle Eastern Muslims may evolve in a direction that will make both state-sponsored terrorism and al Qaeda-type extremist movements unsustainable. The most modern Arab societies—Egypt, Tunisia, Syria, Iraq, Libya, and Algeria—have been brutalized so badly by secular Arab police states that this process will not be quick or easy.…

In Syria, most protesters have probably come from the average Sunni faithful, the non-college-educated men and women of the smaller towns who have no commercial ties to the regime, as do the Sunni elite of Aleppo and Damascus. The protesters have proven astonishingly brave. And their calls for self-government have been crystal clear. They have—so far—been amazingly resistant to calls for attacks on the ruling Alawite community. It’s hard to believe that this moderation will last, however, if the regime’s savage reprisals against the Sunni demonstrators continue.

It is sad that the American ambassador in Syria, Robert Ford, has been trying to encourage the protesters to engage the regime. It beggars the imagination that Thomas E. Donilon, Obama’s über-realist national security adviser, thinks Bashar has any intention of liberalizing, let alone democratizing, his rule. If Assad survives, he’ll most likely turn his draconian police state into an Orwellian one. And if Assad survives, Obama loses. Iran, Hezbollah, and all the bad actors in the Middle East (most of whom have offices in Damascus) are going to rejoice.…

Syria is the most important state to be convulsed by the Great Arab Revolt. It offers the prospect of a devastating setback to America’s worst enemies. And the Obama administration hasn’t yet blown it. Time remains, thanks to the courage of ordinary Syrians.… American power cannot effectively be deployed unless Washington senses that a great victory can be won. Does President Obama have this strategic sense? Does he know how to marry power politics to idealism?

(Reuel Marc Gerecht is a senior fellow at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies.)

 

FIVE STEPS TO HASTEN ASSAD’S EXIT
Editorial

Foreign Policy Initiative, July 14, 2011

 

Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s security forces have killed as many 1,600 civilians since protests began in March. Human rights organizations also estimate that at least 12,000 Syrians have been arrested or detained. In response, the White House has publicly condemned the Assad regime’s violent and lethal suppression of Syrian protestors, and imposed U.S. sanctions on certain Syrian government officials and entities for human rights abuses.

But until recently, the Obama administration had avoided calling for the Syrian dictator to step down—and instead appeared to hold out hope that Assad would yet prove himself to be a “reformer.” That began to change on July 11, 2011, when Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said that the United States has “absolutely nothing invested in him remaining in power.…”

In the long term, a democratic and moderate Syria is in America’s interest and would benefit regional stability. As the Executive Branch and Congress mull changes to U.S. policy towards Syria, this FPI Fact Sheet outlines five steps that the United States can take to hasten Assad’s exit.

(1) Unequivocally call for Bashar al-Assad to step down

The United States should leave no doubt that it sides with the Syrian people by demanding that President Bashar al-Assad immediately step down. It is worth noting that France has already done this. For example, as French Foreign Minister Alain Juppé said: “The situation is now very clear. In Syria, the process of reform is dead and we think that Bashar has lost his legitimacy to rule the country. And so we are in exactly the same position as we are in Libya.…”

(2) Further sanction the Assad regime for human rights abuses

The United States should work to impose further unilateral and multilateral sanctions on the Assad regime for its ongoing human rights abuses.

First, the White House should get other countries—especially in Europe—to impose sanctions similar to those that the United States has already imposed on the Syrian government, such as:

* The Syria Accountability and Lebanese Sovereignty Restoration Act of 2003 (Public Law 108-175), which already forbids a wide range of U.S. exports to Syria.

* Executive Order 13572, signed by President Obama on April 29, 2011, which targets the property and interests not only of several high-ranking Syrian officials and entities, but also of Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps—Qods Force, which is believed to be aiding Syria’s crackdown on protestors.

* Executive Order 13573, signed by President Obama on May 18, 2011, which expands the list of Syrian officials sanctioned by the United States for human rights abuses to include Bashar al-Assad himself, as well as Syria’s vice president, prime minister, defense and interior ministers, and head of military intelligence.

Second, the Executive Branch and Congress should push for multilateral sanctions on Syria’s energy industry and other sectors that fund the Assad regime. The petroleum sector alone provides as much as a third of the Syrian government’s revenue.…

Third, the Obama administration should redouble efforts to get the United Nations Security Council to pass measures in response to the Syrian government’s human rights abuses.…

(3) Withdraw the U.S. Ambassador to Syria and expel Syria’s Ambassador to the United States

President Obama should recall the U.S. Ambassador to Syria—unless the administration is willing to use him as a proactive and public advocate for the Syrian people in their struggle against Assad. Notwithstanding Ambassador Robert Ford’s praiseworthy visit to Hama on July 8, 2011, the continued presence of a U.S. envoy in Damascus lends legitimacy to the Assad regime.…

Moreover, the United States, on principle, should immediately expel Syria’s Ambassador to the United States, Imad Mustapha, for the provocative actions of Syrian officials against American citizens on U.S. soil.…

(4) Pressure the Assad regime over its secret nuclear program

The continuing controversy over Syria’s covert nuclear program gives the United States another lever to pressure the Assad regime internationally.

In September 2007, an Israeli airstrike destroyed the plutonium-producing nuclear reactor that Syria had secretly built, with North Korean assistance, near the town of al-Kibar—a reactor that the Assad regime could have used to acquire fissile material for use in nuclear weapons. As a signatory to the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty (NPT), Syria was obligated to declare the existence of the al-Kibar reactor to the world’s nuclear watchdog, the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA).

In response, IAEA inspectors tried to investigate Syria’s nuclear program to make sure that no other undeclared nuclear sites or weapons-related nuclear activities exist. Syria, however, repeatedly stonewalled the IAEA’s investigation. As a result, the IAEA’s 35-nation Board of Governors voted on June 9, 2011, to find Syria in “noncompliance” with its international obligations, and send its case to the U.N. Security Council for further action.

The United States should use Syria’s referral to the U.N. Security Council to pursue sanctions and pressure the Assad regime to come clean about the complete scope and history of its secret nuclear activities.…

(5) Get Turkey to exert pressure on the Assad regime

Finally, the United States should encourage Turkey to pressure President Assad to step down. Although Ankara has tried to pursue a so-called “No Problems” foreign policy to increase its regional influence, the Syrian government’s continuing crackdown on protestors has led thousands of refugees to flee into Turkey.…

Conclusion

Unless President Obama gets serious about the Assad regime, the world will face a slow-motion human rights disaster in Syria. In addition to those on the Syrian street who look to Washington for leadership, other dictators are paying attention. The United States therefore must do all it can to side with the Syrian people and hasten Assad’s exit.

NO LIGHT ON THE ROAD TO DAMASCUS— SYRIA BURNS AS OBAMA FIDDLES

 

 

The Canadian Institute for Jewish Research cordially invites you to its

23rd Anniversary Gala

 

Wednesday, June 15, 2011
Congregation Shaar Hashomayim
450 Avenue Kensington, Westmount, Quebec, Canada

DISTINGUISHED KEYNOTE SPEAKER

MOSHE ARENS
Former Israeli Defense Minister and Ambassador to the U.S.

 

Also Featuring

Prof. Barry Rubin

Outstanding internationally-renowned Middle East analyst

 

Tax receipts will be issued for the maximum allowable amount

 

For additional information. or to register for the 23rd Anniversary Gala,
please call Yvonne at 514-486-5544 or contact us by e-mail at yvonne@isranet.org
.

 

 

 

SYRIA: WHERE MASSACRE IS A FAMILY TRADITION
Fouad Ajami

Wall Street Journal, June 13, 2011

 

Pity the Syrians as they face the Assad regime’s tanks and artillery and snipers. Unlike in Libya, there is no Arab or international “mandate” to protect them. Grant Syria’s rulers their due: Their country rides with the Iranian theocracy and provides it access to the Mediterranean. It is a patron of Hamas and Hezbollah. And still they managed to sell the outside world on the legend of their moderation.

True, Damascus was at one time or another at odds with all its neighbors—Turkey, Lebanon, Jordan, Iraq, Israel—but it managed to remain in the good graces of the international community. It had made a mockery of Lebanon’s sovereignty, murdered its leaders at will. Yet for all the brutality and audacity of the Syrian reign of terror and plunder in Lebanon, the Syrians were able to convince powers beyond that their writ was still preferable to the chaos that would engulf Lebanon were they to leave.

In the same vein, Damascus was able to pull off an astonishing feat: Syria was at once the “frontline” state that had remained true to the struggle against Israel, and the country that kept the most tranquil border with the Jewish state. (As easily as Syria’s rulers kept the peace of that border, they were able to shatter it recently, sending Palestinian refugees to storm the border across the Golan Heights.)

It was the writer Daniel Pipes who rightly said that Syria’s leaders perennially wanted the “peace process” but not peace itself. Their modus operandi was thus: Keep the American envoys coming, hold out the promise of accommodation with Israel, tempt successive U.S. administrations with a grand bargain, while your proxies in Lebanon set ablaze the Lebanese-Israeli border and your capital houses Hamas and all the terrible Palestinian rejectionists.

Syria could have it both ways: ideological and rhetorical belligerence combined with unsentimental diplomacy and skullduggery. The Iranians wanted access to Lebanon and its border with Israel. The Syrians sold it to them at a price. They were unapologetic about it before other Arabs, but they kept alive the dream that they could be “peeled off” from Iran, that theirs was a modern, secular nation that looked with a jaundiced eye on the ways of theocracies.

Syria’s rulers were Alawites, schismatics, to the Sunni purists a heresy. Yet as America battled to put a new order in Iraq in place, Syria was the point of transit for Sunni jihadists from other Arab lands keen to make their way there to kill and be killed. The American project there was being bloodied, and this gave the Syrians a reprieve, for they feared they would be next if Washington looked beyond Iraq for other targets.

It was that sordid game that finally convinced George W. Bush that the Syrians had to pay a price for their duplicity. The American support for the 2005 “Cedar Revolution” in Lebanon then followed, and the Syrians made a hasty retreat. In time they would experience a seller’s remorse, and they would try to regain what they had given up under duress.

Barack Obama provided the Syrian dictatorship with a diplomatic lifeline. He was keen to “engage” Tehran and Damascus, he was sure that Syrian radicalism had been a response to the heavy hand of the Bush administration. An American ambassador was dispatched to Damascus, and an influential figure in the Democratic Party, Sen. John Kerry, made it his calling to argue that the young Syrian ruler was, at heart, a “reformer” eager to sever his relations with Iran and Hezbollah.

The Arab Spring upended all that. It arrived late in Syria, three months after it had made its way to Tunisia and Egypt, one month after Libya’s revolt. A group of young boys in the town of Deraa, near the border with Jordan, had committed the cardinal sin of scribbling antiregime graffiti. A brittle regime with a primitive personality cult and a deadly fault-line between its Alawite rulers and Sunni majority responded with heavy-handed official terror. The floodgates were thrown open, the Syrian people discovered within themselves new reservoirs of courage, and the rulers were hell-bent on frightening the population into their old state of submission.

Until the Arab Spring, nothing had stirred in Syria in nearly three decades. President Hafez al-Assad and his murderous younger brother Rifaat had made an example of Hama in 1982 when they stamped out a popular uprising by leveling much of the city and slaughtering thousands. Now, the circle is closed. President Bashar al-Assad and his younger brother Maher, commander of the Republican Guard, are determined to subdue this new rebellion as their father did in Hama—one murder at a time. In today’s world it’s harder to turn off the lights and keep tales of repression behind closed doors, but the Assads know no other way. Massacre is a family tradition.

It took time for the diplomacy of the West to catch up with Syria’s horrors. In Washington, they were waiting for Godot as the Damascus regime brutalized its children. In his much-trumpeted May 19 speech from the State Department—“Cairo II,” it was dubbed—President Obama gave the Syrian ruler a choice. He could lead the transition toward democracy or “get out of the way.” Secretary of State Hillary Clinton has since used the same language.

But one senses this newfound bravado is too little too late. With fighting in Afghanistan and Iraq and now Libya, few leaders in the U.S. or Europe want to see the Assad regime for what it truly is. Yet the truth is there for all who wish to see. Ask the Syrians deserting their homes and spilling across the Turkish border about the ways of Bashar and his killer squads and vigilantes with their dirty tricks. They will tell us volumes about the big prison that the regime maintains.

Arab bloggers with a turn of phrase, playing off the expression of “only in Syria,” have given voice to the truth about this dreadful regime. Only in Syria, goes one formulation, does your neighbor go to work in the morning and return 11 years later. Only in Syria does a child enter prison before entering school. Only in Syria does a man go to jail for 20 years without being charged and is then asked to write a letter thanking the authorities upon his release. The list goes on. At last, in Damascus, the mask of this regime has fallen, so late in the hour.

(Mr. Ajami is a professor at the Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies
and a senior fellow at the Hoover Institution.
)

 

‘WE’VE NEVER SEEN SUCH HORROR’
Leon Wieseltier

National Post, June 10, 2011

 

The reformer has responded to the democratic stirrings in his country with a war against its children. The murder and mutilation of Hamza Ali al-Khateeb is only the most shocking instance of Bashar al-Assad’s mercilessness.

The Syrian uprising originated in March as an expression of anger at the arrest and torture of 15 boys, who were accused of scrawling anti-government graffiti in the town of Dara’a, which has now earned a place of honour in the geography of modern dissent. (The crowd that demonstrated for the release of the boys was fired upon, lethally, by Syrian security forces.) In April, witnesses reported that the hooligans of the mukhabarat were beating children. One man who was caught in the crackdown in Dara’a recounted that he shared a cell with 370 people and 70 of them were children.

I take these terrible particulars from “We’ve Never Seen Such Horror”: Crimes Against Humanity by Syrian Security Forces, a remarkable report issued by Human Rights Watch last week. The document gives evidence also of the Assad regime’s other obscene acts against its people. A crowd chanting, “Peaceful, peaceful,” was met by “an ambush.” “Security forces were everywhere,” a witness said, “in the fields nearby, on a water tank behind the checkpoint, on the roof of a nearby factory, and in the trees, and the fire came from all sides.” Another person on the scene recalled that “they were deliberately targeting people. Most injuries were in the head and chest.”

There was also organized government violence against medical workers: “I saw a man who tried to pull the wounded guy away, but security forces continued to shoot.… They again shot the wounded guy, this time in the head, and hit the rescuer as well.… Another man tried to take a dead body away on the motorcycle, but as he tried to approach, he got shot in the shoulder, then again in the leg, and when he fell off and other people made a move toward him, a sniper hit him in the head, and I believe he died.”

The conclusion reached by “We’ve Never Seen Such Horror” is that, “Human Rights Watch believes that the nature and scale of the abuses committed by the Syrian security forces, the similarities in the apparent unlawful killings and other crimes, and evidence of direct orders given to security forces to ‘shoot-to-kill’ protesters, strongly suggest these abuses qualify as crimes against humanity.”

The day after Human Rights Watch accused the government of Syria of crimes against humanity, Hillary Clinton declared that “the legitimacy that is necessary for anyone to expect change to occur under this current government is, if not gone, nearly run out.” Nearly? What else does the Syrian tyrant have to do to persuade the Secretary of State that the purpose of his regime is not reform?

The clumsiness of this administration in the saga of Arab democratization sometimes seems irremediable. Only a few weeks ago the President delivered a grand address at the State Department in which he re-oriented American policy, which had been chilly and slow, firmly in the direction of the promotion of democracy. Some even called it Obama’s neoconservative moment. The President rejected “a strategy based solely upon the narrow pursuit of [American] interests” (which he weirdly imputed to the Bush administration) in favour of “a set of core principles”—universal rights, freedom of speech, freedom of assembly, freedom of religion, gender equality, and “the right to choose your own leaders”—and proclaimed that “our support for these principles is not a secondary interest—today I am making it clear that it is a top priority that must be translated into concrete actions.”

Obama’s speech was stirring, but it was strange. Nothing in his response to the Arab revolts—or almost nothing: he was indeed moved by the fate of Benghazi, though the fate of Tripoli seems to exercise him less—prepared one for the intensity of its idealism. Having been unaccountably cool, Obama became unaccountably hot.

About Syria, he remarked that “the Syrian people have shown their courage in demanding a transition to democracy. President Assad now has a choice: He can lead that transition, or get out of the way.” Of course Assad had already demonstrated by his actions that he rejects such a choice. Obama’s “get out of the way” about Assad reminded me of his “must go” about Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi. The President is still dogmatically spooked by American support for regime change, even when it is not the work of Americans, but of Syrians or Libyans (or Iranians). As Assad’s atrocities multiply, I see no “concrete actions,” no consequential American response to them.

This is, strictly speaking, doubly unfortunate, because the undoing of Bashar al-Assad would vindicate both our values and our interests. Foreign policy crises come in three varieties. There are those that broach American values but not American interests, and those that broach American interests but not American values, and those that broach American values and American interests. Sometimes the values-interests calculus is not clear, but the question of American action still turns on some interpretation of it.

I know of nobody who believes that we should not act when our interests (or our vital ones, however they are defined) are at stake but our values are not. Most of the debates about humanitarian intervention, by contrast, the quarrels between “realists” and “idealists,” concern those cases, and they are sickeningly plentiful, in which our values are at stake but our interests are not, or at least not significantly. But Syria is one of the easy cases in which we have moral and strategic incentives for action.

The moral case against Assad is obvious; but his defeat would represent also a defeat for Iran, Hezbollah and Hamas—all allies of Syria—and therefore a strategic achievement for us and our allies. He thwarts our regional designs at every turn. He impedes an Israeli-Palestinian peace. He aids and abets terrorism. He turns to North Korea for a nuclear facility. We should do whatever we can to assist his people in deposing him.

I recognize the view that stability in Syria may be preferable to the political and religious and tribal chaos that may ensue from Assad’s fall, but the days of stability in Syria seem to have passed. The unbelievably brave people in the streets of Syria’s cities and towns do not deserve to be so lonely in the world. If a new Middle East is being born, its attitude toward America and Americanism will be substantially determined by what it remembers about our part in its birth.

DARKNESS IN SYRIA
Matt Gurney
FrontPage, June 7, 2011

The chaos in Syria, Israel’s northern nemesis and a major geopolitical actor in the Middle East, has taken a dramatic turn for the worse. The situation is rapidly approaching that of an outright civil war, and in such an eventuality, it is unclear who would replace the Assad regime, if it can be pushed from power at all. Although the nature of the Syrian opposition movement is deeply uncertain, recent reports have demonstrated that the Muslim Brotherhood is definitely within its ranks.

Over the last several weeks, largely nonviolent protests against the ruling regime of Bashar al-Assad have been brutally put down by professional troops and security forces, with heavy casualties to civilians. Current estimates put the number of civilian dead at approximately 1,100, though that number is impossible to verify. As if that were not bad enough, on Monday, news broke that Syrian military forces were ambushed while responding to a call for help from a town where fighting had broken out. Again, the death toll cannot be verified, but state-run media reports 120 soldiers were killed. The government has vowed to respond with force to this attack, which, if true, represents the first major attack on Syrian forces by the protest movement. Whether or not the government’s death toll is accurate, the fact that there was fighting in the town of Jisr al-Shoghour has been confirmed by anti-regime activists and residents of the town. Who is responsible is unknown, but none of the possible answers are reassuring.

According to residents of the town, the troops were sent to Jisr al-Shoghour after fighting broke out among units of the security forces. Defections of officers and men into rebel units have also been reported—including some in other nearby towns. While it is important to stress that none of this can be confirmed, if the reports are accurate, it would appear that at least some units of the Syrian military have broken away from the government. Having reportedly equipped themselves with heavy weapons from local military armories, they then wiped out the military reinforcements sent to put an end to their insurrection.

This is a familiar story. It was only several months ago that a popular uprising in the Libyan city of Benghazi quickly drew over several units of Muammar Gaddafi’s armed forces. A Libyan rebel government, with a military composed of defectors and deserters from Gaddafi’s forces, quickly formed, and has been fighting a civil war against Gaddafi for several months. The rebels are now backed by the air and naval forces of the NATO alliance. The uprising against Gaddafi was triggered when security forces loyal to the regime used violence to put down peaceful protests. The comparisons to the deteriorating situation in Syria are strong indeed.

Much like the situation in Libya, there is uncertainty over the goals and motives—even identity—of those who would stand against the Assad regime in a civil war. Syria has been ruled by the Ba’ath Party, which itself is headed by the Assad family, for 40 years. No opposition has been permitted, no democratic movements allowed. Who would speak for Syria’s rebels?

There are possibilities, but none are attractive. The Assad family are Shiite Muslims of the Alawite sect, and the overwhelming majority of Syria’s population are Sunni, setting the stage for a split of the country along religious lines (though it should be said that the protests thus far have not taken on overtly sectarian tones). There are other large minorities in Syria, including a tenth of the population that is Christian and nearly as many that are ethnically Kurdish. It should also be noted that according to early reports, the crackdown by security forces has been conducted by units dominated by Alawites—furthering concern that the collapse of Syria into civil war could rapidly become a fight along religious and ethnic lines as military units of one religion or ethnicity turn against other units composed of members of a different sect. Such a civil war would raise the grim specter of widespread ethnic cleansing along the lines of what was seen in the Balkans during the 1990s.

The possiblity of an ethnic or religious civil war is alarming, but is not the only unpleasant possibility to consider. The Muslim Brotherhood has long been an enemy of the ruling regime and the Assad family. In 1982, the Syrian military attacked the Brotherhood stronghold of Hama, virtually destroying the city. Civilian deaths in that operation ranged from a low estimate of 10,000 to a high of 80,000. The annihilation of Hama marked the end of the Brotherhood’s terrorist insurgency against the Assad family and drove its leadership into hiding or exile. But it has continued to call for an end to Assad’s rule (even receiving funds from American taxpayers) and for elections to replace him—elections it would of course participate in. CNN has reported that witnesses to the fighting in and around Jisr al-Shoghour claim the violence involved members of the Muslim Brotherhood attacking government forces. And the Canadian Press reports that a recent meeting of Syrian opposition leaders in Turkey included a representative of the Brotherhood. While its strength is unknown, the Islamist organization is clearly interested in a role in a post-Assad future that many believe to be imminent.

In an excellent column, The New York Times’ David Brooks heaped scorn upon the brutal Syrian regime, whose depravity is now on full display to the world. He also singled out for ridicule those who would have expected Israel to ever reach a fair and lasting peace treaty with those who machine-gun their own civilians or torture small boys to death and send the body to the family. Mr. Brooks is exactly right. But if Assad should fall in the days to come, and should Syria collapse into civil war or fall under the control of the Muslim Brotherhood, Israel will be no better off.

(Matt Gurney is a columnist and editor at the National Post.)

 

THE SECTARIAN LOGIC OF EVENTS IN SYRIA
Jonathan Spyer

Jerusalem Post, June 3, 2011

 

Hezbollah has been caught off balance by the uprising in Syria. Hezbollah leader Sheikh Hassan Nasrallah’s recent words of solidarity with his embattled ally in Damascus led to the burning of the Lebanese Shi’a Islamist leader’s image by angry Syrian crowds during last Friday’s demonstrations.

The movement’s stance on Syria reveals a basic contradiction between Hezbollah’s practical interests and the image it likes to project of itself. This contradiction in turn may reveal the inherent limitations of the Iranian, Shi’ite-led “resistance bloc” in the overwhelmingly Sunni Arabic-speaking world.

On a practical level, it is not difficult to see why the fall of the Assad regime would be a disaster for both Hezbollah and its Iranian patron. Syria is the secure conduit through which Tehran is able to arm its Lebanese proxy on the Mediterranean.

Significant elements of Hezbollah’s armory are stored safely under Assad’s care. The M-600s and Fateh-110 missiles, which might provoke an early Israeli strike if deployed in Lebanon, wait in secure facilities across the border for the appropriate moment.

But Syria is much more than a storehouse for Hezbollah. Since the accession of Bashar Assad, the relationship between the two has become increasingly symbiotic. Hezbollah was the instrument whereby Syria was able to regain influence in Lebanon following its inglorious retreat in 2005. Syria provided a vital logistic hinterland for Hezbollah during the 2006 war.

There are suspicions that the two may have cooperated in the murder of former Lebanese prime minister Rafik Hariri.…

Both Assad and Nasrallah use the language of “resistance,” yet the two are today united in resistance to the plainly expressed will of the Syrian people. There is a deeper logic at work here than simply the timeless spectacle of dictatorial regimes and movements having the emptiness of their rhetoric made apparent. The Iran-led bloc may have presented itself as the voice of regional authenticity and resistance.

But if one looks at its component parts, it rapidly becomes apparent that this was and is largely an alliance of Shi’ite (or at least non-Sunni) Arab forces behind a large, non-Arab Shi’ite state.

The core members of the alliance are Iran, the Shi’ite Hezbollah, the Alawite-dominated Assad regime, and the Shi’ite movement of Muqtada al-Sadr in Iraq. Iran has sought to make gains from the current ferment in the Arab world. But its arena of activity has been limited mainly to areas of majority- Shi’ite population, such as Bahrain. Outside the narrow bands of Shi’ite Arab communities, there is a built-in suspicion of the Iranians.

The Iranian war on Israel is intended to disprove these suspicions, and this has seen some success. But the kudos gained by Shi’ite elements for fighting Israel do not seem to be easily transferable to other areas.

The single major exception to the largely Shi’ite complexion of the Iran-led bloc was and is Hamas. The Hamas enclave in Gaza was maintained by Iranian money and weaponry. But one of the most noteworthy fallout events from the fall of Hosni Mubarak in Egypt has been Hamas’s apparent attempt to reorient away from the Iran-Syria-Hezbollah axis, and back toward Sunni Arab Egypt.

The (Sunni) Emirate of Qatar, meanwhile, which has flirted with the resistance axis in the past years, has directed its hugely influential Al Jazeera network firmly against the Syrian regime in recent weeks. Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s Turkey, too, has grown critical of Assad and is hosting gatherings of the Syrian opposition.

Syria, in short, is hemorrhaging Sunni friends. Its Shi’ite ones, by contrast, have fewer options and are staying loyal. So Hezbollah’s and Iran’s cleaving toward their Syrian ally has the look of a non-Sunni alliance closing ranks to defend itself against a ferment in the Sunni Arab world.…

From Israel’s point of view, the built-in limitations of the Shi’ite-led resistance bloc are good news. The less good news is that rival centers of anti-Western and anti-Israel Sunni power are emerging in the region.…

The “Shi’a crescent” itself [is not] about to collapse. At the moment, its unrivaled capacity for brutality looks set to keep its Syrian client in its seat. But its claim to represent the forces of Arab “resistance” to the West and Israel has taken a heavy blow as a result of the turmoil in the Arab world. And meanwhile, a rival “Sunni crescent,” with a rival claim to this mantle, is in the process of being born.