The Case for Regime Change in Syria (2) & (3)

The Syrian regime holds no cards of its own anymore, in fact, it itself has become a card in the hands of the Iranian mullahs. Indeed the mullahs now hold the Syrian card, the Iraqi card, the Hezbollah card and the Hamas card in addition to the nuclear card, making it impossible for the US and the international community to ignore them. Throw in Iran’s size and demography into the mix, and you have a rather formidable opponent.

Therefore, sooner or later, one way or another, the US will have to negotiate with Iran, almost regardless of who is in charge there and almost regardless of consideration of human rights and democratization (yeah, I can’t believe I am saying that either). Recourse to real politick in its traditional formulation here is amply justified.

Iran may not be China or India, but, taking under consideration its demography, the size of its economy, the sophistication of its political class and the extant of its regional influence, it does fall somewhere on the periphery of that category of countries. That is, it may not be an actual super power, but it is an important enough regional power and cannot be simply treated as some kind of a rogue state, even when some of its leaders do tend to behave like rogues.

The mullahs have grown too corrupt to be as mad as Ahmadinejad makes them appear. Ahmadinejad can crawl all the way to Mecca on his hands and knees and pray at the Ka’abah, with all the sincerity in the world, for the destruction of the US and Israel and for the “return” of the Mahdi for as long a he wants, but all that his fellow mullahs, his comrades in beards, really want at this stage is to keep the worldly possessions that they have so studiously amassed over the years. The corrupt are too worldly to be mad. Ahmadinejad’s statements notwithstanding, the mullahs will negotiate when they see the need for that.

Admittedly though, and at this stage, the mullahs are just too cocky to see this need. After all, everything seems to be going their way, In Iraq, Lebanon and Syria and the UN Security Council. They, therefore, need to be brought down to earth once again in order for the negotiations to take place. This is why their “hot” regional cards need to be burnt.

For the Iranian mullahs have to eventually choose between their own survival and that of their imperial project. They cannot be allowed to keep all of their cards, they cannot be allowed to move from the periphery of that category of states mentioned earlier to its center without paying some kind of price, otherwise, they are bound to grow more ambitious and troublesome or all concerned.

Indeed, the only card that the mullahs could be allowed to keep is the one that seems to ensure and guarantees their survival: the nuclear card. If they want it so bad, they can have it. But the price is Hezbollah, Syria, Hamas and Iraq. If the Iranians want to move to the center, they have to be an India, not a China.

So, the Case for Regime Change in Syria (2) is: in order to knock some sense back into the heads of Iran’s mullahs, you need to take Syria’s Assads out of the equation. For, at this stage, they are the hottest card in the mullahs’ hands, without them the mullahs’ links to Hezbollah and Hamas will be sufficiently weakened and the mullahs might be more willing to reconsider their current regional strategy. This could open the doors for negotiations.

But what if the current administration should continue to be uncomfortable with the idea of negotiating with Iranian mullahs, what then?

Well, then, the Case for Regime Change in Syria (3) says that you still need to take Syria’s Assads out of the equation. For the Assads have clearly become the spoilers that the mullahs will use to make trouble for the US, especially in the aftermath of a bombing campaign against the Iranian nuclear sites.

After all is said and done then, the Assads of Syria have clearly transformed themselves into perennial spoilers with regard to US interests in the region, and that is enough reason for them to be singled for extinction.


26 thoughts on “The Case for Regime Change in Syria (2) & (3)

  1. So, the Case for Regime Change in Syria (2) is: in order to knock some sense back into the heads of Iran’s mullahs, you need to take Syria’s Assads out of the equation. For, at this stage, they are the hottest card in the mullahs’ hands, without them the mullahs’ links to Hezbollah and Hamas will be sufficiently weakened and the mullahs might be more willing to reconsider their current regional strategy. This could open the doors for negotiations.Michael Young recently made a similar case in a WSJ op-ed. I’ll send it to you.Here are a couple of relevant quotes:However, Iranian vulnerabilities are hardly negligible. It has a weak and isolated ally in Syria’s Baath regime. By working to create alternatives to President Bashar Assad in Damascus, the U.S. could break that organic link, as well as the one which, via Syria, allows Iran to arm Hezbollah in Lebanon….This is why the U.S. must reconsider its Syria policy and persist in its regional democratization efforts. The Bush administration must break Syria’s ability to manipulate Saudi and Egyptian trepidation when it comes to accepting change in Damascus, but it must also get over its own nervousness toward a post-Assad order. Unless a concerted process to replace the regime in Damascus is implemented, the Iranian-Syrian-Hezbollah axis will remain a serious thorn in the American as well as the Egyptian and Saudi sides. Islamists won’t necessarily take over in Syria. The society is complex, the merchant class is probably willing to back a credible alternative, and the Assads are discredited. But Washington must push hard for this and compel Egypt and Saudi Arabia to go along.The idea, which I share, is to break the Iranian expansion into the Levant, where Syria now acts as Iran’s client.

  2. Ammar, your analysis is very logical, yet, I will disagree again… for one reason:I believe the situation in the Middle East has gone out of anyone’s control. The United States, Iran, Syria, or Israel … none of them holds enough cards to “win the game”.There in mostly chaos. Within the Chaos, there are few things we can analyze with the hope of coming up with some predictions. But if you look at the relative “volume” of uncertainty, the deterministic and logical signals are too weak to predict the outcome. Chaos will decide the outcome in an almost random way.Bravo for all those who escalated things to this chaotic point.As for concluding that Syria has no cards, it always looked like this is the case ever since Hafez elAssad opposed the Camp David accords in 1978. Yet they usually survive and they influence events in the area in a dramatic way. Syria does not have Iran’s size, but it has the best location. It is downtown Middle East. That is one big card… and one big liability.We’ll know what happens when it happens. Anton was predicting long time ago the end of the regime. It is not that simple.

  3. Listen my young Bashar cheerleading pup. No one was “predicting” anything. People, like Ammar and I, have been CALLING for its fall. Not “predicting” it.Now go back and play with Landis. He;ll appreciate your sloppy gleeful nonsense.

  4. As a westerner, I see only two possible outcomes to the Iran question. Either the western world swallows hard and allows Iran to have the bomb (of course, some EU countries will do their best to ignore it, while some Middle Eastern countries will actually be happy about it! Nuclear fallout anyone?) or, the United States bombs the sh** out of Iran’s nuclear sites (without UN approval).European “diplomacy” has hurt more than it has helped, Russia and China have no intention of putting the brakes on Iran and, Israel can’t afford diplomatically to bomb a Middle East neighbor.I have suspected, all along, that the EU knew that their effort would fail and that the United States would be the fall guy for this situation. I don’t think Syria is the linchpin that you think it is.Just waiting for the shoe to drop…

  5. That sounded a bit defensive Anton.You would know better if you used the term “predict” or not, but the few times I checked your blog, I had no doubt you practically expected the fall of the Syrian regime … about 6 month ago.And I remind you that you predicted that very few in Lebanon will vote for Michel Aoun “the idiot” … and I predicted that he will get most of the Christian vote. Today “the idiot” is the most serious candidate for president. You probably disagree.Being a naive Bashar cheerleader, was saying what I am still saying today: it does not look like it will happen any time soon. Bahsar’s adversaries have burned most of their “cards” … the international investigation lost its credibility with the Syrian people. Even if they “find out” a voice recording of Bashar saying “I want Hariri dead”, the Syrian people (the ones you love and respect so much) will conclude that the evidence is computer made.Yes, one card remains: the use of military force. I am sure you would love to see that, but I think congress will not go for it this time, unless Iran does something totally stupid. According to Jihad elKhazen who contacted “them”, he is sure they are not suicidal and will not allow the theatrical confrontation to go out of hand.And on behalf of Joshua I will have to apologize for my, and his, sloppy comments. It is true that those of us who are “Bashar cheerleaders” do not have the English language skills that you, and Michael Young have, but at least our balanced opinions do not need the extra help of beautiful writing skills.Again, you are a very capable and intelligent individual, but what a waste of time the way you focus all your energy on … nothing. Did you help any fellow Lebanese with your endless focus on picking on Farouk Sharaa interviews, or on other stupid things tha all politician say and do? .. did you come up with practical (and peaceful) solutions to anything?Being a Historian, you seem to think that the right thing to do is to look always back to see who should be blamed for things and how to take revenge fromt them. I am an engineer … I prefer seeking dependable solutions.

  6. Maybe you should learn how to read better when you read my blog. You know, as an engineer.I’ll get back to your other nonsense later.As for Aoun, I “predicted” (in the one time I have ever done so on my blog) that in fact he would lose in the north, which he did. That was the only time I “predicted” anything. I was right of course.As for Aoun being poised to become president, the parliamentary majority doesn’t seem to be interested for now, and even his new allies in HA have not come out explicitly in support of him. So maybe engineers like talking about inevitability, I prefer to wait and see.And also, I didn’t know that engineers engage in pop-psychology. Spare me the pretense of psychoanalyzing me. Use that time to learn how to read what I write instead.

  7. And by the way — escuse me as I finish laughing — but since when was the investigation predicated on its popularity among the Syrian people!?Could you have said anything dumber?! Perhaps bil rou7 bil damm or something…

  8. No, I’m focusing my efforts on exposing the ugliness of the regime that you and Josh defend in the hope, and indeed the long battle, to bring it down. You may think that is nothing, but that’s because you — unlike Ali Abdallah and the Kurds for instance — aren’t feeling their brutality over in Montreal (and I’m not even going to speculate on whether you have any ties, a la Moubayed), so you have time to utter these kinds of stupidities, as the Syrian opposition languishes in jails.You and Joshua instead have spent your time embellishing it under the pretense of “realism.” That my friend is called dishonesty and complicity. You’re free to do whatever you want, and your opinion, and that of those like you, of me and what I do never mattered to me to begin with.

  9. Here’s a proposal. As an engineer, come up with a “dependable solution” to find where Ali Abdallah is being held, and maybe as an engineer, donate some time to rebuild the Kurdish houses that your prez has demolished in NE Syria. And if you have some spare time left, come down to Beirut, in your capacity as engineer, and help defuse some of the bombs that your prez has been dispatching. You know, as an engineer. This way you don’t have to “blame” anybody. Just be careful you don’t end up in jail, you know through some “reformist impulse” of sorts. But then you might use your engineering skills to find a dependable solution to dig your way out.Shou hal maskhara…

  10. Anton, Alex, I think we should to arrange for you two to meet soon, on neutral grounds over a barrel of Carlsberg beer (since I doubt any of us is boycotting Danish products)and continue this fine arguments of y/ours. I am quite confident that we can reach an agreement of sorts after the seventh round. If not, at least we would have had plenty of fun trying.

  11. Thank you Ammar. With my low tolerance to Beer (and wine), I will be destroyed by Anton after half a glass. I’ll take something with Vitamin C instead.Alright, Anton,You are right, I did not add any comment on Ammar’s other post on Ali and his sons. I agree. But there is not much I can do about it from Montreal. But I totally admire Ammar’s genuine efforts to shed light on any case of political prisoners who are subjected to torture in Syria. If there is an email list of signature that you want to start, I will put my name on it.My family, Anton, was almost totally wiped out by political and religious violence early 20th century. I’ll leave it up to you to guess where. That left a permanent lesson with me (through my father) … What you see me trying to do is to fight anger and hate and revenge. I try to bring people together no matter how confrontational they are. In “my” webiste, I got “Baathists” and Israelis to find things in common and to spend hours researching it. I even got your friend Martin Kramer to give it a recommendation, despite your conclusion about my Bashar Cheerleader function.Your position on Aoun “the Idiot” I mentioned above was in your email to Joshua. Check your NYU email mid May last year. I “predicted” that there will be a “Syrian/Shia/Aoun” coalition to counter the increasing Hariri/Saudi influence. You replied that “aoun does not equal Christians … your friend (me) is way off target”By the way, last year I published research in an applied psychology journal. I can email you my educational background if you like, there is a lot more than Engineering in it.Back to the human rights abuses of the Syrian regime: I said earlier on Joshua’s blog that sadly, the Americans lost the ability to act as the moral leaders of the fight for democracy in the Middle East. I wish they can be creative enough to reinvent their Mideast policy and to be able to positively influence the direction things take in the area. If anyonw can accelerate things, it is them. But not the way things are now.As for the effect of the UN investigation … We obviosuly disagree. I’ll leave it at that.

  12. First, I know exactly what that email said, and I advise you to check what I said. And for some reason you seem to think that my statement about Aoun not equaling the Christians somehow proves you right and me wrong. You’re sadly mistaken. It is quite clear that Aoun does not equal Christians. Is he the strongest Christian politician. Sure. Where did you see me deny that? So frankly, I’m really not sure what your point is. Again, read that email again and see what I said and see how that fits today.I also remember you saying to typical nonsense about Neocons and blah blah blah, and some other obviously Sunni-phobic material. Doesn’t matter. I still don’t get your point with this email! Total red herring.Good, so your family almost got wiped out, mine too almost got wiped out by Syrian army shells, as they were bombing your friend Michel Aoun. That is, bombing him and the entire region he inhabited. At random.So you can go ahead and embellish that regime and justify it with the hippy crap about bringing peace to mankind, and then call that “realism.” I frankly am quite happy with the path I’ve chosen politically!And publish as much as you want in psychology, but to assume that you can somehow psycho-analyze me through a computer screen smacks me of incredible pretense.And disagree as much as you want about the investigation, it still wouldn’t change the hilarity of thinking that the value of the investigation is dependent on whether the manipulated Syrian public thinks highly of it or not!As for your view of US policy, I’ll take a look at the amount of cliches in your comment and then it’s my turn to tell you, let’s leave it there! Because if I start taking it apart… sigh…

  13. And by the way, you should have left Kramer out of it. He called “slick propaganda.” Not much different from “Bashar cheerleader” if you ask me.

  14. If I may, Ammar, take a moment away from the topic, just to remind Camille of what I did say, since he’s so fixated on that email and his amazing powers of prediction and how my predicting skills aren’t up to par (I must admit, I never honed them or took interest in “prediction”!).Here’s what I said in May 05 my dear man:Nothing really is new in this! Aoun always had ties with Hizbullah and both have problems with JumblatIndeed. Despite the shifts, this statement still stands. Although Jumblat has been careful in how to deal with Aoun for obvious reasons.Aoun is afraid that he’ll be left out of such an arrangement. (The arrangment refers to the election alliances).Indeed, he was left out of the arrangement. Never in that email did I mention whether he’ll win or not. But again, only you cllaim the power of prediction. I never did. But if it makes you happy go ahead. However, that’s why I told you to improve your reading skills instead of your predictions skills. So in that case I wouldn’t be surprised to see Aoun working with the remains of the old system. however, that would be quite the stupid move because his followers will be hard pressed to work with Lahoud and the pillars of the Syrian order. It would be quite the irony though!Umm… remind me again what your point was? Was it a stupid move? We’ll see. Did it create apprehension among his followers? You bet. But of course, he’s made all kinds of justifications (not as good as yours about Bashar) and some of the apprehensions have died down. And indeed, it was quite the irony! Others remain. Besides, he has not completely watered down his positions on HA’s weapons, etc. So like I said, it remains to be seen how that “coalition” as you called it (it’s not really a coalition) plays out, and whether it proves stupid or not. It already pissed of the Americans and the French. I’d say that’s somewhat stupid!And finally, this is for you to correct your misquoting me, and to refresh your memory. This is what I really said:So your friend’s equation of Aoun’s frustrations and the Christians’ frustrations (i.e., LF, Qornet, and Bkerke) is way off target.I think that was true then as it is true now. Frustrations, my dear Camille. Frustrations as in frustrated that you prefer prediction to proper reading skills.

  15. Ammar, it seems we are not going for that Beer and orange juice.Anton Afandi:1) you called me “way off target” for seeing the inevitable Shia/Aoun/syria alliance a year ago. And you doubted Aoun “the idiot” is significant. And you ridiculed my opinion that Hariri and the Sunnis are playing a larger role than before (when Syria played that role) … how knowledgeable of you!…Aside from the above, the rest of that email from you was actually good. I am not saying you are totally wrong. But if you had in you the ability to admit a mistake when you make one, we wouldn’t be arguing over that email 4 rounds in a row.2) My family did get “almost totally” wiped out, different from your family “almost did” get wiped out by the Syrian shelling. Tens of members of my family died … And I hold no hate towards them what so ever, but I learned lessons. Sadly, you have not learned much from the Lebanese civil war… or from your graduate studies in history. Maybe next lifetime.You have spent hours everyday during the past year trying “to expose the Syrian regime” … translation: you are obsessed with your need to take revenge. And I don’t need to know you personally to analyze you. It is a bit obvious Anton.Why I am analyzing you? .. because there are many others like you in the Middle East. You and your types are the cause of most problems in the middle east. Every endless conflict has revenge attached to it.As a “Bashar supporter” I apologize to you for all the filth that accompanied the presence of the Syrian army in Lebanon. And I wish Bahsar could formally apologize to the Lebanese in a clear way for all the mistakes. And I wish the rest of the Lebanese would thank Syria for the times when its role was actually constructive in Lebanon.That’s my last post on this topic. I’ll leave it up to you to have the last word if you wish. No, actually I will do even better; let me help you with the outline of your reply1) I am an idiot2) I don’t know how to read your email or anything else.3) I know nothing about psychology, or even pop-psychology.4) I am a hypocrite Bashar supporter5) You are laughing even harder at this stupid Syiran who does not even have a spell checker, just like Joshua.

  16. 1) you called me “way off target” for seeing the inevitable Shia/Aoun/syria alliance a year ago. And you doubted Aoun “the idiot” is significant. And you ridiculed my opinion that Hariri and the Sunnis are playing a larger role than before (when Syria played that role) … how knowledgeable of you!…Aside from the above, the rest of that email from you was actually good. I am not saying you are totally wrong. But if you had in you the ability to admit a mistake when you make one, we wouldn’t be arguing over that email 4 rounds in a row.No I didn’t. Again, for the millionth time, go and read, or learn to read. I quoted the part about Aoun working with the remains of the Syrian order. Are you blind or just incapable of comprehension? Calling Aoun an idiot has nothing to do with anything. As for the off target remark, it’s there for you to reread, if you can do that.I wonder who’s the one who cannot admit the mistake. You read what you wanted into that email. That’s why I urge you to learn how to read properly.

  17. And I advised you on your lame pop-psychology. You didn’t listen. Here’s another piece of advice. Don’t quit your day job.

  18. I’m not asking for your apology. I never held you or anyone in Syria outside the regime for the regime’s behavior in Lebanon.But the part about wishing Bashar could basically… how should I put it… not be Bashar is your real problem. One which you won’t admit. It actually summarizes it quite well. Bashar will always be Bashar. And the regime will always be the regime. That’s why Bashar and the regime must go.

  19. And by the way, I see your powers of prediction are waning. You were “off target” in 3/4 of your predictions about my response!And why was that? It’s because you didn’t read carefully what I said! Ironically, that’s the only thing you predicted correctly!But, if you please, I never called you an idiot. Never would. I was very clear in what I said (as I was in my email): you don’t read carefully what I wrote/write. If you did, half of this conversation would not have taken place. Nor would you have written the #5 prediction, which is completely useless, as I never said anything about your writing abilities, or style, or typos. Certainly never said that about Josh. YOU did (just like YOU said what you said about Aoun and Christians, my email, etc. Not me!).My beef with Josh, whatever beef I have, is not his typos!! I think it’s a bit more serious than that!!So take your one prediction that you got right, and take it to heart!

  20. Well…..that was a really unpleasant pissing contest above. And….actually I DO IN FACT have a doctorate education in clinical psychology….and therefore will be pleased to provide the proper diagnosis here. Efendi is afflicted with a severe case of Narcissistic Assholedom Disorder. This is characterized by a high degree of PARANOIA….and the extreme need to thrash his ‘opponent’ with over intellectualized insults….in order to defend his own inner sense of superiority…(and well, lets face it, also restore his faith in the size of his…you know what).

  21. Zenobia,That was brutal!!Defamation, is ineed, what Tony’s does best.No discussion is ever possible with this guy. It is another talent, waisted.. Unless he starts a career as a Rap song writer!! I am sure they could use some of this hate in him.

  22. I will try again to make it a useful dialogue and see if Tony would be kind enough to share his opinion. Ammar too?Most of us reading these comments live away from the Middle East. We are not going to be drafted into the Syrian army or into the Lebanese Forces if conflicts go out of control in Syria or Lebanon.I feel that the above should make us more careful when we propose or encourage confrontational ideas that could lead to bloodshed … not ours, but that of other people. Bin Laden is good at doing that sort of thing. So the only thing I would allow myself to support is dialogue that hopefully leads to ideas that hopefully lead to solutions.I understand your frustrations with the Baathists, with “Bashar”, with all the ones you hold responsible for ALL the problems that Lebanon faces today. But going beyond these long-term frustrations, are there any … solutions (here I go again).You asked me above to use my engineering training to come up with solutions. At the risk of sounding like an excessively positive college student from the happy sixties, I will propose ideas that can lead to solutions. When I was a child, I lived with my parents in Egypt for few years. At the time Sadat got creative … he decided to forget his army and instead he concluded that his best chance to get the Sinai back was to address the Israeli people directly … Menachem Begin, the passionate Zionist Israeli prime minister was not the type who would compromise. But two years after Sadat’s brilliant move, the Israeli public was in the mood for peace. There was no way Begin could refuse to return the Sinai to Egypt. I am saying this as a long-term Hafez Assad fan (more reason for you to not accept my opinions, I know). So my ideas for solutions for some of the Middle East’s problems all involve reaching out to people of the other side who currently do not understand you, or do not trust you … the reaching out can not be initiated solely by the leader of the weaker party. His people would not respect him for that.So here are two of my ideas for solutions. Again, before you discard them, remember the escalating conflicts that everyone is getting into: Lebanese dialogue? Syrian/Lebanese relations? Middle East conflict? The Iranian challenge? The Iraq war? Dealing with militant Islamists? Sunni/Shia conflict? … I feel that it is not difficult to do better than what we have out there. So, again: Two ideas:1) simultaneous goodwill gestures between the Syrian government and its Lebanese opponents. If Michel Aoun can become the next president, I feel he has the ability to get from the Syrians something significant in exchange for his newly found reasonable and pragmatic Syria positions. Why Michael Aoun? Because if he proposes something positive to the Syrians, it would not be interpreted as a failure or weakness in Lebanon. He is outside this latest “challenge” that Jumblat got into with the Syrian leadership. And why the current Syrian leadership on the other side? … because they are not going anywhere for now. If you do not accept that fact, you are going to continue to contribute to the continuation of the standoff between the two countries.2) If the Americans wanted peace in the Middle East, they should make a deal with Bashar. Offer him publicly their full support for restarting the peace process based on 242. Offer him a positive role to play in Iraq, and offer him … a realistic and constructive role to play in Lebanon (you can’t expect zero Syrian role in Lebanon, Tony … it won’t happen). Offer him a break from America’s support to his opposition, as well as promises from Syria’s neighbors to also stop supporting Syrian opposition for a limited time. Offer him economic help (investments, loans, and consulting) In exchange, Bashar would have to agree to free all political prisoners, to accelerate fighting corruption and economic reforms, and to commit to a two-year plan for free, multi-party parliamentary elections. When these things take place, Hizbollah’s weapons could be discussed at the same time you reform your Lebanese political “democracy” in a way that allows the Shia their fair share of power through true one man one vote elections. When you offer them that reward, they might be willing to give up their weapons … otherwise, don’t even think about about it.So … I actually agree with Bashar (surprised, huh?) … the Middle East problems are all linked. You don’t have to solve ALL of them before you work on democratic reforms in Syria, but you have to START solving SOME of them at least.Of course you would argue that the “Syrian regime” will not accept the above “deal” since it is only interested in its survival in power. In that case, the regime would be exposed for what it is and the Syrian people will do what you want them to do … go out by the millions to demonstrate against the “regime” until they bring it down.And you might argue that Israel does not need to give up anything to Syria… that’s where the following factors could be helpful:1) the Iranian/Hamas/Hizbollah threat might after all turn out to be a good thing for the middle east, if it does not go beyond being a threat, and if it convinces the Israelis that they will eventually need to make peace with their Arab and Muslim neighbors, and pay the fair asking price2) A convincing effort from the Syrian leader to reach out to the Israeli public (not government), things like inviting jews from all over the world to attend a conference celebrating the contributions and achievements of Syrian Jews throughout history … talk about his friendship with his Jewish professor in London …etc3) International agreement to support peace between Syria and Israel.That’s it for now. If you are still reading after this long boring opinion, its your turn.

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