|Scene from the Syrian city of Hama after the 1982 massacre |
carried out by the forces of the current Syrian
president's father [Image Source: Wikipedia]
Preliminary Death toll for Sunday 9/12/2012: About 60 Syrians killed so far, today. The dead include: 24 unarmed civilians, 13 rebel fighters, 5 unidentified fighters, and not less than 10 regime forces. 24 unarmed civilians.
“will not seek the ouster of Assad, as international negotiators again fail to reach a breakthrough on the crisis in Syria… Russia downplayed White House fears that a desperate Assad could deploy chemical weapons and said the greatest danger was that part of Syria's chemical arsenal could fall into the hands of rebels. Both U.S. and Israeli officials have also voiced concern that chemical armaments could end up in the hands of insurgents, who have overrun a number of military bases. Syria's fragmented rebel legions includes hard-core Islamist brigades hostile to the West and sympathetic to Al Qaeda.”
This past Sunday, Israel’s man in Washington used the term “game changer” when referring [see this Wall Street Journal article] to reports that the Syrians are handing parts of their huge chemical warfare arsenal off to Hezbollah and other militant groups. Being a diplomat, he chose diplomatic language. But when Ambassador Michael Oren said he could not confirm reports that Bashar al-Assad’s forces had prepared sarin gas for use, he was understood by most people as actually meaning that the government of Israel is indeed able to confirm those reports. (An article today called “Israeli spies track Bashar al-Assad's chemical weapon stocks” based on a report from the Times of London gives that some credence.)
“When Syria’s agricultural minister, Subhi Ahmad al-Abdullah, arrived in the Iranian capital for a visit last week, everybody involved stuck to a well-worn script. There were welcoming ceremonies, handshakes in front of cameras and tête-à-têtes on rococo chairs. Stern-faced Iranian and Syrian officials discussed “expanding economic and agricultural ties” and signed a contract for the joint production of a vaccine for foot-and-mouth disease. The unrest in Syria did not go unmentioned in the meetings, which were widely reported by Iranian state media. Iran’s vice president, Mohammad-Reza Rahimi, said Iran was confident of victory for the Syrian government forces, who, he said, were engaged in “sporadic fights with terrorists sent by regional countries. The upbeat ceremonies surrounding Mr. Abdullah’s visit illustrate how Iranian leaders perceive the bloody conflict that has engulfed their main ally in the Arabic world. While former Iranian diplomats, academics and analysts increasingly warn that President Bashar al-Assad’s government is on the brink of collapse, the country’s highest leaders insist the conflict is manageable and ultimately will be resolved to Iran’s advantage. Endless news broadcasts by Iran’s state television offer an ideological narrative in which Saudi Arabia and Qatar are doing the bidding of the United States and Israel, helping to arm foreign “terrorists” and sending them into Syria to punish it for having opposed Israel. War crimes committed by Syrian forces go unreported.” [More]
The scariest thing about Syria, from the West’s point of view, may be the gap between the hair-raising scenarios senior officials are discussing about what may happen next and their limp strategies for preventing it. Inside the Obama administration, Syria is now likened by some to a second Somalia — only at the heart of the Middle East, and with the world’s third-largest stockpile of chemical weapons. One official recently described a near-term future in which the current, two-sided civil war breaks down into a free-for-all in which Sunni forces fight Kurds and each other as well as the Alawi remnants of Bashar al-Assad’s army; where the al-Qaeda branch known as Jabhat al-Nusra gains control over substantial parts of the country; and where the danger of chemical weapons use comes not just from the regime but from any other force that overruns a chemical weapons depot… So how to stop this?
…As for the chemical weapons, the West’s hope is that Assad isn’t serious about using them, even though his forces have reportedly mixed the precursors of deadly sarin gas into bombs. But what if he does? President Obama warned again last week of “consequences” — but is the United States prepared to take quick military action in the event of a sudden chemical weapons attack? If not, how would the atrocity be stopped? [More]
So in the end, that's the difference. A US and Western strategy for dealing with the mortal threat from Damascus by hoping the Syrians don't have really bad intentions, versus an Israeli strategy that, at least on its face, identifies a "game changing" moment that presumably will lead to some kind of game-changing actions.
Those of us living just south of the Syrians intuitively understand how much more serious the consequences can be for us, compared with their effect on most others.
It's the sort of difference expressed in the oft-repeated parable of the farmer's breakfast, and the respective roles played by thepig and the chicken. When the bacon and eggs are served up, the chicken can undoubtedly be said to have been concerned and involved. But the pig is really, truly and fully committed. When it comes to Syria, Israelis don't see themselves as the chicken.