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Tread Carefully with Syria

Posted on September 9, 2013

The Charlie Rose interview of Bashar Assad kind of reminded me of the Dan Rather interview of Saddam Hussein.

Except it was different.

I only watched a portion of the Assad interview that aired last night and this morning (a clip appears above), but you can already get a sense of the guy.

Hussein was a tough guy.  You could tell that he killed people personally, probably with his own hands.

You could also tell that he didn’t have any weapons of mass destruction, but that he was too tough a guy to really admit that.

For Hussein, the bluff was all part of the bluster.

Assad doesn’t seem like kind of a tough guy.

He seems like a son of a tough guy.

His dad was a tough guy.  He had to be to survive in a tough region of the world.

Assad’s father butchered his own people (or people who lived in his country and tried to rebel against him).   He gassed the people who lived  and then died in Hama, and taught those folks a lesson that they never forgot.

Assad, like his father, comes from a small religious minority in Syria, the Alawites.  They are survivors.   It’s not easy being from a small religious minority in the Middle East and not only survive, but thrive.

They are both members of the Ba’ath Party, as was Saddam Hussein.  This is the secular party, inspired by Muslim Socialists.  It is a not a religious party, which is why Al Qaeda hates them.

Assad has played footsie with the Iranians in the past, and has worked to finance Hezbollah, the Lebanese terrorist group that has caused so much grief in Israel.

Obviously, the Syrians have no great love for the Israelis and the feeling is mutual.  They have been fighting a low-grade war ever since Israel seized the Golan Heights after Syria foolishly decided to join the Egyptians during the 6 Days War.   If you have ever been to the Golan Heights, you can see for yourself why having the high ground gives you a remarkable advantage in warfare, even modern warfare.

I don’t think Syria has backed Hezbollah or worked with the Iranians for any great religious reasons, other than hating Israel.  And in fact, they were kind of cooperative at different points when we were fighting the Al Qaeda, a point that is not now lost on those crazy people.

I also don’t think, that despite what Obama said before, that it is truly America’s goal to get rid of Bashar Assad.

Assad is an eye-doctor.  He did graduate work in London.  His wife was raised in the UK, doesn’t wear a Burka, and was once profiled in Vogue magazine.

Assad might be a bad dude, but he is not a religious extremist.  He is a survivor.

And he might survive this civil war and whatever America throws at him.

We need to keep our eyes on the ball here.  Our enemy is Al Qaeda.  Our other enemy is Iran.  Syria is not exactly a friend, because of their relationship with Iran, and not exactly an enemy, because of their relationship with Al Qaeda.

It all gets very complicated, which means we need to tread carefully.  Very carefully.