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US, Israel Differ on Post-Assad Syria

While Syria was busy denouncing the Mehlis Commission’s investigation, demanding a new probe, and Lebanon was asking for a six-month extension to the probe, the United States and Israel sat down to compare notes on what a post-Assad Syria might look like. They differed widely.

In a strategic dialogue held last week in Washington between the two countries, Israeli representatives warned that a future regime in Syria, should Assad lose power, might be just as problematic as the old one.

The United States viewed a future Syria after Assad’s fall to be similar to that of Lebanon, which has embraced and fostered democracy. This contention was supported by the view that there is already a sizable democratic opposition within Syria.

Israel offered three scenarios that they saw as more likely to happen than anything the Americans have envisioned.

1. Syria will descend into a chaotic state of civil war.

2. Assad will merely be succeeded by another authoritarian hardliner Alawite.

3. Syria will be ruled by a radical Islamist regime.
While there are opposition organizations in Syria seeking to unseat Assad, as the American position states, it should be noted that the strongest among them is the Muslim Brotherhood. al-Qaeda’s Ayman Zawahiri joined the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt at the age of 15, eventually moving to the even more radical Egyptian Islamic Jihad, which he merged with al-Qaeda in 1998. The Muslim Brotherhood is gaining ground in Egypt through recent elections marred by violence.

Feedback

I think the difference in the U.S. and Israeli views have a lot to do with problems they are facing right now. Syria has been of great assistance to both secular and Islamist terrorists in Iraq, and its relationship with al-Qaeda, especially Zarqawi, predated the invasion in 2003. The current Syrian government is a real problem for the U.S.

For Israel, however, Syria is a pussycat these days. They may/probably were behind the recent Hizbullah raid in north Israel, but right now Damascus is so distracted by the Lebanese/Mehlis on one side and the U.S./Iraq on the other, they are basically leaving Israel alone. Syria even seems to be trying to "give" the Israeli-occupied Sheba Farms to Lebanon, even though Syria claimed it in the past. I forget the precise numbers, but since the Gaza pullout, the number of attempted attacks on Israel from Gaza, either rockets or terrorist infiltration, numbers in the hundreds.

The Israeli points are well taken, and there is great danger in collapse, so the issue is one of activitely building up the democratic opposition in Syria so there can be a transition to something better. The current Syrian government has to go, but the U.S. should be flexible in terms of timetable and the manner of its exit.