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Top Syrian Officials Killed in Damascus

Posted by Steve Markowitz on July 18, 2012

The violence in Syria has been ongoing for more than a year and a half.  As part of the “Arab Spring”, the Syrian people have been revolting against the dictatorship of Bashir al-Assad.  The violence has been steadily increasing with over 10,000 Syrians killed by government forces.  More recently the violence has reached its capital, Damascus.  That and the significant events of today indicate Syria is reaching a tipping point.

The Telegraph today reported that two high officials of the Syrian government have been assassinated in Damascus by rebels.  The two killed were Syria’s Defence Minister General Daoud Rajha and President Bashar al-Assad’s brother-in-law General Assef Shawkat.  Significantly, the bombing occurred in the highly secured National Security building.

The rapidly increasing Syrian, as well as its movement from smaller towns to Damascus, is a clear indication that the Assad regime’s days are numbered.  This will have significant ramifications for the Middle East.  First, Syria has been a strong ally of Iran and important in part of its strategy to form a “Shiite crescent” in the region.  In addition, Syria has been run for decades with force and violence by the minority Alawites, an offshoot of the Shiites.  When the Assad regime falls, it is likely that the majority Sunni population will seek revenge and Syria will descend into civil war.

The tumultuous changes now occurring in the Arab Middle East indicate how badly the international community and United States have responded to this region over the decades.  Along with the United Nations, they focused almost solely the Arab/Palestinian conflict. These diplomats continually proffered the view that solving the Palestinian issue would lead to peace in the Middle East.  That view has been proven dead wrong.  However, it allowed diplomats to ignore the graver issues in the region including the rise of radical Islam and the rising anger of the Arab masses towards their dictators.  Now the pressure cooker is exploding with the ultimate outcome unknown.

The United States currently has little influence in the Middle East relating to the outcome of the Arab Spring.  Given this, America should come down on the side of democracy, even if that ultimately leads to governments unfriendly towards us in the short run.  Change is coming to Syria.  It is unlikely that America’s lack of support for those trying to overthrow the dictator Assad, what President Obama calls “leading from behind”, will be viewed positively by those who come the power.

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