Magazine article Tablet Magazine

Has Assad Reached Our Breaking Point?

Magazine article Tablet Magazine

Has Assad Reached Our Breaking Point?

Article excerpt

As reports of mass arrests and open violence against restive cities and their peaceful protesters mountand we're going on two months nowand the hard-line leadership pledges, literally, to fight 'to end,' it is getting more and more difficult to distinguish the situation in Syria, where the United States has not come close to threatening military intervention or suggested President Assad step aside, and Libya, where the U.S. has intervened militarily and has called on the dictator, Muammar Gadhafi, to leave power. (Put another way: I wrote much the same post I'm writing now almost exactly a month ago.) The argument for treating the two differently stems primarily from practical considerations, in which Assad provides a classic devil-we-know for the U.S. and Israel as compared to the relatively unstable devil-we-don't should he leave and somebody else takes over. But at some point, as Mideast columnist Lee Smith has argued, doesn't the regime become worse than any conceivable alternative, to say nothing of just absolutely heinous enough to warrant stronger action from the West?

Moreover, it looks increasingly likely that a Syria run by somebody other than Assad could be less close to Iran. The Assad dynasty belongs to the minority Alawite sect, which, like Iran's leaders, is Shia; Syria's majority is Sunni. And now that there are reports that Iran is shipping conventional weapons to Syria to aid its crackdownin violation of U.N. sanctions, it so happenshave we maybe reached the point where, even for the U. …

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