Syria on a cliff edge between Assad and Al Qaeda
The collapse of the Eid al Adha truce brokered by UN envoy Lakhdar Brahimi left Syria careering into unknown territory.
The powers which castigate Bashar Assad for butchering his people refuse to abandon their hands-off policy for clipping his wings. On this point, there is little difference between US President Barack Obama and his Republican rival Mitt Romney, except that the latter says Syrian rebels ought to be given heavy arms for defense against Assad’s army, tanks and air force.
Even America’s allies in the region are being held back from direct military confrontation with the Assad regime. Turkey was on the verge of expanding its border clashes with Syria into active backing for the rebels with a view to carving out a buffer strip, a safe haven and a no-fly zone on and over Syrian soil. But then, last week Obama sent the Gen. Martin Dempsey, Chairman of the Joint US Chiefs, to Ankara to hold Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan back from any cross-border action. He was followed by his deputy.
Assad, the Syrian rebels – and al Qaeda too – sense that the country is now up for grabs. This realization is shared by their various sponsors, including Saudi Prince Bandar bin Sultan and the Emir of Qatar.
The Syrian ruler therefore feels he is sitting pretty with no one around who is willing or able to stop the indiscriminate air bombardment of urban areas which he began to intensify in the last week.
By the same token, Russia and Iran don’t face international opposition to the arms and personnel back-up they are providing Assad’s forces.
In sharp contrast, the Obama administration is entangled by his critics at home in a crisis over the circumstances surrounding the terrorist murder of US ambassador Chris Stevens and 3 diplomats at the US consulate in Benghazi, Libya. The administration is accused of failing to provide the necessary security before and during the consulate raid.
The ambassador played a key role in US undercover operations to neutralize Libya and the region against destabilizing jihadists.
As an indirect consequence of the crisis around his death, the supply of SA-7 missiles from Libya to the Syrian rebels has dried up.
After looking around him, Assad felt he could safely put into practice his plot for the assassination of the Lebanese security chief Brig. Gen. Wassam in Beirut on Friday, Oct. 19.
By a single stroke, the Syrian knocked over the mainstay of US-Saudi intelligence operations in Syria. But, as a vital hub for the American war on al Qaeda in the region, the Lebanese security chief’s importance far transcended a single conflict. His death was a major blow for US intelligence.
So the two murders eliminated two linchpins of the US undercover war on al Qaeda in the region and left a free field for Assad and the jihadists to fight it out between them for supremacy.