Aug 29, 2011, Vol. 16, No. 46 • By LEE SMITH
Assad is not about to go quietly. Energy sanctions will weaken the regime, hindering its ability to pay the security forces going about their bloody work, and persuading the merchant middle class that its interests may no longer be aligned with Assad’s. But sanctions are unlikely to break the regime’s back. Assad will fight, and so will his Iranian allies, whose 30-year investment in Hezbollah may depend on the survival of the regime in Damascus that arms Iran’s Lebanese asset.
So the administration should prepare for the worst. The attacks last week in Israel near the Sinai border may well be a sign of events to come. Those operations were organized out of Gaza, with the support—at least tacit and perhaps active—of Iran’s proxy Hamas. In time, Syria and Iran and their clients in Gaza, Lebanon, Iraq, and elsewhere may hit closer to home by targeting direct American interests and U.S. military and diplomatic personnel. If it is a matter of defending and protecting American interests against Syria and Iran, will the administration still refrain from forcing Assad out?
Obviously the Syrian people will choose their own leaders, as they have during the course of the uprising. More leaders will come to the fore. But the White House would do well to recognize that the goal of the Syrian opposition—Assad’s exit—runs parallel to American interests. And now that we have embraced that goal, we need to achieve it.