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Disappointing Friends and Allies

For Syria, Obama’s reelection promises little change and less hope.

Nov 26, 2012, Vol. 18, No. 11 • By LEE SMITH
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But perhaps it wasn’t until last week that the horror fully hit home for Erdogan. Some observers wondered if the Patriot missile battery that Turkey and NATO discussed employing on the Turkish border was to create the no-fly zone for which Ankara has long lobbied. No, explained a State Department spokesman, it is to protect the Turks in the event that Assad turns his chemical weapons arsenal against them.

The Syrian uprising has left hundreds of thousands looking for refuge in Turkey, Lebanon, and Jordan, further destabilizing the Hashemite kingdom, an American ally facing its own domestic strife. Last week, there was an exchange on Syria’s Golan Heights border with Israel, a strange move given that Assad surely understands Israel is not Turkey. If he or the Iranians want to fi nd out  whether the Obama administration will restrain the Israelis,Jerusalem’s campaign against Hamas, Operation Pillar of Defense, has shown otherwise. Perhaps Assad was testing to see whether he might change the conversation from his sectarian slaughter to the Arab-Israel conflict, but it is probably too late for that. He has killed tens of thousands of Sunnis, which is to say even were he to enter what might well be a suicidal war with Israel, he could hardly count on the same sort of Arab (i.e., Sunni) support he might have had before the uprising against him started. Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Turkey, Egypt, and Jordan all want him gone.

The most dispiriting news from the Middle East last week may be how many political officials and activists throughout the region have accused Israel of throwing a lifeline to Assad with the campaign against Hamas. According to former Lebanese prime minister Saad Hariri, now living in exile, “The occurrence of the attack simultaneously with the ongoing Syrian revolution poses questions over its timing and is a sign of the clear intentions to thwart the revolt as much as possible.”

A more rational understanding of Israel’s campaign would recognize that the Israelis and the Syrian rebels, as well as Lebanon’s pro-democracy movement, share the same adversaries—Iran and its allies and proxies, Syria, Hamas, and Hezbollah. Instead, Hariri and others continue to see Israel’s conflict in the narrow focus that the Syrian regime and other Arab despots have designed in order to repress their own internal conflicts for decades. Never mind what we’re doing to you: The suppression of human rights, the torture, rape, and murder of you and your loved ones, is all meant to protect the nation from the Zionists and their American masters. Fellow Arabs who wish the Syrian uprising well should understand that the goal must be for Syrians to have what Israelis have: a government that protects, and is accountable to, its citizens.

And yet Hariri and the rest might be forgiven if the world seems upside down right now. For all of our allies are groping to understand the unfathomable prospect that the White House really is out of the picture.

Lee Smith is a senior editor at THE WEEKLY STANDARD.

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