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What’s Next For Syria

With Jane Clayson in for Tom Ashbrook.

More refugees pouring out of Syria, more promises of aid for the rebels, and more fears that the radicals will win this fight.  We take stock.

Free Syrian Army fighters from the Knights of the North brigade move to reconnaissance a Syrian army forces base of al-Karmid, at Jabal al-Zaweya, in Idlib province, Syria, Wednesday, Feb. 27, 2013. (AP)

Free Syrian Army fighters from the Knights of the North brigade move to reconnaissance a Syrian army forces base of al-Karmid, at Jabal al-Zaweya, in Idlib province, Syria, Wednesday, Feb. 27, 2013. (AP)

The war between Syria’s dictator and most of his people is in its second, awful year.  Experts who disagree on a lot agree this will probably go on for years more.  The big guessing game now is… Who will be the victor once the tyrant is gone?

Will democratically-minded rebels take control and keep the country whole?  Will the warlords carve it into pieces?  Will the jihadis, the al Qaeda-type fighters who’ve been streaming in to Syria –And making real gains on the battlefield—end up on top?

This hour, On Point: From the chaos of the rebellion, trying to pick the winners.


Nour Malas, Beirut correspondent for the Wall Street Journal. (@malas_n)

Steven Heydemann, senior adviser for Middle East Initiatives at the United States Initiative of Peace.

Omar Hossino, researcher with the Middle East program at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace.

Joshua Landis, director of the Center for Middle East Studies at the University of Oklahoma, blogs at Syria Comment. (@joshua_landis)

From Tom’s Reading List

The Wall Street Journal “Syria’s military launched a new offensive on Homs and Hama, two central cities that are part of a corridor of territory from the western coast to the capital, Damascus, where the Syrian regime has focused on consolidating control, said diplomats, analysts and Syrian military defectors.”

CBS News “Secretary of State John Kerry said that there is ‘no guarantee’ that the weapons being given to the Syrian rebels won’t end up in the wrong hands, but he indicated the opposition is increasingly able to get those weapons into the hands of moderate rebels who do not have ties to extremist groups, reports CBS News correspondent Margaret Brennan.”

Foreign Policy “The secular and nationalist spirit that initially sparked the Syrian revolution is also still alive and well. Many grassroots activists and religious leaders are working to forge a country that is built on secular principles, against sectarian revenge, and supportive of equal rights for all its citizens. Even some of the sharia courts that have sprung up to administer justice in areas the Syrian government has abandoned contain surprising, nonsectarian trends.”

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  • Fiscally_Responsible

    We had better think very long and hard before we get ourselves involved militarily in any way in another Middle East morass.  That would include enforcing a no fly zone, providing training and/or advisers  providing military equipment, etc.  It is a conflict that has descended into civil war, which will be very difficult if not impossible to fix and will require a protracted involvement.  And when the dust settles, those with those most power will likely be extremists with whom we strongly disagree anyway.  Most of the people in the Middle East who hate us will still hate us, so what do we gain?  Why not let some of our “militarily free loading” allies such as France, Germany, Italy, Spain, Korea, and Japan spend their blood and treasure to fix this mess instead of the U.S. always having to do it?  We will only get criticized in the end anyway.  If and when the conflict ends, all of these other countries will rush in and get most of the contracts and profits to rebuild the country with us sitting on the sidelines as there will be no appreciation or recognition of the billions that we would have spent in trying to bring the conflict to an end.  I do feel sorry for the people of Syria.  However, I would be unwilling to have my taxes go up or send my son or daughter into harm’s way to fix this mess and would therefore want to extend that sentiment to every other American.  Any assistance that we provide should be humanitarian aid only.

  • Shag_Wevera

    Stay out of it, America.

  • Jasoturner

    A bit off topic but…

    When you see the misery that innocent people must endure elsewhere in the world, it makes you appreciate that having the luck to be born in a place like the United States is better than hitting the lottery for millions of dollars.

    • nj_v2

      Unless you’re one of the 50 million people who can’t afford health insurance and you develop cancer because you live in a poor area that’s been contaminated with industrial effluent for decades.

      Unless you’re one of the 10 million people or 16 million kids who live in poverty.

      Unless you live in a desperate, inner-city neighborhood where you have to worry about getting shot on your street.

  • anon

    I’m writing before the show, but I just want to say that I hope that this is a realistic discussion. I live in the Middle East, know many Syrians, have been to Syria… and most of what I read in Western media by the so-called ‘experts’ doesn’t correspond to the reality of the majority of Syrians. The view we get is usually one of journalists or think tank people sitting in offices seeing Syria as a game, seen in terms only of what role the US is playing or should play; in many article, the wishes and suffering of the tens of millions of Syrian citizens is ignored.

    The fact is that Syria has been a horribly repressive nation where even brothers or best friends since childhood would freeze in fear if asked a political question. Every Syrian has friends or relatives who have been detained, tortured or killed by the regime of Bashar or his father. The fact is that there has always been a sectarian divide, to the point where individual villages are known as majority Sunni, Christian or Alawite; this is not something that needed to be spoken of (and one would be afraid to speak of it), so many of the ‘experts’ constantly claim that this is a new thing (often added that it’s an invention of GCC states or something). Actually, the divide is old and deep and underlies much of what goes on in the region.

    The fact is that since this resistance started over two years ago, there have been demonstrations in town squares across Syria where protesters demanded that Assad go, and they expressed a desire for Islamic government. The ‘experts’ say that it’s becoming a jihad, but actually it always was. (As with Egypt, the resistance didn’t originally talk about yearning for some secular democracy.) I don’t know how many videos I’ve seen of Syrians chanting that they weren’t counting on the UN or Obama or the Arab countries – that they trusted only in Allah.

    Lastly, no one can really understand the current situation in Syria without understanding Islam. You don’t have to believe in Islam, but if you don’t understand it (and I’ve seen very few of the ‘experts’ who do), you miss so much. Just a few examples… Sham (which includes Syria) has always been a blessed place in Islam, and it has significance in the last days (for one thing, Jesus is expected to come back to earth in Damascus). Sunni Muslims all over the world support the Syrian people and push their governments to do so. There is a saying of the Prophet Muhammad that explains what kind of rulers we’ll have in the Muslim world, and every knowledgeable Muslim is aware of that and has seen that it has been true up to now, and that getting rid of the tyrants is part of that prophecy. Even the names of various brigades are very significant; this is occasionally commented on but often missed…

  • Gregg Smith

    Why do we think we can just close our eyes and it’s not a problem?

  • toc1234

    where was this show of support 6m ago?  oh, right, there was support from State, CIA, DOD but political advisers Plouffe and Axelrod disagreed.  There was an election coming up after all…

  • J__o__h__n

    How large is the secular segment of the population?  So far the Arab Spring revolutions started by the secular eduated urban young elite have all ended up with Islamist regimes.  Even Turkey is going in the wrong direction. 

    • anon

      If you mean people who want a ‘Western, liberal, secular democracy’, it’s a tiny segment of the population – just as it is in Egypt. And why would the majority of people in these countries want that? Turkey is going in the right direction, according to most Turks and many others. You may call these new governments ‘regimes’, but they are democratically elected, unlike the real regimes that they replaced.

      • J__o__h__n

        An elected theocracy is still a theocracy.  Elections without individual rights are nearly worthless. 

        • http://twitter.com/Dragonsong73 Eric R. Duncan

          You mean like the right of same sex marriage with all the legal weight and considerations of such?

          • J__o__h__n

            That right is being recognized more and more in secular democracies.  Backwards religious people are the ones holding it back. 

        • anon

          Actually, many people around the world think that individual rights are pretty shallow when you’ve got people who have no access to health care, who are evicted from their homes and loans all the money they put in, who live on the streets… huge numbers in jails, mentally ill who don’t get treatment, gun violence, rape, murder… but you can be proud of the right to insult people or whatever…

  • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_Y6CO5C2HE4WM2OYGCDVWGPRXXM oldman

    We’ve got a huge conflict of interest going on – defense contractors, weapons manufacturers who lobby our military and government want unstable situations across the planet – they are their profit centers.

    • hennorama

      This instability, especially in areas with significant oil resources, also helps to keep world oil prices high.

      Remember how the talking heads say “higher gasoline prices are like a tax” when there is a price spike?  This is the same thing.  Nothing like a good war in the Middle East to keep profits up.

      One can chart historic oil prices and see the spikes that occur around these wars.  This site does this sort of analysis:


  • hennorama

    For some perspective about this conflict and the casualties, from CNN.com:

    “Syria uprising Ongoing since March 2011 (1 year, 10 months)

    60,000: The minimum estimated death toll, according to the United Nations Human Rights Center.

    Average number of deaths per month:  2,727:

    22,530,746: Syria’s estimated population in July 2012, according to the CIA World Factbook

    0.266: Approximate percentage of the Syrian population killed so far

    For comparison’s sake, 0.266% of the population would be 834,834 people for the United States, 167,705 people for the United Kingdom and 3,573,018 people for China, the world’s most populous country.”

    Repeating – The US equivalent ratio would total 834,834 dead.

    That’s roughly equivalent to wiping out the entire population of San Francisco, CA or Jacksonville, FL or Austin, TX or Indianapolis, IN.


  • coffeeshopmolly

    I am soooo tired of the middle east expertise of Senator John McCain. We have witnessed an extended period of partisan foolishness orchestrated by him and Senator Lindsay…… will someone please tell him enough is enough already go somewhere sit down and shut the $%?’&& up!!!    

    • hennorama

      coffeeshopmolly – Sen. McCain might well be thinking “If only I’d been elected in 2008, none of this Syria nonsense would be happening.”

      Remember he was campaigning in 2008 on the idea of INCREASING US troop levels in Iraq, Syria’s next door neighbor.  The US might well still be in Iraq had McCain been elected in 2008.  Here’s what he said in May 2008:

      “The following are conditions I intend to achieve. … By January 2013, America has welcomed home most of the servicemen and women who have sacrificed terribly so that America might be secure in her freedom. The Iraq War has been won. … The United States maintains a military presence there, but a much smaller one, and it does not play a direct combat role.”

      And earlier, in January 2008, McCain told an audience in New Hampshire that he’d be okay with a US military presence in Iraq for for 50 or even 100 years if the country was stable and the American military was not suffering casualties.


    • Dee

      John Mc Cain and Lindsey Graham should be in chains…

      Actually, John mc Cain and Lindsey Graham should be arrested in their chambers and charged with misappro-
      priate of US tax payers revenue and military force and 
      lives in the name of state aggression and Zionist war 
      mongering against the people of the Middle East. 

      And for their failure to uphold their oath of office to 
      defend the Constitution and the Bill of Rights and in-
      stead promote US corporate power over the rights
      of the American people to increase their liberty and prosperity…

      See Bruce Fein and Ralph Nader about those “moral midgets” in Washington running the country today…
      ( http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tsPGHBLcLtc  ) 

      And the great shame Obama have signed on to manyof their policies instead of throwing them out of his office and calling their policies against the American people and the people of the Middle East….Dee

      P.S. Read more about Mc Cain’ and Graham’s war mongering against Syria and the people of the Middle East aand the American people……….

      The Israel lobby london review of books 

      Syria,NATO’s Next Humanitarian War Global Research

  • Dee

    The Beltway Media’s cheer leading US assault on Syria 

    I am so disgusted with how people in the beltway media are cheer leading this shocking US assault on the sovereign 
    leadership of Syria….Even the way Jane Clayton introduced this On Point segment made it seems like a replay of the media complicit role in the Iraq situation…Most of Jane ‘s guests are all cheer leaders of this mindset too. The only person who seem to have an independent voice and offer-ed any sense of the truth is the man Jane interviewed who said he was “scared ” what happened if Assad were to fall.

     In addition, the overthrown of Assad was never part of the Syrian peoples’ non-violent protest against their government . This is the corrupt CIA and Right Wing Zionist Think Tanks in Washington manipulating and exploiting the Syrian peo-ples’ non-violent call for government reform and people should say “No” to it all!

     Indeed I am joining peace groups and anti-war groups in condemning US Exploitation of this Conflict to destabilize Syria and overthrown that country’s sovereign leadership

    . Only the Syrian people have the right to do this.See URLs

    “Friends of Syria” Not friends of the Syrian People http://axisoflogic.com/artman/publish/Article_64501.shtmlIs

    The Israel Lobby, London Re. (The warning to Syria ) http://www.lrb.co.uk/v28/n06/john-mearsheimer/the-israel-lobby

    • anon

      You actually believe that the Syrians didn’t want to get rid of Assad and someone had to manipulate them to think that way?!?

      • Dee

        The overthrown of the Assad government was 
        never a call made by the non-violent protest of the Syrian people as part of the government’s reforms they sought.  

        So yes, the CIA and the hawks in the US govern-
        ment have manipulated this call by Syrian people for government reforms as the American govern-
        ment promoting “democracy” in Syria.

        And we all should denounce this aggression as 
        Western interference in Syria’s sovereign affairs.

        Note what JFK said about interfering in other 
        countries affairs. He said it was an obstacle to peace. 


  • Michael Bristol

    1. borrow from the IMF
    2. play ball with the western oil cartel
    3. say not a word about US allegiance to Israel

    Any ruling dictator or ruling feudal family that follows the script as above is good and o.k.
    al-Assad doesn’t follow the script, so Syria needs humanitarian intervention to effect yet another regime change.
    2 years ago Saudi Arabia and Qatar sent the first bands of
    thugs and gangsters into Syria. They successfully passed off their murder of Syrians as the work of the Syrian military.
    Of course it’s from Doha, Qatar that Kerry makes the latest Assad-the-evil-doer speeches.
    AIPAC hirelings like Steven Heydemann, a decade ago, were gift-wrapping Powell’s white powder. It’s the cheering crowd
    for war-mongering retards like John McCain.

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