Coverage of the crisis in Syria has failed to consider an underlying game-changer in the country. Assad, like his father, is Alawite, a Moslem sect that celebrates Christmas and has never been fanatical. In fact, they have opposed the militants and have cooperated in the war on terror. They also sent troops in the first Gulf War to drive Saddam Hussein out of Kuwait. The Assads have been dictators but the population generally supported them for providing stability and maintaining a secular society. They have protected the Christians and have not oppressed the moderate Sunnis.
But with Syria moving closer to Iran, the game-changer was the recognition by the Mullahs in Iran of the Alawites as a legitimate branch of Shia. That meant that Syria was ruled by Shiites, an unacceptable situation that fueled the uprisings that have led to a virtual civil war. And while it is true that many Syrians oppose the dictatorship and want democracy, a powerful element in the insurgency consists of militant Moslems who could conceivably take over the country. The Israelis, until now, have had no problem with Assad and no doubt worry that his overthrow would threaten a stable situation and result in a militant enemy on their border. This is now a problem with no satisfactory solution. The Russians understand this and think they can save Assad but the more they become involved the worse it gets. Right now it is fair to say the country is in civil war and the Americans, who keep pressing for Assad to go, are banking that moderates will take over the country. They could be wrong.
The Americans pushed for Mubarak to resign in Egypt and for elections that the
Moslem Brotherhood won with their miitant Salafite allies.Now their candidate for president appears to have won. The power of the president in Egypt had previously been virtually absolute making parliament simply a rubber stamp. The old elite’s argument was that this along with the state of emergency was the only way to keep Egypt secular and to prevent a takeover by the militants who would break the treaty with Israel. Israel would then be faced with an enemy in Egypt instead of an ally which was what it was under Mubarak. With the presidential election going the wrong way the army has staged a coup declaring its power over the president and arrogating to itself the right to declare war. The American military has very close relations with the army and America provides it with billions in aid and weapons. That no action has been taken by the Americans in the face of this virtual coup by the army means that they have given tacit approval in order to preserve the status quo with Israel and restore the sale of Egyptian natural gas to the Israelis.
This could blow up in their face. The Brotherhood did not participate in the Tahrir Square uprising that toppled Mubarak. This time they are unlikely to take the dissolution of parliament and the usurpation of the power of the president by the army lying down. Egypt, like Syria, could be facing a period of chaos. Egypt is heading back to another military dictatorship. Syria could end up the same. Some Arab Spring.