Today it appears as though the Western powers, led by the United States, are preparing their domestic populations for the inevitable bombing campaign of Syria.
Even our own Prime Minister Stephen Harper is considering throwing our efforts in with the Western coalition. It is my sincere hope that our leaders take their time before entering into such a situation.
Syria, like many Middle Eastern countries, is a dictatorship based upon religious and tribal cornerstones. Its president, Bashar al-Assad, enjoys the support of the relatively small Syrian Alawite community — about 12 per cent of the population. This community has prospered under Assad’s regime, as well as that of his father. They appear prepared to do anything to retain power including, perhaps, gassing their opponents.
I say perhaps because it appears as though we still lack definitive evidence that the regime and not the rebels, was behind the gassing incident. With respect to our leaders, we should be certain on this key piece of evidence before we move forward. Anyone remember our rationale for overturning Saddam Hussein? How did that turn out?
I once met a member of the Israeli intelligence community who described Syria as if The Sopranos owned a country. The Assad regime is clearly a bloodthirsty crew that is prepared to destroy their nation in order to save it. Today, that regime is holding on to power by its fingertips.
Opposing Assad in this two-year-old civil war is a compendium of different tribes and religious groups. They are an odd collection of folks whose sole raison d’être for collaboration is the overthrow of Assad. After that, they all appear to have different rationales for their participation in this war.
The Middle Eastern view of such collaboration has always been “the enemy of my enemy is my friend.” This happened most recently to American forces in Iraq after their defeat of Saddam Hussein. In a period of months, President George W. Bush’s shortsighted foreign policy brought the long-time foes Sunni and Shiite Muslims together — in an effort to defeat the U.S.
To borrow from former U.S. secretary of state Colin Powell, this situation will follow his so-called Pottery Barn rule — you break it, you bought it.
My fear is that bombing or other active interventions into the Syrian civil war will ultimately draw Western troops into yet another ugly Middle East conflict — between the then-victorious parties, all of which will then vie for power.
Why don’t we just support the rebels? Because in simple terms, nothing in the Middle East is as clean and simple as we Westerners desire.
Canada could support the rebels, but we should be very careful with whom we climb into bed. Western powers have, in previous foreign policy travails, backed such then-pro Western luminaries as Saddam Hussein and Osama bin Laden. We clearly did not think through all of the long-term implications of our decisions then. Why are we confident things are different now? Are we so much smarter?
Think about it this way — the Assad regime, Alawites, are supported by the Shiite Hezbollah from Lebanon and the Shiite regime in Iran. The regime is also supported by Russia.
The rebels coalesced against the regime include the Muslim Brotherhood, the Syrian Liberation Front (which wants to start an Islamic-based republic), among others.
Are you sure that, as a Canadian, you want to get involved in this mess? I personally do not believe we Canadians have an overwhelming national interest to send our soldiers to participate in such a morass.
» Kerry Auriat is a lifelong Brandon resident and a partner in a local brokerage firm.
Republished from the Brandon Sun print edition August 30, 2013