Recent calls by the likes of Fareed Zakaria and Ryan Crocker for the West to ally itself with the regime of Bashar Assad to fight the terror group ISIS, ignore some very practical reasons why such an alliance would do nothing to safeguard Western lives or rollback the Islamic State. Proponents of an alliance with Assad are acting less like hard-nosed realists, and more like daydreamers where cold-hard facts and realities must be ignored in order to sustain the fantasy.
If the threat of ISIS demands cold-hearted “realpolitik”, then “realpolitik” demands that we ask who has the best chance of defeating ISIS in Syria. Recent events have shown that the answer isn’t “Bashar Assad”, and for reasons that are both military and practical. The regime’s most recent defeat to ISIS at the Tabqa airbase was an even bigger political disaster than a military one, coming so soon after Bashar Assad had all but declared “victory” in the Syrian conflict.
Considering the abysmal performance of the regime’s forces against ISIS to date (even with massive Russian & regional assistance), the massive political ransom that will be extracted from the West (the lifting of economic, financial & military sanctions) in the event of such an alliance, and Assad’s utter inability to prevent a potential ISIS attack in Europe or North America, the inevitable conclusion must be that the regime brings precious little to an “alliance” with the West, when weighed against the price such an alliance would entail.
Simply put, it is more viable to light the beacons of Gondor and wait for the Riders of Rohan to come to the rescue against ISIS, then there is in relying on the Assad regime to rollback the Islamic State.
Assad Wont Beat ISIS, Because He *Cant* Beat ISIS
Every venture capitalist in the world knows that before you plunk a million dollars into a start-up, you first examine how well the company’s founders have performed before coming to you for funding. No matter how “brilliant” a vision, how slick the presentation and pitch, in the end it comes down to people’s ability to execute their ideas.
No VC in their right mind would fund a company that has already blown through millions of dollars of Russian, Iranian and Hizbollah “funding” for scant little to show for it. But that is exactly what the likes of Fareed Zakaria et al are asking the West to do with regards to the Assad regime.
Despite massive and unlimited support from Russia, Iran and Hizbollah, despite enjoying complete and unchallenged air superiority, not only have Assad’s forces time and again failed in numerous engagements against ISIS, they have been totally incapable of decisively beating the much more poorly armed and fragmented Syrian rebels. Nothing the West can do can fix military incompetence on such a scale.
Not that other parties haven’t tried. Hizbollah has been bled so much by the effort to prop up the regime that it has had reduced to reduce the age at which it recruits fighters to 16 years-old. Its commitments in Syria have rendered it incapable of fighting Israel in any war in the short and medium term. The regime is an entity that devours the blood and treasure of backer after backer, until it finds a new one to suck dry.
For years, Assad avoided getting into a direct confrontation with ISIS, allowing them to set up a safe haven in Raqqa from which to launch attacks on and eventually overrun Eastern Syria and much of Iraq. When ISIS finally turned its guns on Assad, the Syrian army proved completely outmatched. Not even the best business advice and most lavish of funding will save a company if the management haven’t the business sense of a cactus.
Assad Is Powerless to Prevent an ISIS Attack in the West
One of the primary reasons that insta-pundits such as Max Abrahms use to justify a Western alliance with Assad, is the idea that while ISIS have openly threatened the West, Assad “only kills Arabs”.
Such arguments are both disingenuous and downright dishonest. Let’s put aside for a moment Assad’s sordid history of sending Jihadis into Iraq to kill American soldiers and blow up Iraqi civilians, or the threats his most prominent mufti made as far back as 2011 to send suicide bombers against the USA and Europe.
The fact is that if ISIS wants to attack the West, there is nothing that Assad can do to prevent it. ISIS doesn’t just exist in the Levant, it is an ideology that is as much alive on social media and Youtube as it is on the ground in Syria and Iraq. If the aim is to prevent ISIS from killing Westerners, then allying with Bashar Assad does nothing to meet that objective.
For recruitment purposes ISIS would love nothing more than an open collusion between the West and the Assad regime. It’s a wonder that self-professed “terrorism experts” such as Max Abrahms even think that teaming up with a despot who has openly used chemical weapons, cluster bombs and Scud missiles on civilian areas, can possibly win the kind of support from the wider Muslim world that will be necessary to eventually beating ISIS.
Assad’s Own Physical Safety is More Precarious Than Most Pundits Want to Admit.
Assad might call himself president of Syria, but it’s been a very long time since he’s acted like one. This is a man who stayed in hiding all throughout the run-up to the “presidential election” held last summer, who didn’t dare put in one appearance to “campaign” or “rally the troops” for fear of his own personal safety.
For months, the only public appearance he made was at his inauguration, the final location of which was kept a closely guarded secret until the very last minute, even from his hand picked crowd of attendant sycophants. He is as much in hiding from his own disgruntled shabihas as he is from his opponents.
The West has a history of backing “strongmen”, the key word being “strong”. It’s no use backing an unpopular *weak* dictator whose personal safety is so precarious, he can’t even be seen on the streets of cities that are supposedly most loyal to him. If and when Assad is assassinated, most likely by his own shabihas, the whole house of cards will have collapsed.
And unlike Tupac Shakur, Bashar Assad wont be much good after he’s dead.
“The Enemy of My Enemy Is My Friend” – a Tenet by Which NOT A SINGLE Middle East Government Has Ever Set Its Policies By
I cannot begin to address the complete and utterly simplistic superficiality that is any “analysis” on ISIS that contains the phrase “the enemy of my enemy is my friend”.
Rubbish. It’s a tenet by which not a single Middle Eastern government has ever set its policy by, because doing so is the surest way to guarantee you’ll end up doing some “very stupid sh-t”.
The countries of Lebanon, Jordan, Turkey and the Gulf are the ones closest to the ISIS threat and most immediately affected, and yet are in no rush whatsoever to ally themselves with Assad. It is because they have firsthand experience of what a continuation of Assad’s rule would mean for the region. None of those governments are calling for *any* sort of alliance with Assad, and least of all a Western one. They know what the consequences will be.
Millions of refugees who will remain refugees for decades to come. Western arms transferred to Assad that will inevitably end up in the hands of terrorist groups like Hizbollah. Financial sanctions lifted, sanctions that predate even Barack Obama’s administration and which were put in place to prevent funding of terror groups. These countries realize there’s no point in fighting ISIS if in the process you end up opening the door to a dozen ISIS-wannabes.
Any pundit eager for their 15 minute of fame should be asked; why is it you are promoting an idea that not even the countries most threatened by ISIS are even remotely contemplating.