Sunday, November 13, 2011

Assad on the Outs with the Arab League. Now What?

As widely reported, the Arab League (in a move that, as Juan Cole notes, is largely symbolic) has suspended Syria from membership - and infuriated Syrians have attacked the Saudi embassy in Damascus in reprisal.  To borrow from Iraq's ancient history (the episode of Belshazzar's feast, as recorded in the Hebrew Bible and memorialized in Rembrandt's famous painting), the writing is on the wall in re Bashar al-Assad's fate.  Prof. Cole suggests, with good reason, that Bashar ought to take a lesson from Libya.

By taking a lesson from Libya, I assume he means that Bashar ought to get out while the gettin’s good.

But where might he go where he might feel (a) reasonably safe and secure, and (b) out of the reach of the ICC? Who would host him? Maybe Iran? But would he be content, as a supposedly secular Baathist, to live under the umbrella of a religious Islamist regime in a predominantly Persian milieu?

Maybe Iraq, where President Nuri al-Maliki has been supportive of Assad and his Alawi (quasi-Shia) ruling family? But would Maliki’s already conflicted political supporters look kindly on sheltering a Baathist? Or would Bashar's father Hafez’s conflicts with Saddam Hussein years ago (under Hafez al-Assad, Syria supported the US-led coalition against Saddam's Iraq during the 1991 "Desert Storm" war) trump the Baathist connection?

And can you imagine how Obama/Clinton – and their detractors – might react to Maliki sheltering Bashar?

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