Posted in Foreign Affairs by Peter W. Schramm
As the violence in Syria continues, it might be worth noting that US Ambassador Ford
visited the opposition stronghold of Hamma: "Hundreds of thousands of Syrians poured into the streets of the
opposition stronghold Hama on Friday, bolstered by a gesture of support
from the American and French ambassadors who visited the city where a
massacre nearly 30 years ago came to symbolize the ruthlessness of the
Assad dynasty." Olive branches and flowers were thrown on his car by grateful Syrians. The Syrian government, of course, was not amused. Could this be the start of the engagement policy promised at the start of the Obama administration?
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Hama is indeed the site of the Assad regime's worst single atrocity (old man Assad killed tens of thousands there in February 1982). But the city is also a hint of what would likely replace Baby Assad if his regime crumbles: It's a traditional hotbed of Sunni (and specifically Muslim Brotherhood) extremism.
I have some sympathy for the Obama administration's evident quandary over Syria, as it is most likely a place where there is no outcome without grave drawbacks. Assad is awful, a terror sponsor and an Iranian client, but another Sunni-fundamentalist regime or another Lebanon/Libya (a country consumed by internal war) may not be exactly what the Middle East needs either.