While the Obama administration continues its shameful dithering on Syria, the violence, which has been going on for more than a year, is accelerating. The latest news is that two car bombs have exploded in the center of Damascus, near an intelligence headquarters, killing at least 55 people and injuring more than 350 others.
These types of attacks are a hallmark of al-Qaeda in Iraq. All indications are that this terrorist organization has now migrated from western Iraq into neighboring Syria where it is, in effect, stoking another sectarian war pitting majority Sunnis against the ruling Alawite minority (a Shi’ite offshoot sect). Meanwhile, there are credible reports of Prime Minister Nour al-Maliki’s Shi’ite-dominated government apparently helping Bashar al-Assad’s regime, especially by serving as a conduit for Iranian assistance. In other words, a deadly sectarian civil war is under way in Syria, and one that, like previous civil wars in Lebanon and Iraq, is drawing in its neighbors. We could be in for years of hellish, destabilizing violence.
There is only way to restore some semblance of peace, and that is to topple the Assad regime as expeditiously as possible. But that won’t happen until the U.S. gets off the sidelines and, in cooperation with our allies, extends more aid to the badly outgunned rebels. This New York Times article makes clear the rebels are a mixed bag: some are sectarian, others Islamist, still others more liberal in their orientation. Obviously, al-Qaeda and its ilk are part of the mix. But far from that being a reason not to help the rebels, it is all the more reason why we must step forward so as to empower more moderate rebel groups. Otherwise, we will leave an opening for the most extreme jihadists to come to the fore.