While the unrest in Syria intensifies and Syria teeters on the brink of full-blown civil war, if it is not already past that precipice, it remains fair to ask what Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s thinking is. After all, he’s a “Western-educated eye doctor” who never expected to be president. He was thrust into that position only after the death of his playboy older brother. Should Bashar leave, he would not necessarily be denied a comfortable retirement. Unlike the late Libyan strongman Muammar Qaddafi, for example, Bashar never tried to kill the king of Saudi Arabia, thereby disqualifying himself from that retirement community of washed-up dictators.
There is a reason why Bashar is thumbing his nose at the international community: He believes he must only wait out the next three weeks to be home free. President Obama’s withdrawal from Iraq is an early Christmas present. Syria has just one consistent ally in the region: Iran. Aerial resupply is vulnerable without control of the Iraqi airspace, and Turkish sanctions may have disrupted Iran’s supply of Syria through that former ally of Bashar al-Assad. All this changes by Christmas, however, when American forces complete their withdrawal from Iraq, in a move which Vice President Joe Biden assures us is not a victory.
If Biden was once Tehran’s favorite senator, then certainly Obama is the Supreme Leader’s fantasy president. Iraqis do not love their Iranian neighbors. Sometimes ethnicity trumps sectarian solidarity. But, Iran has shown a willingness to bribe, use force and employ proxies to deadly effect, a combination Iraqis will be hard-pressed to resist. Thanks to Obama’s willingness to walk away from talks and abandon the American relationship with Iraq, Bashar can expect his first Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps reinforcements just after Christmas. Why should he throw in the towel now?