The attempted assassination Monday of Syria’s prime minister reflects yet another “upgrade” in the level of violence that is destroying the country and threatening the entire region.
The bombing attack on Wael al-Halki took place in central Damascus, in the so-called “Square of Security” where many of Assad’s top officials live. Though failing to reach its intended target, the attack succeeded in sending a message that none of Assad’s high command are safe.
The West appears to be at a loss as to how to deal with the disintegration of Syria. It stood by helplessly for more than two years as an estimated 70,000 people were killed, five million people were forced to flee their homes and more than a million homes were destroyed or damaged, at a cost of many tens of billions of dollars. And we’re talking about a country that was poor to begin with.
Making matters worse is that the civil war in Syria threatens to spill over into neighboring countries. In the eyes of these radicals, both Jordan’s King Hussein and Turkey’s President Erdogan have committed the unpardonable “crime” of forming an alliance with the United States and therefore must be toppled, in keeping with the Islamic revolution.
Then, of course, there is Israel, which is the bull’s-eye of the target as far as the rebels are concerned.
Adding fire to the fuel is the large stockpile of nonconventional weapons in Syria that could fall into the wrong hands, assuming that hasn’t already happened.
In the face of the imminent collapse of Assad’s rule in Syria, and the ascension to power of radical Islamic forces connected to the Nusra Front, which has declared its allegiance to al-Qaida leader Ayman al-Zawahri, the West has to be prepared to act.
To date, the response has been disappointing to put it mildly. When Israel’s Military Intelligence announced last week that Assad had used chemical weapons, most likely nerve gas, against rebels, the United States hemmed and hawed before admitting that it was “likely” to have been the case. The response from the United Nations, not surprisingly, was worse.
To be fair, the West is at a disadvantage against the likes of Assad and Iran’s Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. Even though the West has far greater resources, more powerful armies and weapons systems, its leaders have to answer to their voters, who aren’t eager to go to war. The tyrants, on the other hand could not care less about the suffering their policies cause their people.
In an attempt to influence Syria without going to war, President Obama set a “red line” regarding the use of chemical weapons. Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu set a “red line” with regard to Iran’s nuclear weapons. Both are now in the uncomfortable position of having to acknowledge that their red lines have been, or are very close to having been, crossed.
At this point, the West has to unite. Considering the stakes, including the spread of chemical weapons to terror groups that operate around the world, it cannot leave Washington to deal with the problem on its own.