New Republic editor-in-chief emeritus Martin Peretz has published a scathing indictment of the Western media and the Obama Administration for failing to understand why President Bashar Assad is losing his grip on Syria. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, for example, described Assad as a "reformer." But according to Peretz, Western elites do not grasp that Ba'athist-ruled Syria is a "failed state" – a dictatorship that cannot survive without repression at home and continual conflict with Israel.
Syria is governed by adherents of the Alawite sect of Islam - a group comprising just 10 percent of the population. The Syrian majority - Sunni Muslims and their Muslim Brotherhood vanguard - have been "cowering" since 1982, Peretz writes, when Bashar's father, then-dictator Hafez Assad, massacred tens of thousands of Syrians at Hama.
On Friday, United Nations officials said that as many as 850 people have been killed in the latest regime crackdown. The Syrian military is reported to have deployed tanks in Homs, a city located near the Lebanese border in central Syria; in Talas, in a restive region in Syria's south; and in Baniyas, on the Mediterranean coast. The France24 television network aired this disturbing report featuring a Syrian soldier describing the regime's use of snipers to target its political opponents.
Peretz adds: "Pity the Alawites when the Sunnis will strike for revenge. On the other hand, how much can you pity the Alawites who have been plundering and imprisoning and also murdering for four decades?"
When President Obama tried to jumpstart Israeli-Syrian negotiations, it was part of a larger effort to bring about "Israel's retreat from territories it had captured while they were being used by enemies trying to vitiate Israel itself," according to Peretz. They believe Israel "should withdraw from the West Bank and ancient Jerusalem and East Jerusalem and, yes, the Golan Heights, too, without a shred of evidence that…it could be protected from attack."
The argument is sometimes made that NATO could play a peacekeeping role in the event of Israeli troop withdrawals. But Peretz argues that "Obama has blown that alternative too, by virtually opting out of its venture against Qaddafi and leaving the leadership to Great Britain and France, whose bona fides are suspect."