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My personal musings about anything that gets on my radar screen--heavily dominated by politics.
|More From Bashar Assad|
A couple nights ago I blogged about the Time interview with Bashar Assad (subscription required). I noted that he had mentioned the lessons learned from the Iraq War in relation to his own situation. Here is the exact quote:
Please send this message: I am not Saddam Hussein. I want to cooperate.
The article leaves the impression that, at least in this reporter’s eyes, Assad is in a little bit over his head with the whole Grand Pooh-Bah act. To wit:
Unfortunately, Assad seems unable to make [reforms]. In our interview, he evadedthe question of closing Palestinian “rejectionist” group offices in Damascus. “If you’re an American and I don’t want you here, should I send you to Africa or to the U.S., your country? . . That’s what I told [Assistant Secretary of State William] Burns: Where should I send [the Palestinian radicals]? To the Mediterranean, on a boat?” But he also claimed there were no Palestinian extremist offices in Damascus. “They have houses. They live in the houses meet with people in the houses. That’s what they call offices. . .They don’t have members in Syria; all their members are in Palestine. The only thing they used to do was call in the media to express their position.”
Assad was also firmly evasive about cooperating with the U.S. in rounding up Iraqis supporting the insurgency from Syrian territory. In January the U.S. had given Assad a list of 34 wanted men assumed to be in Syria. “Many of these names we don’t know,” Assad told me. “What does his face look like? What’s his real name? Maybe he’s using a fake name or a fake passport. You should give us precise information because we can’t find them.”
This turned out to be a creatively incomplete answer. A few hours earlier, the Iraqis had announced the Saddam’s half brother Sabawi Ibrahim al-Hassan al-Tiktriti had been captured in Syria, reportedly with the cooperation of Syrian authorities.
I’m pretty sure pinning our hopes for transformation in the Middle East on this guy would be a mistake. On the other hand, the article does give the impression that this is one regime that may be ripe for toppling.
Then the problem becomes who takes over, and just how bad are they?