Published July 19, 2012
News Wednesday morning out of Damascus was devastating for the Assad regime. Defense Minister Dawoud Rajha is dead; deputy defense chief and Assad brother-in-law Assef Shawkat is also reportedly dead. Other senior regime members are in hospital. Some reports indicate the bomber was an Assad bodyguard.
Since the attack, fighting has continued in Damascus and thousands have fled ruthless regime reprisals. Rumor has it that Bashar himself has left the capital for his family hometown of Latakia. Presumably, from there he will have the option of ending his rule as Tunisia's ex-President Zine Abedine Ben Ali did — in exile; or as Libyan dictator did — in a pool of blood.
Time is running short for all who have supported Assad, tacitly or explicitly, to explain themselves. Among them, first and foremost the Iranians, for whom Assad is a key client. But Iran is on its heels, and Syria is its only creature in an increasingly hostile Middle East.
Nor can we forget Hezbollah, which leads Lebanon's government and reportedly has hundreds of its terrorist number among those fighting to preserve the Assad regime.
Then the Russians who have armed and protected Assad as his people rose against him, blocking every attempt at Security Council action, throwing spanners into the wheels of the "friends of Syria" group. But Putin is only playing to type.
What of the West — the French who were the engine of outside support for Qadhafi's enemies; the British who also led the way on Libya?
And finally, what of the president of the most powerful nation on earth, a leader with a nominal commitment to freedom that extends only as far as his printed speeches, and little further.
The Obama administration has fussed and fluttered, blabbed and gabbed, and ultimately done nothing for the people of Syria. The death of more than 17,000 Syrians is a stain on Obama's hands. He will preen that victory for the rebels is what he predicted all along, and it happened without having to spend a dime, risk an aircraft, ship a weapon.
Imagine how much faster it would have happened had the feckless president been less feckless. Imagine how the people of Syria would celebrate America as the Libyans do.
How much sway will we have over the post-Assad Syria? As much as we have earned: None.
Editor's note: A version of this opinion piece originally appeared on the AEIdeas blog.