On February 22, a good friend of mine, the courageous Sunday Times reporter Marie Colvin, who reported from almost every war zone in the world to present the readers with the horror, brutality and futility of war, was killed by Syrian forces in the city of Homs.
She is now one of more than 6,000 innocent civilians who have been massacred by Bashar Assad's forces, most recently and in the most gruesome way in the Homs massacre. And the world is numb. Russia and China vetoed a condemnation of the atrocities, and the West, led by the United States, has limited itself to economic sanctions, and has not intervened militarily on the side of the brave Syrian rebels, unlike in Libya.
The Assad Alawite regime has been largely a tragedy for Syria, a minority rule of ruthless dictators. The father, Hafez Assad, while probably a more astute and intelligent leader, ruled with immense brutality, killing more than 20,000 Islamists in Hama in 1982. He kept Syria not only a closed and backwards country, close to the Soviet Union, but also far away from the West and peace, despite generous overtures by Yitzhak Rabin, Shimon Peres, Ehud Barak and Bill Clinton.
The apple has fallen close to the tree, and young Bashar, who seemed initially to bring some promise, due to his age, his Western education and his spouse, walked straight in the footsteps of his father, or rather limped in them. Lacking intelligence and experience, he has inherited his father's cynicism and cruelty in abundance. He is totally committed to suppressing the people's revolt against his despised regime, no matter the cost in innocent lives.
An end must be put to Bashar's regime, and an end being in sight in one way or another, it has already affected other regional players, both near and far from Damascus. The Tehran-Damascus-Hezbollah- Hamas axis has been a potent source of danger to the stability of the entire Middle East. The ongoing weapon supply chain from Tehran via Damascus, to Lebanese and Palestinian terror organizations, was the foundation for this dangerous coalition. Now, the alarm bells are sounding in Tehran's mosques, and in Beirut's headquarters.
Khaled Mashaal and Hamas were the first to understand the strategic shift, and he and his cronies fled Damascus and are now looking for refuge in Amman or Doha. Hassan Nasrallah of Hezbollah is Assad's last remaining supporter, besides his Iranian godfathers, weaving conspiracy theories around the bloodshed in Syria, as Nasrallah knows that his position as the de facto ruler of Lebanon may be damaged. Even the Muslim Brotherhood organizations in Cairo and the Maghreb have stood up against the Alawite "kingdom," as was apparent in the recent "Friends of Syria" summit in Tunis.
This further deepens the divide between relatively moderate and fundamentalist Islam, placing the relatively more moderate, mainly Sunni, mainstream Islamists, opposite the dogmatic Shia made-in-Tehran version, which is all the while trying to export a fundamentalist ideology of the supremacy of Shari'a law and fanatic hate for the infidels, be they Arab or Western.