For some time the pundits have been predicting the downfall of the Assad regime.
In what may be a significant addition, is one from the Prime Minister of Russia. till now one of Assad's principal sources of support.
Dmitry Medvedev has said that Assad's support is weakening daily. That is not exactly a declaration that the end is near. However, along with news that Assad's mother has left the country, it is something. Against this, is the comment from Jordan's King Abdullah that anyone predicting Assad's early demise does not understand what is happening on the ground.
Mrs. Assad is pregnant. Is that a sign of hope, or the beginning of a story that will end tragically?
Both Israel and Jordan are worrying about what may happen. and they are consulting with one another. Jordan has moved troops and equipment to its border with Syria, and Israel has positioned anti-missile defenses in the north.
Among the looming possibilities is a fall into the rebels' hands of Syria's missiles as well as chemical and biological weapons, or their transfer to the nasty hands of Hezbollah.
Unknown is who is likely to gain control of Syria, and how important in their eyes will be the Zionist enemy.
Hezbollah's enmity is more certain.
So Israel's movement of anti-missiles may signal a concern that one or another rebel group in Syria will turn newly acquired weapons against Israel, or that Israel is getting ready to attack the arsenals of Hezbollah, and preparing for what is likely to come from Hezbollah.
Bibi is rattling his saber, saying that Israel may have to intervene if missiles or weapons of mass destruction start moving toward Hezbollah.
It may only be a matter of time until one or another problem spills over from Syria. No one Is making any firm guesses about who will be in control--if anyone--X months from now. None of the options appear anything close to enlightened, or pleasant, either for the Syrians or their neighbors. Iran has weighed in, threatening to attack anyone who attacks Syria.
Among the possibilities--
•There isn't much that anyone can do amidst the fluid violence with several rival groups of fighters from Syria and elsewhere, including participants from Iran and Hezbollah.
•Jordan and Turkey might enter as Muslim-legitimate guards over the arsenals of long range missiles and weapons of mass destruction, with the assistance of the United States, assuming they have the will to appear to be doing the bidding of the United States and Israel.
•Unfriendly commentators are accusing Bibi of hyping the dangers beyond the actual reality, in order to frighten Israelis and help him recruit partners for his next government. The aura of a national emergency may obtain their participation while getting less than they are currently demanding by way of positions or policy concessions. Remember his shrill warnings about Iran on the eves of elections in the US and Israel.
Syria may go down the road already entered by its neighbor Iraq, i.e., a dismemberment of effective central control into a cluster of areas where ethnic and religious communities dominate.
Both "nations" are clusters of minorities. There are Kurds, Christians, and Alewites along with Sunni Muslims in Syria. There is a majority of Shiite Muslims in Iraq, encouraged by next door Iran, along with Sunni Muslims, Kurds, and Christians. Both countries have enthusiastic ideologues of various kinds along with religious fanatics. To borrow a metaphor from American baseball, you cannot tell the players without a scorecard. Everyone and his gang is fighting everyone else with their gangs.
Both Syria and Iraq had thriving Jewish communities, but no more.
Their loss our gain, including Geffen's other Grandpa.
Syria and Iraq began their modern histories with Britain and France carving out spheres of influence from what had been the Ottoman Empire. Each began with an Arab king, followed by the violence of nationalist revolutions and strong dictators, who managed to keep some degree of domestic peace. Iraq succumbed to the American invasion decided by George W. Bush. Syria is on the ropes due to a spin off from Arab spring, that traces itself in part to Barack Obama's Cairo speech.
In an overly simple history of the century from World War I and looking ahead to what is expected-- European colonialists created with their maps what American presidents destroyed with their illusions of Middle Eastern democracy.
Ira Sharkansky (Emeritus)
Department of Political Science
Hebrew University of Jerusalem