But as I sit here in my office in Saudi Arabia let me share some things.
US foreign policy is as complicated as it can get. If you're looking for some rhyme or reason to it, in terms of who are the 'good guys' and who are the 'bad guys', 1) you aren't going to find consistency in our foreign policy and 2) it is awfully tough to figure out who's who in the Middle East.
Why do we hate Iran? No idea. I can't even tell you why we are so strongly allied with Saudi Arabia, except for their commitment to petrodollars. Otherwise, the Saudis would be just as evil if not more so that the Iranians. Do we hate the Iranians because of their adherence to Shia? Is Shia preferable to Sunni? Is there more likely to be respect for fundamental human rights from a Sunni government than a Shia one? I don't think so - for example Saudi is the last place in the world where women cannot drive (this is not strictly speaking due to civil law but religious law and 'tradition'). So why then does the US have bases in the Kingdom?
Not because they are the good guys, but they are the 'good guys' because they are on our side, and that's the only reason. That don't necessarily mean WE are the good guys in the first place, that's for sure.
There is no completely secular government in the Middle East, as far as I can tell, perhaps none that aspire to be so but if any, it won't happen soon. Syria apparently was a last bastion of secularism but even there, the lines are blurred.
It seems plausible to portray Assad as a leader who (in the not-too-distant past) was on a course to liberalize his country, but at a snail's pace, only comfortable to the ruling class, imperctible to his opposition and to the outside world, in a way to maintain 'control' - which in the ME is always an issue. There being many religious and political factions in his country (his Alouite party being one of the many), the minorities and opposition could have finally grown tired of their lack of opportunity, or perhaps more correctly, insufficient political handouts, and were ripe for agitation but not without the support of entities outside the country. For example, a not small portion of the rebels are Sunni, which is the predominant sect in Saudi Arabia, and this is a natural alliance. In this scenario any attempt at reconciliation with the opposition by the Assad government could have been perceived as weakness - hence the crackdowns, which has led to the further escalation of opposition and violence. This Assad wanted stability - not necessarily the status quo - liberalization but not too damn fast, lest crazed fringe elements seek to take power and set the whole thing back 1000 years.
The above scenario is opposed to one which portrays Assad simply as some brutal Saddam Hussein-like evil bastard who imprisons and tortures his opposition, and hoses down the peasants with chemical weapons, as a means of maintaining control, doesn't give two shakes for those outside the inner circle or 'liberalization' of his country. I think this is the scenario that the CIA prefers we believe, especially since Syria has been allied with those GD Russkies and the vile Iranians, for so long.
The truth is somewhere between and, as I say, you can't separate the good guys from the bad over here. Human rights? WTF is that?
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