Bombings in Bulgaria & Damascus: Quick Analysis

There were two bombings in the headlines today, the attackon Israeli tourists in Bulgaria and the successful assassination of several keymembers of Assad’s inner circle in Damascus
Short analyses follow, first of the attack in Bulgaria and then of the attack in
Damascus.
Hezbollah Lands One
Hezbollah (and Iran together, of course) has been trying to
hit Israel for about four years now.  The
tempo of efforts – mostly failed (with a partial recent success in India) has
been high.  This does not change my
fundamental argument that Hezbollah has is having a great deal of difficultycarrying out long-distance attacks against Israel.  But eventually one was going to work.  The key was apparently in finding a country
with sufficient security holes and unfortunately Bulgaria fit the bill.
The nagging question is if there is any broader element to
this attack?  The AMIA attack (which was
18 years ago today) and the attack on Israel’s Embassy in Argentina two years
earlier were revenge attacks for Israeli attacks on Hezbollah leaders.  This was a belated (by four years) revenge
attack for the death of Hezbollah operations chief Imad Mughniyeh.  But was there another angle?  If so, it is tough to see.
A bombing in Bulgaria will not change dynamics in
Syria.  It may increase international
frustration with Iran – which some elements within Iran appear to desire.  They fear that their leaders will bargain
away Iran’s nuclear program.
But more then likely, this is Hezbollah and Iran’s
terror-masters doing what they do.  Terrorist
groups are organizations and units within organizations that are dedicated to
certain tasks like to do those tasks.  In
particular, the groups that like to carry out violence, want to launch attacks
and if they don’t get to they get frustrated and possibly splinter.
Syria Gets Uglier
On first hearing the news about the suicide bombing in
Damascus a wicked part of my brain thought, “Finally, suicide bombers being
used against the bad guys.”
But Syria has so many possibilities for getting very, very ugly.  If the civil war in Iraq was horrible, Syria
could be worse (for starters there is no US military presence to try to
stabilize things.)
While the rebels have reached into the inner circle, the
regime has its back to the wall and knows what fate awaits it when it falls.  They will go down fighting.  Recent stories state they are moving units
from the Golan into the heart of the country and there are enormous worries
that Syria will deploy its vast chemical weapons stockpiles (after all, Saddam
did.)
When the regime falls, there will be no Truth and
Reconciliation Commissions about the Alawite Baathist regime.  Long before the Assad clan took power, the
Alawites were a despised minority.  That
they ruled the country was an insult, but there was no lack of injury at their
hands.  When the regime falls there will
be mass murders and beheadings.  The
atrocities in the uprising have engendered so much rage.  Even if the regime had fallen quickly, there
were so many other misdeeds by the rulers over the past several decades that it
is difficult to imagine some sort of accord being reached.  In the Middle East, memories are long.
If Bashar wished, he and his cronies could jump on their
private jets and get out.  Perhaps he
still will.  But it appears he is
establishing himself as the defender of his community, in which he must stop at
nothing in their increasingly final stand.
One More Thing
There are reports that the US is making contingency plans for regime collapse in Syria.  This day, like the collapse of Mubarak’s regime, was not completely unpredictable.  I’m not saying that anyone should have just known this was going to happen but rather that a prudent analyst would recognize that these regimes were both rickety and could collapse.  The fact that they both lasted for such a long time considering their enormous failures in governance does not mean that they were somehow protected from the great fault-lines of history.
It is an old maxim that plans are nothing, but planning is everything.  The military plans for everything because doing so prepares them – as much as possible – for the unexpected.  Was no one in the massive bowels of the US government (outside of the military) thinking through what could happen in Syria (or sometime soon in Yemen or North Korea?)  That kind of thinking is something well worth doing and worth doing well.

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