During reconfirmation hearing this week, Joint Chiefs of Staff chairman Martin Dempsey was asked this week to evaluate the current prospects of the Syrian opposition seeking the overthrow of the Bashar al-Assad regime in Syria. His response was grim:
Dempsey acknowledged in response to a question from Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., that Assad’s forces have the upper hand in Syria. “Currently the tide seems to have shifted in his favor,” Dempsey said.
Leading senators, including Carl Levin, D-Mich., the committee chairman, and Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., have been pressing Obama to take a more forceful approach to defeat Assad’s forces. While the Obama administration has authorized lethal aid to rebel forces battling Assad’s troops, it isn’t trying to enforce a no-fly zone in which Syria’s combat aircraft would be barred from flying, or otherwise intervene militarily to halt the war.
The regime has been able – with substantial support from Iran and its Lebanese terror proxy Hezbollah – to steadily roll back two years of opposition gains. Those campaigns have included successful efforts to seize the strategic city of Qusayr and then parts of Homs. The two sides have also begun exchanging tit-for-tat assassinations. Earlier this week, top Syrian official Mohammed Darrar Jamo was shot and killed in neighboring Lebanon, while pro-Assad gunman killed six Syrian mediators sent to reconcile warring factions.
Sunnis in the region fear that Shiite Iran has its eye on the wholesale displacement of local populations. Arab media outlets are reporting on growing regional fears that Iran is seeking to ethnically alter the landscape of the Middle East, and that it is deliberately destroying land records in Syria:
Rumors have circulated recently that Iran is sponsoring a plan to redraw Syria’s demographic map, including the granting of Syrian nationality to 750,000 Shiites from throughout the Middle East. Allegedly, the Iranians have paid $2 billion into the Real Estate Bank of Syria to buy up land in southern Homs province.
The Lebanese Druze leader Walid Jumblatt has declared that the land registry office in Homs has been burned down to remove evidence of property ownership and facilitate the dispossession of Sunnis in the province, in that way changing its sectarian makeup.
“In addition to shelling and systemic killing in Homs, the Syrian regime is also destroying property records … in a plan to transform the minority into a majority through several steps, including the killing and the displacement of the population,” Jumblatt recently wrote in his party’s Al-Anbaa newspaper.
, and to flood areas of Syria with Shiites in order to solidify sectarian control of the area. Tehran is reportedly spending billions of dollars to purchase land in the country, which has become the epicenter for what analysts increasingly fear will spiral into a full blown regional Sunni-Shiite conflict. The Iran-backed regime of Bashar al-Assad, meanwhile, has been steadily rolling . Support from the Iran-backed terror group Hezbollah has been critical
Nearly 100,000 people have been killed in the ongoing violence, and almost 2 million Syrians have fled the country. The U.N. this week declared the resulting refugee crisis to be the worst one in 20 years.
[Photo: Fæ / Wiki Commons]