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July 14, 2006
Syrian Power Structure Bypassing Assad?

Syria made its official entry into the war breaking out between Israel and Hezbollah, pledging to come to the aid of Hezbollah and Lebanon if necessary to ensure Israel's defeat. However, the statement did not come from Bashar Assad, the ostensible leader of Syria, but from a meeting of the Ba'athist party's power brokers:

Syria will support Hizbollah and Lebanon against Israel's attacks on the country, the ruling Baath Party said on Friday, defying the Jewish state and its chief ally Washington.

"The Syrian people are ready to extend full support to the Lebanese people and their heroic resistance to remain steadfast and confront the barbaric Israeli aggression and its crimes," said a communiqu¿ from the party's national command issued after a meeting.

It said Israel and the United States "are trying to wipe out Arab resistance in every land under occupation" and that President Bashar al-Assad was aware of the seriousness of the situation in the region.

The national command is the highest echelon of the Baath Party, which has been in power since 1963. The party considers the issue of Arab rights and regaining land occupied by Israel central to its legitimacy.

Assad, who is shaped by his late father's lifetime of struggle with Israel, was not at the meeting.

The Ba'ath Party left the head of state out of the loop while it crafted this statement? One has to wonder what task so occupied Assad that the war breaking out on his border got shifted to a lower priority.

In the meantime, Reuters reports that Syria feels that this crisis will make it a player in Middle East politics again. The world has its attention fixed on Syria and Iran, thanks to its connections to Hezbollah. Syria might find all of the attention flattering now, but if it decides to intervene on behalf of their Hezbollah proxies, the attention they receive will be a whole lot more explosive. IAF jets buzzed Assad's house earlier; next time, they'll leave a 500-lb calling card.

By that time, however, it may not matter. This news makes it appear that Assad may have gotten shut out of the decision-making process. The Ba'ath Party may not trust Assad in a shooting war -- and that may indicate that Baby Assad never did have his hands on the levers of power.

Sphere It Digg! View blog reactions
Posted by Ed Morrissey at July 14, 2006 9:25 PM

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