Yesterday I wrote that any attack against Syria will not be about ‘punishing’ Syria’s president Bashir al-Assad over the use of chemical weapons but about regime change. However, the question that’s been neglected in the debate is; if there is regime change, who will the regime change over to? Once al-Assad and his government have fallen, who and what sort of government will replace him?
Western governments have made it clear that they do not want a theocratic government to replace al-Assad and especially not a coalition of Islamic extremists many of whom the West believes have affiliations to ‘al-Qaeda’. For Israel and the United States that would be an even worse scenario than if al-Assad prevailed in this civil war. The regime that Israel and the US do want in place is one made up of secularist democrats whose religious beliefs, regardless of what they are, are incidental to their commitment to a democratic secular government; in other words, a nation that replicates their own style of government.
For the West it’s not just a simple matter of ousting al-Assad, but also to prevent ‘undesirable elements’ of al-Assad’s opposition from forming the replacement government. In order to do that the West would need to attack the jihadi extremists before they have an opportunity to assert themselves as being, or being a part of, an alternative post-al-Assad government. So ‘regime change’ isn’t just about attacking al-Assad but also the jihadists. Already jihadists are preparing themselves for an onslaught against them by American forces. They are convinced that, when the US and their Western allies launch their ‘punishment’ attacks against al-Assad, they will also be targeted.
So who will be the new regime?
One can be sure that if the West is going to instigate regime change, then the new regime will be one of their choosing. Chances are the people that will go to make up the potential new interim government would have already been chosen. They are likely to be secular and Western-friendly and – importantly – Israeli friendly, and, therefore, anti-Iran and anti-Hezbollah. Such governments are commonly called puppet governments.
But there’s a long way to go before that happens. The jihadi fighters are unlikely to give up that easily and, if they are attacked by Western forces, will likely retaliate by striking out against the enemy closest to them; Israel.
And that’s a whole new ball game.