Fareed Zakaria, the renowned American journalist who is associated with Time magazine, Washington Post and CNN thinks that the region is in the middle of a power readjustment process. He tells us that in the post-Colonial arrangement of three Middle Eastern states, Iraq, Syria and Lebanon, ended up being ruled by the minority communities of these countries, that are, by Sunni, Shia and Christians respectively and that the majority communities were bound to retaliate. He believes that a rebalancing of power has already taken place in Iraq, courtesy of the US, and Lebanon and it is now Syria's turn.
Video | Listen to him here:
In this video recorded in June 2013, Fareed advised the US to not meddle with Syrian affairs. He points out that the dislodging of minority rulers is typically followed by the majority exacting revenge on them, and in the third phase internecine fighting erupts among the various groups of majority communities. He estimates that the civil war in Syria is bound to continue for years, if not decades, before the country finds a new balance and the US should not afford any involvement in such a taxing and possibly futile activity. But the sensible advice seems to have fallen on deaf ears.
Why would the US be interested in dislodging a minority ruler? May be it actually hates Shias. But in neighboring Iraq, which the US attacked and literally occupied to remove a ruler it had started hating, it ended up having a government of the majority Shia community and it doesn't feel threatened by it. Neither has this 'Shia' government united with its sect-fellow, the neighboring Iran, which is seen by the West as a serious security threat.
If the US has no axe to grind against Shias, then maybe it wants to please its most trusted ally in the region - the Wahabi Saudis - whose grudge against Shias is no secret. The majority Sunnis of Syria are, however, not Wahabi and the country shares its northern boundaries with Turkey which is also opposing the government forces. So if and when Assad falls, both Saudi Arabia and Turkey could vie for influence in the post-Alawite Syria.
There is little doubt that the Saudis will welcome and rejoice the end of the Alawites rule but they cannot expect a lucrative bounty at the end of this war. Saudi Arabia cannot expect a subservient, client state taking over Syria. They stand to gain little if considered strictly in sectarian terms or in other words, their possible gains will be mainly psychological which might not translate into concrete benefits. The sectarian interpretation of the situation thus fails to explain why the US would commit a highly unpopular act of war just to help its ally with such flimsy gains.
The strategic case:
Israel, US want to destroy the Iran-Syria-Hizoballah nexus.
Alawite Syria has good brotherly relations with Shia Iran in the east (across Iraq) and Shia Hezbollah, that dominates parts of Lebanon, in its west. The anti-Israel Hezbollah, a militant and political organisation declared terrorist by most world powers, is supported and supplied by Iran. It is the Islamic Iran's major foray into the regional politics. It runs on an arc of Shia influence extending from near Quetta right up to the Lebanese shores of the Mediterranean Sea.
If the Assad government falls, it will be disrupted and Israel, the US and Saudi Arabia will supposedly benefit. The weakening of Hezbollah will reduce the size of security threat it poses to Israel. Iran will lose its only strategic ally outside its boundaries and deep into the region; it will be completely isolated and substantially weakened. It is already reeling under the crippling sanctions imposed by the western powers. All this is likely to delay and degrade Iran's efforts to go nuclear. The US would take a sigh of relief at that and Saudi Arabia would celebrate the demise of its main contender for power in the region. That's why Robert Fisk thinks that Iran, not Syria, is the West's real target.