Cliff May

It seems like only yesterday that Bashar al-Assad was being courted by progressive Western politicians even as he conspired with Iranian jihadists and Kremlin strongmen. And it was less than two years ago that Anna Wintour, editor of Vogue and Comandante of the Fashionistas, was celebrating First Lady Asma al-Assad as “a rose in the desert,” whose “style is not the couture-and-bling dazzle of Middle Eastern power but a deliberate lack of adornment … a thin, long-limbed beauty with a trained analytic mind who dresses with cunning understatement."

The Syrian dictator has yet to be pried from power but with the Kremlin sending warships for a possible evacuation of Russian citizens, it may not be long before the Assads are passé. That’s good news, isn’t it? In the Middle East, “yes” and “no” are rarely correct answers.

We can say this: Assad’s downfall would be preferable to Assad’s survival. As U.S. Central Command chief Gen. James N. Mattis told Congress last March, regime change in Syria would represent “the biggest strategic setback for Iran in 25 years.” And Iran – ruled by a regime that is building nuclear weapons, has plotted terrorism from Buenos Aires to Georgetown, threatens Israel with genocide, and proclaims jihad against the “Great Satan” -- is unquestionably the Free World’s most vexing challenge.

For reasons having more to do with geo-politics than ideology, Western-educated, English-speaking, outwardly secular and socialist Assad decided long ago to serve as the ayatollahs’ satrap, helping them extend their power into the Arab and Sunni worlds, and facilitating their plans for hegemony over the Middle East.

The collapse of the Assad regime would impede this project and deliver a body blow as well to Hezbollah, Iran’s foreign legion and currently the best-armed – and therefore strongest – faction in Lebanon. By the same token, Assad’s survival would be a great victory for Iran and Hezbollah – and a defeat for Lebanon, the U.S. and Israel.

Cliff May

Clifford D. May is the President of the Foundation for the Defense of Democracies.