The United States has been critical to defeating ISIS in Syria and Iraq. Its bombing of Assad’s Syrian forces because of alleged use of toxic gases against civilians, however, is controversial. First of all, the allegations are not proven to the satisfaction of many former intelligence officers and informed observers and do not meet the common sense smell test. It is not in Assad’s interest to alienate the U.S. or the Western powers. He is winning the war. Why would he want to risk losing it by such actions?A common misunderstanding is that the Syrian “Civil War” began seven years ago during the “Arab Spring” of 2011. A more accurate understanding is that it has been going on for close to 40 years at varying intensities. It has never been a populist rebellion against Bashar al-Assad, who succeeded his father as President of Syria in 2000, or his father, Hafez al-Assad, a former Syrian Air Force officer, who became President of Syria in a 1971 military coup. Although there are serious religious tensions within Syria between the Alawite Shia Muslim ruling minority (13 percent of the population) and the Sunni Arab Muslim majority (64 percent), the drive to overthrow the Assad regime came from outside Syria—from the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt.
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