Syria’s Alawite regime collapses from within and without. High-level defections march in step with rebel gains through the Sunni heartland. The Obama administration’s signature regional strategy — described in a Freudian slip by a French career diplomat here as “waiting from behind” — now badly trails events.
That would not constitute a disaster for Washington if the fate of Bashar al-Assad’s clan-dictated rule was an isolated affair. But there are moments when timing is everything in statecraft. Syria’s impending implosion is coming to a head just as President Obama runs out of time on his promise to keep nuclear weapons out of Iran’s hands.
His last best hope may now lie in linking the two crises in bargaining with Russia and Iran, Assad’s two most important foreign backers. They risk losing everything they have invested in that country by continuing to bet that Assad — and the Syrian state — can survive this war. That gives Obama leverage to use in countering Iran’s accelerating nuclear enrichment program.