After predicting that Egypt would be the big story in 2011 and the Muslim Brotherhood in 2012, Barry Rubin asks Won't Syria Be Obama's Main Middle East Crisis in 2013?
In several months the rebels will be eating away at Damascus. If and when the day comes that most of Damascus is captured, the rebels will set up a government. That new regime will quickly be recognized by the UN, Europe, and the United States. Regional states will be more diverse in their response, with Islamist-ruled Egypt, Tunisia, and Turkey along with pro-Islamist Qatar will be enthusiastic; Saudi Arabia and other anti-Islamist Arabs reluctant; the pro-Assad, Islamist-dominated Lebanese government and Iran rejecting this option.
Of course, a critical question will be: Who will lead on the rebel side?The negotiations will be very complex and quarrelsome but, with American help, the Muslim Brotherhood will probably emerge with a disproportionately strong showing.
Here is a good point to ridicule the idea that the United States has little influence. Of course, America isn’t going to decide everything or control events. But for the Brotherhood and other Islamists, having U.S. backing will make them a lot stronger than if they faced U.S. opposition. And remember the context will be shaped by all those arms and money the United States (through Qatar, Libya, Saudi Arabia, and Turkey) gave the Islamist side. The moderates certainly view the United States as pro-Islamist and while they themselves have a lot of weaknesses, being demoralized by this fact adds another one to the fatal mix.
The Obama administration, for its part, will continue to give groups such as the Muslim Brotherhood its blessing as 'moderate' groups, while reserving condemnation for the bad boys of Islamism, such as al Qaeda.
This is why once the rebels win and they start to consolidate their rule, the same Islamist repression,persecution of Christians, and reduction of women’s status that we saw in Egypt will occur -- and again be dutifully ignored by the US.
But this time it will happen with the trio of Hagel, Kerry and Brennan singing sweet nothings in the background.