How We Learned to Stop Worrying and Side With the Russians (and Assad, Sort Of)

Reporting on Politics and Policy.
Sept. 10 2013 3:30 PM

How We Learned to Stop Worrying and Side With the Russians (and Assad, Sort Of)

My latest story starts at a pro-Assad march/rally in D.C. yesterday and continues inside the Capitol, where lawmakers ... basically agreed with the protests. Not about the whole "Bashar al-Assad is in our hearts" bit, but about how replacing the guy would mean letting a whole bunch of Christians—millions, really—fall to the sword.

“Having met with some of our allies in the Middle East, privately they want to know: Do you guys understand you were fighting the Muslim Brotherhood in Afghanistan and these other places?” said Rep. Louie Gohmert, who was on the trip. “Now, you’ve turned on a guy that was a U.S. ally, Mubarak. You turned on a guy, Qaddafi, that since 2003 had been an ally. You turned on the Northern Alliance that really defeated the Taliban initially. Are you gonna turn on us next?”
No Republican, really, could promise that intervention in Syria wouldn’t backfire and help al-Qaida. Rep. Peter King, possibly the most reliable hawk in the party, suggested only that “both sides” would benefit if chemical weapons were neutralized. More skeptical members say that the briefings are full of questions about whether intervention might boost Islamists, and haven’t produced good answers. “Increasingly the opposition that are al-Qaida types are going after the Christians,” said Rep. Christopher Smith, a New Jersey conservative who wants to set up a war crimes tribunal for Syria. “It’s increasingly a case of genocide, not collateral damage. It’s a very dangerous jihad.”

And the start of Russia's charm offensive to the United States worked pretty well in this context. Read on.

David Weigel is a Slate political reporter. 

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