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KRAUTHAMMER: A message from the ruins of Qusair

  • (DANA SUMMERS / Tribune Media Services)

On Wednesday, Qusair fell to the Bashar al-Assad regime in Syria. Qusair is a strategic town that connects Damascus with Assad’s Alawite heartland on the Mediterranean, with its ports and Russian naval base. It’s a major strategic shift. Assad’s forces can now advance on rebel-dominated areas in central and northern Syria, including Aleppo.

For the rebels, it’s a devastating loss of territory, morale and their supply corridor to Lebanon. No one knows if this reversal of fortune will be the last, but everyone knows that Assad now has the upper hand.

What altered the tide of battle was brazen outside intervention. A hardened, well-trained, well-armed Hezbollah force — from the terrorist Shiite group that dominates Lebanon and answers to Iran — crossed into Syria and drove the rebels out of Qusair, which Syrian artillery has left a smoking ruin.

This is a huge victory not just for Tehran but also for Moscow, which sustains Assad in power and prizes its warm-water port at Tartus, Russia’s only military base outside of the former Soviet Union. Vladimir Putin has stationed a dozen or more Russian warships offshore, further protecting his strategic outpost and his Syrian client.

The losers? NATO-member Turkey, the major supporter of the rebels; Jordan, America’s closest Arab ally, now drowning in half a million Syrian refugees; and America’s Gulf allies, principal weapons suppliers to the rebels. And the U.S., whose bystander president, having declared that Assad must go, that he has lost all legitimacy and that his fall is just a matter of time, is looking not just feckless but clueless.

President Barack Obama doesn’t want U.S. boots on the ground. Fine. No one does. But between nothing and invasion lie many intermediate measures: arming the rebels, helping Turkey maintain a safe zone in northern Syria, grounding Assad’s murderous air force by attacking airfields — all the way up to enforcing a no-fly zone by destroying the regime’s air-defense system.

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