Bashar al-Assad: Moscow’s Indispensable Man

13 10 2011
Editor’s note: the following article is by Brendan Michael Wilson, a frequent MEA contributor. 
Russia’s veto on Monday of a UN Security Council resolution that would have condemned the Syrian government’s violent suppression of the nationwide Arab Spring protests should come as a surprise to no one. The only surprise is that they managed to convince China to veto the resolution as well.Moscow has explained this veto by expressing their long held belief in the respect for national sovereignty. This is in keeping with Russia’s foreign policy tradition, but much more is at play. Vetoing this resolution, and protecting the regime of Bashar al-Assad, serves Moscow’s Great Power ambitions, her regional geopolitical objectives, and her economic interests.

In order to put Moscow’s actions into context, it is necessary to understand Russia’s overarching foreign policy objectives. This can be found in the Foreign Policy Concept that was released in 2008. In this, multiple references can be found to “democratizing the global order” and establishing “multi-polarity”. These phrases may sound quaint, but they are really just diplo-speak for “cutting the Yankees down to size.”

Russia’s government bristles at their loss of power relative to the United States since the end of the Cold War. They feel threatened by America’s status as the world’s only superpower and wish to regain their status as a rival power. Since Russia cannot reconstruct the Soviet Union, its only option is to do everything it can to reduce American power by obstructing American objectives.

This is the fundamental aim of Russian foreign policy and the prism through which everything Russia does must be understood. Often, this achieved simply by using, or threatening to use, their veto at the Security Council. This is why Moscow is constantly watering down or blocking resolutions that the US supports, whether they are directed to Syria, Libya, Sudan, or whoever. In their thinking, anything that benefits America must be bad for Russia, and vice versa. Classic zero sum politics. This thinking also influences Russia’s geopolitical position in the Middle East.

The Assad regime plays an important role in Russia’s ability to project power in the Middle East and the Mediterranean, which would otherwise be the sole domain of NATO. Syria leases a Naval base in the port of Tartus to the Russian Navy under an agreement that dates back to the Soviet era. Assad also acts as an intermediary in Russia’s relationship with Iran. If the Assad regime were to fall, it is not likely that the close relationship between Moscow and Damascus would persist, possibly imperiling the port at Tartus and complicating Russia’s veiled relationship with Iran. This would have further consequences for Russia’s defense industry.

Aside from raw materials, Russia’s only major export is military hardware. However, the quality of Russian military equipment is inferior to American and European equipment. Consequently, the only customers for Russian fighter jets, tanks and missiles are the regimes that the Western nations refuse to sell to – for obvious reasons. Syria currently has more than $4 billion of military purchases under contract. This and future deals depend on the Assad regime’s survival.

Vladimir Putin

So, in spite of Bashar al-Assad’s obvious brutality and willingness to do whatever it takes to hold on to power, Moscow sees him as an indispensable man. His presence remains a thorn in the side of the West. He is the lynchpin to Russia’s regional objectives in the Middle East. He provides the Russian military with a presence in the Mediterranean and the Russian military industry with much needed revenue.

These factors matter far more to Moscow than the demands of the Syrian people. The same dynamics are at work in Russia’s shady relationships with countries like Iran, Venezuela, Zimbabwe, and so on. Monday’s veto is but one example in recent years of Russia’s protection racket for nefarious regimes, with many more to come.

Today’s Russia is no Soviet Union. However, as the principal ally, provider of diplomatic protection, and arms supplier of authoritarian regimes the world over, Moscow has once again positioned itself as the epicenter of tyranny in the world.

Iran Hypothetical

21 07 2011


I recently posted a link to an article in a LinkedIn group that I am apart of. The story was about high-level ex-CIA and Mossad agents predicting a forthcoming Israeli attack on Iran.

A group member commented on the story, asking what I thought Iran’s response would be to such an attack. My answer was so substantial and long-winded that I decided to post it here.


These well-informed opinions aside, an Israeli attack on Iran is far from a given. The repercussions in the region could be catastrophic and I’m not sure Israel is willing to take on that level of risk, especially with the United States reducing its presence in the region. Israel has a hard enough time accepting that the Bashar Assad regime might fall.

In addition, a retaliation from Iran is not a given. The precedent for this is Israel’s bombing of a suspected nuclear facility in Syria back in 2007. Israel never mentioned it in the press and Syria never retaliated. The whole thing kind of just went away.

Katyusha Rocket

However, the odds of an Israeli attack on Iranian nuclear facilities “just going away” are slim. There has just been too much high-profile hostile rhetoric between the two nations for it to happen and blow over without a response. It would be awkward.

But your question was about the response. Iran couldn’t let it pass without some sort of response, if symbolic, in order to maintain some credibility. It’s hard to imagine Iran doing the same to Israel, as Israeli air defenses are very strong. Sea and land attacks are out too.

One choice could be a large-scale rocket attack from Iran on Israel, but this would be unpredictable (hard to pinpoint exactly where the rockets will hit from that range) and would invite a massive retaliation from Israel, possibly drawing in the United States.

That leaves proxies, namely Hizballah and Hamas. The question then is whether either group would be willing to strike Israel for the sake of the Islamic Republic.

For Hamas, the answer is almost certainly no. Hamas isn’t going to risk its political position in Palestine to aid Iran, which is both Shiite and Persian. Two strikes.

Hizballah, on the other hand, might be willing. Nasrallah has repeatedly declared his allegiance to the Supreme Leader, but the consequences of dragging Lebanon into another war would severely damage the group for decades to come.

However, Hizballah has been receiving over a $100 million per year in assistance from Iran for some time now. For Iran, Hizballah represents an insurance policy against an attack from Israel. If Israel does strike Iranian nuclear facilities, you’d better believe Iran will be knocking on Hizballah’s door to collect.

Iran’s options in retaliation are limited, but it’s far from clear that Israel will attack in the first place. Cyber attacks like 2010’s Stuxnet virus have proven to be very effective without the risks of open war.

So I guess the answer is that Iran will do the most it possibly can, short of inviting a massive re-retaliation from Israel and short of drawing in the United States. In other words, Iran will do the most they perceive that can get away with without inviting an existential threat to the regime.

This raises the questions of what level of retaliation from Iran would Israel be willing to accept, and how close Iran is in its estimates of what that level is. Any misjudgment on either side could result in a rapid escalation.

Personally, I think Israel will forgo an attack on Iran and just stick to creating viruses and assassination top Iranian scientists. No one- not the US, not Israel, not Hizballah, not Hamas, and not Iran- wants this.

The exception might be the Saudis, who would love to see Iran’s clock turned back a few years.

That’s my two cents. What do you think?

19 07 2011
Dr. Bashar Assad

The crisis in Syria is deepening and the Assad regime is fighting for its life. The rhythm of the revolution is familiar: The state cracks down on demonstrators throughout the week, inevitably committing some new outrage on its citizens; rage builds and explodes on Friday after prayers; repeat as necessary.

The state’s crackdown seems more futile with each passing week. The Alawite grip on power in Syria seems to be slipping away and the events could foreshadow a similar path in Lebanon.

Imagine a future where Lebanon’s Shia have managed to conquer Lebanon with brute force. The situation seems hardly possible, but Syria faced a similar situation forty years ago. Syria’s Alawites, who comprise only 15% of the population, managed to subdue the nation under Hafez Assad in 1970.

It’s not impossible to imagine something similar in Lebanon. One thousand reasons could be given why this would never happen, but surely the same could be said of Syria all those years ago. While success is unlikely, an attempt is possible.

The Shia are Lebanon’s largest minority, and as such they wield significant political power. Beyond that, Hizballah is considered to be the most powerful fighting force in the country. They have strongholds in the south and in the southern suburbs of Beirut, but do not always feel at home in the cosmopolitan capital.

Lebanon’s Shia for years occupied the bottom of the socio-economic spectrum. Long ago they realized that the only way they would get anything in Lebanon is if they took it with force, as the merchant-class Christians and Sunnis in Beirut would never give up anything willingly. This is the genesis of the Amal Movement in the 1970’s, and later Hizballah.

While it’s impossible to know whether Hizballah will ever gain a monopoly on power in Lebanon, perhaps we can learn something about what their trajectory might look like by considering the Alawite experience in Syria. Consider the following excerpt from a report from the International Crisis Group, “The Syrian People’s Slow-motion Revolution”:

Yet, the sectarian survival instinct upon which the regime relies could backfire. The most die-hard within the security apparatus might well be prepared to fight till the bitter end. But the majority will find it hard to keep this up. After enough of this mindless violence, this same sectarian survival instinct could push them the other way.

After centuries of discrimination and persecution at the hands of the Sunni majority, Alawites and other religious minorities concluded that their villages within relatively inaccessible mountainous areas offered the only genuine sanctuary.

They are unlikely to believe their safety is ensured in the capital (where they feel like transient guests), by the Assad regime (which they view as a temporary, historical anomaly), or through state institutions (which they do not trust). When they begin to feel that the end is near, Alawites might not fight to the last man. They might well return to the mountains. They might well go home.

Hassan Nasrallah

Partly due to Hizballah’s helps, Lebanon’s Shia have come a long way over the past 40 years. Today the sect wields real power, both politically and militarily. The can bring down the government, as they did this year, and they can take over the capital, which they did in 2008.

But something doesn’t seem right. Hizballah’s actions are becoming more aggressive towards the state, especially since the indictments in the Hariri Tribunal were made known. This week, Hassan Nasrallah announced that the state would never be able to arrest members of Hizballah.

Nasrallah has been vocal in his support for Syria, which badly exposes him as a hypocrite who is grossly out of touch with the Arab tide of history. This was after proclaiming support for protestors in Tunisia and Egypt.

He has also maintained steadfast support for Iran, which also continues to oppress its citizens. Because of these patently opportunistic and self-serving stances, Hizballah’s credibility on the Arab street has to be plummeting, particularly amongst Sunni Arabs.

How long can this keep up? Can Hizballah count on the unconditional support of the common Shia? Is there a limit to what they will accept? Hizballah’s support for authoritarian regimes, coupled with its ultra-aggressive posturing at home, will only lead to growing isolation for the group, and the Shia by extension.

The common enemy in the Middle East used to be the United States, which had supported the likes of Mubarak and Ben Ali for decades. But in 2011, Arabs realized that instead of getting the United States to abandon its support for the region’s dictators, they had to remove the dictators themselves. And they’re doing right now.

Suddenly, corrupt and oppressive regimes became the enemy (whether they supported the US or not) and Hizballah found itself on the wrong side of history. With the region’s political calculus undergoing such significant changes, it follows that Hizballah would alter its strategies accordingly. But they didn’t and in the process revealed themselves to be little more than an outpost of Iran’s Revolutionary Guard Corps, beholden to the Ayatollah instead of their constituents.

The question then becomes whether we will see any daylight developing between Hizballah and the “average Shia”. It’s not clear how unconditional support is for Hizballah amongst the Shia, but there are signs of cracks developing. The downfall of the group’s financial chief, penetration by Israeli spies, support for brutal regimes in Iran and Syria, isolation from Sunnis, and isolation from the world in general… both the group and the sect are under tremendous pressure.

The whole situation seems to be coming to a head. There are just too many highly-volatile moving pieces. It’s likely that Hizballah can count on its sectarian constituents if push comes to shove; the Shia won’t have any choice. The shoves will be coming from the Sunnis and the Shia will likely close ranks and band together in the event of a civil conflict.

But it is unclear how far rank and file Shia will go in support of the Party of God. Perhaps a look at the fate of Syria’s Alawites over the last 40 years can give some clues.


Lebanon waits out the crisis in Syria

13 06 2011

Editor’s Note: this article originally appears on the Foreign Policy Association website.

As the current civil crisis rages in Syria, Lebanon and others await the outcome.  Coinciding with the so-called Arab Awakening throughout the Middle East, demonstrations that started earlier this year in Syria have continued to build. The protests have been met with force by the government.

The Tunisian and Egyptian governments fell quickly in the face of demonstrations, but subsequent revolts stagnated or flamed out completely. Battles still rage in Syria, Libya, and Yemen. However other countries, particularly the Gulf, saw uprisings squelched before they became a problem for the regimes.

Syria did its best to stomp out the flames of dissent before they could spread. The Bashar Assad regime broke up protests, arrested thousands of demonstrators, and allegedly recruited Iranian protest-breakers to put down the unrest. Today Syria is beset with conflict, both internally and externally.

It seems the more violence is used against the people of Syria, the less likely they are to submit. The United States and many European nations have condemned the use of state violence against peaceful protestors. Bank accounts of the Assad regime have been frozen, and resolutions criticizing Damascus have been drawn up. There may be an official charge brought by the ICC.

The Iranian regime, not exactly on firm footing itself, is watching and waiting. Tehran has been on the defensive since massive protest swept the nation after the disputed 2009 election. The protests were squashed, but the situation remains tense. Adding to trouble is the power struggle between Ayatollah Khamenei and President Ahmedinejad.

Syria is key to Iranian foreign policy. Syria gives Iran a foothold in the Arab world, a way to transfer weapons to Hizballah, and way to directly menace Israel. If the Alawite regime in Damascus is replaced with a Sunni regime, particularly one closer to Egypt and Saudi Arabia, it would be a huge blow to Tehran and could lead to a level of international isolation the regime has never seen.

Hizballah has been relatively quiet through this. Aside from the odd demonstration to show support, Hizballah’s leadership must be aware that exhibiting approval for Assad’s killing of his subjects, especially Sunnis, is bad for business. The Party will likely wait out the crisis like everyone else, while trying to maintain Syrian holdings in Lebanon in the process.

The crisis in Syria is also a large reason why Lebanon has been unable to form a cabinet just yet. Assad’s handpicked Prime Minister-elect Njiab Mikati has been unable to coerce and horse trade his way to a new government without the full strength and support of Damascus. Until the conflict in Syria is settled one way or another, it is understandable that Lebanese politicians are unwilling to make a deal based on political realities that may not be in place next month or next year.

Over all of this, the Hariri indictments loom. Hizballah members are expected to be named, with arrest warrants to follow. However, this is not guaranteed. The powers that be (the United States) are currently the biggest supporters of the Hariri tribunal (STL) and are the biggest reason it has not gone away. At the time it was set up, the STL was meant ostensibly to find Hariri’s killers, but also to punish Syria, who is the consensus prime suspect.

With the regime on the defensive it may not be necessary for the US to play the STL card. (It’s not clear just how much say in the matter the United States actually has, but it is likely enough to get it squashed or move it forward depending on the needs of Washington.) Whatever the case, it is strange that we have not seen an indictment yet, and if one is handed down in the near future, it could add a whole new dimension to the conflict.

Today, tanks, helicopters and soldiers approached the northern town of Jisr al-Shughour, and Assad’s forces began shelling. The situation is a grim reminder of Hafez Assad (Bashar’s father) razing of the town of Hama in 1982 after similar unrest. Thousand were killed and the unrest was put down; Hafez never faced another test to his power.

Today, 11 years into the rule of Bashar Assad, the world waits to see if he is capable of the same.

Hizballah, Israel, and the Syrian Unrest

9 05 2011

Editor’s note: this article originally appears on the Foreign Policy Association website.

The protest movement in Syria continues to grow, with thousands of demonstrators taking to the street on Friday for a “day of rage”. We have seen similar days of rage in the other Arab countries that have undergone or are undergoing revolutions. The people of Syria, at first demanding reforms, are now openly calling for an end to Bashar Assad’s entire Baathist Alawite regime.

Syria is viewed by many as the linchpin of the Middle East. Damascus is involved in the Arab-Israeli conflict, the US-Iran conflict, and the Iraq War. When there is talk of regime change in Syria, many ears turn toward the conversation. On this topic there is no shortage of interested parties, but perhaps none more so that Israel and Hizballah.

Hizballah has counted on Syrian support for over 25 years. Syria’s previous leader, Hafez Assad, considered the group a tool to be used when necessary, but to be kept at bay and in check at all times. Under Assad Junior however, the Party of God has enjoyed much more influence and flexibility. Over the years Syria has used its formidable political power in Lebanon to ensure the interests of the group.

Iran also enjoys a close relationship with Hizballah. Hizballah Secretary General Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah has sworn allegiance to the Supreme Leader of the Islamic Republic. The group acts as Iran’s insurance policy against Israel and the West. In return, Hizballah is showered with weapons (light arms and medium-range rockets) and cash (reportedly in excess of $100 million per year). Cash is easy enough to move, but the weapons must come through Syria, so the whole arrangement is predicated on Syrian cooperation.

If the regime in Damascus is replaced by a Sunni group, the country is simply less likely to continue its close relationship with Iran, and this has to be troubling for Hizballah. A Sunni-led Syria, particularly with a moderate Islamist tone, would likely turn southwest towards Egypt in terms of regional associations. The two countries were actually united into one for a brief period of time in the late 1950’s under the banner of Pan-Arabism (the country was named the “United Arab Republic”).

When protests began to take their toll on Tunis and Cairo, Hizballah came out in favor of the protesters. After all, those movements were attempting to remove key US allies from power. The Party never anticipated that the Arab Intifada would spread to Syria, where Bashar Assad had touted his resistance to Israel and the West as the reason his people loved him and would never revolt.

Hizballah’s support for those movements is proving uncharacteristically short-sighted. Hizballah’s roots are in helping the oppressed and disenfranchised of Lebanon (historically, the position of the Shiites) and supporting Bashar Assad in his bid to oppress and disenfranchise the people of Syria seems incredibly transparent and self-serving.

After Hizballah successfully expelled Israel from Lebanon in 2000 (with help), the group was shown a rare degree of respect from Sunnis, who had been worn down by years of failure to do the  same from their own lands. That support spiked when Hizballah repelled the IDF for 34 days in 2006.  As the first Arab group to enjoy such success, it didn’t really matter that they were Shia.

But over the years, that glow has worn off. Now Hizballah is seen by many as a tool of the Iranians, who are both Persian and Shiite. Today, the Arab world is undergoing a major awakening of sorts, and Hizballah has chosen to fight against the tide of revolution. This is what Barak Obama refers to as “being on the wrong side of history”.

Hizballah risks looking hypocritical by supporting the Assad regime, yet it must consider what it would mean for the Shia of Lebanon to have Sunnis take over in Damascus. Israel is in the same boat: Assad might not be the optimal choice, but he is probably better than the alternative.

Israel has been at war with Syria since the Jewish State declared independence in 1948. In 1967, Syria lost Lake Tiberius and the Golan Heights to Israel, and the bulk of Syrian foreign policy over the years has been dedicated to getting it back. It’s the primary reason Syria supports Hizballah: to use the group as a tool against Israel. Land for Peace.

Syria is one of the few supporters of Iran, which has also been hostile to Israel over the years. Tehran refers to Israel as “the Little Satan” and supports groups like Hamas and Hizballah. Since 1979, the Ayatollah and Company have been under intense pressure from the West, and during that time Syria has been the only country standing between Iran and total global isolation.

It seems Israel would be on board with a change in leadership in Damascus: Syrian support is critical to Hizballah and Iran, Israel’s two greatest threats. However, the Israelis are understandably nervous about all of this.

Israel is already concerned with the intentions of the new leaders of Egypt, where the Muslim Brotherhood seems to be making solid gains. Will Eqypt’s peace treaty with Israel be reconsidered? It’s doubtful, but when combined with the potential blossoming of relations between Syria and Egypt, two historic foes, it’s unclear whether it is better to see Assad stay or go.

Israel can’t really support the protesters publicly, as doing so could paint the revolt as an Israeli invention, but it should not do anything to stand in their way. This includes closed-door meetings in Washington. Their fear of the unknown is understandable, but in the long run the spread of democracy in the Middle East should be good for Israel.

For now, Israel and Hizballah can only wait and see how far the revolution in Syria will go.

Pakistan – Living in American History

5 05 2011

The following is special to MEA:

by Brendan Wilson

The revelation that Osama bin Laden has been hiding comfortably in a compound in the military garrison town of Abbottabad has fanned the flames of suspicion about America’s ally, Pakistan. It is reasonable to question the loyalty of Pakistan when the world’s top fugitive has spent the past 5 years or so a stone’s throw away from their military academy and surrounded by retired military brass. It speaks volumes that the United States government hid the entire operation from their Pakistani counterparts for fear that it would be compromised.

The Pakistani government now finds itself on the defensive, waging a public relations campaign to control the damage. Congressman Ted Poe from Texas is set to introduce a bill that would cut US funding to Pakistan until they prove that they were not harboring bin Laden. Is Pakistan an ally, or an enemy that has been double-crossing the US this entire time?

Frankly, it is best not to use such ham-fisted generalities when trying to make sense of a frustratingly complex country that will be at the center of US geopolitical thinking for a long time to come. It is difficult to find any situation that is analogous to the one Pakistan faces. Yet the most apt comparison may come from America’s own history.

The American Civil War is the most poignant and present flashpoint in American history. It is the only war that Americans reenact on weekends. Its battlefields are in their backyards. Its casualty counts are used as points of reference for modern conflicts. One can find a documentary about it being played on cable at any time of the day. Its causes and consequences are still being played out in national politics nearly a century and a half later.

Yet, imagine if it had never happened.

It is worth a reminder that before the southern states seceded from the Union, Jefferson Davis was a Senator from Mississippi and former Secretary of War; Robert E. Lee had been the Superintendent of West Point; Stonewall Jackson was a hero of the Mexican War and a teacher at the Virginia Military Institute; Nathan Bedford Forrest was a millionaire businessman and a city councilman in Memphis. These men were all integrated into America’s political, military, and economic systems before secession and would soon become its sworn enemies in a war to divide the country. Davis would become President of the Confederacy; Lee and Jackson its most famous commanders; Forrest would become a Confederate general and later become a founder of the Ku Klux Klan.

If the Civil War had never happened, or the southern states had never seceded, these men and others like them would have all remained in their places in American society, carrying their beliefs with them and working to divide and weaken the country from within. The men who led the fight to defeat the Union could have just as easily carried on their fight by undermining the government’s ability to shape policy in the south and liberate the slaves. The country’s divisions would have festered on for far longer than they did, and the United States would be a radically different country than it is today – frighteningly so.

This is a constructive way to look at Pakistan: a country in need of a Civil War. The fact is that America does have friends in Pakistan. People who cherish the very freedoms America fights for and who work alongside its military and intelligence leaders to defeat common enemies in al-Qaeda and the Taliban. Yet there are also elements within the Pakistani government that work to obstruct those efforts and assist the elements of radical Islam.

It is true that America’s enemies in the Afghan theater have received support from elements in Pakistani intelligence. It may turn out to be true that bin Laden himself enjoyed a measure of protection from powerful people in the Pakistani government. Yet it is also true that Pakistan has captured and killed more terrorists than any other country. They helped capture Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, Abu Faraj al-Libbi, and many other senior al-Qeada members. They have also suffered more at the hands of terrorists than any other country. Entire swathes of the country are beyond the control of Islamabad. Suicide bombings are a regular occurrence throughout the country. The man who live-blogged the raid in Abbottabad had moved his family there to escape the constant bombings that were taking place in his home city of Lahore, which was itself a peaceful city until recently. President Zardari’s wife, and former Prime Minister, Benazir Bhutto was assassinated by al-Qeada. Pakistani’s have to live under a threat from Islamic terrorists that Americans can scarcely imagine.

It may be easy for frustrated Americans to say that Pakistan is not an ally because they do not fit the template of Britain, Canada or Australia. They probably never will. It may be tempting to condemn Pakistan’s leaders and cut funding because their partnership has at times been maddening. But Pakistan is on the front lines of this war. That line goes through Pakistani society itself. The partnership is in need of examination. That is only prudent. But if America cuts off aid and casts aside their alliance, they might be throwing their friends to the wolves.

Just as there are people in America today who wave Confederate flags and hold a romantic vision of its leaders, there will be segments in Pakistani society for generations to come whose allegiance will be to the their country’s backward elements. This is very much a generational struggle. It would be a shame if the United States allowed Pakistan’s version of the Confederacy to prevail out to a lack of patience.

About the author: Brendan Wilson is an independent political analyst focusing on Russia and Central Asia. He has an MA in International Relations and is currently based in Miami.

Thoughts on Pakistan

4 05 2011

With Osama Bin Laden killed in a Pakistani suburb not far from the capital, it’s natural for people to question the nature of America’s relationship with the country.

We should be furious that the man the US spent millions of dollars hunting over the last ten years was hiding just 40 miles from a major city, ensconced in military and intelligence officials living near by.

Where is the outrage? Why isn’t President Obama taking Pakistani officials to task over this?

OBL’s death may be a major “X” on America’s foreign policy checklist, but there are at least three other facts to consider:

The US needs help with Al Qaeda- Granted, the level of cooperation thus far is extremely questionable, but Al Qaeda still has a major presence in Pakistan and help from the ISI will be critical in addressing that threat.

The US needs help pacifying Afghanistan- There is still a war going on in Afghanistan. Although OBL’s death may serve as a reason to draw down American forces there, Pakistan will remain instrumental in facilitating the transition to post-occupation.

The US needs Pakistan to counterbalance India- This is more of a long term geostrategic concern. India has nuclear weapons and over a billion people; Pakistan has nuclear weapons and over 180 million people. While India may be an ally, having The Sub-Continent sandwiched between Pakistan and China curtails its influence as it continues to emerge as a global force.

Unfortunately the United States still needs Pakistani cooperation, and will for the foreseeable future.

With friends like these…..