"Fareed Zakaria GPS," Sundays at 10 a.m. and 1 p.m. ET on CNN
Fareed Zakaria speaks with King Abdullah II of Jordan about the future of Bashar al-Assad’s regime in Syria and radical Islamists in the region.
What would you like to see happen in Syria? You are facing an extraordinary crisis. And I think people need to remember you have now 300,000 refugees from Syria. You have just gone through a decade in which you took in hundreds of thousands of Iraqi refugees. The Iraqis have just started going back, and you now have this new influx. Do you think that the fall of al-Assad will, in some way, end this crisis? Or will that launch the beginning of a larger Syrian civil war?
Well, the challenge that we have with the longer this conflict goes on, the more the country will implode. And so for the first time, again, there’s talk of is there going to be a fragmentation of Syria? The breakup into different smaller states, which I think would be catastrophic and something that we would be reeling from for decades to come? But the longer it goes on, the nastier it gets, the more complicated it gets. But at the same time, anybody who’s saying that Bashar’s regime has got weeks to live, really doesn’t know the reality on the ground. They still have capability. So I give them a strong showing, at least for the first half of 2013.
Why is it that the army has not gone to al-Assad and said, you have to leave? In other words, there’s been relatively little defection at that highest level. Help us understand what the dynamic is that keeps the regime together.
Well, the regime was based on Alawite leadership that gives this a lot of its strength. And, again, part of the problem is with some of the minorities, especially if you look at the Christians and the Druze. Part of the issue that we’ve been tackling over the past several plus years and a half is seeing this influx of radical fighters coming into the country. So if you’re a Druze or you’re a Christian, who is sitting on the side of the fence…and even certain Alawites are not happy with the way Bashar is dictating the future of his country. But the other alternative, radical Islamist groups coming…is more frightening. So I think that’s what’s kept them on the sidelines.
How much jihadi penetration into Syria do you sense?
Well, al Qaeda is established in Syria. They’ve been there for about a year. They are getting certain supplies of materiel, weapons and financing, unfortunately, from certain sectors. So they are a force to contend with. And even if we get the best government into Damascus tomorrow, we have at least two or three years of securing our borders from them coming across, and to clean them up. So, you know, Jordan is today and has been committed since three weeks into the Afghan campaign. We've been there for many, many years. But today, when we look at Jordanian troops deploying to Afghanistan, we’ve got to really think, because I think the new Taliban that we’re going to have to deal with is actually going to be in Syria.