Claimed footage of a firefight in Homs on Friday between regime forces and the Free Syrian Army
Friday's developments, both in public and behind the scenes, indicated that international intervention is not just on the way for Syria --- it has already begun. On Monday, an EA analysis assessed the options, concluding that arming the opposition could do more harm than good but that a no-fly zone protecting both insurgents and civilians might be possible.
Two new analyses pick up on this. Michael Hirsh writes how history indicates the US and Western Europe will eventually intercede in the crisis, so we should do it sooner rather than later. Anne-Marie Slaughter analyses how the world could intervene in Syria in order to stop the Assad regime.
Getting Serious About Syria br>
We’ve seen this horror movie before. Distracted by other events, the West ignores a distant humanitarian disaster, then denies it, minimizes it, and explains it away. But as images of murdered women and children are transmitted onto newspaper front pages, nightly broadcasts, and (now) the Internet, the pressure to act grows unbearable, no matter the cost. We are likely to watch the same script play out very quickly in Syria, where the regime of Bashar al Assad has been brutally suppressing an insurrection for months. U.S. and Europeans officials are, for the most part, still in the same stage of denial, minimization, and explaining-it-away that they were in a few months ago. While people are dying by the thousands, the Western nations are still arguing that military intervention in Syria is not practical, and that it is legally impossible without a U.N. Security Council resolution that the Russians and Chinese are blocking.
The United States, France, and Great Britain are laying most of the blame for their inaction on Moscow, Assad’s strongest ally. French Foreign Minister Alain Juppé, meeting recently with his Russian counterpart, Sergei Lavrov, sought to deliver a sense of urgency about the killings and suggested that Russia was jeopardizing its relations with the rest of the Arab world and putting the legitimacy of the U.N. at risk. One senior Western official grew notably defensive on Thursday, contrasting what the West and Arab League have done so far (including calls for Assad to step down, backed by a 70-nation “Friends of Syria” meeting in Tunis on Friday) with the international silence that greeted Bashar al Assad’s father, Hafez, when in 1982 he crushed a rebellion by killing perhaps 20,000 people in the town of Hama. “Look how different the response has been,” he said. “The deeper the regime goes into repression, the closer it brings the country to the end of the story. Because this story will have an end.”
But in truth, the end is nowhere in sight. As Joshua Landis, a highly respected Syria expert, writes in the forthcoming Middle East Policy Journal, the Assad regime is entrenched and can likely endure through this year. And how many more will die on video before the end comes? The self-approbation we’re hearing from the West is disingenuous at best. Hama occurred without tweets, or cell-phone videos , or the Internet. Today, by contrast, the pressure to intervene will escalate quickly in proportion to the terrible images coming out of Syria. The death this week of a highly respected American war correspondent, Marie Colvin of the Sunday Times of London, who filed a moving final dispatch before being killed by a Syrian rocket, only punctuated the inadequacy of the Western response so far. It is a response that is all the more embarrassing in contrast to the regime-change success that the U.S., France, and Great Britain were proudly pointing to in Libya only a few months ago.
How to Halt the Butchery in Syria br>
...Simply arming the opposition, in many ways the easiest option, would bring about exactly the scenario the world should fear most: a proxy war that would spill into Lebanon, Turkey, Iraq and Jordan and fracture Syria along sectarian lines. It could also allow Al Qaeda and other terrorist groups to gain a foothold in Syria and perhaps gain access to chemical and biological weapons.
There is an alternative. The Friends of Syria, some 70 countries scheduled to meet in Tunis today, should establish “no-kill zones” now to protect all Syrians regardless of creed, ethnicity or political allegiance. The Free Syrian Army, a growing force of defectors from the government’s army, would set up these no-kill zones near the Turkish, Lebanese and Jordanian borders. Each zone should be established as close to the border as possible to allow the creation of short humanitarian corridors for the Red Cross and other groups to bring food, water and medicine in and take wounded patients out. The zones would be managed by already active civilian committees.
Establishing these zones would require nations like Turkey, Qatar, Saudi Arabia and Jordan to arm the opposition soldiers with anti-tank, countersniper and portable antiaircraft weapons. Special forces from countries like Qatar, Turkey and possibly Britain and France could offer tactical and strategic advice to the Free Syrian Army forces. Sending them in is logistically and politically feasible; some may be there already.