Syrian FighterJPG

Recent reports out of Syria and nearby nations indicate growing conflict and still more chaos and danger to both its population and the region, exacerbated by the now growing conflict between various opposition groups. These developments have caused pundits and experts to harden their interpretations of the conflict; some call to keep out of the “mess,” while others argue the United States should act more strongly with military support for moderate factions. What is one to do? There is no doubt that any position is fraught with uncertainties, dangers and unintended consequences.

Regarding the situation in Syria The New York Times’ Ben Hubbard, in Beirut wrote:

“In recent weeks, rebel groups have been killing one another with increasing ferocity, losing ground on the battlefield and alienating the very citizens they say they want to liberate. At the same time, the United States and other Western powers that have called for Mr. Assad to step down have shown new reluctance to provide the rebels with badly needed weapons. Although few expect that Mr. Assad can reassert his authority over the whole of Syria, even some of his staunchest enemies acknowledge that his position is stronger than it has been in months.”

Given the situation, I am still both against putting significant American “boots on the ground” and also against a head-in-the-ground approach of ignoring the growing unraveling of the region and the high cost to innocent people, which in terms of deaths is reaching the 100,000 region and could grow rapidly.

At this stage I am convinced that this is increasingly becoming a proxy war between Shia-Sunni sects, jihadist groups of various factions, and state actors that are interested in intervening like Iran, Iraq, Saudi Arabia etc. I still believe that Assad’s days are limited, but this is now a minority view. My belief is that the current balance is inherently unstable and Assad’s Syria is still crumbling, but the day of reckoning clearly has lengthened.    

It seems to me that an international effort of key states including the U.S., the EU, and the Arab League groupings (as well as other “Friends of Syria”) need to develop effective humanitarian intervention along with support for moderate Syrian factions. I increasingly believe that creating some kind of protected humanitarian and security zone within Syria is necessary to protect much of its population, since the carrying capacity of neighboring nations for refugees has already been reached and the conflict is spreading throughout the region especially in Lebanon, Turkey and Jordan.

The biggest problem is that those who seek both a democratic and moderate Syrian state and those who are mostly interested in one group or side winning are at odds and cross purposes. The result is a lack of unity and focus to end the killing and establish some security.The truth is that almost all sides have a real interest in a peaceful, secure Syria, but seem to either seek a total “win” for their side or group – they simply want revenge or domination of one group over all the others. That is where diplomacy is needed and also the application of some real carrots and sticks of pressure.  There are even reports that the European countries, most notably the UK, have fallen back on providing assistance even after the U.S. said it would.

Further, there are reports that despite the White House’s statement on providing light arms, nothing is being shipped or delivered. In the end, we need to get our act together both on the allied side and with the various opposition factions….and not at least to act in ways that discourage those that support Assad to stand down and seek a compromised peace with a new broad government. Frankly, that will not happen until the opposition becomes more effective on the ground and the people are given enough assistance to make their lives safe and livable. That likely requires a robust international intervention and the creation of ever widening “security and humanitarian zones” that give hope and provide space for diplomacy to work.

We welcome your comments!


  1. Harry Blaney July 24, 2013 / 3:28 PM

    Up-date: We understand that the various Committees on the Hill have given their agreement to send arms to the Syrian opposition, but several members have said they are still concerned with doing so and the implications and problems this might create. Some other leaders have indicated also that more is going on in Syria re our engagement than has been made public.

    See the new post of 7/24 on Syria and especially the views of General Dempsey and Senator. McCain…….we are likely in the next few weeks coming to a critical point of decision and in the direction of civil war itself. The question now is there a “diplomatic” way out or only one via warfare?

    So far little is taking place also in the EU countries and one must wonder why the fast turnaround and the reasons why. Having been recently in the UK it might be the strong opinion of the public to keep out, but many experts there still think some intervention is necessary but the question is would Prime Minister Cameron be willing to act, but he has promised the Commons a vote on the issue which is likely to go against him unless the political situation changes greatly.

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