Syria – time to lead Mr President


Two years on since the uprising against the mainly Alawite military dictatorship, who brutally tried to suppress protests for democratic reform, the consensus now is something must be done about Syria.

The problem now is reaching a consensus on what should be done.

No pressure, only 93,000 people have been killed to get this far, with the tipping point being 150 people killed by the use of chemical weapons for President Obama. Secretary of State John Kerry wants to air strike Syria now, while Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Dempsey makes the case for an entrance and exit strategy first – not to mention hundreds of sorties to reduce the capabilities of Syria to retaliate.

The commander-in-chief informs us however that the Syrian Air defence system is not that good. I hoped that with the election behind him, Obama would be more robust. It has taken a long time coming. Air strikes and cruise missiles would bring tremendous and immediate relief to the Syrian Free Army under Colonel Reyad Musa Al Asaad.

Instead gun running is what is on offer. Covert operations, time to set up, no guarantee whether it would reach the Syrian Free Army or instead those revolutionaries who have publicly executed a 15 year old coffee shop assistant for making a joke that he would, no offence, not even give the Prophet credit for a brew.

We have waited two years to act, and into the bloody civil war Islamic Jihadists have come from far and wide, Hezbollah are on the scene, and Sunni Shiite international politics have set in and hardened. No intervention in Syria? Everyone else has been intervening.

By the G8 leaving it so late to intervene, those that never wanted an intervention in the first place are saying it is now even more difficult. Interventionists warned the body count was going to get worse, the conflict would be another battlefield to train and radicalise people to political jihad. That chemical weapons would be unsecured, and in a bloody civil conflict where both sides fear extermination by the other effective chain of command, let alone respect for the Geneva Convention, would deteriorate.

Those that want the United Nations involved forget the vetos of China, never keen on internal affairs being intervened with even if for humanitarian reasons, and Russia the official arms supplier to Assad and strategically linked to his regime.

In a previous article I suggested this immediate action before air/cruise missile strikes.

Tell the international community to have a no fly zone to prevent attacks on refugee camps and safeguard humanitarian aid routes and safe havens – see above link. Think Kosovo.

Use diplomatic efforts for this and to help with negotiations on the ground to resolve civil war or the international community will take further steps.

Set targets, clear goals, redlines, consequences and stick to them.

With this in place, as quickly as possible, an international conference may be more likely to bear fruit. It would show international efforts were serious, and were being done for humanitarian reasons. The next stage (if we are not there already) with no cease fire reached at this conference would be strikes on Assad’s capability to launch further chemical attacks and air sorties. Assets should be put in place for such a response now before the conference. Diplomacy is only as good as the stick you are prepared to wield.

The Syrian Free Army have signed numerous undertakings in support of a peaceful transition. If Assad offered to move, then they would have to stand down. Assurances and guarantees would have to be in place to prevent reprisals and a return to bloodshed. Assad’s future could be a sticking point, but his future is very much retirement.

This may give a chance for a negotiated peace. We either seize it now or take the risk of what Dempsey fears will happen with our involvement; a slippery slope by events on the ground with no exit in sight as a proxy between foreign powers wages on.

Article written by John Sargeant on Homo economicus’ Weblog

Follow @JPSargeant78



Filed under America, World

4 responses to “Syria – time to lead Mr President

  1. P

    You are quite wrong to think that any good will come out of intervention in this distressing and confusing situation. I think that if you Google ‘Robert Fisk Syria’ you might find it illuminating. Robert Fisk is an experienced foreign correspondent who knows this part of the world and writes for the Independent newspaper in the UK. Regards.

    • Chemical weapons have been used, 100,000 dead, and several countries intervening in Syria right now.

      The idea of good or bad is blown out of the water by the scale of the tragedy in the bloody civil war in Syria. The situation for us will be even worse not intervening. Iran watches with great interest how redlines are responded to. This conflict has the potential to spread outside of Syria’s borders left to its own devices.

      Doing nothing is more dangerous – that is the harsh reality.

      There is a clear legitimate opposition army to Assad to back. I am not in favour of supplying arms; but the support we can give as outlined above would be more effective in reducing the capacity at Assad’s disposal.

      The United States has the capacity to respond – and doing nothing will be a worse option not just for the number dead in Syria but for the international community.

      • P. Kabu

        At last time to give some thought to a proper reply to you.

        Adding more weapons into a confusing and volatile situation can do no good and cannot hope to reduce the body count. What makes some politicians acting on our behalf so sure we are capable of producing a better outcome out of this mess? Send in the bombers and the cruise missiles, cause casualties on all sides plus the innocent, (it always happens), are you seriously proposing this as a road to a solution? Syria, I understand has advanced Russian air defences crewed by Russians and Russia is not so far away and has strategic interests too and a Muslim and Chechen problem. This is not Libya and that did not exactly turn out well. Do we even have a view on the end position we would wish to achieve and how we are to disengage? If we have I would like PM. Cameron or Foreign Secretary Haigue to tell the British public. There is no imperative for the West to act in this. That the Law of Unintended Consequences will apply in spades is the only certainty to result from western involvement, we will receive no thanks quite the opposite, we will be seen as the imperialist enemy we have so often been. The West has meddled too often in Arab affairs.

        Now, just who do we give the weapons to if we chose this course, and it is already happening by proxy through the Gulf states. What evidence is there that the opposition is united, organised, has a strategy, a vision, has any moral standing? Has the Free Syrian Army an effective leadership over more than say 10% of the rebel forces, any sort of mandate, has popular support? Are their signed undertakings for a peaceful transition worth more than the paper they are written on?

        It is a civil and religious war, neighbouring community against neighbouring community plus the foreign Islamist fighters who arrive daily. How do we deliver the weapons to the intended recipients whoever they are and to no one else? How do they keep hold of them and prevent the jihadists seizing them? How do we stop the recipients trading or selling the weapons on? Who in the West understands the local tribal loyalties and animosities, the gangsters, the warlords, the religious hate and division?

        The ‘quarrel’ between Sunni and Shia has been going on since the death of Mohammed, and we want to be involved in this by a policy act that amounts to choosing one side, the Sunni (as if they were one homogenous group) and making a greater enemy out of the Shia and the other sects, it is a madness.

        There is irony in America proposing to send more means of causing death and destruction to a disparate bunch of thugs and murderers whose associates in the field are jihadists and Al Qaida. It is such a big mistake and more than tragic that we cannot learn from our lack of success, that is putting it mildly, in Iraq and Libya and let us not forget Afghanistan. This time it really is none of our business. The assets we waste, the lives we ruin, the billions spent on death and destruction could do so much good in the world if redirected away from the military solution to every international problem.

        Look on and despair at the foolishness of mankind. Restrict our activities to humanitarian aid to neighbouring countries that have taken in refugees and deliver it via the UN and the Red Crescent. I too am concerned for the victims.

        You may have heard of the late Donald Soper, Lord Soper, a Methodist minister and public speaker, friend of Bertrand Russell, a ‘soap box orator’ of some renown, of course a pacifist. I heard him speak at Tower Hill, London nearly 50 years ago, he said ‘It is always a mistake to believe the people in charge know what they are doing, it applies in all walks of life’. It was a recurring theme that he had. It did not mean of course that all leaders are always doing the wrong thing but we in whose name horrors are perpetrated must be ever vigilant. This meme has stuck with me and I offer it to you as a filter, a cautionary rule to apply, it has served me well and often seemed so true. I will make this the end of my contribution.

        Regards. (P.S. I still like reading your blog, I claim no expertise, I read, I try to think, I ask questions, I just say you are so wrong on this)

      • No worries – everyone is bound to disagree at some point given what I cover at some point. My criticism with Iraq in the past is it makes the humanitarian intervention cause much harder to argue for Syria.

        Do note that I am not calling for arming Syrian Free Army – nor have I in previous posts. Important because I share concerns where they will go esp when we hear arms being bartered for food etc.

        The problem is several nations are intervening in Syria already, and potentially this conflict will cross borders. Genocide by either side is a real possibility, though Assad seems to have the edge at the moment.

        I think we need to remember our successes like Kosovo. But as I mentioned near the end of my post I do take Dempsey’s concerns seriously about an entry and exit strategy.

        Regarding no fly zone a lot of misinformation abounds – but we have ways of disabling if we want to enforce.

        No doubt you agree with my suggestion we protect the refugee camps on the border, and safeguard humanitarian aid. That certainly is my starting point, though safe havens may help to reduce loss of life of civilians and make those fighting on the ground know international community serious about how this develops.

        With the use of chemical weapons and nearly 100,000 dead and potential for widening conflict, not to mention jihadists filling in the vacuum we have left – sadly it is our business, on a humanitarian and real politic basis to get involved.

        Anyway thanks for taking the time for a thoughtful reply – glad you like reading the blog.

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