Monday, February 13, 2012

What to Do About Syria

By Barry Rubin

There is a strong case that can be made for doing nothing about the Syrian civil war, but a stronger case can be made for doing something relatively low-cost and ineffective, indeed, precisely what the Syrian opposition is requesting.

Forget about major military intervention, which would be dangerous, costly, and above the level of available resources. Meanwhile, Syrian documents show that Tehran has provided $1 billion so far to back the regime against the rebels.

I’m also not enthusiastic about a major U.S. effort at regime change, since the Turkish regime wants an Islamist government in Damascus that might even be worse than what exists now.  The less the Obama Administration is involved the more likely things are to go better. Unfortunately, the Obama Administration doesn’t seem able to tell the difference between moderates and anti-American Islamists in Syria. Come to think about it, the Obama Administration isn’t too good at making such a distinction between such people in Egypt, Libya, Tunisia, or Turkey either.

Russia and China block UN action. The Arab League is talking about an international peacekeeping force but it's hard to believe either that they would ever accept any non-Arab forces or they would send in their own armies to fight the Syrian military. Most likely this will all amount to nothing

And will the Obama Administration shrug its shoulders—so to speak—and do nothing? Yes, quite probably.
There’s also an interesting political dynamic within Syria. I can’t say this with full confidence but there is evidence for the following thesis:  The “official” (that is, U.S.-Turkish chosen) opposition leadership doesn’t want armed struggle and indeed seems to prefer a deal with the Assad regime.

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