How the US Can Address the Syria Issue

Friday, 16 Mar 2012 09:52 AM

By Tawfik Hamid

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Syria is facing a devastating political crisis that is likely to have serious implications on the Middle East. The fight between the Assad regime and his opposition has resulted in escalating violence and severe suffering for many people in the country.

The position of different world powers from the Syrian issue has been contradictory. Both Russia and China blocked the resolution of the U.N. Security Council that could have weakened the Assad regiment. On the contrary, the Arab world is standing clearly against al-Assad in support of his opposition.

This support has reached a level that some Arab countries asked for militarization of the opposition groups. Iran, as expected, showed clear support for al-Assad and has actually sent him military support.

In the midst of this dilemma the U.S. had difficult choices. One of these choices is military intervention to support the opposition and try to get rid of al-Assad (as happened with al-Gadhafi in Libya). The case of Syria could be more complicated than the case of al-Gadhafi as the opposition in Syria is less organized and less united than it was in Libya.

Furthermore, fighting in Syria can be more difficult than it was in Libya as the country has advanced air defense and harbor many al-Qaida extremists.

Additionally, the Islamist system that is likely to come to power of al-Assad — if removed — is likely to be more antagonistic to the U.S. interests in the area than al-Assad.

Another option for the U.S. is to show support for al-Asaad or to simply stay silent (inaction). In this situation the U.S. image in the world — especially the Muslim world — can be seriously damaged as al-Assad is being accused of committing crimes against humanity.
The U.S. approach in this extremely complex situation has to be very cautious as any decision may result in serious consequences.

The following are few suggestions on how the U.S. could deal with the Syrian situation:

1. Make it clear that the U.S. is unable to intervene in the Syrian issue until the opposition show clear unity and become organized under one banner. This can shift the responsibility for the inaction of the U.S. to be on the shoulders of the opposition rather than on the U.S. Such an approach, i.e., “to pass the ball to their court,” can also limit the high level of criticism to U.S. for not intervening more strongly to remove al-Assad.

2. The U.S. can use the anti-Iranian sentiment that is currently increasing in the Muslim world — due to the clear Iranian support for al-Assad regiment — to increase the pressure on Iran to stop its nuclear ambitions.

3. The U.S. can capitalize of the pro-Assad position of Russia and China to improve the U.S. image in the Muslim world. U.S. outreach efforts in the Muslim world can compare the position of the latter two countries that — as seen by millions of Muslims — gave a green light to al-Assad regiment to do inhumane atrocities against Syrians to the U.S. position that protected many innocent Muslims from more massacres and rapes in Libya.

4. Show strong support for humanitarian efforts to go to the Syrian people and clarify that the U.S. will do political pressure on al-Assad to ensure that humanitarian needs are not obstructed.

5. If the U.S. for some reason decided that military intervention is the best option it might be wiser to follow these points:
  • Avoid troops on ground and rely on airstrikes to avoid the massive casualties that are likely to occur if U.S. troops were sent to the region.
  • Ask the Arab countries that are interested in such intervention to send their own troops under the U.S. air cover.
  • Demand that the wealthy Arab countries cover all the possible costs of the U.S. for this intervention.
  • Clarify that the U.S. may consider military intervention ONLY if the Arab League clearly requests such an intervention.
Dr. Tawfik Hamid is the author of "Inside Jihad: Understanding and Confronting Radical Islam."Read more reports from Tawfik Hamid — Click Here Now.








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