April 17, 2012 | 7:51 am
This might be an occasional feature on Rosner’s Domain to which you can all contribute. So here we go:
Were you surprised to learn that “Syrian Forces Widen Attacks as Cease-Fire Unravels”?
Were you surprised to learn that “Russia sends conflicting signals on Syria ships”?
Were you surprised to learn that almost two weeks have passed since Kofi Annan said that ”Syria must end the conflict in one week”?
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More seriously, the situation in Syria is not likely to resolve itself anytime soon, as some of the Israeli experts we interviewed a while ago accurately predicted (see here).
Back in February I wrote that, “Some American officials believe that the Syria question [is] one of strategic importance to the US, and not just a matter of defending human rights in Syria. China and Russia are playing the Iran-Syria card, while interestingly, most Arab countries side with the US and Europe against the Assad regime and, more cautiously, against Tehran. However, for such alliance to stick together the west must act or lose credibility – it must prove that sticking with it is wiser than sticking with the other group. And for such alliance to be able to convince Israel that options other than attack are still available in regards to Iran – it has to show some muscle on Syria, to prove that international action can still work, and can be effective even when both China and Russia aren’t willing to play along”.
Steve Chapman believes that the moment of intervention is getting nearer, and backs this conclusion with interesting logic:
For the moment, the administration is not beating the war drums. Ivo Daalder, U.S. ambassador to NATO, has taken pains to distinguish the Syria situation from the Libya situation. In Libya, he has noted, we didn’t agree to military action until we could cite 1) a demonstrable need (the prospect of mass slaughter), 2) a sound legal basis (a UN Security Council resolution) and 3) regional support.
But that formula is not really an argument against acting in Syria. It’s more of a roadmap to intervention. The “demonstrable need” comes in the form of 9,000 civilians killed by government forces. Regional support for action has already emerged, particularly from Turkey, Saudi Arabia and Qatar. The legal basis is the hang-up now, since Russia and China could veto a Security Council resolution authorizing action. But they may not protect Assad forever, and NATO just might find a pretext to move even without the UN’s endorsement. In cases like this, it’s generally unwise to bet against intervention, no matter how improbable it may sound. When demands arose for the United States to impose a “no-fly” zone in Libya, Defense Secretary Robert Gates and Joint Chiefs Chairman Adm. Mike Mullen publicly disparaged the proposal. The intervention looked unlikely right up to the moment Barack Obama unleashed the aerial onslaught.
And the advice on how this is supposed to be done is laid out here:
[A] small investment of ground, intelligence, communications and air support can help produce an insurgent victory in a reasonable amount of time. Special Forces, for example - Arabic-speaking, experts in small unit tactics and calling in precision air support - can act as force multipliers by organizing, training, equipping and supporting the Free Syrian Army to conduct guerilla warfare, subversion, sabotage and intelligence activities. Equally important: the fewer American and coalition partners on the ground the better, as it gives the Free Syrian Army and political leaders-in-waiting more legitimacy. After all, this is their war to win.
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