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Were you surprised to learn that…? The Syria edition

by Shmuel Rosner

April 17, 2012 | 7:51 am

Syrian soldiers who defected to join the Free Syrian Army patrol the streets of a Damascus suburb. (Photo: Reuters)

‎This might be an occasional feature on Rosner’s Domain to which you can all contribute. So ‎here we go:‎
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Were you surprised to learn that “Syrian Forces Widen Attacks as Cease-Fire Unravels”?‎
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Were you surprised to learn that “Russia sends conflicting signals on Syria ships”?‎
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Were you surprised to learn that almost two weeks have passed since Kofi Annan said that ‎‎”Syria must end the conflict in one week”?‎

Have something to say about this? Join the debate at Rosner’s Domain on Facebook
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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).‎
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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”.‎
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Steve Chapman believes that the moment of intervention is getting nearer, and backs this ‎conclusion with interesting logic:‎
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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.‎
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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.‎

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And the advice on how this is supposed to be done is laid out here:‎
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‎[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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