State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland said, “We don’t believe that it makes sense to contribute now to the further militarization of Syria.” Note the caveat “now.”
And then came the opening door: If we can’t get Syrian President Bashar Assad “to yield to the pressure we are all bringing to bear, we may have to consider additional measures.”
One of those additional measures, arming the opposition, will be on the table Friday when the anti-Assad “Friends of Syria” group meets in Tunis. Heading the U.S. delegation will be Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton, testimony to the growing importance the administration attaches to getting Assad to step aside peacefully.
Other than arming the opposition, the “Friends” are left with pretty much the usual options: additional sanctions, helping the fragmented opposition unify into a true counterforce to the regime and establishing safe havens for refugees, in the neighboring states of Turkey, Iraq, Lebanon and Jordan.
The Arab League, which was essential to helping overthrow Moammar Gadhafi in Libya, has been ineffectual in this case. It sent an observer mission to Syria that was allowed to see little and accomplished nothing, and has proposed a joint observer mission with the United Nations.
But the world agency, because of opposition from Russia and China, also has proved useless. The two nations vetoed an innocuous Security Council resolution merely calling for an end to the violence.
President Barack Obama is under pressure from the hawkish trio of Sens. John McCain, Joe Lieberman and Lindsey Graham to take more assertive action against Syria. But Obama faces resistance from the U.S. military, one reason being we have no idea who the opposition players are other than disaffected defectors from the Syrian military.
Gen. Martin Dempsey, chairman of the Joint Chiefs, has said: “I would challenge anyone to clearly identify for me the opposition movement in Syria at this point.”
Meanwhile, Assad’s Russian-equipped, Iranian-financed military continues to pound opposition neighborhoods into rubble. The destruction of Homs evokes images of Guernica many wars ago.
The outlook is not great, but maybe the Friends of Syria can satisfy Dempsey’s objections by identifying and organizing a credible opposition, one capable of handling “additional measures,” and one that can be trusted not to replace one tyranny with another. Then the door to providing arms would truly be open.
In the last decade, the U.S. has often found itself pressured to facilitate regime change in hostile territory on the other side of the world. In Iraq and Afghanistan, America’s boots-on-the-ground support ended up costing more than the mixed results justify. In the year since the birth of the “Arab spring,” diplomatic and arms-length military support have proved more effective.
Syria — and Iran — must be handled with the same care.
Source: Metro West Daily News