No to War With Syria, Diplomatic Pressure Can Stop Assad

As harsh crackdowns on protests continue in Syria, and as allegedly forced pro-Assad rallies have been orchestrated by the regime, some European countries have been pressing the Assad regime with additional sanctions. This has yet to prove effective in stopping Assad’s brutality and unfortunately squawking from war hawks continue to encourage U.S. military intervention in Syria.

But Tony Badran, in an impressive piece at Foreign Policy, argues that there is plenty the U.S. can do short of bombs and armies to stop Assad and save potentially thousands of more innocent Syrian lives from this particular Middle Eastern tyrant who doesn’t happen to be our client. He says essentially that diplomatic isolation has the potential to rid Assad’s regime of any power it has left and could even pave the way towards a peaceful transition led by the Syrian people.

Bringing [U.S. Ambassador to Damascus Robert] Ford home would be an obvious way to deprive Assad of the legitimacy that comes with relations with the world’s only superpower. It would send an unambiguous message that the United States is done dealing with the Syrian regime. That message would embolden the protesters and dishearten Assad. Perhaps most importantly, it would send a clear signal to the silent majority in Syria, which is watching apprehensively and wondering who will win.

…[international] consensus [against Assad] requires American leadership to coalesce. French, Qatari, and Turkish officials are operating on their own because they cannot be sure of Washington’s position.

Washington could then widen the coalition against Assad to include other key Arab states, including Saudi Arabia. Washington should make clear that it seeks Assad’s ouster as part of a broader strategy of countering Iranian influence in the region — something about which Riyadh remains deeply concerned. There are several signs that the Saudis will be receptive to this argument, not least of which is the relentlessly critical line Saudi-owned media have taken against Assad over the last three months.

The administration could then induce other regional allies to use the leverage they have on Syria to its advantage. To assuage their worsening financial distress, for instance, the Assads have been reaching out to the United Arab Emirates, Kuwait, and Iraq. Obama can lean on these Arab allies to refrain from assisting Assad’s regime and investing money in it, just as he works with the Europeans to choke off sources of revenue for Damascus. These measures could become a significant factor in the calculation of the Sunni business class still on the fence and might potentially accentuate rifts in the army, which is already showing signs of cracks and fatigue amid growing reports of defections.

Doug Bandow recently put it eloquently how dire the situation is when leading congressmen start arguing for War # 6. The prospect of war with Syria makes any of the above attempts at diplomatic pressure appear to have a cherry on top. But Obama plainly has refused to speak out strongly against Assad. The reason is similar to our continuing support of the rest of the Middle Eastern tyrannies: the U.S. will do everything in its power to prevent democracy in the region.

3 thoughts on “No to War With Syria, Diplomatic Pressure Can Stop Assad”

  1. Syria is a dangerous game for Israel. If the IDF gets pulled into an open conflict it could end up in a very long war like the one with Iran and Iraq. The IDF is not an organization which can exist over a long term conflict. The USA is not in a position to support another war. Israel and Syria would bring in support from the USA and Iran along with others. I am not sure how the Israel will hold up with hundreds and possible thousands killed and continued never ending war. As much as they like to brag about the very expensive rocket intercept system it protects less than 1/2 of one percent of Israel. It is a very dangerous time for Israel and people like bibi not help the matter.

  2. Four months of televised scenes from Syria have set in stone the evaluation of what is transpiring. When the protests began, only a few voices pointed out that a small percentage of the population was participating–excuse was that fear kept the majority silent. When marches occurred in other parts of country, again a few voices pointed out that they had not taken place in Aleppo and Damascus and that many of these areas were areas of strong Muslim Brotherhood influence and had participated in the 1980s rebellion. When the US/EU media demanded negotiations, few questioned why the “democracy movement” did not accept any venue offered by the regime–excuses of too little too late, not to trusted, etc.

    Now, Tony Badran’s call for returning our ambassador from Syria is offered as a tool to overthrow Bashar Assad. The list of states he would employ to topple the Baathist reads out as the alignment that George W and the neocons were using before the Syrian “Spring”–France, Qatar (and its Al Jazeera), Saudi Arabia, and Turkey. For all the “concern” for the Syrian population–which does not extend to such minorities as the Alawites, Druze, Christians, etc–and support for democracy (as long as it does not extend to the Arab monarchies and oil), Badran’s essay is but a redux of the neocon master plan to destroy any semblance of Arab resistance to US and Israeli domination.

    Iraq is a shambles. Syria is now the target for “regime change.” Checking the list, Iran will be next on the “hit” list. Then groups like Hezbollah and Hamas should easily fall. With no Arab opposition left, US hegemony is assured. As for Israeli-Palestinian talks, do you really expect anything but some “Bantustans” to be created to keep the Palestinians in line when there is no Arab support for statehood?

    Badran’s worse call is that the destruction of the Baathist government will usher in a smooth transition. Just as in Iraq, the Washington wonks that control America’s foreign will be wrong. There are knowledgeable people who have written and spoke of the coming turmoil that will ensue–sectarian, regional, ethnic, rural-urban, etc. The real goal is to achieve another “Iraq” in Syria–the dissolution of the state and the rise of mini-entities confronting one another.

    Syria will return to what it was for twenty-five years after its independence–a struggle between contesting foreign powers.

Comments are closed.