Choosing the Right Options in Syria

(Center for Strategic and International Studies) Anthony H. Cordesman - Even if the U.S. does intervene militarily in Syria, the time window for its best option has already passed. The U.S. did not intervene when the rebels were strongest, the Assad regime most fragile, and limited U.S. support to the then dominant moderate rebel factions might well have pushed Assad out of power without dividing Syria along sectarian and ethnic lines. Assad is now far stronger and the rebels are fractured and have strong Sunni Islamist extremist elements. This means there is no way the U.S. can quickly use any amount of force to destroy the Assad regime with any confidence that Syria will not come under Sunni Islamist extremist control. The U.S. has also chosen the wrong red line. The key challenge in Syria is scarcely to end the use of chemical weapons. The real challenge is some 120,000 dead, another 200,000-plus wounded, and as many as 20% of its 22.5 million people have been displaced inside the country or are living outside it as refugees. If the U.S. is to intervene in Syria, its options must have some strategic meaning and a chance of producing lasting success. They must have a reasonable chance of bringing stability to Syria, of limiting the growth of Iranian and Hizbullah influence, of halting the spillover of the Syrian struggle into nearby states, and helping to deal with the broader humanitarian crisis. There is no point in fighting a war against chemical weapons. There is no point in U.S. military symbolism or massive unilateral military action. There is a point in trying to use force to end the suffering, the fighting, and repression - and serve our national interest while we meet the needs of the Syrian people and our allies.

2013-08-28 00:00:00

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