There is little doubt that we have come to a critical juncture in the Syrian conflict. Within the country itself the battle for control still ranges and has intensified over key cities and in the wider countryside. Splits among the Syrians themselves have brought new problems for a future government and for the “Friends of Syria” who are seeking to both oust Assad and help instill a new and hopefully united regime.
The American hawk brigade of Senators John McCain, Joseph I. Lieberman and Lindsey O. Graham (All Republicans except a semi-Republican “Independent” who supported McCain and not Obama in the last presidential election) have made their case in a Washington Post op-ed this Monday, August 6th. There is nothing new in their argument and it is one that they have made before. They say that Obama’s “hands-off approach is increasingly at odds with both America’s values and its interests.” There is a lot of bluster and not much substance or real analysis and a lot of suggestions that are already being undertaken by the administration in a more covert manner and in cooperation with other allies.
The mention of “values and interests” by this headless group of pro-Iraq intervention neo-cons – people who oppose the extension of health care to our own population causing many needless deaths here at home, and who are often unwilling to act to support legislation to stimulate growth in our economy to put our people back to work.
We need in this complex landscape and tinderbox of Syria to be smart, effective, and inventive – not unrestrained, headstrong and mindless.
First let’s be clear in terms of our values we do need to support an international multilateral intervention in Syria to stop the killing, preserve human security, and help build a united, democratic, honest new government that will command the support of all sectors.
Meanwhile today the Syrian crisis moved into a critical and possibly a decisive phase with the news that the Syrian Prime Minister Riad Hijab along with other high-ranking officials has reportedly defected from Assad cabinet which is a major blow to the regime.
Riad Hijab’s statement, by his spokesman stated: “I address you today at this grave hour where the country is living under the brunt of genocide and barbarian brutal killing against unarmed people who are simply demanding freedom and a dignified life…..
“Today I declare… that I have defected from the terrorist, murderous regime and [am] joining the holy revolution. And I declare that from today I am a soldier of this holy revolution.”
Mr el-Etri Riad Hijab’s spokesman, later told the BBC that the Syrian regime was “now in its last throes” and that it had been dealt “a fatal blow” by Mr Hijab’s defection.
At the same time the battle for Aleppo has come to a critical point with some 20,000 Assad regime troops aimed at the city which is still under aerial bombing and heavy weapons fighting. The fear is that carnage lies ahead in the city.
Key areas of the country side remain in rebel hands and some believe the conflict will last for months while others believe that we are reaching some kind of end to at least open civil war which includes contention for the main cities of Aleppo and Damascus.
Already experts are looking at the various possibilities of either side winning. Some think that the Assad regime, if it does not regain control of the key cities and can’t control the countryside, will go to the Western mountains and create a readout there. The conflict, if the bloodbath continues, is likely to make reconciliation among the warring groups almost impossible. But stopping this is key to a peaceful Syria and for the overall region. This argues for a strong broad coalition government and a strong armed multilateral peacekeeping intervention mission probably for years.
In place of sending US troops, the Obama administration is trying, according to reports, openly and behind the scenes, working for a unified alternative national government, excluding the radical groups from power in a future regime, and providing assistance to the Syrian Free Army, and working with other nations in helping arm the opposition with care. They are also working to see that chemical and biological weapons do not fall into dangerous hands. The greatest obstacle that remains is the disunity of the existing alternative groups and what is needed is the creation of a trained discipline and effective opposition force that is not bent on revenge but rather a just Syria. Everyone needs to work to stop the conflict spreading beyond the borders.
If the rebels can gain a decided advantage the Assad regime likely will see more defections and the time to provided massive help to rebuild the country, provide for the citizen of all groups security and a sense they have a stake in the new government. It is here that the wise diplomacy of Obama/Clinton, and Turkey, the EU, the Arab League and others needs to be pro-active and creative which can be best achieved via an international umbrella and legitimacy.
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