Today the Chairman of the U.S. Senate Committee on the Armed Forces, Senator Carl Levin, gave a talk to the Carnegie Endowment in Washington after a trip to the Middle East. The essence of his talk was to push for a more active role for America and our allies (those in the “London 11″) in supporting the Syria Free Army and the opposition to Assad. After a scathing review of the Assad regime’s conduct, including the use of WMD (chemical weapons), Levin emphasized his view that unless the international community acts, the unrest will spread and extreme groups in the region will cause even more conflict. Senator Levin also urged the U.S. to provide training and light weapons, possibly including anti-tank weapons, and hinted that America or our allies could act by taking out Assad’s airborne and related weapons systems from stand off weapons without getting U.S. troops on the ground.
The aim would be “to comprehensively plan additional steps to up the military pressure on the Assad regime.” Importantly he said: “It is also important that his departure not create a vacuum into which Sunni-Shia divisions deepen and spread and which results in safe havens from which al Qaeda and other terrorist organizations could again bring suffering and terror to the United States and our friends and allies. Unless there is a planned transition to an inclusive political and military structure to provide a secure and stable follow-on to Assad, a longer civil war could replace the current conflict, bringing unspeakable suffering to the Syrian people and spiraling instability to the region.”
My view is that Senator Levin is right on the this point. I believe that not only do we need a new government with unity of all groups but also an effective structure of security for the Syrian population. To do this we need a formidable, multinational peacekeeping/peacemaking force with experts at meditation and reconciliation to act as guarantors of stability, security, and humanitarian assistance, which will be needed early and in large quantities to ensure a stable and democratic future for Syria.
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