Friday, February 24, 2012

Emile Nakhleh in the Financial Times on inevitable intervention in Syria

"So what should be done? The assistance should begin with establishing a haven for the opposition and the military personnel who defect from the regime, as in northern Iraq in 1991. Food, water, clothes, medical supplies and technical equipment should be dropped into the safety zone. Ankara would have to play a critical role in planning, and ultimately in maintaining and supplying the zone, as it would almost certainly have to be contiguous to Turkey.
"If Syrian forces violate the sanctuary, the west should arm the opposition and work with military defectors to organise more effective resistance. If that fails to deter the regime’s brutality and more deaths occur, the west should consider putting a limited number of “boots on the ground”, beginning with the “liberated” zone."

Six months ago Barack Obama called for Bashar al-Asad to step out of the way, so what is new about U.S. policy vis-a-vis Syria is not regime change lite, but an inching forward to intervention in Syria. The modality will be "humanitarian relief" but the effective delivery of aid cannot be done without security.  Since neither the Syrian government nor the fractious opposition can or will provide security, someone else will have to be involved. This means there will be a level of military intervention that will likely only increase with time. This may be the right answer, but we should not confuse ourselves about the slippery slope that follows, even if the initial involvement is limited to "safety zones" as Emile Nakhleh suggests, or the more elaborately sketched "no-kill zones" promoted by Anne-Marie Slaughter.  Absent a willing government in Damascus, any attempt to effectively bring a halt to the reprehensible violence in Syria will require armed intervention no matter the euphemism that is employed. 

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