Illusions of a Solution in Syria

With potential US strikes acknowledged by Obama as “limited” in aim, and focused not on removing Assad but rather on pushing the regime’s core supporters to the negotiation table, the administration is delaying the end to the conflict, which can only occur when the regime is routed, on the ground, by Syrians.

Policy Failure and Delusions.

Putting it softly, Obama’s Syria policy has been an utter failure – focused on an impotent cocktail of appeasement, containment and extremely non-lethal, passive support for the revolution. It is grounded on the presumption that a negotiated outcome can be achieved by pressuring Assad and allies to just “give up” power.

This approach is not only flawed, but delusional – last week’s chemical weapons attacks and subsequent offensive by the regime across the Damascus suburbs and other liberated areas are just one example in a series of actions over the past 30 months. All of which illustrate the point that as long as Assad remains the best funded, politically supported and foreign armed/manned militia in Syria, there is no hope for a negotiated settlement. After all, why would Assad settle if he believes he will be victorious?

Obama's Red Line. Assad's Line.As Obama takes a step back and defers the decision to proceed with the “limited strikes” to Congress, many are questioning whether the action is being sent to die in debate, in essence removing the burden of action off the administration. Regardless, whether this whole episode is a ploy to save face, or even an attempt to exert pressure on Assad’s allies is truly confounding – it presumes that all of Assad’s foreign allies will react to strikes in a uniform manner.

Different Assad Allies. Different Reactions.

Russia, the largest political supporter of the regime, has partnered with the Obama administration for the push towards “Geneva 2” and even if they pout, will eventually fall in line. Note, how upon the mere threat of a strike, Russian Foreign Minister Lavrov immediately remarked that Russia would not fight a war for Syria – putting it simply, the Russians bark loudly but act only as the US enables them to in the region. China another political supporter of the regime will, predictably follow Russia’s lead in this matter as well.

Iran however, at this present time cannot afford such a position and will act as the key spoiler to any potential solutions that do not factor in their interests. With the presence in Syria of thousands of loyal, sectarian militiamen from Lebanon and Iraq who fight on Assad’s behalf, Iran has the ability to react immediately to any threats – from the revolution or any party that intends to assert influence in the country.

Even within Assad’s Syrian base, there are estimates of 100k+ fighters in the “National Defense Forces” (the sectarian militia loyal to Assad) in addition to the “shabeeha” and core elements of the Syrian Arab Army and state security. All of whom have had the benefit of more than a week’s notice to redeploy, position human shields, and prepare for a “limited” strike in what is being spun by the regime’s propaganda machine as the defense of the sovereign nation against foreign invaders – the mere mention of “sovereignty” is an absurd joke, as if the regime is still a functioning state that controls the nation and hasn’t survived this long without unlimited direct foreign intervention from its allies.

Additionally, Obama’s unnecessary political posturing this past week, decision to wait for Congressional approval, along with the stunning UK parliament decision not to support strikes has actually turned into a huge morale boost for Assad and his base and will only ensure momentum towards new offenses after the saber-rattling is over.

“Freedom” on the Wings of the West?

Actually no. These impending strikes are not designed to do that. Rather this episode has more to do with NOT directly supporting the Free Syrian Army (FSA) – the people on the ground who, if armed consistently and effectively, could actually turn the tide in this struggle.

Theoretically, US strikes, even in a limited nature would provide short-term opportunities for FSA brigades to exploit. However, in another example of US unilateral planning in Syria, there seems to be no tactical coordination between the camps – only guestimates by fighters on potential targets.

As the conflict has evolved the US has jumped through hoops not to provide continuous support the FSA – despite numerous promises of direct military aid indications are that the US is still blocking key supplies from third parties like Saudi Arabia. In essence, they allow allies to keep some supply lines open but manage what gets in limit the overall tide of battle. Without an empowered force how does anyone expect to 1) defeat Assad and his allies; 2) keep militarized extremists at bay that have thrived in the chaos; and 3) securely manage the “day after” the inevitable fall of this regime?

No, freedom for Syria won’t come from US fighter jets, or from a few cruise missiles fired from warships. The regime itself understands this dynamic very well – after all they can withstand “limited” strikes. In the face of a strong militarized resistance, the regime’s very existence is threatened and would collapse, as it has across more than 60% of the country.

Contradictions of Interests and Destiny.

Syrians, across all fronts, are under no illusion as to what drives US potential actions – whether grounded in maintaining security for US allies in the region, namely Israel and Jordan, or even ensuring that an empowered and independent populace cannot emerge to chart the course of freedom for their nation.

The US will only act assertively in Syria on a timetable that suits their interests – last week General Dempsey, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff ,reaffirmed what many have believed all along: “It is my belief that the side we choose must be ready to promote their interests and ours when the balance shifts in their favor. Today, they are not.”

Even with an understanding of American intentions, after so much suffering and carnage, many Syrians would embrace any possible option that could stop the killing – anything that would even have a slim chance to shake the foundation of the regime and put in motion the events that could lead to an end to the conflict. Regardless of their political stance, people are exhausted, traumatized and want to salvage what they have left in life.

With or without a strike the revolution however will not go away. History will mark the resilience of the Syrian people, and how despite overwhelming odds and hardships they overthrew a dictator – more than two and half years of blood have cemented this destiny, in spite of possible “limited” action by the US.

39 thoughts on “Illusions of a Solution in Syria

  1. I believe that there is hidden agendas on the part of the United States. The fifteen hundred dead are a human tragedy but why now, what about the one hundred thousand who have perished? We were not so concerned with them because they were killed by peaceful weapons? That makes no sense at all. No, there is something else. No, we are not really afraid of the Russians, nor the Chinese. There is some echo of truth with our thoughts against the Iranians. But note we are extremely vulnerable as witness to the Boston Bombing Incident. Our borders are porous and if an enemy wants to come here and do us harm it would find it tricky but doable. The days of Teddy Roosevelt and the White Fleet are well in the past. The Reagan years are a dim memory. America is like the tiger with pulled teeth. A small strike is useless and the results will be an excuse for some incident at an embassy or at an airport. This is not poker with a bluff. We are either all in or we will bluster and run in circles. The American people want to run the circles until there is a definite cause uniting them. Is an incident coming? That is the question.


    1. Agreed. I also find it ironic that those who opposed Bush post 9/11 claimed that the U.S. was not the world police and should stay out of foreign affairs that didn’t involve them. Now, many of those same people are overlooking their previous opinion in order to support this agenda because they like the President.


  2. War is not new. It will never go away. If we really want to stop it we have to be really well behaved and limit everything we personally do to “reasonable” and “sustainable.” The main thing is to walk away from threats before we escalate to fighting them. To hell with the principle and all that. What started this? From what I’ve heard it started as a way to get rid of a dictator so that people could have a better standard of living. The best standard of living is to stay alive. Suck it up. We all have our problems and believe me, having Justin Bieber in town with lights and special effects does nothing to convince me my standard of living is high. I guess people who haven’t had that choice yet need to see it for themselves. We just have to wait until we all do. First step get rid of the market economy. It puts ideas and fake options in people’s heads that they cannot sustain. And we have people in other countries envying us, thinking it’s working for us when it isn’t. We are advertisements for a fake dream.


  3. The hidden agendas of the USA (and every major country) is what makes this particular situation so frustrating. Without all the politics, it is hard to image any country not taking actions when such atrocities in Syria occur. However, the political agendas (seen and unseen) continue to make a mockery of what the human race should stand for…


  4. Whether it was Syria or another nation, the use of chemical weapons breaks international law. The governing body responsible for creating and enforcing such laws would be the U.N. No one has clean hands on either side of the Syrian conflict. No one has the purest of intentions inside or outside the Middle East. Instead of pointing fingers or clamoring for limited military air strikes or protesting against all out war, let us answer preliminary questions: why and how are the rebels heavily armed? Do they best represent the national interests of the everyman in Syria? Why and how is Assad heavily armed? Does he best represent national interests of the everyman? If a side cannot be chosen, I hope that we would seek to know the opinions and voices of the Syrian people themselves and push for policies which reflect their desires and best interest–and maybe I just haven’t read enough, but the articles I’ve read haven’t quite answered these questions.


    1. I am a veteran . . . the last thing I want to see is American troops under foreign command but, this is an international matter. It will only work, no matter what we do, if we all agree and do it together.

      Obviously the US is under command of a source far removed from the White House . . . I don’t trust us anymore.

      This whole thing stinks to high heaven, but the congress will approve and we will blow the bugle once more . . . and we will suffer the consequence once more . . . and the MIC and the central banks will make a bunch of money . . . once more.


  5. There is war in some places and not just Syria yet we are focusing there? This is only the start, it will turn out to be ww3 next if they do not find a solution to whatever have made them fight in the first place. There is a few reasons why this could be happening, have we been told the truth? Is it being covered up? Who knows xx


  6. It would be a relief to wake up and not constantly have to consume propaganda; there is no evidence that Assad orchestrated the employ of chemical weapons, the Administration has produced no evidence: “trust us, we know he did” is not evidence. Logic says Assad didn’t do this; logic also says that American warmongers need perpetual war to keep their defence industry alive- without war there is no market for their wares.


  7. Politicians simply care for the well-being of their own country or rather their own well-being. It does not happen on a single country alone, it is everywhere around the world.

    Why can’t “leaders” realize that oppressing a side of the world will not only worsen them or their country, but stain their reputation in history of mankind? Do they simply want to create short-term resolutions and live for the present?


  8. I’m ashamed at how little I know about Syria’s situation, but I’m really grateful for your detailed perspective. Thanks for educating me. Peace and thanks, John


  9. It’s been really interesting to read the insights and opinions of different people on their blogs r.e. current developments in the Syrian conflict and their interpretations of delay in intervention by key international players. It almost seems as if UK and US have worked themselves into a catch22 due to the Afghanistan/Iraq wars underlining a ‘knee-jerk’ left reaction to the proposition of any form of foreign military intervention. Suspicion is rife, yet so is the reality of Syrian civilian suffering.

    Whilst we can comment on international action/non-action until the earth melts, I have to say I wouldn’t want to be involved in making effective humanitarian and world-changing decisions over any conflict. Whatever action is taken/not taken and for whatever reasons, this is the state of the world that we live in and has been since the development of warfare. Can a ‘better world’ ever exist? Perhaps. But for the forseeable future that is the stuff of utopian novels. And even then, not everyone can be truly happy and without suffering.


  10. Can strikes make a difference and to which side?
    Events in Syria are tragic for the civilian population but ultimately, strikes will not change their fate either way. If Assad falls, Syria will fracture and remain in turmoil as have Iraq & Afghanistan. Tribal & religious affiliations will continue to ferment chaos, imposing a token democracy will not engender compromise and cooperation where none exists. If he stays, it’ll be more of the same until Assad stamps out the rebel forces altogether, no doubt with punitive attacks carried out against any affiliated civilian populations.
    What can the West realistically hope to achieve by intervention? And on what side?
    Support the rebels and we are supporting the same groups we are currently fighting across the Middle East, paving the way for Syria to become a militant Muslim state with access to chemical weapons. Support Assad and we’re supporting a war criminal, Hezbollah and Iran, but it would probably result in a more stable regime with less exported terrorism. Dictators do more to suppress terrorist factions within their borders than we could, they hate the competition!
    Intervention is a no win scenario, we’re damned if we do and damned if we don’t. In a world without instant media reports our leaders would probably prefer to look the other way until the dust has settled and then deal with whatever faction is left standing. Their dilemma is now, having set themselves up as the worlds sherif, how can they balance the moral necessity to intervene with the no win outcome should they do so?
    That is why our governments are passing the decision to their respective debating chambers and crossing their fingers that they then won’t be allowed to make that difficult choice.
    Perhaps the best we can hope to do, is to manage the refugee crisis and provide safe havens for the civilians displaced by the fighting. They must not be allowed to fester without hope or future in squalid refugee camps, making them perfect recruiting grounds for extremists causing the spread of instability, death and destruction across the region.


  11. There are two opposing forces in the world. One calls the other “decadent” and in turn, the other is seen as “oppressive.” These labels have to do with what women wear and the role of women in society. In the “decadent” one, money is made by fashions, cosmetics, convenience products, childcare etc Lots of taxes are paid by women in the workplace and 2nd/3rd car sales are a reality. So there’s the economy. I really wonder if this is worth dying for though. The grass is not greener on our side. Sadly, the hype is so great, the planet is going to be burnt along with all the fences.
    I find it curious how the decadent side is the one everybody wants to be like… even though it too, is oppressive.


  12. If anymore battleships and subs are sent to the Mediterranean than are already there, the war is going to be fought out in the sea, not on land in Syria. I hope for all of us one side doesn’t get a sub commander with an itchy trigger finger!


  13. No, we don’t need to go to Syria. The big-time players connected to the US government want war with Syria for reasons OTHER than humanitarian issues, disguised in the form of humanitarian issues. I won’t say what’s been said already, but everyone should read the book “Are We Rome?”, — an interesting read and very applicable here.


  14. A good analysis, but I must sadly admit, it runs through with the assumption that the fall of Assad is the beginning of glory for Syria. I am sure you are familiar with Iraq and Libya. The fall of Saddam and Gaddafi were the beginning of the real strife these two nations were to ever face. As we write Iraq is a graveyard and Libya is a forgotten pit of death.

    The earlier all right-thinking people who really have the good of Syria at heart begin to call on both the USA and Russia to stop arming both the rebels and the regime respectively, then and only then will it be clear we are near to a solution for Syria.

    Until that time, any action that involves more war will benefit only certain people – and sad to say, Syrians are not among these.


  15. Thanks for the insight on this issue. The problem as I have seen it is not which side (to get involved or not get involved) to join, but that there is a level of complexity that we don’t yet understand. No one would condone attacks from without, but the violence continues within. Our media does a poor job of explaining the reason for the fighting, only the results of it. Thanks again for sharing your perspective.


  16. Appeasement isn’t diplomacy. Kerry made the case for military action then was put under the bus by a Commander in Chief who took the easy way out. Even if WMD is found or destroyed Assad still has to face justice for his actions. USA doesn’t wage wars, our enemies do because of our restraint. Saddam, the Taliban, al-Qaeda in Libya, Yemen and Somalia, Iran too as well as terrorists in our country–all con us plotting their next public relations coup. Peace through strength I say.


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