Push for US Intervention in Syria Grows

Influential Senators and members of the Obama administration now openly talk about more covert interventions

by John Glaser, February 06, 2012

As the Syrian regime has continued its atrocities against civilians and the armed opposition becomes more emboldened, the calls for a U.S.-led intervention are growing louder.

Senate Foreign Relations Committee chairman John Kerry (D-MA), reports Josh Rogin at Foreign Policy, urged for some kind of intervention in support of the opposition and against the regime of Bashar al-Assad, saying “[t]here are many different options as to how we can do that. There are the early beginnings of a civil war taking place in Syria. And if the government is going to kill randomly, people deserve the right to defend and fight for themselves.”

Kerry would not explicitly describe how a U.S. intervention would manifest, but did not mince words in suggesting that intervention was in the works. “Syria is not Libya,” Kerry said. “But nobody should interpret that statement to suggest that it means that Syrian leaders can rely on the notion that they can act with impunity and not expect the international community to assist the Syrian people in some way.”

Journalists on the ground in the opposition’s stronghold of Homs have reported definite shelling by Syrian security forces of civilian areas. A recent UN Security Council resolution on Syria was voted down by Russia and China, partially out of concern that the U.S. and its allies would use the resolution to justify regime change in Syria, just as was done in Libya to oust Muammar Gadhafi.

But blocking intervention at the UN has paradoxically hardened the West’s calls for perhaps a quieter route. “This is not only a recipe for deadlock at the UN,” writes Daniel Larison, “but also for a clash of interests between Assad’s patrons and Assad’s enemies” that may put interested powers “on a path to make Syria’s internal conflict into a proxy war.”

Kerry spoke at a security conference in Munich along with a number of other influential members of Congress. “There’s a lot we can do to provide moral support and to provide material support, along with Turkey and other nations, in assisting these people with medical care and other assistance,” added Senator John McCain (R-AZ).

Joe Lieberman (I-CT) said, “I hope the international community and the U.S. will provide assistance to the Syrian Free Army in the various ways we can. I hope we will work with Turkey and Jordan to create safe havens on the borders of those two countries with Syria.”

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, although she claimed military intervention “has been absolutely ruled out,” has also said, “[W]e have to redouble our efforts outside of the United Nations with those allies and partners who support the Syrian people’s right to have a better future.” Some take this as innuendo suggesting covert intervention.

The humanitarian concerns in Syria are very real and the Assad regime is very brutal, but Washington’s pretensions of concern for the Syrian people are questionable when balanced with its own veto record at the UN and its support for brutal dictatorships elsewhere in the region. Indeed, the U.S. and its Arab allies in the Gulf States would welcome the chance to remove Assad from power and eliminate Iran’s primary ally.

But the consequences of intervention are likely to be more dire than anything seen so far in Syria. Despite having no authority to go around instituting regime change, Washington lacks the understanding of how best to organize Syrian society and sectarian wars could be unleashed in the event of a power vacuum. As has happened in Iraq, Afghanistan, and Libya, the regimes Washington leaves behind are just as brutal as the ones with which they so savagely dispense.

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