The situation in Syria grows worse by the minute. President Assad seems to have taken
the UN Security Council’s deadlock as carte blanche to launch an all-out attack on Homs. Russia looks like she wants to mediate, while Turkey is preparing a new initiative with countries who
oppose the Syrian government, a sort of anti-Assad group. Meanwhile, the Gulf States have expelled all Syrian ambassadors.
The chances of a ceasefire are low, as are the prospects of a military intervention. Russia has an interest in persuading Assad to abdicate, but can Assad be persuaded? Syria still has friends in
Iraq and Iran, where the governments are supporting the regime both materially and financially. And, while the West wants Assad removed it is not willing to act: it won’t arm the rebels and
it won’t intervene militarily without a UN resolution. In this context, the Syrian leadership may think that the situation is turning in their favour.
The Henry Jackson Society has come out strongly in favour of an
intervention, arguing that the creation of a safe area in the northwest province of Idlib, centred in the city of Jisr al-Shughour, as well as a no-fly zone covering the western corridor of the
country, could work.
Its report suggests using Turkish ground troops to establish the safe area, and Western or NATO air forces to impose the no-fly zone. But the Turks are non-committal at this stage, while other
regional players are more cautious still, fearing that an intervention will cause a bloody civil war. Writing in the New York Times, Beirut-based Nicholas Noe argues for ‘a realistic, albeit distasteful, strategy that seeks to steadily defuse the
conflict rather than watch it explode in everyone’s face. And that means dealing with Mr. Assad.’
It’s a dispiriting and tragic situation. But I’m sure that, in time, Western and Arab countries will begin to find new ways to help the rebels, such as by providing arms and logistical
expertise. The French and the Qataris have already urged that such action be taken.