Posted by Joshua on Wednesday, February 8th, 2012
The crisis in Syria with Fouad Ajami; Thomas L. Friedman; Joshua Landis; and Anne-Marie Slaughter
After diplomatic efforts at the UN failed Saturday, there is a growing consensus that supporting the rebel Free Syrian Army may be the only way to break the stalemate between Assad and his opponents….Still, there is little international appetite to replicate last year’s NATO mission in Libya, which helped topple Libyan leader Muammar Gadhafi. Secretary of State Hilary Rodham Clintonsaid on Sunday that a direct military intervention had been “absolutely ruled out.”…Leadership disputes aside, turning the FSA into a coherent military force will require “coordinated action by the intelligence services of a coalition of the willing,” says Jeffrey White, a military analyst with the Washington Institute for Near East Policy.The FSA, he says, would need an assured supply of arms and ammunition, especially anti-tank missiles, secured means of communication, advice on how to coordinate operations across different regions of Syria, intelligence on Syrian Army operations and vulnerable military infrastructure.“The intelligence services of the US, the UK, France, Turkey, Jordan, and other states in the region have the know-how and capabilities to do these kinds of things,” Mr. White says. “It would be important to have cooperation from one or more of the states bordering Syria, especially Turkey, in order to establish base facilities, training camps, supply routes and infiltration routes.”On the other side of the equation, the Syrian Army has suffered from defections and desertions as well as low morale, especially among mainly Sunni conscripts in the regular brigades. But the elite units such as the Fourth Brigade and the Republican Guard remain strong and have spearheaded the crackdown against opposition hubs.
Why Syrians Fight, and Why Their Civil War May be a Long One
By Tony Karon | Time
The reason that there’s no plausible end-game in Syria anytime soon — and that thousands more Syrians may be fated to die before the conflict is ended — is that the Assad regime is fighting a very different war to the one envisaged by many of its opponents. For Arab and Western powers, and many Syrians, President Bashar Assad is a doomed despot desperately holding on by force to the power he can never hope to exercise by democratic consent. But for Assad — and more importantly, for the minority Allawite community on which his regime is based — this is an existential struggle against an implacable sectarian foe. A majority of Syrians may be fighting for their rights and dignity; for the ruling minority it’s a battle to avoid the fate that befell Iraq’s Sunnis after the fall of their brutal benefactor, Saddam Hussein.
There’s no way of establishing its veracity, but one anecdote from the tormented city of Homs speaks volumes about how Syria’s power struggle is likely to play out: As regime forces continue to exact an horrific toll in their bombardment of Bab Amr and other opposition-controlled Sunni neighborhoods, residents in adjacent Allawite communities allege that the rebels are retaliating for regime attacks by firing mortars into Allawite neighborhoods. The Allawites of Homs, so the tale goes, are livid that the regime hasn’t more forcefully crushed the uprising, accusing President Assad of being too fearful of foreign intervention to smash the rebel forces with the ruthlessness his father would have mustered…..
Former Prime Minister Salim Hoss issued a stern rebuke to the Syrian regime Wednesday, holding it responsible for much of the violence in the country, and calling on it to end the bloodshed. (Daily Star)
Iran’s Achilles’ Heel
By EFRAIM HALEVY
February 7, 2012, Op-Ed Contributor
THE public debate in America and Israel these days is focused obsessively on whether to attack Iran in order to halt its nuclear weapons ambitions; hardly any attention is being paid to how events in Syria could result in a strategic debacle for the Iranian government. Iran’s foothold in Syria enables the mullahs in Tehran to pursue their reckless and violent regional policies — and its presence there must be ended.
Ensuring that Iran is evicted from its regional hub in Damascus would cut off Iran’s access to its proxies (Hezbollah in Lebanon and Hamas in Gaza) and visibly dent its domestic and international prestige, possibly forcing a hemorrhaging regime in Tehran to suspend its nuclear policies. This would be a safer and more rewarding option than the military one
We’ll help rebels overthrow Syrian murderers: Hague’s warning to dictator Assad over escalation in violence
By Tim Shipman, 7th February 2012
Britain is to send equipment to help the opposition oust Syrian dictator Bashar Assad after William Hague said there was ‘no limit on what resources we can provide’.
The Foreign Secretary announced plans for a dramatic escalation of support for the rebels as Syrian government forces launched yet another bloody attack on the rebel city of Homs, killing 50 more.
Mr Hague ruled out British military action but said the UK is poised to provide ‘strategic communications’ equipment to help different rebel groups work together against the ‘murderous’ regime in Damascus.
Diplomatic sources compared the situation to the war in Libya and said Britain will seek to provide radios and mobile phones and work with Turkey and other neighbouring nations to allow rebels to broadcast radio programmes into Syria.
The UK will also back fresh European Union sanctions later this month designed to ‘fracture the regime’.
That will see a new crackdown on activities by the Syrian Central Bank and imposing travel bans and asset freezes on regime officials to encourage them to abandon Assad.
Mr Hague recalled the British ambassador to Syria yesterday for talks as violence erupted again, which prompted the U.S. to withdraw all its embassy staff for security reasons.
Yesterday Syrian forces bombarded Homs, in the west of the country, killing 50 people in a sustained assault on several districts.
That followed a massacre of more than 200 people by tanks and artillery on Friday night, bringing the total death toll since last March to more than 5,400.
Yesterday’s assault saw government troops deploy multiple rocket launchers, as well as tanks and machine guns.
The Foreign Secretary said: ‘There is no limit on what resources we can provide.
We have provided training in documentation of human rights abuses, in strategic communications and so on. We may be able to do more in the future.’
Mr Hague also announced plans for a new contact group to help the Arab League plan to end the bloodshed
It will see the EU, the Arab League and other countries come together to ‘co-ordinate intensified diplomatic and economic pressure on the regime, and to engage with Syrian opposition groups committed to a democratic future’.Read more: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2097480/Syria-violence-William-Hague-warns-dictator-Assad-help-rebels.html#ixzz1lipB1kSq
Syrian opposition group Free Syrian Army said 11 Iranian pilgrims, who were taken hostage, will be released, Tabnak reported Feb. 6. The group released a statement saying that the Turkish authorities had mediated the release of the kidnapped Iranians.
February 6, 2012
In Syria, We Need to Bargain With the Devil
By NICHOLAS NOE
It is not enough, then, to blame Russian and Chinese vetoes at the Security Council or even the murderous Assad regime for the danger that is gripping the region right now — even if they deserve much of the blame.
Instead, Washington should adopt 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.
MR. ASSAD is a brutally repressive and dangerous leader who is responsible for most of the death and destruction that has plagued Syria in recent months, but the consequences of pushing Iran, Syria and Hezbollah beyond their red lines will most likely be far worse.
America must therefore dispense with the inconsistent maxim that bargaining is morally prohibited when a leader is deemed to have gone beyond the pale — especially when bargaining could actually mitigate future fallout, while eventually securing one’s interests and values.
The main reason for making a deal with Mr. Assad right now — even one where he is initially offered more carrots than sticks — is precisely that a Western-led process that steadily undermines his ability and desire to use violence would stabilize a quickly deteriorating regional situation, gradually opening up Syria’s political system and reducing repression over time.
Thankfully, America and its allies are far more powerful than Syria, which means they possess the tools and flexibility to see such a strategy of pre-emptive concessions through to a successful conclusion.
Might the Turkish Military Intervene in Syria?
by Dr. Can Kasapoglu
BESA Center Perspectives Paper No. 163, February 8, 2012
EXECUTIVE SUMMARY: With Russia and China vetoing a UN Security Council resolution seeking an end to the violent repression in Syria, there are almost no options left for a negotiated end to the crisis. This may bring Turkey to consider military intervention in Syria in coordination with the US and Saudi Arabia
The recently vetoed draft resolution of the United Nations Security Council (UNSC) obligated the Syrian Army to return to their barracks, allow peaceful demonstrations, and swiftly hold democratic elections. The rejected offer also recognized the “sovereignty, unity, and territorial integrity of Syria,” and would not “compel states to use force or threat of force.” This may have been the final opportunity for peaceful transition.
A December 2011 Turkish Supreme Military Council declaration indicates that one of the discussed agendas was “preparation of war capacity of the Turkish Armed Forces.” Considering Ankara’s hardening rhetoric towards Damascus’ violent crackdown, which has continued to intensify since the UNSC double veto, there looms the possibility of Turkish military intervention to end the turmoil in Syria.
In an Al-Arabiya interview, Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu said that he hoped an intervention wouldn’t be required but “if there is a humanitarian tragedy, a disaster, of course the international community and the UN cannot be silent.” He added that if the Arab League (AL) initiative fails and killings continue, Turkey would not tolerate it.
Turkey has reportedly sought two major parameters for the legitimacy of a possible military operation: the full failure of the AL initiative and a UNSC decision. At this point, two critical questions should be raised: first, whether Moscow and China can be “convinced” at least to abstain in another UNSC vote, and second, if the bloody crackdown continues to intensify in Syria, whether Turkey can play a role in a non-UNSC approved military mission?
Encouraging Factors for Turkish Intervention
Ankara has already openly recognized the legitimacy of the Syrian National Council (SNC), indicating that it is a peaceful opposition platform. However, while the UNSC resolution draft was being vetoed by Russia and China, Damascus’ atrocity has cost additional lives. Given the current circumstances, Turkey’s shift to a rhetoric emphasizing the right of self-defense of the peaceful Syrian opposition would not be a surprise. There are four main factors that might pave the way for Turkish military intervention, even without a UNSC resolution.
The first parameter is Turkey’s position in the larger sectarian power struggle between the new-born Sunni bloc and the Shiite – Iran-Syria-Hizballah –alliance in the region. Anti- and pro-regime rallies in Syria have become a show of force by Sunni groups and pro-government Alawites. Other groups, such as the Christians and Druze, worry about possible religious oppression and much uncertainty after Assad’s potential demise. Electoral results in Egypt and domestic violence in Iraq consolidate these worries.
Second, Syria’s Kurdish presence in the PKK terrorist organization can be an exacerbating factor. One of four or five PKK militants is of Syrian-Kurdish origin and holds a significant place in the HPG, the armed wing of the PKK. HPG members include notorious figures like Fehman Hussein, who is in great part responsible for the recent violent activities against Turkey. Additional turmoil in Syria will allow greater freedom of action for the Syrian Kurds. The terrorist organization is ready to wage a proxy war against Turkey, and the Baathist regime is preparing to back this action. It should be emphasized that PKK violence has always provoked Turkey into cross-border military operations.
Third, the rising mistrust between Ankara and Damascus has greatly harmed the relations, so much so that an official Syrian news agency labeled the recent Turkey-GCC meeting a “conspiracy” against Syria. Under current circumstances, Turkey cannot allow the Baathist rule to continue running the country.
Finally, Turkey’s new foreign policy paradigm promotes “geocultural integrity” with the societies in Turkey’s historical hinterland and emphasizes a soft power concept, which aims to win hearts and minds on the Muslim street. Thus, Ankara cannot allow Damascus to create a more deadly version of the 1982 Hama massacre right on its borders, as it will be tantamount to the collapse of the perception of Turkish guardianship over the “oppressed” Muslim communities and to the fall of Turkey’s political-military leadership in the Sunni bloc.
Abstention from Military Intervention
There are also several considerations that would lead Turkey to abstain from military intervention in Syria.
First, preserving national and territorial unity has always been Ankara’s most critical security agenda. The 2003 establishment of the regional government in Northern Iraq has caused significant worries among the Turkish strategic community, as this could produce a viable autonomy model for Kurdish separatism. A possible Turkish military intervention in Syria might actually create the second Kurdish autonomy in Qamishli, which would encourage Kurdish separatist movements and augment Turkish concerns.
Second, Turkey would not commission its armed forces to overthrow the Baathist regime and then simply stand aside. After the Libya operations, Ankara was displeased with the surprise joint visit of French President Nicolas Sarkozy and British Prime Minister David Cameron, just one day before Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s scheduled visit. Moreover, Turkey would have preferred greater economic and political shares of post-Gaddafi Libya. According to some analysts, the Arab Gulf states are now encouraging Turkey to launch a military intervention in Syria by promising economic rewards. However, Ankara would expect more than economic guarantees from the Gulf States or the West – it would demand political influence over the next regime in Syria.
Finally, Turkey is concerned over whether such an intervention will exacerbate a regional war, especially when Turkish-Israeli relations are poor and the Gulf states are “military dwarfs” and cannot provide effective security cooperation. Clearly, Turkey is becoming hawkish in its indirect rivalry with Tehran – Syria and Iraq – but is still hesitant and indecisive in the direct confrontation. Ankara would not like to see its military efforts overlap a possible Israeli strike against Iran and certainly does not want to be perceived as aiding Israel by destroying a key ally of Iran.
Without Turkey’s cooperation, any military intervention in Syria would be impossible, as such an operation cannot exclude the second largest land force in NATO and its 877 km-long border with Syria. Furthermore, the Gulf states would still need a regional guarantor to counterbalance Iran, Syria’s close ally, in military and geostrategic aspects.
Will Turkey await a UNSC resolution for military intervention? This would be preferable, though any non-UNSC approved action would likely force such a resolution. However, if Russia or China insist on vetoing UNSC decisions, and if the Assad dictatorship continues to physically destroy the opposition, then Turkey can deploy its armed forces to stop the humanitarian tragedy. Again, Turkey’s preference is not for unilateral action, thus it would probably seek cooperation from the US and the Gulf states.
At this juncture, the activities of the Free Syrian Army (FSA) and Ankara’s relations with it are expected to become more important. The first meeting between the SNC and FSA took place in late 2011 near Turkey’s Hatay province, where Syrian refugees have settled and Colonel Riyad Al-Asaad of the FSA resides. Integrating the SNC and FSA was a critical move, as peaceful demonstrations had no viable chance against Assad’s security apparatus, which was familiar with leveling guns to its own citizens.
Now Turkey will probably foster its support of the FSA in order to prevent the destruction of the opposition groups. However, such a move could provoke Damascus to engage in heavier crackdowns on the Syrian people. In turn, the humanitarian tragedy may trigger a Turkish military intervention. Actually, it is argued, this scenario is not far from becoming a reality.
Can Kasapoglu, who holds a Ph.D. from the Strategic Research Institute at the Turkish War College, is a visiting post-doctoral researcher at the Begin-Sadat Center for Strategic Studies.
BESA Perspectives is published through the generosity of the Greg Rosshandler Family
U.S., allies weigh options in Syria, By Patrick J. McDonnell and Paul Richter, Los Angeles Times
It’s titled “Economic Clouds Darken Turkey’s Diplomatic Horizon in the Middle East”
Region: Middle East
By Nader Habibi
The “Silent Bloc”.. Acquiescing to Tyranny Willingly or Out of Fear
Ghassan Al-Mufleh – Arab Reform Initiative
Syria-revolution1.jpgThree months after the onset of the Syrian revolution, Arab intellectual Burhan Ghalioun said in response to a question about the silent majority, “I believe that there actually is a significant, not-so-small group of Syrians who remain silent. One of the main reasons for their silence is their concern for stability. Here, we are speaking of businessmen, professionals, manufacturers, and economists. The livelihoods of these people require stability, and they believe that the Assad regime secures this stability.” Syrian journalist Ghassan Al-Imam defines the latter as “a passive, conservative group bound by its traditions, by church on Sundays and the mosque on Fridays. It is financially comfortable and its main concern is the preservation of security and stability.” Yemeni activist Khaled Mukrad Al-Muqattari says, “in order to stoke up the revolution, we need to mobilise the silent blocs and define the revolution not as a crisis between the opposition Joint Meeting Parties and the central authorities, but as a revolution aimed at uprooting corruption, i.e., the people’s revolution.” To read the whole paper, click here