The Friends of Syria group – Western and Arab states seeking President Bashar al-Assad’s ouster – “are under pressure to produce a plan to make that happen,” Reuters reports, ‘but their unwillingness to act outside a deadlocked U.N. Security Council leaves them looking fractured and powerless.”
The group – that includes the United States, France, Saudi Arabia and Turkey – is expected to convene in New York tomorrow on the margins of the U.N. General Assembly.
The Assad regime today claimed victory in a coordinated text message to rebels, suggesting that it was “game over” in the protracted conflict.
“We have obviously never at any point taken anything off the table,” said a U.S. official told Reuters, speaking on condition of anonymity.
“We believe that there is still room for a negotiated transition that leads to an interim government and ultimately to a new Syria. This is not about drawing red lines,” the official told Reuters:
One senior Gulf Arab diplomat echoed the U.S. position, warning against any direct military intervention. He said Arab states see the United States as key to breaking the deadlock.
“Going through legitimate channels to resolve the issue is the best path to take; any action taken by individual countries will only lead to more violence,” he said.
“The U.S. is the only country that could force Russia to change its position,” the diplomat said, adding that he sees no real move on the crisis until after the U.S. election.?…..
Turkey, Saudi Arabia and Qatar have been overseeing cross-border movements from a secret liaison centre in Turkey. Turkey denies any direct involvement in sending arms across the frontier. U.N. diplomats say Saudi Arabia and Qatar have transferred weapons to rebels.
“The Friends of Syria can’t do much,” said a Paris-based Arab diplomat. “It’s sit, wait and hope the rebels gain ground.”
Turkish Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan today blamed Russia, China and Iran for facilitating a massacre in neighboring Syria.
“The main source of disappointment is Russia. Let alone raising its voice against Syria, it stands by the massacre,” Erdogan said. “China stands by Russia, and although (Chinese President) Hu Jintao had told me they wouldn’t veto the plan (for a safe zone) for a third time, they did at the U.N. vote.”
He described Iran’s position as “impossible to understand”.
“Assad’s days are numbered,” Erdogan said. “He may have to leave soon, he can’t resist this anymore.”
There is no doubt that President Obama has formulated a coherent approach to deploying American power, says two leading analysts – but he should now apply it to Syria and assist the democratic opposition.
“The Obama Doctrine involves getting into a conflict zone and getting out fast without ground wars or extended military occupations. This approach proved its effectiveness in Libya last year,” write Michael Doran, a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution, and Max Boot, a senior fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations.
“But the president is not applying his own doctrine where it would benefit the United States the most — in Syria,” they argue.
There are five reasons to depose President Bashar al-Assad “sooner rather than later,” they write in The New York Times:
First, American intervention would diminish Iran’s influence in the Arab world. Iran has showered aid on Syria and even sent advisers from its Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps to assist Mr. Assad. Iran knows that if his regime fell, it would lose its most important base in the Arab world and a supply line to pro-Iranian Hezbollah militants in Lebanon.
Second, a more muscular American policy could keep the conflict from spreading. Syria’s civil war has already exacerbated sectarian strife in Lebanon and Iraq — and the Turkish government has accused Mr. Assad of supporting Kurdish militants in order to inflame tensions between the Kurds and Turkey.
Third, by training and equipping reliable partners within Syria’s internal opposition, America could create a bulwark against extremist groups like Al Qaeda, which are present and are seeking safe havens in ungoverned corners of Syria.
Fourth, American leadership on Syria could improve relations with key allies like Turkey and Qatar. Both the Turkish prime minister, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, and his Qatari counterpart have criticized the United States for offering only nonlethal support to the rebellion. Both favor establishing a no-fly zone and “safe zones” for civilians in Syrian territory.
Finally, American action could end a terrible human-rights disaster within Syria and stop the exodus of refugees, which is creating a burden on neighboring states. Mr. Obama pledged earlier this year to strengthen the government’s ability “to foresee, prevent and respond to genocide and mass atrocities.” Now he has an opportunity to do so.
A growing chorus of voices is calling on the administration to provide not only nonlethal technical assistance, but to arm Syria’s pro-democratic opposition to counter extremists, including Zalmay Khalilzad, a former US envoy to the UN, and former State Department policy planner Anne-Marie Slaughter, both board members of the National Endowment for Democracy.