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OnIslam.net

When is Syria’s Intervention?

By Abdelrahman Rashdan
Academician - Egypt
Editor's Note: With the increasing news about a looming US strike against Syria in reaction to — as announced — the recent use of chemical weapons against Syrian civilians, OnIslam.net re-highlights this article for its importance and relevance to current events.
A free syrian army fighter helps a woman - Reuters
Intervention is intended to be a main political tool to be able to control the post-Assad reality in Syria. (Reuters)
When is Syria’s Intervention?

Call it the Syrian massacre, genocide, revolution, uprising, demonstrations, or even a civil war… what really matters is that the world has been watching civilians being butchered on a daily basis and the reaction barely reaches that face one makes when a child kicks a cat down the street. The fact is that at least 60,000 Syrians were killed since the beginning of the conflict two years ago, with estimates of undocumented deaths of about twice this number, in addition to almost milllion of refugees now living and stranded in some neighboring countries.

Why, when, how, and, above all, whether there should be an international intervention in Syria are questions often fall on diplomatic answers from politicians and mere speculations from observers. Yet, this article tries to analyze the situation from two levels of analysis to come up with some clear answers.

To be able to analyze properly, one should be able to comprehend two levels simultaneously: the local and the international. On the international level, the US happens to be the world’s strongest army and power with a lot of so-called “international community” decisions are done under its approval, if not command, and this is bound to continue at least for the few coming years.

US’ Legitimacy and Interests

For the security of Israel and the US’ strategic interests in the whole region, the US cannot allow an Islamic regime to rise up in Syria.

The interests of the US in Syria are not too vague to be analyzed. Israel, Syria’s closest neighbor, is one of the US’ pillars of interest in the region and Assad’s regime is a perfect one to have on top in Syria. Assad has never fired a bullet against Israel and always used such regime propaganda of being one of the few remaining Arab regimes who remains firmly an enemy of Israel in order to keep his popular base and gain legitimacy despite his autocratic rule.

So, why would the US let Assad go? It has to let go of him in the same way that it let Mubarak and Ben Ali go because big portion of what the US bases its international legitimacy and leadership on is being the world’s guardian of democracy and freedom.

The next logical point is: why didn’t the US intervene until now to remove Assad? This moves us to the other level of analysis, the local one.

For the security of Israel and the US’ strategic interests in the whole region, the US cannot allow an Islamic regime to rise up in Syria. When the “moderate” Muslim Brotherhood rose up in Egypt, a feasible game could still be played by the US with this pragmatic regime which placed itself under the same constraints Mubarak regime died under.

However, if an Islamic group rose up to govern in Syria, as a product of an opposition that has been gaining its legitimacy through carrying arms against Assad and has been raised on the “Jihadi ideology,” then dealing with it will be almost impossible. The security of Israel will directly be compromised and the risk of creating a regional network of “terror” will be very real and threatening to US interests in the region.

So does that mean the US will not intervene? Answer is no, it will; the question is when.

Exact Time of Intervention

The US backing to the resistance has to be at a level to just allow the resistance to equalize against Assad, which means a long war and a country of rubble handed down to whoever will hold power afterwards.

The time to intervene is critically dependent on the updates on the battlefield. Intervention is intended to be a main political tool to be able to control the post-Assad reality in Syria. For the internal nature of the struggle, to a certain extent, the US does not have a real leverage over the resistance in Syria; the US cannot fully back the resistance with heavy arms that would guarantee a quick end to the battle for the fear that it would not be able to control the resistance or their arms afterwards.

At the same time, not backing the resistance at all will allow the Iran-backed Assad regime to win the battle, which will harm the US image internationally and would deprive  the US of the golden opportunity  to replace the pro-Iran Syrian regime that can threaten Israel at Iran’s will with a more friendly one.

The backing, thus, has to be at a level  that allows the resistance to equalize against Assad, which means a long war — two years so far —and a country of rubble handed down to whoever will hold power afterwards, offering Israel a busy and weak Syrian neighbor.

Now, if the resistance won the war while the country  had not been destroyed enough to make the new government burdened  with its internal problems, then the US would have to find another mean to control the new government, i.e. the intervention to “save Syrians.”

Hence, the US will intervene only when it has no other option in order to make Syrians and the new Islamic-leaning regime grateful and willing to return the favor. In addition, the US would consolidate its regional and international credibility as the nation that stands with the weak and defends freedom. That is, US will intervene only  when the opposition is sure to win this war, and about to break Assad down.

Producing the Final Scene

It is true that the Arab world has been controlled by strings from above for a long while, yet it is also true that the strings are being cut from its lower end.

The world will start hearing the rosy statements that carry keywords like “freeing Syrians,” “people’s right,” “innocent people”… etc. like those uttered in Iraq 2003 and Libya 2011.

Producing the final scene has always been a piece of cake for the US. The “international community” can be the one doing the actual intervention under the leadership of the US, another more prepared state than the US can do it (like France in Mali), or if both failed, the US can intervene unilaterally as it did in Iraq in 2003, although this might be hard considering its current economic hardship.

What remains for the world to ponder on is whether or not Syria needs international intervention. If Syrians agreed to pick up arms and defend their own souls, property, and freedom against a dictatorial war criminal that uses air force to strike his own people, then only they are the ones to decide their own destiny. Only they are the ones to be asked about what kind of assistance they need and what kind of government they want and what kind of foreign allies they have; not the US and not the “international community.”

It is true that the Arab world has been controlled by strings from above for a long while, yet it is also true that the strings are being cut from its lower end… which entails a shift in policies towards communicating with the people, who never counted in foreign policies of world powers.

Related Links:
Syria: Pros and Cons of Intervention
Syria Uprising: No More Time for Talks
Syria Lures Chechnya Jihadists
Abdelrahman Rashdan is a political science academician with a Master's degree in International Affairs and a Certificate in Middle East Studies from Columbia University.

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