For all intents and purposes, non-intervention in Syria is in the interests of not only the Syrian people but also the international community. I am, of course, referring to the current project of proxy intervention undertaken by the West in the country. Otherwise, in general, I am quite ambivalent about humanitarian interventions.
A Syria without Bashar al-Assad would undoubtedly be a weak Syria. Look at what has happened to Libya — two dead in car bomb blasts before the Muslim holiday of Eid-ul-fitr, and in Iraq — 11 dead in a car bomb blast the very same day. Do we want Syria to tread the same path? A feeble Iraq, a nerveless Libya and an impotent Syria would look terribly frightening on a map of the Middle East. It is common knowledge in the region that, for the moment at least, there is no viable alternative to the Assad ruling family in Syria. Even if there was, do we have any right to propel them to power and expel Bashar al-Assad?
Secondly, look at the challengers to Assad’s dominance over the country — rag-tag groups of modern mujahideen, admittedly better dressed than their counterparts in Afghanistan were in the 1980s, that are all too trigger-happy even it means inviting the wrath of the Shabiha and the state armed forces. These disparate groups mainly comprise Iraqi Sunnis who loathe Bashar al-Assad’s Alawite faith and want instead a Sunni autocracy to govern Syrian society. There, you have another by-product of what went wrong in Iraq — unemployed and radicalized Iraqi youth with too much time on their hands. Do we want that to happen? If we do, we must be willing to accept the consequences of such a desire. Sure, a Sunni Syria would check a Shiite Iran but wouldn’t that risk Iran going further on the defensive? Wouldn’t that alter the balance of power in the region for the worse? Already, Iran is facing, what I would term, an untenable sanctions regime. Do we want them to feel worse and expedite the search for another A Q Khan?
Thirdly, a Syria without Bashar al-Assad would result in a stronger Turkey overlooking the most volatile region on the planet. We are told that the Free Syrian Army, the umbrella organization of the many groups fighting for the ouster of the Syrian President, is being trained in Turkey. Recep Tayyip Erdogan has openly advocated the use of military force to get rid of Assad. Three months ago, he blamed Syria for shooting down one of its reconnaissance military jets and threatened retaliation over the perceived humiliation. Do we want a stronger Turkey? Even more so, would Israel wish for a stronger Turkey challenging its hegemony over the region? The Mavi Marmara episode still evokes strong reactions from both sides and a thaw in their relations seems nowhere in sight. We risk setting off a new race between Turkey and Israel for regional supremacy. Add to that, as pointed out before, an increasingly isolated Iran. Does that make for a pretty picture?
Summate all that has been said and what do we get? Three execrable states in the region coupled with three states vying with one another for regional hegemony. So, you have Iraq, Libya and Syria degenerating on the one side, and Iran, Turkey and Israel beefing themselves up on the other.
The way out for Syria is a simple one — let things remain as they are. Eventually, Bashar al-Assad will have to go. His hold on the country cannot be sustained for long. Critics will chastise me for forgetting Homs and Hama, but let us ask ourselves the following: haven’t we aggravated the plight of ordinary Syrians by providing logistical support to the rebels? Don’t the rebels have a share in the blame of all the massacres that have claimed Syrian lives? If we weren’t so brazen about the supply of arms, ammunition and our Friends of Syria campaign, wouldn’t Assad exercise restraint and perhaps listen to what Sergei Lavrov and Kofi Annan had to say on the matter?
Bashar al-Assad has already lost his brother-in-law and his trusted Defense Minister to recent bomb attacks in Damascus. There is no plausible reason for him to sign his own death warrant by capitulating to the rebel forces. How many more Syrian lives must be lost before common sense prevails? The Free Syrian Army cannot possibly defeat the Syrian Armed Forces on its own and hence, need all the external support it can get. We need to cut off aid to the rebels and force the Russians to get around to Assad and tell him — listen, you’ve done all that you had to, you need to go now. And surprise, surprise, the Russians have already conveyed that message to His Royal Highness in Syria. It is time now for us to take a step back and let history do the rest. As a friend of the West, trust me on this, we will have done a service to the Syrian people that way.
[Arko Dasgupta is a postgraduate student at the Nelson Mandela Centre for Peace and Conflict Resolution. He can be reached via email at: arkodasgupta [at] gmail.com]
[Views expressed herein are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect Jamia Journal’s editorial policy.]