Syria: defining moment

It is increasingly likely that the US and possibly the UK will intervene directly and militarily in the ongoing Syrian situation in the coming days, after the use of chemical weapons by the regime has been established with reasonable confidence. It would seem that the US is now cornered into taking action, after much prevarication in the Syrian situation, and with much reluctance, as the red line has now been crossed.

While loathsome the Assad regime is, it is the fear of what comes after him that must worry the policy makers and military planners. The opposition seems fragmented, with differing visions for future Syria, some of which are unsavoury from the west’s point of view, and unlikely to wield sufficient popular support to hold together the patchwork of ethnicities and religions that is Syria. Also, Syria’s military may be better organized and better withstand military intervention compared to the Libyan forces that were loyal to Colonel Gaddafi, and may intensify its operations on the ground, before its assets are damaged by air strikes. Yet, the situation has reached a point, it seems, where ridding of the Assad regime is more important than ever and more important than any possible outcome. Even if a regime change or regime removal is not the stated goal, it is nevertheless the consequence and conclusion of military intervention.

Questions remain about the efficacy of intervention, primarily from the air without even the threat of ground troops, even though it had been effective in Libya recently, contrary to my expectations. The diplomatic and legal situation is much more difficult than as it had been the case with Libya, as it is likely that Russia and China will veto a resolution that would allow military intervention in the UNSC. This intervention looks more justifiable, given the use of chemical weapons, compared to other interventions in the recent past, yet it might be stalled in the UNSC.

Whatever happens in the next few days, the Syrian situation has reached a defining moment, for Syria and for the international community, whether the likes of the US and UK take action or the course of inaction. Whither will it lead, no one can be certain, but its importance is not in doubt.