International Relations: Should the U.S. Intervene in Syria?


Over the past two years, Syria has witnessed a greater opposition towards Assad’s administration. Faced with the vicious response by the regime’s army, the originally peaceful demonstrations gradually turned into an armed mutiny.

Nonetheless, the government has stepped up its brutal and intransigent policy against the rebels (Dunne 2). According to the United Nations estimates, more than 70 thousand individuals have lost their lives since the war started, over a million displaced from their homes, with another five thousand joining this group daily (Dunne 1).

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Much of the global community has remained aloof, whether resentfully, maliciously, or powerlessly. In the meantime, Iran remains the key sponsor of Assad’s government. Also, Russia still supplies arms to the regime, with China being vocal in protecting the regime’s interest in the global stage. Although the GCC member states have been providing arms to rebels, the U.S. has been increasingly reserved, pondering the day the Assad’s government would be ousted but doing very little to influence the outcome (Dunne 3).

However, the efforts of the current U.S. administration led by President Obama should be acknowledged. It has been vocal about the need for the current Syrian regime to leave power and has, in many occasions, engaged the global community to push for a change of guard in Syria. Also, the U.S. government has committed almost 400 million dollars for humanitarian assistance in Syria (Dunne 2).

In a sudden change in strategy, the current U.S. Secretary of State declared that the U.S would offer foodstuffs and health care support to the opposition. Also, the U.S. would support political and governance programs targeting civil society and activists. Nevertheless, the US approach, even with the latest ingredients, has come under sharp criticism from many quarters, including Syrian opposition forces (Dunne 2).

The US foreign policy towards Syria is viewed as too little and too late. The diplomatic efforts pursued by the successive US administrations through the United Nations have not been successful and therefore have increased the sense of abandonment.

John Kerry’s recent pledge to push for talks between the government and the opposition can only aggravate the notion that the US still lacks a sense of urgency regarding the Syrian crisis, almost three years since it started (Dunne 4). This leads us to the question of whether the U.S. should fully intervene in Syria.

The Current Situation in Syria

At the moment, the crisis in Syria is characterized by the regime’s steady loss of command and intrinsic rivalry among the regional powers. In the past year, the army coalitions opposing the government have considerably enhanced their capacities both logistically and through human resources. Also, most parts of the country, especially north, have been conquered by the opposition or deserted by the Syrian army. Among the major cities that are in the hands of the opposition include the city of Raqqa and Aleppo (Sharp and Christopher 5).

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The government still controls key facilities and transport networks, but they have been crippled in most parts of the country. In response, the regime has been meeting the opposition with absolute viciousness. The government has resorted to aerial strikes, long-range missiles and even the use of chemical weapons. Also, the regime is pursuing a strategy aimed at driving the masses away from their homes through sectarian killings and military action (Dunne 3).

The Syrian crisis is aggravated by the external forces, particularly Iran. The Iranian government is alleged to be providing Assad’s government with all forms of support, ranging from financial assistance to military training. According to the recent UN report, thousands of Syrian militants have been equipped and taught by the Iranian administration.

Experts believe that the main reason why the Iranian government has been giving Damascus multifaceted support is to protect their interest, for example, air and sea security for their military supplies to Hezbollah in Lebanon (Sharp and Christopher 6).

There have been some affirmative signs at the grass root level. A body of experts has volunteered to run institutions providing fundamental services at the grass root level (Saleh 1). Although such signs indicate a positive post-Assad era, there are certain factors that stand in the way of such possibilities. They include deliberate stocking of ethnic and sectarian tensions by the Assad government to segregate and overpower the opposition.

The most feared Shabiha militia fighters are dominated by youths from Bashar Al-Assad’s Alawite tribe. This militia group has been used by the government to terrify Sunni Muslims through sexual assault, wanton killings, and destruction of property. In a nutshell, the crisis in Syria is taking a new twist, and it is no longer a confrontation between the government and the opposition. It is transforming into a many-sided struggle between different groups of Islamists and ethnic groups (Dunne 5).

Dangers of the continued conflict in Syria

One of the main dangers of the Syria crisis is the spread of the conflict into the entire region. The recent UN report warns that the crisis in Syria may transform into a battleground for rival states in the region. For instance, in January 2013, Israel struck a convoy of trucks that were purportedly transporting arms to Hezbollah. The Israeli government also feared that chemical weapons could get into the hands of terrorist groups in the region besides Hezbollah.

The spillover of the crisis could also increase the refugee crisis and the number of internally displaced individuals (Sharp and Christopher 7). Political pundits fear that the violence in Syria could also extend to neighboring countries. The main ethnic groups in Syria (Sunni and Shiite) are also found in large numbers in Iraq and Lebanon. In Iraq, the anti-Al Maliki’s Shiite dominated government have been waving placards showing support for the Syrian rebels (Dunne 5).

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The crisis may also split the country right in the middle. The increased division within the country may provide a copious breading ground and the perfect stage for international terrorists. Also, any form of instability after ousting Bashar Al-Assad may result in an endless conflict in the region and a perpetual predicament for the global community. The instability could be because of the power struggle between the rebel military groups or armed elements of the ousted government (Sharp and Christopher 9).

Should the U.S. Intervene?

Besides averting the above dangers of the crisis, there are several reasons why the U.S. should intensify its involvement in Syria. First, ousting Assad’s government and helping a friendly government to power would help to shatter the resilient alliance between Syria and Iran. The two countries have been more vocal in opposing U.S. foreign policies in the region.

Therefore, the alliance between Syria and Iran has undermined the U.S. efforts to stabilize the region and fight terrorism. Deeper U.S. involvement will also thwart Iran’s efforts to extend its influence across the region. In other words, the fall of Bashar Al-Assad’s government would deal a great blow to Iran’s regional ambitions. The fall of the current regime would also isolate militants and terrorist groups in the region, weakening Iran’s ideological pillars.

Last but not least, U.S. intervention would increase the prospect of having a sovereign democratic government in Syria. The experience of struggling and successfully ousting Assad’s dictatorial government, especially with U.S. assistance, would compel the new leaders to embrace democratic principles. Also, the creation of a democratic government in Syria would also inspire democratic rule in the entire Middle East region.

However, with past experiences in the Middle East region, military intervention is probably the least in the U.S. agenda. A survey conducted by CBS News and the New York Times established that over 60 percent of the American citizens do not support U.S. military intervention in Syria.

They are seconded by the local politicians. The increasing media pressure for the U.S to intervene in Syria reminds the U.S. citizens of the invasion of Iraq in early 2000, which was to a large extend stoked up by a torrent of fraudulent information and gullible press. They argue that the current information provided by both local and international media is not enough to make a conclusive decision regarding the subject matter (Chamberlain 1).

Some of them are in a dilemma. They argue that U.S. intervention in Syria would be very expensive to the already burdened taxpayers. This is because the government will have to commit huge sums of money for war and reconstruction process. On the other hand, they feel that non-intervention may see the conflict spilling over the entire region.

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As a result, the American citizens may be forced to pay more taxes for a very costly cleanup exercise for the spillover effect and the overall war against terrorism (Chamberlain 2). Nevertheless, the U.S government has continued to sit on the fence, arguing that both sets of actions (direct and indirect inventions) would not improve the situation.

However, Tabler and Brian feel that by allowing the conflict to go on and providing humanitarian assistance simply takes care of the symptoms of the crisis but fail to shape the country’s political future (123). They add that the two successive regimes have spent a lot of money trying to make the regime and the rebels reach an agreement but have never been successful. They recommend military action based on two grounds.

Conclusion

The Syrian crisis started a long time ago but escalated in the past two years following the Arab Spring. Since then, the opposition has gained control of large parts of the country. In response, the Assad government has stepped up its brutal and intransigent strategy against the rebels.

Currently, the war is taking a new twist, and it is no longer a conflict between the regime and the opposition. It is changing into a multilateral struggle between different sectarian/ethnic groups. As a result, there are indications that the war may spill over to the entire region. Despite the dangers posed by the crisis, the U.S. remains reserved on its commitment to the conflict.

Works Cited

Chamberlain, Jacob. Americans Overwhelmingly Say ‘No’ to US Military Intervention in Syria. 2013. Web.

Dunne, Charles. The Syrian Crisis: a case for Greater U.S. Involvement. 2013. Web.

Saleh, Layla. Syrian Perception of U.S Intervention in Syria. 2013. Web.

Sharp, Jeremy and Christopher Blanchard. Syria: Unrest and U.S. Policy. CRS Report for Congress. CRS no. A7-5700. RL 33487. Washington, DC. Congressional Research Service, 2012. Print.

Tabler, Andrew and Brian Fishman. Should the U.S. and its allies intervene militarily in Syria? Washington, DC: Washington Institute for Near East Policy, 2013. Web.

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