From Libyan to Syrian military intervention?
In Libya, many countries were involved in different ways soon after the anti-Gaddafi uprising started. The uprising managed to topple the regime fairly swiftly, with the powerful support of western countries. Had the strong air strikes, military equipment and training support not existed, things may not have come to an end in such a short time.
Recently, a similar uprising has been experienced in Syria. The al-Assad regime treated the developments seriously at the very beginning and attacked the rebels. When examining the developments, without the support of Western countries the rebels do not have a chance of increasing their capacity and achieving success. But we also see that countries which mobilized for Syria are not going with the grain of the rebels.
In my opinion, there are five fundamental reasons why a military intervention similar to that conducted in Libya has not been realized in Syria.
Firstly, significant changes have taken place in the domestic policies of the countries that intervened in Libya; secondly, the irresistible attraction that Libyan oil held; thirdly, Syria’s remoteness from Europe in comparison with Libya; fourthly, the cost of a military intervention in Syria would probably be must higher than Libya; lastly, the unwillingness of Israel.
More than a year has passed since the rebellion in Libya. While some leaders, like Berlusconi who were in power during the intervention period, are fading from the scene, others – Obama and Sarkozy - are running for re-election and do not want to take the risk of a “costly military intervention in Syria.” For this reason, they are also reluctant to intervene in Syria. Naturally, this situation influences other countries.
Syria is not as attractive to fight for, because it holds no oil, while in Libya the prize was so big that it was enough for everybody. Into the bargain, Russia, which made extra profits from the oil prices that increased with the crisis, was also persuaded in that prize.
Libya is close to the EU and thus there was an accessible target for the refugees, although this situation did alarm the EU. But there is a long way for Syrian refugees to pass through to reach the EU border. For this reason, allies are reluctant to mobilize against Syria.
Afghanistan and Iraq were expensive wars, not only financially but also in terms of casualties. Thanks to air strikes and covert operations, the Libyan intervention was a relatively cheap war for the allies. But there are doubts whether a cheap war similar to the Libyan war is possible in Syria.
Another factor increasing Western countries’ reluctance is the attitude of Israel. Even though Israel is hardly enamored with al-Assad, it considers the gap of authority that would follow his exit to be even more costly for them. Into the bargain, it is not guaranteed that the chemical weapons held by the Syrian Army would not fall into the hands of Hezbollah or other radical groups.
Taking into account all these factors, one may say that a military intervention in Syria in the short run is only a remote possibility. On the other hand, it is also not possible to see an intensive and sophisticated military aid program that would be able to change the military balance between al-Assad and the rebels at the moment.