İLHAN TANIR > The cost of inaction in Syria will be greater

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It has been almost a year since the Syrian people began their uprising, following the arrest of over a dozen children for painting anti-regime graffiti on the walls of a local school in Daraa.

It wasn’t the first time the Syrian regime’s forces had mistreated its citizens, on the contrary, the regime had been rough on its citizens, especially the Sunni Arab population, for decades. What was different this time, what sparked the year-long uprising, was the wave of revolutions, the Great Arab Awakening, which mesmerized the Syrian people.

On Monday, Senator John McCain, by calling for a joint coalition of countries, led by the U.S., to intervene in Syria in order to help create safe havens, renewed the debate on the pros and cons of such a move into Syria. Many experts argue that the spread of retribution and minority killings would be increased by the use of international force. There is indeed a minority problem in Syria that needs to be recognized and cannot be simply wished away. Whether there is an intervention or not, the post-Assad Syria will have to deal with this problem. Turkey, which has accomplished more than Syria has in the last century in terms of democratic progress, is also still dealing with its own Kurdish minority problems socially, politically, and militarily, of which the latter has cost about 40 thousand lives in the last three decades.

One thing is for sure: The longer al-Assad and his criminal clan stay in power, the deeper the sectarianism goes, consequently increasing the chance of a civil war. That is why the rapid removal of the al-Assad regime should be the ultimate goal, if one of the main concerns is to prevent a civil war. 
On the other hand, it is not the international community’s mission to end the sectarian problem in Syria, because that would probably require a nation-building effort, and we have all witnessed how successful the Western allies have been at doing that in the last decade. It will be the Syrians who will have to deal with this problem head on.

Inaction on the part of the West would also likely cause some parts of the Syrian opposition to be further militarized by the various Islamic jihadist groups. More radicalized Sunni Arabs, who are expected to grab power after the Assad regime falls, are likely to harbor more anger toward minorities. The more disenchanted the Syrian opposition becomes with the West, as Western “help” drags on, the more likely it is to be open to the idea of collaborating with al-Qaeda, since al-Qaeda seems to be offering them help with hastening al-Assad’s downfall, in their time of need.

While the preparations for an intervention in Syria are in the making, a second track designed to unify the opposition, convincing them to reassure the minorities by guaranteeing their rights in the post-Assad period, also ought to be advanced.

Let’s not kid ourselves. Syria is currently a totalitarian police state in which all the top jobs, including intelligence, security, defense and diplomacy go to Alawites. Seeing their survival as tied to the regime, members of this sect have led the way, going out to kill or order to kill. However, when these security forces are in Druze, Ismaili or Kurdish areas, they tend to avoid killing, in order that the coalition of the minorities, one of the main pillars supporting the regime, can remain in existence.

The force of a credible threat would also very likely help to shift dynamics on the ground in Syria, by encouraging the many to join the opposition who have thus far stayed away. During my 12 hours under arrest in Syria at the end of January, I met two members of the security forces who were willing to use derogatory language about al-Assad and his loyal thugs, the Shabihas, when no one was listening. If a credible threat is brought to bear against the al-Assad regime, it would also likely accelerate defections to the opposition at an unpredictable pace.

The U.S., the West in general, and finally Turkey have to come to realize that in order to have leverage in the post-Assad period, they have to help now. By not intervening, the West is losing the goodwill of the Syrian people, who have been brutalized for almost a year now.


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Notice on comments

Blue Dotterel

6/15/2012 2:05:03 PM

"Why should Turkey NOT support any opposition against Assad?" Because it is a violation of the UN charter concerning non-interference in the internal affairs of countries, and, indeed, is an act of war to use proxies to attack another country. There is no factual independent evidence that Assad's security forces have killed 10,000 Syrian civilians. Most of these claims are made by the opposition, in whose interest it is to blame the the gov't for said deaths, and benefit from the propaganda.

B Medic

6/14/2012 1:46:09 PM

@Blue. FSA are no angels. But why are you defending the Syrian regime so hard? According to Der Spiegel, Frankfurter A, United Nations, Amnesty and literally everybody else, Assad and his military - not the rebels - have killed more than 10 000 people since the conflict started, many of them women and children. 25000 have fled to Turkey. Why should Turkey NOT support any opposition against Assad?

Blue Dotterel

6/14/2012 11:21:45 AM

Der Speigel has claimed that the FSA "is involved in a routine and organized process of mass-murder". The article focuses on extra-judicial killings in Homs conducted under the mandate of so-called "burial brigades". The same has occurred in Houla. Why does Turkey support these mass murderers?

Birol A

5/29/2012 11:00:32 AM

Inaction is actually the only outcome, however that won't stop the west from arming the Syrian opposition, so this will cede to Civil war. A no fly zone will be enforced, with Turkish bases used. Russia and China will be quietly talking to the regime to cede power slowly and we should give them the full diplomatic licence to do so. War is not the solution.

mara mcglothin

4/17/2012 3:15:36 PM

ERIC You donate firepower and you have essentially entered the battle. These weapons can actually be intercepted and used against the general population. Time for the people to take care of themselves. Sad, hard, but true, God help them!

Eric Martin

4/13/2012 6:14:47 AM

Give them weapons. The Syrian people want to fight the crime syndicate that controls their country. Lets remember Khadafy and learn.

mara mcglothin

3/22/2012 3:16:50 PM

Exactly KEVIN There is a civil war going on that needs to come to its own conclusion. Hopefully the USA has learned its lesson about getting involved in other peoples' fights. Time for us to pray for the Syrian people and stay out of the way.

Eric Martin

3/10/2012 10:13:27 AM

Forget the USA. The wont help because of fear of getting intangled in another war or fear of AlQueda. Turkey should join Qatar and Saudis and Libyans by donating 'real' firepower that can neutralize Assads forces. They need phones,medical help too

Kevin Snapp

3/10/2012 4:55:25 AM

When will people stop talking about "preventing civil war"? Is it "civil war" only when the regime's opponents shoot back, rather than submit to organized murder? If so, that line was crossed months ago.
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