What To Do About Syria?


Foreign Policy recently hosted a roundtable on the question. Bilal Saab's contribution pushes back against the idea of simply ushering Assad out:

Preserving an oppressive and minority-led regime means that the Alawites will retain their political dominance over others, a condition that is guaranteed to cause more sectarian violence and further alienate the Sunnis, who represent the majority of Syrian society. While former Yemeni President Ali Abdullah Saleh personified the state in his country, Assad is not the only problem in Syria. It is the fascist and security-oriented regime that the Baathists built in 1963 and Hafez al-Assad — Bashar's father — remodeled in 1970. Syria needs new leaders, but it also needs a new system and a new identity and role in international society.

Fareed Zakaria suggests harsher sanctions:

Syria is not an oil state; the regime does not have unlimited resources with which to buy off elites. Were truly crippling sanctions to be put in place, including an embargo on energy, it is likely that the regime would begin to crack. That might result in a brokered exit for the Assad family or a full-scale collapse of the regime. It seems unlikely that the regime could persist without some source of cash.

Daniel Serwer hopes the status quo will eventually bring change:

The fact is that no one has come up with anything demonstrably better than pursuing the Annan plan for Syria, though Andrew Tabler’s suggestion of an arms quarantine against the regime certainly merits consideration as a supplement.  The key to making the Annan plan work is moving Bashar al Assad out of power so that work can begin on a political process.  The Iranians and Russians will do this once they see him teetering on the brink.  He is not far from that point.  I still think the best way to put him there is through nonviolent means, like the general strikes that have recently plagued Damascus and other cities.  It is very hard to crack down on large numbers of merchants for not opening their shops in the souk. The Syrian people still hold the key to Syria.

Shashank Joshi compares Syria to Iraq:

Syria is not sliding towards a civil war — it is in the midst of one. There is little international appetite for a military intervention, although this could change if, say, Syria's chemical weapons are displaced or — worse — used. In the medium-term, there will be more massacres and more suicide bombings. That will sharpen the grievances of the largely Sunni opposition, strengthen extremists, and amplify the fears of Alawites and Christians fearful of regime change. As in Iraq and Lebanon, such a trajectory would leave Syria's society and politics with permanent scars.

(Photo: Syrian rebels take position near Qusayr, 15 kms (nine miles) from the flashpoint city of Homs, on May 10, 2012. Monitors say more than 13,000 people have been killed in the Syrian unrest that started with peaceful protests in March 2011 before turning into an armed revolt, faced with a brutal crackdown which has cost dozens of lives each day. By STR/AFP/GettyImages.)