The new game in Syria and the only effective option now: the direct use of military force

To believe that simply getting the parties to the conference table would quickly lead to a settlement would be like believing that a giant rabbit would suddenly appear on top of the conference table and pull a full resolution to the conflict out of his giant hat.

In a word, while diplomats dither, al-Assad kills.

Barack Obama, the United States and the West, and the other civilized countries of the world have lost the first war in Syria, the war to bring Bashar al-Assad’s barbarism, his wanton commission of war crimes and crimes against humanity, to an end.

After the fall of al-Qusair, with financing, materiel, sophisticated arms and aerial defense systems, advisers, and intelligence from Russia, Iran, and Hezbollah, al-Assad now seems to have gained the momentum and to be on the verge of methodically defeating the rebels, town by town.

It’s a one-sided fight, with munitions, cash, advisers, and even militiamen now flowing freely to Syria to support the regime, while the West, immobilized by the opposition of the United States to any forceful action, staggers blindly in the diplomatic fog (created by the Russians with U.S. complicity) swirling around the holding of a second Geneva conference. This would be a conference at a unknown future date, where the Syrian regime–united, wielding a powerful united army, would meet with the opposition, at the moment hopelessly divided in both the military and the political spheres, under terms of reference that imply that al-Assad will stay in power, or have a decisive voice in determining who remains in power.

To believe that simply getting the parties to the conference table would quickly lead to a settlement would be like believing that a giant rabbit would suddenly appear on top of the conference table and pull a full resolution to the conflict out of his giant hat.

Putin and Lavrov have achieved–again–a great advantage for themselves and for al-Assad in the sruggle for Syria: while the conference is endlessly delayed, the feckless leaders ofbthe West can hide behind an apparent justification for not proceeding boldly to provide arms to the rebels and to take direct military action against al-Assad, to halt the ongoing commission of war crimes and crimes against humanity.

In a word, while diplomats dither, al-Assad kills.

Let us be clear: while diplomats dither, al-Assad and his supporters– Russia, Iran, and Hezbollah–kill. They kill, while China helps Russia block any effective action by the U.N. Security Council.

In June 2013, Obama and the Europeans debate whether to supply weapons to the insurgents, while essentially doing very little on the ground. They debate an option which may have made sense a year or 18 months ago, but which now though necessary will hardly be enough to turn the tide.

If this game continues to play out with no dramatic changes, al-Assad and his backers will continue to gain the upper hand on the battlefield, as the possibility of the armed opposition being routed or collapsing grows day by day.

So, al-Assad wins, and everyone returns home to resume normal relations?

This is hardly likely. What is likely is that after routing the West’s allies in Syria, iran will almost surely obtain nuclear weapons in the next few years.

If the West and the Arab countries could not stand up to Iran in Syria, does anyone seriously believe that Iran will drop its quest for nuclear weapons and the ultimate guaranty against foreign attack? Does anyone think now that Israel alone could by military means stop them? Or that the United States, led by Barack Obama–the same Barack Obama who is unwilling to engage even with their proxies in Syria, will decide to launch a war against Iran to prevent them from acquiring nuclear weapons or a nuclear weapons capability?

So, Assad wins. Iran gets nuclear weapons. What will the U.S. options look like then?

The Trenchant Observer

Tomorrow: The only effective option: Humanitarian Intervention through the direct use of military force

About the Author

The Observer
"The Trenchant Observer" is edited and published by The Observer, an international lawyer who has taught International Law, Human Rights, and Comparative Law at major U.S. universities, including Harvard, Brandeis, the University of Pittsburgh, and the University of Kansas. He is a former staff attorney at the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights of the Organization of American States (IACHR), where he was in charge of Brazil, Haiti, Mexico and the United States, and also worked on complaints from and reports on other countries including Argentina, Chile, Uruguay, El Salvador, Nicaragua, and Guatemala. As an international development expert, he has worked on Rule of Law, Human Rights, and Judicial Reform in a number of countries in Latin America, the Caribbean, Africa, the Middle East, South Asia, and the Russian Federation. In the private sector, The Observer has worked as an international attorney for a leading national law firm and major global companies, on joint ventures and other matters in a number of countries in Europe (including Russia and the Ukraine), throughout Latin America and the Caribbean, and in Australia, Indonesia, Vietnam, China and Japan. The Trenchant Observer blog provides an unfiltered international perspective for news and opinion on current events, in their historical context, drawing on a daily review of leading German, French, Spanish and English newspapers as well as the New York Times, the Wall Street Journal, the Washington Post, and other American newspapers, and on sources in other countries relevant to issues being analyzed. The Observer speaks fluent English, French, German, Portuguese and Spanish, and also knows other languages. He holds an S.J.D. or Doctor of Juridical Science in International Law from Harvard University, and a Doctor of Law (J.D.) and a Master of the Science of Law (J.S.M.), from Stanford University. As an undergraduate, he received a Bachelor of Arts degree, also from Stanford, where he graduated “With Great Distinction” (summa cum laude) and received the James Birdsall Weter Prize for the best Senior Honors Thesis in History. In addition to having taught as a Lecturer on Law at Harvard Law School, The Observer has been a Visiting Scholar at Harvard University's Center for International Affairs (CFIA). His fellowships include a Stanford Postdoctoral Fellowship in Law and Development, the Rómulo Gallegos Fellowship in International Human Rights awarded by the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights, and a Harvard MacArthur Fellowship in International Peace and Security. Beyond his articles in The Trenchant Observer, he is the author of two books and numerous scholarly articles on subjects of international and comparative law. Currently he is working on a manuscript drawing on the best articles that have appeared in the blog.

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