Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Regime Change Syria

From Max Boot, at Weekly Standard, "Assad Must Go":
The West could just sit back and watch this slow-motion catastrophe unfold. But doing so runs the risk of deepening fissures, in particular between Alawites (a Shiite offshoot) and the majority Sunnis, that could take decades to heal. We also run the risk that regional players will become more deeply embroiled in backing competing sides in what is fast becoming a Syrian civil war. If parts of Syria slip outside anyone’s control (as occurred in Iraq from 2003 to 2007), they could become havens for Sunni extremists such as al Qaeda.

On the other hand, if Assad goes, it will be a historic opportunity for a strategic realignment that takes Syria out of the Iranian camp and denies Hezbollah its main source of supply. It is almost certain that any Sunni regime that succeeds Assad will not be as close to Tehran as he has been. And, if we help bring about Assad’s downfall, we will have leverage with his successors that we would otherwise lack.

In some ways the current moment recalls the Balkans of the early 1990s—another situation where the West (and in particular the United States) tried to ignore a human-rights catastrophe but eventually intervened. That intervention stopped the killing and produced a delicate but durable peace accord. Might outside intervention be equally successful in Syria? It very well could be, which is why, despite the understandable reluctance in Washington to mount another Libya-style operation, it is time to start thinking seriously about what can be done to hasten Assad’s downfall. Obama has done a good job so far of isolating and sanctioning Syria, but more action is necessary.