Obama Wary of Using Force in Syria, Romney Urges Arming Rebels

The†Houla massacre, in which over a hundred people including dozens of children were slaughtered, has brought a new urgency to the crisis in Syria.†The issue of whether or not to intervene militarily has put President Barack Obama in a “deeply uncomfortable position,” says the†New York Times:

With American troops only recently withdrawn from Iraq and still in Afghanistan, the president is loath to engage in new military actions, especially one with few advocates, even among human rights groups. And yet with each passing incident, the scale of the crisis grows….

Among the presidentís advisers, there is a recognition that the crackdown could eventually escalate to the point where it would compel a more aggressive response, but there is no consensus on what that threshold would be. One possible game-changing situation would be the spread of the conflict beyond Syria to neighboring countries like Lebanon, Turkey or Jordan.

Mitt Romney, the Republican challenger, has criticized Obama for not calling for military intervention in Syria and supports arming the rebels.

Comparisons of Syria to Bosnia, where the killing of 8,000 Muslims in Srebenica led to calls for more aggressive military action in 1995, have been more frequently heard. James Dobbins, who was a special envoy in Bosnia, sees such parallels but also observes that Syria lacks a “cohesive opposition” (unlike the rebels in Libya) and no “leadership from the region to rely on.” MIitary intervention, says Dobbins, “is going to be the last option.”

Free Syrian Army Colonel’s Ultimatum Shows Disorganization Among Rebels

On Thursday, the rebel Free Syrian Army’s Colonel Qassim Saadeddine in Homs said, via a video posted online, that it was giving the Syrian government 48 hours to agree to a ceasefire †or it would consider itself “no longer bound” by the six-point peace plan that Kofi†Annan, the United Nations envoy, negotiated with President Bashar al-Assad back in April.

In a sign of how “fractured and disorganized” the rebels are, FSA leader General Riyad Asaad later denied that the deadline existed, says the BBC. In a statement, Asaad said that the FSA is “committed to the Kofi Annan plan and committed to international resolutions and implementing this plan” but that “we hope that Kofi Annan will issue a statement to announce [its] failure.”

A key feature of this plan was a ceasefire on the part of both the Syrian regime and the armed opposition. But†BBC‘s Paul Wood, who has spent three weeks in Syria, says that “there is no ceasefire holding on the ground” and that “the ceasefire exists in name only.” Wood emphasized that the FSA is poorly armed with limited resources; he reported that “they’re having to sell their furniture to buy bullets,” are “barely surviving” and are not in a position to “really cause the government serious trouble.” Assad’s army is still largely loyal to his regime , is well-trained and backed by Russian arms.

Wood suggested that what Saadeddine’s ultimatum threatens is a “sectarian civil war” of village against village. Civil war, a constant threat as the 15-month uprising has dragged on and grown more violent, has been increasingly mentioned. Speaking from Denmark, US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton accused†Russia of contributing to a potential civil war in Syria as it and China continue to oppose tougher UN Security Council action. UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon, at a conference in Syria’s neighbor and former ally, Turkey, said that “the massacre of civilians of the sort seen last weekend could plunge Syria into catastrophic civil war – a civil war from which the country would never recover.”

In regard to the upsurge in violence since 271 out of 300 UN monitors have been sent to Syria, Moon emphasized that they were not there “just to bear witness to the slaughter of innocents” and that “we are not there to play the role of passive observer to unspeakable atrocities.”

Syria’s state news agency, SANA, announced that 500 political prisoners arrested during the uprising had been released, two days after Annan, in a meeting with Assad, had urged the release of detainees.

Previous Care2 Coverage

13 Found Executed in Syria; Young Filmmaker Killed in Homs (Video)

Houla Massacre Survivor Describes Slaughter of His Family

116 People Killed in Houla; Russia Blocks UN Statement

 

Photo by FreedomHouse2

16 comments

Rodney K.
Rodney K.4 years ago

I guess Viet Nam was too long ago for most people to remember. We need to learn to leave the conflicts of other countries alone. Syria is not a threat to us. If we escalate, it will turn into another long drawn out war with many of our young men and women dying and crippled. Standing right behind Syria is Russia and China with formidable forces and weapons.

Obama is not under pressure. There is very little support for helping the Syrian rebels.

Instead of asking to provide weapon resources. Why don't we help the starving people around the world.

Sian Rider
Sian R.4 years ago

The situation in Syria worsens day by day. Had the rebels agreed to the ceasefire in the first place perhaps the situation would have been different. But they didn't.
Putting in troops would only make matters worse - as would arming either side.
The majority of the Syrians just want peace - and by now most of them don't really care which side wins. They're just sick of the killing.
However - the government has now held two referendums, both with attracting a large turnout, in spite of various groups of rebels urging people not to vote (and thus exercise their democratic right).
It seems the rebels are the ones who don't want peace. Rather like the situation Britain faced with the IRA in the 1970s-80s.

Marianna B Molnar

Great comments

A N M.
anne M.4 years ago

Since the US doesn't care how many Palestinians Israel bombs to death, why should we suddenly worry about Syria? I suggest we mind our own business. Considering that more people get shot annually in the US than in countries that are engaged in civil wars, why don't we clean up our own backyard?

Robert H.
Robert Hamm4 years ago

Excellent points Sarah M.

John B.
John B.4 years ago

The UN should use diplomacy and economical pressure with US support. The Arab League should be the one's leading the effort to stop the bloodshed since it is their area of concern.

Amy B.
Amy B.4 years ago

If we were to send our military into Syria, it would only give the Assad regime an external enemy to rally support against. It wouldn't solve the underlying problem and would probably make things worse. Just blindly sending arms to the rebels would be just as bad. We did that in Afghanistan in the 1980's, and it came back to bite us on the rump big time.

arul nathan
arul nathan4 years ago

Shame on you Assad and Syrians who kill their own brothers and sisters and then pray 5 times a day .......

Sarah Mumford
S M.4 years ago

Robert H. - I agree. Obama keep out and every other country form the Middle East - it is having it'sown political and religious evolution that was witheld by the West putting in and supporting dictators for the West's convenience.

The internet has spawned this overdue revolution and this time West, keep out! Humanitarian aid can be given and should be given and children got out protem to safety possibly ... but they themselves have to sort it.

I add here - the Balcans is reigniting - take away the bullets/arms and let them fight it out like they always did for centuries, with knives and verbal. The West's intervention on peace has been short lived because we can supply arms but not change deep-seated distrust and genetic dislike of another creed or race/tribe.

Eric Hurner
Eric Hurner4 years ago

Using force or arming one sector of the population in a case like this can only make things worse. Had this option been used in South Africa all those years ago, there would certainly have been a prolonged and totally destructive civil war. Instead the alternative of economic and cultural sanctions was used, which in the end crippled the Apartheid government.

Why is the UN and why are other nations so slow in selecting this alternative? What if Russia or China veto. That does not mean that the other nations - generally the ones with far more trading power should not be able to organise sanctions of their own, ban weapons sales to Syria and so on. Once the government stops getting an income from the West, it will very shortly see reason.