So much has been written and said about Syria and Assad’s brutal dictatorship. He must go, the question is of course, how. In all my reading these points have come up and I think are worth highlighting:
– Within Syria, the Syrian uprising is popular but not universal. In June 2012 it was estimated that roughly a third of its population are pro Assad’s regime, a third of people support the insurrection and the remainder do not like either side.
– The Syrian regime is backed up by the world’s 15th largest military – to put it in perspective, Libya’s was protected by the 50th.
– The main opposition group, the Syrian National Council, is made up of seven infighting factions, including Christians, Kurds and the Muslim Brotherhood. They are likely to turn on each other when Assad goes. Arming them is not without risk.
– When Russia warns of anarchy in Syria we must listen to them. The Russians know what arms are sitting inside the country – they sold 75% of Syria’s weapons to them, including those of the chemical variety. Assad spent $700 million on Russian weapons in 2010.
– America – and the West – are in the unfortunate position of being in a classic no win, damned if you do, damned if you don’t, situation. America can harm with best intentions and as seen in Afghanistan, Iraq and Somalia, it is very hard to shape good outcomes inside other countries.
The Syrian elites, the middle classes, are right to fear chaos. It is understandable if what they really want is good governance, however delivered. Transition needs to be orderly and will require Russian (Syria’s key ally) support.
But transition must occur.