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SYRIA CRISIS BRIEFING - A Collision Course for Intervention

SYRIA CRISIS BRIEFING - A Collision Course for Intervention

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Published by: Silendo on Jul 25, 2012
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A Collision Course for Intervenon
The Syrian crisis has taken a decisive new turn in the last week.
President Bashar al-Assad’s own future is now signicantly less
relevant to whatever will happen next in the country and external
intervenon, in some form, is now signicantly more likely.In this Brieng, experts detail the risks and challenges of intervenon
in Syria. Our contributors delve further into the internal and
external aspects of this conict, oering a sobering assessment of 
the prospects for Syria and the region.
The assassinaons of senior ocials at the heart of the Assadregime on Wednesday 18 July gave a decisive new impetus toopposion forces and conrmed that this crisis was nally ppingfrom an an-government rebellion into a sectarian civil war. Assadis not in control of his forces, though he may sll be guiding theoverall strategy. Instead, his commanders – such as his youngerbrother commanding the 4
Division and the Republican Guard–appear to be making their own decisions and working with Alawitemilias like the
to terrorise neighbourhoods across
Syrian cies as diverse as Deraa, Homs, Aleppo and the suburbsof Damascus. Opposion groups have never been united andare partly antagonisc to each other. They are prepared to makecommon cause in some cases with fundamentalist Islamic groupsand Al-Qa’ida related organisaons. The stage is set for a viciouscivil war that may be dened by religious and ethnic boundaries,even if it is not about them. This is not inevitable, but it is nowmore likely than not.Bashar al-Assad’s family may already have le the country – a keyindicator of morale around any leadership under pressure. WhetherAssad himself is persuaded to step down, ees the country, oris arrested or killed in the ghng to come, is no longer the keydeterminant of Syria’s future. The moment has passed in which aninternaonally sponsored polical selement – the UN’s Ko Annanplan – might have preserved a fragile order in Syria to buy mefor more peaceful polical change. The same dynamic of sectarianviolence that was seen in the former Yugoslavia from 1991 onwards,in Kosovo in 1999, or Sierra Leone in 2000, is increasingly evidentnow across the major cies of Syria. This is the element that turns
By Professor Michael Clarke
In this Brieng
Opons for Intervenon
Richard Kemp
Assessing a Ground Intervenon in Syria
 Michael Codner
Syrian Chemical Weapons Stocks: A Choice of Risks and Evils
 Paul Schulte
Transion From Assad
Shashank Joshi
Regional Players Move In
Dr Jonathan Eyal
Key Points
Syria has pped to the point where Assad,whether he stays or goes, is no longer theproblem for the country or the region
Intervenon is coming towards us becauseof the wider eects of the crisis; in somerespects, military intervenon has already
The last few days has seen this move froma Syrian crisis to a Levant crisis and from
there presages a wider instability across the
Middle East
The pping point of this crisis now presagesa ‘arc of proxy confrontaon’ across the
whole of the region between Iran and Saudi
Arabia in which it will be dicult for theWest to stay uninvolved
There are many ways in which externalmilitary intervenon in this crisis mightoccur; the problem for the western powersis that their polical room for manoeuvre is
narrowing as the crisis worsens.
25 July 2012
Collision Course for Intervenon | www.rusi.org/syria
Syria into a dierent sort of crisis. Its implicaons are reverberang aroundthe Middle East and increasingly within western capitals.As in those previous cases, the regional implicaons of this dynamic of violenceare more a driver of internaonal diplomacy than the human misery insideSyria itself. The internal meltdown is already having a major eect on inter-communal relaons in Lebanon and risks provoking a new Lebanese civil waras the Hizbullah movement, which has depended so heavily on Assad, triesto shore up its Alawite ally next door. As this Brieng indicates, the stage isset for a proxy contest between Iranian-backed groups in Lebanon alongsidethe Alawite/Shia forces in Syria and Iraq; pied against Saudi backing fora successor Sunni government in Syria, allied to the majority in Lebanon,the Sunni minority in Iraq, and essenal nancial backing for Jordan. An ‘arcof proxy confrontaon’ between Iran and Saudi Arabia (as opposed to anuncontested, Iranian ‘Shia crescent’ suggested by King Abdullah of Jordan a
few years ago) is likely to follow the fall of the Alawite elite in Syria that will
set the terms of Middle East for a generaon.This is not Libya in the Maghreb where sociees were relavely unconnectedfrom their neighbours. In the Levant the polics of Syria and Lebanon cannotbe divorced from stability issues in Jordan and Iraq, or from the fearfulreacons of Turkey and Israel. The problem of containing the Syrian conict;prevenng it sparking even greater violence, fragmenng neighbouringcountries and even provoking cross-border invasions, is now more urgentthan dampening the violence inside Syria itself. Refugee ows into Lebanon,Jordan and Turkey are potenally destabilising in themselves where refugeecamps provoke their own radicalism of the dispossessed. Not least, thepossibility of Syria’s chemical weapon stocks being moved around, or out of the country, being stolen or sll more being used in any conict, increasesthe sense of imminent internaonal conict that is gripping the region.Already Israel has hinted at acon in the event of chemical weapons fallinginto Hizbullah hands.For these reasons the queson of some sort of western intervenon in Syriahas shied from a predilecon to stay out of the conict in any physical senseto an awareness that intervenon is looking increasingly likely. We are notmoving towards intervenon but intervenon is certainly moving towards us.For western policy-makers the issue is rapidly resolving itself into quesonsover the purposes and most appropriate modes of intervenon. Indeed, insome important respects, western intervenon has already commenced.The purposes maer. An eecve UN resoluon remains extremely unlikelyin the face of Russian and Chinese hoslity. But with Saudi Arabia leadingan increasingly asserve Arab voice in the situaon, Western powers arefaced with a growing dilemma over whether again to pitch into support forone side in a civil war, as in Libya, or do what they can to bolster stability inLebanon, Iraq and Jordan and to dissuade Israel and Turkey from precipitateacon when they feel the situaon is pping against them.
Collision Course for Intervenon | www.rusi.org/syria
Already, it is believed that western intelligence and special force operaonsare acvely underway to obtain as much relevant informaon as possibleon the ground, and cyber operaons are a key determinant in negang therelavely sophiscated air defence and military command structure thatSyria possesses. Western countries have backed the growing supply of arms,via Arab sources, to rebel forces for some months now. Several Russian shipscarrying a range of military equipment for the Assad regime are already atsea and a UK naval task force is on its way to the Eastern Mediterranean.Its purpose is to be prepared to evacuate foreign naonals from the regionshould that become necessary, but it also provides a potenal core for abigger force if the evacuaon role is extended.However loathe western governments have been to embrace a creepingintervenon in the Syria crisis, the events of recent days have created a stepchange in the situaon that will make a hands-o approach increasinglydicult to maintain. This Brieng analyses the changing polical dynamic,not to recommend or condemn any parcular course of acon, but tounderstand the implicaons of the situaon as it evolves.
Professor Michael Clarke is Director-General of RUSI.

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