Op-eds

It is Time to Arm the Syrian Opposition: Prof. Daniel Drezner

The New Republic

Daniel Drezner is Professor of International Politics at The Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy, Tufts University.

It is a testimony to the relative powerlessness of American policymakers that much of what has already been accomplished to force the end of Bashar al-Assad’s autocratic rule in Syria—ongoing demonstrations; the growing defections within the ranks of a Syrian army that has already killed at least 5,000 protesters; the punishing international sanctions against Damascus; the Arab League’s expelling of Syria from its ranks, and its subsequent call for international intervention; powerful economic sanctions implemented by European Union, Turkey and the Arab League—has been in the absence of any significant U.S. action. Indeed, the current consensus among both diplomats in Damascus and intelligence officials in Washington is that, while he will not go easily, Bashar al-Assad’s regime cannot stay in power indefinitely.  

But even if American policy can only act on the margins of the ongoing crisis in Syria, it is imperative that Washington get involved. The status quo is bad enough that when Secretary of State Hillary Clinton was asked to speculate on a best-case scenario, she responded with … Yemen. The problem is that even if Assad’s days are numbered, that number might still be unacceptably high (say, in the triple-digits). Within the borders of Syria, the humanitarian catastrophe is worsening: Over the weekend Assad’s forces amped up the violence on Homs, thirty years after the infamous 1982 Hama massacre by his father. The deteriorating situation has ramifications across the region as well. The combination of sanctions against Syria and Iran threaten to turn Iraq into an economy that specializes in corruption and sanctions-busting, and as Assad’s grip on power grows more fragile, he will become even more reliant upon Iran’s resources.

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