Intervention in Syria – Too Little, Too Late?

Over a year ago, I contributed a post to the World Buzz suggesting that Syria was on the brink of civil war. President Bashar al-Assad had aggressively combated the social movement calling for political change and the international community looked on as violence began to unfold. Before violence had completely engulfed the country, there was an opportunity for international intervention.


A year later, the terms “rebels,” “clash” and “violence” have become synonymous with the country.


Frequently, news articles refer to “fresh violence” or “fresh battles” in the conflict. Such characterizations indicate that there are two clear military opponents engaging in warfare. However, the civil war in Syria remains predominantly a clash between citizens of the country against their leader and his military.


How did aggrieved people transition from protestors to armed rebels?


It should be noted that those opposed to Assad’s regime became increasingly more violent partly due to the government’s excessive use of brute force. The “opposition,” composed of weary citizens, became armed and organized rebels. Rhetoric about those involved in the conflict has also evolved over time; first they were opponents of Assad, then armed citizens, then rebels and now the term “insurgents” has emerged. Starting off with protests, some of the rebels have successfully transformed into hostage takers, detaining 21 U.N. peacekeepers in early March.


With Syria entering its second year of conflict and violence, the international community is warning that the country is headed toward “full-scale disaster.”  More than one million people have been displaced as a result of the conflict and new concerns are brewing in Lebanon.


Violence in Syria is causing instability in Lebanon due to an influx of displaced people and disdain emerging from the Sunni community. Many in the Lebanese Sunni community identify with the mostly Sunni rebels in the Syrian conflict who oppose the lack of political representation and a perceived unequal distribution of rights.


This is an eerily similar line of thought that led to the Syrian revolt: fueled by the “Arab Spring” model, citizens banded together to oppose unfair conditions within Syria.  Lebanon, led by Shiite dominated Hezbollah, has witnessed an emergence of Sunni extremist ideology. Hezbollah, the main political voice in the Lebanese government, is now confronted with anti-Hezbollah and anti-government rhetoric.


Two weeks have passed since the United States released a statement saying that it will aid Syrian rebels. Secretary of State John Kerry noted that aid would be in the form of training and possibly finances. The shift in White House policy appears to come in response to the opposition Syrian rebels are encountering from al-Assad’s army and fighters from Iran and Hezbollah.

With the Free Syrian Army, associated with the Syrian rebels, now threatening to attack Hezbollah targets in Lebanon, new questions emerge: What kind of intervention is needed to quell the Syrian violence? Will American training of Syrian rebels help bring more stability to Lebanon and end the protracted conflict in Syria? Or is intervention a year too late?


Submitted by Ashlie Perry


The opinions expressed are those of the author, and do not represent the opinions of Rutgers University or the Division of Global Affairs.




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Amit, thanks for your comment. I am curious about your stance now..after the announcement of the possible use of chemical weapons by the Syrian government. This has drawn a hard line in the sand for the current administration, especially after it was adamant about a low tolerance for chemical weapons against civilians. I am not saying one intervention, or the lack thereof, is better than another but this is a slippery slope with human lives on the line. Ashlie Perry, New Jersey, U.S.
There are many reasons for the US not intervening militarily directly. These include weapons falling into the hands of extremists which ultimately getting used against the Americans and their interests, possible usage of chemical weapons by Assad regime should Americans intervene militarily, the Sunni-Shia conflict spilling over the larger Arab world, Syrian state splintering into minimum two states and the civil war taking root in the country and bruising the egos of the Russian Federation and China etc. The US may also want to prove that the world is not only stable because of it but that it is unstable without it. The US may also view the intervention as the precursor to the new cold war primarily between Russia-China combine and the divided West. The US could also ponder that the events in Syria and in the larger Arab world if not added much could lead to new smouldering and ultimately end in second Arab upheavals. Since those changes would take places in higher consciousness era they may be more effective and could make Arab world more consumerist. But still the intervention is better than the non-intervention. The best thing is that Mr. Assad be killed in a military coup planned and executed by CIA. Or else the UK and France can jointly plan military intervention against Syrian regime ending the possibility of parallelism in Western Europe. Amit Srivastava, Lucknow, India

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