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.