The U.S. and the UK have maintained that military intervention in Syria is unlikely and it seems that both the powers want to avoid this option at all costs. The conspicuous dangers of military intervention in Syria – the regime’s close allegiances to Iran, and its support of terrorist groups, Hamas and Hezbollah – is mounting the pressure on the West and the rest of the Arab world to find an alternative, viable resolution to the conflict.
It seems the West is cognisant of the repercussions of foreign military presence on Syrian soil. The calls for military intervention come at a time when the United States and Israel are already threatening Iran, Syria’s closest regional ally, with military action over its nuclear activities.
When we compare the situation in Libya to Syria, we see a strong semblance in violent escalation against protesters leading to the formation of rebel opposition movements. However, the conflict in Syria is significantly unique and yields greater complications in and outside of the Middle East. While the UK, U.S., Russia and China remain divided over support for the Assad government (and foreign intervention), full scale military intervention undoubtedly has implications on relations between the four nations.
Should the option for military intervention be enacted, it would shake the fragile foundations of regional and international diplomacy. It could also negate Western military and diplomatic credibility in the region, with the UK and United States provoking a major regional conflict that could turn into a proxy war due to Syria’s strategic importance.
Iran would not hesitate to assist Assad’s military, nor would Russia and China. On the other side, you have the UK and the US with the Saudi kingdom taking the opportunity to procure confrontation with Iran, its arch rival in the fight for regional and religious hegemony in the Middle East. As another added dilemma, Lebanon has also expressed its premonition of foreign intervention in Syria. The cumulative ramifications of military intervention in Syria could reach a juncture of an escalating major regional and international debacle and where we could see a possible Cold-War scenario on Iran’s nuclear ambitions.
The other option of arming of rebels, which the West has hastily denied, would, no doubt, lead to an all-out civil war, especially since the country is already on the brink of one. This would be counter-productive and deteriorate the situation further; subsequently opening another window of opportunity for larger and smaller regional powers to inconspicuously further their own regional and strategic interests. Indeed there are already reports surfacing that the Saudis are arming rebels. But, the balance of military power remains in favour of Assad from personal military might and foreign assistance. Also, the human cost of descending the crisis into further violent chaos and insurrection could perpetuate further regional conflict with the possibility of the crisis spilling into other countries. Consequentially it would be detrimental to regional stability and to the West’s credibility and efforts to curtail Assad through peaceful diplomatic means, and consequentially still place it in the “interventionists” category whether through covert or over military assistance.
However, in recent days, it seems that military intervention may be avoided with Assad holding a vote on a referendum on a new constitution – perhaps Assad’s temporal rendition due to fear of foreign intervention, as rebels procure more weapons, and prevent a shift in the power dynamics into the hands of the opposition. It does not by any means qualify as political reform. And the military’s profuse shelling of Homs proves that Assad is in no hurry to alleviate the suffering of his people for what began as a peaceful movement for change and progress and has since descended into chaos.
Although the West immediately labelled the vote a ‘sham’, protracted talks on events in Syria have not inspired much confidence either with the calls for a ceasefire falling on deaf ears, Syrian nationals have expressed their feelings of abandonment by the international community, especially since access to Syria for humanitarian organisations is limited. Allowing access to civilians has been a continued clarion call to Assad which has only resulted in few organisations able to reach civilians with amenities and humanitarian and medical assistance.
While we would all like to see a peaceful end to this conflict, the scale of escalation has reached a tipping point. The West is running out of viable options to firstly urge Assad to refrain from further violence and secondly the stepping down or opening dialogue with the rebel opposition and taking steps towards political and social reform. What the referendum will decide we will have to see.
While in some cases military intervention could qualify as the lesser of the two evils, in the current political climate this could come as a major political as well as economic cost to the West and the rest of the Middle East. Thus in the greater scheme of things, the argument against military intervention could save the Syrian people and the region from wider strife.