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Will 200 U.S. soldiers jolt Syria’s Assad?

Abdulrahman al-Rashed

Published: Updated:

In the mid 90s, the U.S. government made sure it spread the news that it allocated $15 million to topple Saddam Hussein's regime and that it was spending the money to train and arm opposition Iraqi groups in the Kurdish area.

Although the news had a huge media impact, when the Americans met with their Arab allies they realized the Arabs were not optimistic. They told the Americans: "We are now sure that you do not intend to topple Saddam. What can $15 million do to topple such a powerful regime?" But when former president George Bush decided to oust Saddam, he sent 100,000 soldiers, and the message was clear to everyone.

But what is the message that the U.S. is inferring by sending only 200 soldiers to Jordan to confront the repercussions of the war in Syria? The U.S. does not plan to intervene. The number of soldiers sent to Jordan is so small that it implies the U.S. plans to carry out limited operations, like controlling posts of chemical or biological weapons.

Soldier count

In previous wars, numbers speak for themselves. The previous American governments sent 178,000 soldiers to Iraq during the height of war. It sent more than 30,000 soldiers to Afghanistan. If American President Barack Obama decided to intervene in Syria, and it does not seem that he will, then he's got plenty of work to do on the political level to convince Congress to agree to such an intervention.

This will not be easy given the current circumstances. And it will not be easy unless the war in Syria develops on an increased terrorism front, or if clashes with Israel mount.

Indirect international intervention by supporting the armed opposition could have been useful at the beginning of the war, two years ago. It could have lessened the size of the human tragedy, enabled the civil opposition to govern and prevented feuds, massacres and civil war.

In Syria, most of the country is now out of control - neither governed by the regime or controlled by the opposition. As time passes by, the rest of the areas will be in a state of a chaos.


Too late for intervention?

This is the result of no international intervention and of leaving the war to be fought between heavily armed regime forces and scattered armed opposition forces.

200 American soldiers will neither succeed in intimidating President Assad nor in raising the rebels' morale.

Abdulrahman al-Rashed

The government's forces have lost in most areas. However, they succeeded in destroying all positions they were forced to withdraw from. Thus most of these areas are no longer fit for people's lives and as a result more than 3 million Syrians fled their cities and towns. Therefore, what can international or American intervention do now? Perhaps the Americans can help the rebels in seizing Damascus or Aleppo. Or perhaps they can help get rid of the regime. But they will not be able to put an end to side struggles among the competing revolutionary forces or the forces present in areas they seized during the war.

What the international community can also do is help the rebels manage the rest of the battle to topple the regime. It can help them organize themselves and run their affairs - a task they clearly failed at, although they are courageous fighters who, with their simple weapons, managed to subdue one of the region's strongest armies.

Leaving Syria to battle in its own chaos is a huge strategic mistake the Americans, the West and mainly the Arabs are committing. 200 American soldiers will neither succeed in frightening president Assad nor in raising the rebel's morale. They will also not succeed in providing safety for Jordan which has also become threatened.

This article was first published in Asharq al-Awsat on April 21, 2013.


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Abdulrahman al-Rashed is the General Manager of Al Arabiya News Channel. A veteran and internationally acclaimed journalist, he is a former editor-in-chief of the London-based leading Arab daily Asharq al-Awsat, where he still regularly writes a political column. He has also served as the editor of Asharq al-Awsat’s sister publication, al-Majalla. Throughout his career, Rashed has interviewed several world leaders, with his articles garnering worldwide recognition, and he has successfully led Al Arabiya to the highly regarded, thriving and influential position it is in today.

Disclaimer: Views expressed by writers in this section are their own and do not reflect Al Arabiya English's point-of-view.