Syria: America's looming intervention

Octavia Nasr

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Russia called it “hysteria” over chemical use but the United States calls it its “red line.” A military intervention should not come as a surprise to anyone, certainly not to Russia who has been called on repeatedly to help find an exit out of Syria’s impasse to no avail. The fact that the U.S., Britain -- and soon more NATO countries -- are stepping up their military and naval presence around Syria should be read as a last warning in a series of diplomatic messages and intervention warnings that went unanswered before.

The U.S.’s very late move to “help” the Syrians in their fight against a tyrannical regime is also suspect. It will most probably yield the same results, if not worse, as other U.S. interventions elsewhere. Just look at Iraq and the disarray the country is in for a preview of what the U.S. has helped the people of Iraq achieve. Almost daily bombs killing and maiming in the dozens, refugee crisis of major proportions, shattered infrastructure that will take generations to rebuild and a division along sectarian lines the likes of which have never before been seen in the country’s history. We can look at other countries where the U.S. has intervened and the picture is not much better.

Obama’s tardiness to act in Syria will prove costlier and deadlier than Clinton’s stalling and flip-flopping before acting in Kosovo.

Octavia Nasr

In the U.S. the example of Kosovo is being invoked to explain the possible bombing of Syria. This, of course is a mistake. While there are many similarities between 1999 Kosovo and today’s Syria, the differences are a lot more striking and deserve to be included in the equation.

The Middle East region is simmering in divisions and conflicts, old and new. Syria is the latest flame to spark a severe divide between those who support Assad and his Baath regime and those who would like to see him go.

Iran’s new role as a major power in the region, its snubbing of the west’s influence, and its firm stand with Assad until now, should be taken seriously.

Then there is Hezbollah’s involvement in the Syrian war on Assad’s side and its militants’ readiness to fight till death in his defense.

Plus, Israel will not remain quiet in the face of any aggression towards its borders or threat to its interests.

Finally, Lebanon is an already-open war zone ready to blow up any minute and create yet another crisis on top of all other crises in the region.

What might start as a military “intervention” in Syria could blow up the entire region despite all efforts to control the damage, even with the most focused goals and with the best-expressed exit strategy.

Obama’s tardiness to act in Syria will prove costlier and deadlier than Clinton’s stalling and flip-flopping before acting in Kosovo. Moreover, success might come at an extremely high cost. But it might force what is becoming hard to avoid: a regional conflict, which in turn might create a new balance of power and chart a new course. It is hard to gauge if the new course will be good or bad. What we do know is that the old course proved to be unmanageable by the players, un-maneuverable by the mediators and intolerable for the people.

This article was first published in Annahar on August 26, 2013.


Multi-award-winning journalist Octavia Nasr served as CNN’s senior editor of Middle Eastern affairs, and is regarded as one of the pioneers of the use of social media in traditional media. She moved to CNN in 1990, but was dismissed in 2010 after tweeting her sorrow at the death of Hezbollah’s Mohammed Fadlallah. Nasr now runs her own firm, Bridges Media Consulting, whose main aim is to help companies better leverage the use of social networks.

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