They said it wouldnâ€™t lastâ€”the popular revolt against Syrian President Bashar Al Assad. That he would quell it quickly, brutally even; that demonstrators wouldnâ€™t be able to go beyond cities. All of it has been proven wrongâ€”except the part about Mr. Assadâ€™s brutal tactics.
Against this backdrop, the world waits, almost with bated breath, for US President Barack Obama to act decisively against Mr. Assad but he doesn’t and on this side of the world, the loud murmurs suggest that his inaction is to serve Israeli interests.
Mr. Obama can, but doesn’t — act on Syria—leaving the task to France and Turkey to try talk sense to Mr. Assad’s regime.
Mr. Obama is under pressure to move beyond the rhetoric of calling on Syria to lead a transition toward democracy. No one is willing to believe that his administration does not hold any leverage on the Assad regime and that upping the ante on sanctions will wield no results.
It is foolish to believe that the Obama administration has no leverage.
For starters, Mr. Obama can recall his ambassador to Syria, Robert Ford. That’s one step away from taking away Mr. Assad’s legitimacy and giving some credence to the Syrian opposition that met in Turkey earlier this month. It would also show some support to demonstrators firm in their resolve of ousting the regime.
Most importantly, the Syrian regime will understand that the US means business, that the protests are not an issue of internal strife that will soon disappear.
The US will join Turkey, France and Qatar—all Assad-friendly nations—in cutting ties off Syria for its brutal treatment of its citizens. This will encourage Arab nations to take the lead and engage in dialogue on the issue of transition of power—and isolate Mr. Assad.
This coalition may be able to convince China and Russia to withdraw their objects to a UN Security Council resolution condemning Syria provided there is a cohesive strategy that involves a clear position by the US.
That clear position has to show that US strategy is not tied to safeguarding Israeli security. That is a popular theory that suits the Assad regime as it helps it to perpetuate its own power. Israel has declared his regime illegitimate and has repeatedly said it is not protecting Mr. Assad.
Once the Obama administration comes out with a clear stance on Syria, other nations vacillating on how to act on Syria—countries that matter, like Saudi Arabia—will know how to act.
America’s leverage is its relationship with key allies in the Arab world who have their own leverage on the Assad regime. The US can engage in dialogue with Arab nations on why they should not offer, say, financial assistance to Mr. Assad. At the end of the day, financial issues will be the major turning point for those sitting on the fence—be it the power elite in government or business.
The US can assist Arab nations in reaching out to Syrian dissidents to talk about the transition to democracy or other scenarios in post-conflict Syria.
These are but just a few options the Obama administration has that can be put to the test for the good of the Syrians languishing at the hands of a brutal president whose brutality shows no signs of abating.
Granted Mr. Obama has a re-election to think of and it is an important factor in determining his administration’s involvement in a war that is not the US’.
A large part of Mr. Obama’s appeal in 2008 was his promise of non-interventionism and bringing the troops home—and he’s failed on both counts—but his option of multilateral diplomacy is costing thousands of lives in Syria and his administration can get involved without using military might.