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June 01, 2012, Friday

Options and scenarios over the Syrian crisis

In the face of the killing of at least 110 people in a restive Syrian town, sparking world outrage, Turkey expelled Syria’s chargé d’affaires and other diplomats on Wednesday, joining an international campaign to isolate President Bashar al-Assad’s regime. The killing of more than 100 people, many of them children, in the west-central area of Houla on Friday brought widespread international criticism of the Assad regime. The massacre in Houla cast fresh doubts on diplomatic efforts to end the Syrian conflict, specifically on the ability of an international peace plan put forward by peace envoy Kofi Annan to end Syria’s 14-month-old crisis.

All countries including pro-Assad Russia, China and Iran condemned the massacre in Houla, but still there is not much hope for action to stop the massacres, Milliyet’s Sami Kohen says. To him, the scenarios and options for taking action against the Assad government are still only being discussed, but it is a weak possibility that one of them will be put into action for real. Kohen then lists the much-discussed possibilities: The first is the diplomatic option. This is what has been tried for months now, but many countries have abandoned hope of making a mutual agreement with the Assad government work in practice, as the expulsion of Syrian diplomats from a number of countries indicates. If the diplomatic option were one that could resolve the crisis in Syria, then the recent Annan plan would have worked in the first place. The second option is bringing new sanctions against Syria, mostly in economic terms. In these kinds of situations, economic sanctions are often the first option to resort to; yet they rarely bring dictators down. The third option is military intervention, of which the most recent example was the military intervention in Lebanon. Yet today, when the US has elections coming up and the Europe is going through financial troubles, it is unlikely that a country or a group of countries would dare such an attempt. Also the Syrian army is not like the Lebanese army; Syria’s is much more powerful. The fourth is establishing a buffer zone, but it includes the risk of getting into a clash with the Syrian air and land forces. The fifth option is providing support to the opposition groups. There is no consensus yet in the international community on such an option, but it will still be quite difficult for the opposition to match the army’s power, even with foreign support. The only option left is to do nothing, which is what we have been doing so far. But it is certain that it is not a good one, he says.

In his article titled “Turkey shooting itself in the foot,” Radikal’s Cengiz Çandar takes it for granted that Turkey will not act alone against Syria, as it has realized that it should definitely work together under the umbrella of the international community. And, he says, the inaction of the international community can only be broken by the US, its playmaker. Yet the US remains inactive on the Syrian issue. Remaining inactive in the Middle East has turned out to be a characteristic of the Obama administration. The causes of this passive stance are not knowing what to do, not being able to decide what to do and not taking the risk of doing what can be done. Çandar says this weakness in leadership from the US leaves the answers to the questions of when or if the “blood shower” in Syria will end uncertain.

Star’s Sedat Laçiner says “Syria: the cost of not having a leader in the world” in his article’s headline. He says the inaction by the US in leading the international community in a united move against Syria is leaving the burden on Turkey’s shoulders, which has cast itself as the leader in the region.

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