By Faysal Itani, Special to CNN
Editor’s note: Faysal Itani is a resident fellow at the Atlantic Council’s Rafik Hariri Center for the Middle East. The views expressed are the writer’s own.
Three years into Syria’s civil war, the United States has demanded the regime shut down its U.S. embassy. But this month’s long overdue gesture is just the latest low-cost substitute for a meaningful U.S. policy in Syria, and is symptomatic of the U.S. approach to Syria’s tragedy, which prioritizes diplomatic posturing over engaging with realities on the ground. Indeed, as the United States focuses on international summits such as the recent Geneva II conference, it is ignoring the nature of the opposition in Syria itself.
It isn’t too late to change this approach, and to transform the U.S. goal of political transition in Syria from wishful fantasy to realistic goal. But to do this, American thinking needs to move from Geneva to the villages, towns, and cities of Syria
Early last year, Syrian rebels captured the northern city of Raqqa. After bickering with local councils over how to run the province, the U.S.-backed opposition coalition in exile (the Etilaf) named Abdullah Khalil, a human rights lawyer, to head an interim authority. On May 19, 2013, masked men reportedly kidnapped Khalil, and he has not been heard from since. His disappearance shows how the opposition, backed by the United States and its allies, has failed to build on its early successes in liberated territory, allowing the regime to survive.
Fareed speaks with CNN about the situation in Syria, the Obama administration's response to the crisis, and what could happen if Bashar al-Assad's regime falls.
You wrote a strong column in which you said the Obama administration's handling of Syria was, in your words, a case study of “how not to do foreign policy.”
Well, the president has tried to have it both ways. For two years, he has been resiliently resisting calls to jump into the cauldron that is Syria. In my opinion, wisely. Syria is a very deep, complex, largely internal, largely sectarian struggle. I'm not sure what U.S. military intervention can do. But at the same time, the president has wanted to seem to be doing something or seem to be setting up these red lines which he talked about far too casually.
And, you know, he strived to, at the same time, be a realist and be a humanitarian. And it's a little difficult to do. And it's perhaps easier to do in Syria. But right now what you're seeing is the fruit of that because a lot of what U.S. foreign policy over the last six months has been is devoted to trying to make sure the president's red line language doesn't appear to be an empty threat. And so, he might have spoken carelessly. We are now in danger of using military force carelessly to make sure that there isn't hypocrisy there.
Editor’s Note: This is an edited version of an article from the ‘Oxford Analytica Daily Brief’. Oxford Analytica is a global analysis and advisory firm that draws on a worldwide network of experts to advise its clients on their strategy and performance.
With no negotiated solution in sight and international powers ruling out any military intervention, Syria’s eight-month uprising looks to be heading towards civil war. Today, Turkey said that it does not wish to consider military intervention but is “ready for any scenario.”
Despite growing pressure from the region and across the world, the Syrian government is pursuing its military campaign against protesters. Their uprising has become an armed one, as military defections rise and opposition attitudes harden.
The Free Syrian Army (FSA) is a band of defectors led by Colonel Riyad al-Assad. It first declared its existence in late July and has been receiving increasing attention in recent weeks. It is mostly active in the provinces of Idlib and Homs, north of Damascus and Dera’a, to the south. It has established enclaves outside of government control, and is reported to have bases in Hatay province in Turkey, and in north Lebanon. FULL POST
In the video above, Mousab Azzawi of the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights discusses the violence in Syria, which some say looks a lot more like civil war.
Also, see the graph below from Foreign Policy. David Kenner writes:
"The death toll in Syria is breathtaking: Over the past eight months, more Syrians have lost their lives than the number of Palestinians killed over four years of the Second Intifada. The casualty count is now roughly equivalent to the number of U.S. soldiers killed during the entire Iraq war. And the violence shows no sign of letting up."
Editor's Note: Joshua Landis is the Director of the Center for Middle East Studies and Associate Professor at the University of Oklahoma. He writes the blog Syria Comment, where this was originally published.
By Joshua Landis, Syria Comment
Here are 7 reasons why Western officials do not want to encourage the Syrian opposition to take up arms:
1. Syria may slip into civil war. This could produce the sort of blood bath that we saw in Lebanon and Iraq that would destabilize the region.
2. Regional capitals will be sucked into the civil war raising the possibility of a larger regional conflagration.
Editor's Note: Meir Javedanfar is an Iranian – Israeli Middle East analyst and the co-author of The Nuclear Sphinx of Tehran: Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and The State of Iran.
Revolutions are unpredictable, but so are post-revolution periods – something that will be evident if and when the Bashar al-Assad regime falls in Syria.
It is, of course, possible that when the regime falls, the fighting will end and a single body will manage the country’s affairs until elections take place. But it’s also possible that there will be chaos or even civil war. If this happens, expect fighting between the minority ruling Alawites and the majority Sunni population to ensue. FULL POST
Editor's Note: Zach Vertin is Crisis Group’s Horn of Africa analyst, dividing his time between Sudan and Nairobi, Kenya. He has previously served as Crisis Group’s UN analyst and worked with the Kenya Human Rights Commission.
The Sudanese territory of Abyei has been thrust into the spotlight again after the northern Sudanese army occupied it this weekend, forcing thousands of residents to flee — this mere weeks before the south is poised to become independent, splitting Africa's largest country in two.
Abyei, a hotly contested, but sparsely populated territory about the size of the U.S. state of Connecticut, sits along Sudan's north-south border. Caught between the north and south both ethnically and politically, Abyei is home to the Ngok Dinka, who are closely allied with the south, and Misseriya nomads, who migrate through the territory to graze their cattle during the dry season.
Editor's Note: Comfort Ero is the Africa Program Director of the International Crisis Group.
By Comfort Ero, Special to CNN
Ivory Coast is on the verge of a new civil war between the army loyal to a defiant Laurent Gbagbo, who refuses to acknowledge he lost the November 2010 presidential election, and the ex-insurgent group Forces Nouvelles, which is now supporting the internationally recognized winner, Alassane Ouattara.
The vote should have ended eight years of crisis, but Gbagbo staged a constitutional coup and resorted to violence to keep power.