September 6th, 2011
01:00 PM ET

Why Western officials don't want the Syrian opposition to take up arms

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 LandisSyria 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.

3. Pressure would grow on Western governments to intervene directly. In Iraq, U.S. troops were present to mitigate the worst violence and stem ethnic cleansing and the proliferation of militias and banditry. Syria has no outside force present.

4. Waves of refugees would set out for Turkey and ultimately try to work their way into Europe to find jobs, safety and refugee status. Refugees are a major European fear, as most EU countries already feel overwhelmed by new Muslim immigrants who have caused the rise of Islamaphobia in the West.

5. Moral leadership: The leadership that Western leaders have already shown in demanding that the Assad regime step down will make it hard for Western leaders not to show the same leadership in protecting vulnerable Syrians and committing troops – perhaps in the context of an international peace-keeping force.

6. If the rebellion takes up arms, the Syrian opposition leadership that is resident in the West will be less likely to have significant influence on the new order established in Syria.  Washington and Western capitals will lose their indirect influence over future outcomes.

7. Islamists are more likely to assert leadership over a new Syria if the struggle for power is decided by opposition arms. Islamists have proven to be the more experienced fighters in the region. They may rise to leadership positions in Syria that they do not enjoy today if the end of the Assad regime is brought about by military means.

For these reasons, western leaders will wait to see if sanctions applied to Syria will cause the regime to “collapse” on its own through defections or a coup.

Western leaders will also continue to add names and corporations to the sanctions list in an effort to keep morale among the Syrian opposition as high as possible. The demonstrators understand that they need Western support against the overwhelming force of the Syrian Army. The West must continue to wratchet up the pressure just short of military intervention in order to prevent the opposition from feeling abandoned or neglected, which could cause their activities to flag.  Syrian activists in the West insist that sanctions will work on their own. They undoubtedly worry about many of the same concerns that Western leaders do.

The views expressed in this article are solely those of Joshua Landis.

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Topics: Civil War • Middle East • Syria

soundoff (11 Responses)
  1. j. von hettlingen

    The author had failed to mention the "war fatique" in the West. Most countries are facing huge deficits, low growth and high employment.

    September 6, 2011 at 6:09 pm |
  2. Badee

    Joshua Landis is one of the Syrian regime's men in the US. We should read his views from this perspective.

    September 7, 2011 at 12:42 am |
  3. Crushed & humiliated

    How cynical & hypocritical are the systems of the advanced world!!

    September 7, 2011 at 1:30 am |
  4. Mohammad Kamal Habbaba

    The author contradicted with himself such that the whole 7 reasons he counted are neutralized by the last paragraphs. According to the 7 reasons the west should support the ASSAD and pull support from the rebels to satisfy the 7 reasons, at the last paragraphs he said the west should leave the situation as it is (unstable) and if the regime collapses (Means instability too) buy boosting it with sanction. So killing the country is vital and it should be done slowly according to him. SO can we understand that the west is trying to buy time for themselves and the whole interest is not democracy but only western interests. West don't have any interest in Syria actually, there is NO oil There is No Gas that worth's fighting, Israel is not interested in Muslim Brotherhood Terrorism as it will lose stability in the middle east, Syria only wants its Golan back and a Palestinian recognition but The radicals in Syria Wants Whole Israel, SO WHO WANTS A DESTABILIZED SYRIA IN THE REGION SYRIA IS SAFETY PIN THE REGION. We all know the target is Iran, ok here is the point USA is not able to decide, so they should gamble. WHY? USA Never Gamble!!!! They know more then 70% of Syrians are supporting Al Asad and his popularity is rising, all the countries in the region EXCEPT Turkey (Doesn't have the ability to take it's own decision) are major minorities in Syria and they are whom Syria hosted them at their worst times like Armenians, Kurd and Iraqis and many... . SO American propaganda do not have the support of the majority internally and it is loosing support of real peaceful activists and apposition leaders. So what they are doing is just stay Stalled and supporting with too little and valueless things cause they are wining any way. If Assad is there then things are stable and they can look forward to Iran. Syria's support to Iran military wise is valueless Assad will not trow everything to Iran while Israel is sitting there and even-though if he does, it is too funny, Syrian arms will end in few days, so Syria is neglectable according to USA. But if he leaves USA will have a postponed fight with the Muslims whom are planning to unite the middle east and thinking that they are using the USA for now!!!. SO the link of the Extreme Muslims in the Middle east is Linked with the extremists in Turkey, and Erdogan is a part of it and he (The group as whole) wants turkey to command the future big Islamic nation and he knows that all the conflicts in the region now will end up with a big union in the future and they want the lead (The new OTTOMANS) But there is lots of things that he is not counting. People never forget betrayers and he is prepossessing the btaryers label to TURKS. The Drawing is always the same Europe takes africa USA and Russia bargain on the middle east while China owns the world. USA have 2 Dogs in the middle east Turkey(poodle) and Israel(Rottweiler).

    September 7, 2011 at 4:45 am |
    • Kurtis

      Actually, the U.S. has several dogs in the Middle East.

      You are correct about Israel being a rottweiler, but Turkey is more of a Border Collie. Then they have Jordan, which is a German Shepherd, and Saudi Arabia is America's English Mastiff.

      September 9, 2011 at 4:42 am |
  5. am231

    A very good article
    I agree with the author's viewpoint

    September 14, 2011 at 2:41 am |
  6. tcaud

    The author is insane, but only history can bear that fact out. I will withdraw from the intellectual discourse and let Loki fall against Heimdall.

    September 14, 2011 at 6:27 pm |
  7. ida

    The subsequent time I read a blog, I hope that it doesnt disappoint me as a lot as this one. I mean, I do know it was my choice to read, but I truly thought youd have one thing attention-grabbing to say. All I hear is a bunch of whining about one thing that you may fix should you werent too busy searching for attention.

    January 27, 2013 at 6:49 am |

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