Senator John McCain called on Monday for US air strikes on Syria, but the Obama administration pushed back.
McCain said on the Senate floor,
“Foreign capitals across the world are looking to the United States to lead, especially now that the situation in Syria has become an armed conflict . . . But what they see is an administration still hedging its bets — on the one hand, insisting that Assad’s fall is inevitable, but on the other, unwilling even to threaten more assertive actions that could make it so.”
An unnamed senior Obama administration told Jake Tapper of ABC News that while he sympathized with Senator McCain’s frustration over the massacres in Syria, the White House did not view McCain’s suggestion as practical. He pointed out that Syria is not like Libya:
““There aren’t air attacks on the opposition, nor are large sections of country in control of the opposition …”
The official noted that the Syrian army is deploying snipers on rooftops against demonstrators, who could not be dealt with by a foreign air force from the air, and that Syria’s armor and artillery is inside densely populated cities where it can’t be bombed without killing large numbers of civilians.
This Obama administration position is the only practical one. What in the world could you bomb in Syria from 30,000 feet that would help the revolutionaries succeed? I can’t understand how McCain’s proposal could work, tactically.
Unlike the Obama administration, I am also concerned with international law, and there are no legal grounds for the US to bomb Syria! Since Syria hasn’t attacked the US, that action would require a United Nations Security Council resolution.
The horrific pictures of the Syrian army’s weeks-long siege and ultimate reduction of rebel-held Baba Amr in Homs devastated us all. But the real lesson of that horrid episode was that the revolutionaries in Syria erred in attempting to hold urban territory. The defectors from the military in the Free Syrian Army don’t appear to have taken any armor with them when they departed the Baath barracks. They are therefore small guerrilla bands with light weaponry. It was a big mistake for them to hunker down in a particular city quarter and to stand and fight there against tanks and artillery. The only advantage guerrilla bands have is in hit and run tactics, and that requires a hideout not known or accessible to the government, from which raids can be made before the guerrillas fade away again. Those needs, which underpin any guerrilla war, may not be capable of being met in Syria.
In which case guerrilla military activity may not be very useful in Syria.
In my view, the most successful movements so far have been the persistent, peaceful demonstrations by civilian forces, and I think the revolution has more chance of success in Syria if it stays peace-oriented. Only a peaceful movement could allay the fears of the Christians, Allawis and moderate Sunnis, about what kind of regime would come to power after the fall of the Baath. Syria is more likely to be liberated by a peace movement than by a rump defectors’ army.
Meanwhile, Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki gave an interview in which he said, “I do not believe Syria is in the throes of an end to the crisis.” He added that some say it will all be over with in a month or two months. He disagreed: “Take a year or two.” He said, “I expect the crisis to last a long time. The regime exists. It will go on existing.”
He also defended Iraq’s vote at the Arab League against the Saudi and Qatar proposal that the Syrian opposition be given weapons. He said that most AL states voted against the Saudi/Qatar proposal. He could not understand why critics of Iraq called it “isolated” in that vote, since Iraq was actually in the majority.
Al-Maliki sharply criticized Turkey, accusing the ruling Justice and Development Party of posing as a defender of Sunni Muslims in the region. He said that Sunni Arabs don’t need Turkey to defend them, just as Arab Shiites don’t need Iran to defend them.
The Arab League has managed to agree that Bashar al-Assad should step down as president in the wake of the massacre at Homs. But the Saudi-Qatari plan of sending weapons to the revolutionaries was rejected by the rest of the League.
The Arab League hasn’t been able to convince the BRICS nations even to support the call for Bashar to resign.
India refuses to call for Bashar’s resignation, saying that the Syrian people should make their own decision about who should be president.
Likewise, Russia’s Vladimir Putin continues his support for the Baath government in Damascus.
Much less a military intervention, the international community can’t even agree to insist that Bashar step down.