On Monday, Mitt Romney made clear his intention to intervene in Syria should he become president. As usual, how exactly he would do that remained vague.
In the meantime, events in Syria are moving fast. The suicide bombing at a branch of Air Force intelligence at a base in Hrasta near Damascus showed that the regime is gradually losing its grip in Syria. The group that claimed to have been behind the explosions is Nusrat al-Islam (aid to Islam), considered by Washington, D.C. as an al-Qaeda affiliate. That Muslim radicals are carrying out efficient large scale bombings of Syrian government facilities raises some red flags with analysts.
Romney’s conviction, expressed in his Monday speech, that he could control who got the better weapons among the Syrian groups is probably not realistic.
In other Syria news, on Tuesday Syrian revolutionaries took the town of Maaret al-Nu’man, in the hinterland of Idlib. If they kept it the rebels would be in a position to control the trade in and out of Aleppo. The Syrian regime is sending troops up to try to to take the area back.
Meanwhile, Turkey continued to return fire across the border into Syria. Ankara received backing from NATO, of which it is a member, on member states coming to Turkey’s aid if necessary. Romney on Monday also talked about “our ally Turkey” being attacked by Syria, and seemed to imply that the US would intervene in Syria on behalf of Turkey. Turkey will likely attempt to keep its involvement limited, having little taste for all out war. But what if Ankara called Romney on his pledge?
It is in fact a source of shame to our major world institutions that they are allowing a government to use military weapons against its own civilian population. But there is only one redress for this situation, which is the UN Security Council. It has remained reluctant to take a pro-intervention stance, stymied by the Russian and Chinese veto.
In the absence of a UN Security Council resolution, however, intervening militarily would be a huge risk, since things could easily spiral out of control and the US would be acting illegally and without international support.
The option of a ‘no fly zone’ would be extremely difficult to implement in Syria. A lot of regime tanks are inside cities, where trying to bomb them could well produce large numbers of wounded civilians. (the US never bombed the tanks attacking Misrata because they were too far inside city limits and the danger of friendly fire was too great.