Syrian Civil War Kills 160, Spills over onto Lebanon, Turkey; Will US Intervene?

Fighting on Monday in Homs and other Syrian cities left some 160 dead on Monday, and, ominously, Syrian troops fired into Lebanon and Turkey, killing 3 persons. The Syrian crisis has escalated into a civil war, and now it is threatening to involve Syria’s neighbors.

The Syrian military attacked the town of Rastan near Homs with artillery barrages, killing 52, and did the same thing to Tal Rifaat near Aleppo, killing 45 there. They shelled homes in Latamna near Hama, killing 36 (Latamna was allegedly the site of a massacre by the troops last week).

About 23 of the dead were Syrian security forces, and 8 were members of the Free Syrian Army. The res, killed by sniper and other fire, were civilians.

The Los Angeles Times alleges that the Syrians killed at the Kilis camp in Turkey on the Syrian border were watching a nearby firefight between revolutionaries and Baathist troops when bullets cut them down. Six others were wounded.

In Lebanon, a firefight in a nearby village produced a heavy barrage of firing over the border, killing a cameraman for the al-Jadid network.

The Lebanese and the Turkish governments both issued strong protests to Damascus over the cross-border incidents.

The Lebanese prime minister, Najib Miqati, said “We condemn the act of opening fire from the Syrian side on the Lebanese media team, mainly as this team was operating within Lebanese territory.”

Miqati is allied with Hizbullah, a strong supporter of the Syrian regime, but when Syrian gunfire is killing Lebanese on Lebanese soil, even he is forced to speak out. Lebanon is welcoming increasing numbers of Syrian refugees, which could also drag Lebanon into the conflict. Aljazeera English has video:

On a visit to Beijing, Turkish Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan charged that Syria had infringed Turkey’s border, and that as a result Ankara was considering what steps to take, including those “we don’t want to think about.”

Turkey is seeking Chinese know-how in building nuclear reactors for power generation. But likely Erdogan also pushed China to take a harder line against Syrian president Bashar al-Assad. Turkey and China are also both interested in mediating the Iran crisis, over its civilian nuclear enrichment program.

The conflict in Syria can now be characterized as a Civil War without any qualification, according to the J. David Singer definition

““Sustained military combat, primarily internal, resulting in at least 1,000 battle-deaths per year, pitting central government forces against an insurgent force capable of effective resistance, determined by the latter’s ability to inflict upon the government forces at least 5 percent of the fatalities that the insurgents sustain.” (Errol A. Henderson and J. David Singer, “Civil War in the Post-Colonial World, 1946-92,” Journal of Peace Research, Vol. 37, No. 3, May 2000.)”

Worryingly, the civil war is now spreading over regional borders, leading to deaths outside Syria.

Doyle McManus at the LAT argues that the Syria crisis is getting to be so big and troublesome that the Obama Administration may well ultimately decide that it must intervene, as happened under Clinton in the Balkans.

Posted in Syria | 14 Responses | Print |

14 Responses

  1. Mr. Cole, what do you think would happen if the US or NATO intervened militarily in Syria, with airstrikes, for example? Would you support it like you did for Libya?

  2. I suppose I won’t be the first to suggest this, but if the US wanted to intervene, the infringement of the Turkish border would be a good casus belli. Turkey is a NATO member, and NATO members must defend any member state under attack by a non-NATO force. Granted, Turkey must ask for help.

  3. Have to say of all the scenarios we could dream up for just how this would eventually spill out of Syria, this may have always been the most likely.

    My question is how much residual animosity might still exist between the Turks and Syrians due to the old Ottoman empire? On the individual level I imagine it would no longer have any reason to exist, but how much conflict might be drummed up by al-Assad amongst those on the fence?

    The Yugoslavian model for intervention might be apt, but only to the extent it would be limited, perhaps to establishing safe zones adjacent to the Turkish border, or along the coast. Trouble is, that’s not where most of the damage is being done. Enabling the insurgency with communications, signals intel, and things that would enhance their political freedom of action, would be a good way to empower Syrian’s to do the job that ultimately they’re going to have to do themselves: dispose of al-Assad directly, which is unlikely, or encourage the military to do it some form.

    • Too bad that almost all the “thinking” about Geopolitical Jerkmeatery is about applications of all the Really Cool Tools of Violence to, or creation of, this, that, or the other “crisis” and “conflict,” and so little is given to the kinds of influence and encouragement and incentive that can be applied to salve the angry sores and eruptions, and keep More Of The Stupid Same from happening again and again and again. Nobody (well, almost nobody) gets battle flags and ribbons or any of these Really Prestigious Awards, link to, for doing stuff that educates, placates, calms, joins, or palliates, rather than “taking advantage of nominal sovereignty” and doing what the CIA and now so many other Shadowlands Creeps have done, so busily and successfully, for so many years, adding to the vast and geometrically growing collection once known as the “Family Jewels.” link to

      Until the blessed peacemakers come to direct the Directorates, all you are going to have is more of the stupid same. A change that’s not sufficient, of course, but sure as hell is necessary.

  4. Oh, goody, says the little demon in so many of us. Now it starts. Now we are finally getting somewhere. Mormons and Christianists and neocons all in places of authority and policy, various warlords and dictators ensconced behind their more-or-less reliable armies, a profitable flood of the toys and tools of war flushed into the mix, little sneaks padding around stirring up the masses, and folks in Amarillo at Pantex busy overhauling the US nukular arsenal, going to church every Sabbath and praying for the Armageddon. Time to get in there and Kick some serious A$$! We got us a Casus Bellie!

    “Top of the world, Ma!” link to

  5. I believe we (the US) are itching to get involved militarily in a more direct way than we already are; all for geopolitical reasons (Russian naval base and influence; remove threat against israel; weaken iran….)and not for humanitarian reasons. We will open another source of long term terror threat to ourselves.

  6. There is a really awful worst case scenario here. The Syria conflict directly engages the Sunni-Shiite tension in the region, threatening to a) ramp up confrontation between the Sunni-dominated Arab states (notably SA) and Iran, and b) to help pull Iraq apart, which would feed back very strongly into (a). The extent and horrors of what might ensue can scarcely bear contemplation. That does not, however, provide any evident suggestion as to what to do about the whole mess. Any serious outside intervention could just make matters worse. I doubt Turkey wants to see NATO start bombing the Syrian army.

  7. Erdogan got along fine with Bashar until recently.

    I suspect that the quid pro quo for the Turks, in taking their new harder line vs. Syria, is that the USA will shop the Kurds. With the Iraq War wound down and the Iraqi state weakened for a long time to come, the Kurds are no longer important to the USA.

  8. Let’s take a moment and reflect on our interventions during the past ten years….OK now imagine our troops being the guy who breaks up a fight between a husband and wife, only to have them both turn on him.

    Just for starters, who are we going to support. Who will replace Assad? What kind of military intervention would it be and how long…especially if the Kagans do the pre and post war planning.

    • Which one is the wife and which one is the husband?

      America has moved to a different level. America are the people who watch a man being beaten, then strip him naked and steal everything the man has – while cheering. This is not isolated, it is how Americans are now.. whether it is in the physical sense, or in the psychological sense. American is all about self interest and using who and what one can.

      As German said several years ago, Europe use to look up to America as being ethical, they no longer do because Americans can be bought.

  9. The United States should not intervene militarily except as authorized via a duly-enacted United Nations Security Council resolution. This may not be easy, however, given the veto power of the permanent members.

    Merely supplying covert military aid may not be enough for the Free Syrian Army, as it was insufficient in Libya where air power turned the tide against the Qaddafi regime.

    A big question is whether or not the State Departrment and CIA will have a “ready-made” government flown into Syria as they tried to do with Iraq via the Iraqi National Congress. That is the key. Overthrowing a government is only half the battle for the U.S., they must then, in the turmoil, emplace an authority that will stabilize the country and be friendly to U.S. interests. Like Pinochet in Chile, Marcos in the Phillippines, the Shah in Iran, and Violeta Chamorro in Nicaragua.

    The U.S. established a $500,000,000.00 intelligence base network in Irag shortly after Saddam Hussein was ousted. The U.S. will expect some major concessions by a post-Assad regime if they render significant assistance to the Free Syrian Army.

    A major beneficiary of American involvement in this civil war would, of course, be Israel. Syria fought two bloody conflicts with Israel and technically continues to remain in a state of war with that nation. A demilitarized Golan Heights and a treaty of peace would be boon to the State of Israel and would hamper Hezbollah’s ability to rearm and provide diplomatic support for.

    The U.S, should think long and hard whether or not to aid the Free Syrian Army, and if so, define the scope of such support in clear and well-defined terms to express to the American people.

    • Too bad that you put aside SNC.
      Considering your statement that the free Syria country would strengthen Israel, one must ask do Arab countries in the zone need to be under the boots of a dictator to be able to fight their enemies? Are you implying that the Arab population is not civilized enough?
      My thoughts are now toward CCCP in WW2, when in order to gain some momentum against the Germans, Stalin was forced to give some rights to the people and reform the Army. I don’t recall any recent large scale war that has been won by an Army driven with iron fist.
      There are words that sustain qute the opposite, in the sense that the democratic Syria would be more of an enemy to Israel with its economics power than it was as military stronghold till now.

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