FPI Bulletin: Syria Needs Intervention—Not Another Annan Plan

July 3, 2012

From FPI Executive Director Jamie M. Fly and Policy Analyst Evan Moore

As the regime of Syrian dictator Bashar al-Assad continues to slaughter civilians—by some accounts, 800 people were killed last week, pushing the estimated death toll since March 2011 up to as many as 16,500—world powers met last weekend in Geneva, Switzerland, to discuss former U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan’s latest plan to end the crisis in Syria.  Although the so-called “U.N. Action Group” of nine nations called for the formation of a national unity government in Syria, Russia and China, unsurprisingly, blocked the group from demanding that Assad step down.

Kofi Annan’s plans for Syrian stability have hinged on the implementation of a ceasefire throughout the country.  However, it is highly unlikely that the Assad regime will stop its murderous campaign, given the failure of Annan’s previous initiative to enact such a truce, and the prior failure of similar efforts led by the Arab League.

It is clear that any lasting resolution to the ongoing crisis in Syria will not be possible if China and Russia are involved.  The United States must recognize that the only path forward is to fully support the Syrian people in their struggle to rid themselves of Assad.

The Obama administration should put policies into place that will leave no doubt in Assad’s mind that he cannot kill his way into survival.  To that end, it should make every effort, if it is not already doing so, to identify the key leaders of the Syrian opposition so as to have reliable information as to which parties the United States can support, as the Institute for the Study of War’s Elizabeth O’Bagy has argued.  Additionally, the United States should provide a full range of lethal and non-lethal assistance, and establish and protect safe zones for civilians within Syrian territory, as the Foreign Policy Initiative and Foundation for Defense of Democracies have repeatedly recommended.

As the death toll in Syria steadily climbs, and initiative after initiative has ended in failure, a bipartisan consensus in the U.S. Senate is emerging regarding the need for the United States to take meaningful action to end the Assad regime.  Senators John McCain (R-AZ), Lindsey Graham (R-SC), John Kerry (D-MD), Joe Lieberman (ID-CT), and Marco Rubio (R-FL) have all noted the need for stronger U.S. leadership on this important issue.  Like-minded lawmakers should bolster these Senators’ brave voices, and constructively criticize the administration’s “lead from behind” Syria policy, so as to lend support for policies that will truly hasten the end of the Assad regime, and ensure the instability and chaos does not spread to Syria’s neighbors and imperil America’s interests even further.

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The Foreign Policy Initiative seeks to promote an active U.S. foreign policy committed to robust support for democratic allies, human rights, a strong American military equipped to meet the challenges of the 21st century, and strengthening America’s global economic competitiveness.
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