Pressure for intervention grows.

12 Nov

On November 10, the Telegraph reported that British Prime Minister David Cameron, to the surprise and dismay of the U.S. and other allies, has openly supported arming the Free Syrian Army. In addition, British General Sir David Richards also recently stated that it is possible that the UK may decide to intervene in Syria sometime within the next several months. Thus, the British government appears to be gradually pressing for some sort of intervention in Syria.

In my view, growing support for intervention has resulted from the re-election of President Obama as well as growing regional concerns about the Syrian conflict. Given the opposition of the American public towards American involvement in overseas military conflicts, it is unsurprising that President Obama has refused to support intervention in Syria. Nevertheless, due to his re-election last week, the president faces fewer political constraints. As a result, this provides an opportunity for the PM Cameron to pressure his American counterpart to support and lead an intervention in Syria.

Moreover, worsening regional problems have further increased pressure to intervene overall. According to the AFP, thousands of Syrians fled to Turkey on Friday and the number of Syrian refugees in Turkey has grown to over 120,000. In addition, a regime warplane attacked a town close to the Turkish border and the Israeli military shelled the Syrian army. This comes after reports that a shell flew from Syria and landed near Israeli military units in the Golan Heights. With growing regional problems, there are increasing concerns of instability in the already-volatile region. As analyst Barak M. Seener has warned in a CNN column, allowing the slaughter in Syria to continue- especially with passive policies- will only result in greater insecurity and worsening tensions. Altogether, the risks of regional spillover and escalating problems provides greater impetus for intervention itself.

Nevertheless, the question is now whether such pressure for intervention will succeed. I believe that it eventually will, but such efforts will take at least a few months. Currently, President Obama and Congress are focusing their resources on debating how to address the so-called Fiscal Cliff. That debate could take months to resolve. Just as important, U.S. Ambassador Ford has reportedly stated that intervention is still unlikely and the American response to Cameron’s statements has been very negative thus far. So, it will be difficult for PM Cameron to successfully persuade President Obama to support intervention in Syria.

Still, I do not think U.S. support for intervention is impossible or improbable. First, as mentioned by Jonathan Landsay of McClatchy, regional spillover may force the Obama Administration to intervene due to the undesirable and dire consequences of increased instability, which is continuing to worsen. Furthermore, international pressure for intervention is expected to continue to grow. Last Wednesday, the Turkish government requested NATO to provide Patriot Missiles and Turkey and France have been vocal about safe zones in the past. The British government has also stated that it will help the FSA become more organized. Finally, analyst Randa Slim has stated that she expects Arab nations to press the Obama administration to support intervention. Altogether, I think that these factors- along with fewer political constraints on the president- will eventually force the Obama administration to act on Syria. However, given the President’s reluctance and focus on domestic issues, it will likely take months for the administration to support and lead an intervention effort. Unfortunately, due to the continual slaughter and increasing regional insecurity,many more Syrians will be dead and the region itself will likely be even more unstable by the time that President Obama chooses to act on Syria (which I believe he will, albeit reluctantly).

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