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Why there will be no foreign military intervention in Syria

Despite the apparent failure of the meeting in Geneva over the weekend and a new Human Rights Watch report of widespread torture by the regime of Bashar al-Assad, a foreign military intervention in Syria is unlikely. In fact, there is reason to doubt that Washington really wants Assad to fall.

By John Hubbel Weiss / July 3, 2012

A girl chants during a demonstration against the regime of Bashar al-Assad in Idlib, north Syria. Op-ed contributor John Hubbel Weiss argues that the conditions for a foreign military intervention don't exist in Syria as they did in Libya. (The Associated Press is unable to independently verify this citizen journalism image provided by the Local Coordination Committees in Syria.)



Ithaca, N.Y.

Last weekend’s international conference in Geneva seeking agreement on a path to resolving the crisis and escalating violence in Syria produced vague proposals for a transition government unlikely to go anywhere but Kofi Annan’s personal archive. Despite this failure, new Human Rights Watch reports of systematic torture by the Assad regime, and the continuing call for intervention from many activists, including the Free Syrian Army, it is unlikely that there will be any armed foreign intervention in Syria as there was in Libya.

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The tactical situation in Libya made intervention relatively easy: Essentially all that was needed to prevent a massacre of civilians in Benghazi was to interdict Muammar Qaddafi’s forces along a single road running eastward along the Mediterranean shore to that city. This was done, and lives were saved. Such a situation does not exist in Syria, where the planes or missiles would have to attack formations surrounding many cities and towns as well as locate the bases of the less visible government-sponsored militias.

Whereas Libya’s regime was unpopular with just about everybody in the Arab world and the West, Syria – and the regime of Bashar al-Assad – is Russia’s last remaining ally in the region as well as the most important ally of Iran.

Various international agreements made since 1945 might seem to give legitimacy to international intervention, specifically to attempts to give effective aid to victims attacked by the Syrian government and its militias.

Chapter VII of the UN charter authorizes “such action by air, sea, or land forces as may be necessary to maintain or restore international peace and security.” French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius invoked this provision in mid June 13 when he said France would push the UN Security Council to enforce Kofi Annan’s peace plan and ceasefire. A probable ongoing Russian veto in the Security Council makes such a resolution unlikely to be adopted.


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