Syrian civilians deserve protection from murder, but bombing won’t deliver it. Efforts to protect civilians through military action have a checkered history that reveals a fundamental truth: their success depends on whether they reinforce a political plan. From the creation of safe havens for Kurds in northern Iraq in 1991 to the campaign that ousted Muammar el-Qaddafi in Libya in 2011, effective interventions support diplomacy; they don’t replace it…
What’s missing is a political effort to seek peace. No talks are scheduled. The regional power brokers — Qatar, Saudi Arabia and Turkey, which support the rebels, and Iran, which backs Syria’s president, Bashar al-Assad — are at odds. American military action without a peace process involving all actors would only intensify the two-year-old war.
That’s from Alex de Waal and Bridget Conley-Zilkic of Tufts University. It is worth noting that the Obama has articulated a strategic purpose of this strike, it just has little to do with bringing the sides closer to the negotiating table. The strategy underlying a military strike, as John Kerry ably explained this week, is to punish the Syrian government for using chemical weapons, and therefor deter their future use and enforce a global norm against the use of chemical weapons. That is a laudable goal.
But it is not a strategy to end the conflict.
So what could end the conflict? At the very least there needs to be a peace process. At the very least that means adversaries who are supporting opposing sides of this conflict need to convince their clients to lay down their arms. And at the very least this means that countries like the USA and Saudi Arabia are going to need to speak directly to Iran and Russia.
So does the USA care enough about ending this conflict (as opposed to simply containing the use of chemical weapons) that it may be willing to sit across the table from Iran? The total lack of discussion in Congress this week about diplomatic solutions to the Syria crisis suggests not.