Saturday, March 2, 2013

Syria & the 'Diplomatic Fudge'

From the UAE: 
"...President Barack Obama has refused to lift the arms embargo on the Syrian factions, on the basis of a simple political calculation: if US arms ended up in the hands of the jihadists, it would be far more damaging to him in the eyes of US voters than two more years of civil war in Syria.
After much lobbying by the Free Syrian Army, it is now likely to receive some "non-lethal" support - training, vehicles and body armour. This is a typical diplomatic fudge: enough to show support for the FSA, while not risking any American lives or the possibility of weapons ending up in the wrong hands.
If this judgement seems cynical, it is by and large shared by the Europeans. The FSA has not earned full confidence either in its effectiveness or morality. In the city of Aleppo, which is largely in rebel hands, the FSA are known as the "bread stealers".
Given the financial backing enjoyed by the Islamists, it is quite likely that sophisticated weapons given to the FSA could be sold to jihadists

The regime may have its back to the wall, but the situation could have been far worse. Few commentators had expected Mr Al Assad still to be in power almost two years after the start of the uprising. He has made some territorial gains - the city of Homs is now safe enough for the regime to escort foreign journalists there. He enjoys the strong support of Iran, while the western powers do not trust their allies. American military calculations are overshadowed by the prospect of deep Pentagon budget cuts made necessary by the mounting federal debt burden.
The strength of the jihadists in rebel ranks only complicates western calculations. Policy-makers cannot see Syria as an island on its own. What effect would a hard-line Sunni Muslim regime in Damascus have on Syria's neighbours? For Iraq, it would be a springboard for anti-Shia revanchist forces.
The feeling that America's hands are tied has spurred the regime to use its missiles against civilian targets in Aleppo, including in one strike that killed more than 140 people last week. This is a dangerous tactic: such outrages in past conflicts have inflamed public opinion in the West and forced governments to act. But the regime clearly feels that fatigue has set in, and they can use their heavy weapons with impunity. That may not always be the case.
Efforts are meanwhile under way to convene the first peace talks in Moscow between the opposition and representatives of the regime. But it is not clear to what extent the leader of the Syrian Opposition Coalition, Moaz Al Khatib, represents fighters on the ground. Until the opposition forces coalesce, or at least form a recognisable coalition, the chances of meaningful negotiation are vanishingly slim..."

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