Thursday, September 05, 2013

Five Rules to Guide Syria Policy

  1. Don't let Iran win the Syrian civil war
  2. Don't fall into the trap of being the World Police. Athens, Constantinople, Rome, and England already tried that
  3. No matter which Syrian faction you choose to ally with, 75% of the country will hate and resent and fight you. Don't pick sides
  4. Because of #2, the only acceptable justification for intervention is on humanitarian grounds
  5. Syrian peace is not a vital US interest. It IS a vital interest of Syria's neighbors: Lebanon, Jordan, Iran, Iraq, Turkey, Saudi Arabia, UAE, and (gasp) Israel. They are getting flooded with refugees. They are at risk of receiving SCUDs. They are at risk of spill-over instability. They should lead any intervention. They should build humanitarian supply/evacuation lines. They should host any refugees (humanely). To the extent they don't want to participate, they should fund intervention. If they lack specific technical capabilities, they should request US assistance. The UN, thanks to Russia and China is useless. Don't waste your time with that
It may very well be that the best response is, until five-way peace agreements are signed, a total economic, commercial, and travel embargo of the country, supplemented by an oil-for-food style humanitarian plan, led and executed by Syria's neighbors.

Turkey, the UAE, and Saudi Arabia in particular are vying for recognition that they have "turned a corner" from their insular, murky, iron-fisted past into first-world regional powers. They should view the current situation as a grand opportunity to demonstrate they are world-class by acting world-class.

Rule #3 aside, and broader than the Syrian civil war, is the Kurd issue. Creating a Kurdish state or independent self-administered region would create stability and solve numerous simmering conflicts all at once. Kurdish regions of Turkey, Syria, and Iraq have proven largely stable, predictable, and trustworthy. They are able to generate relatively stable governance structures and effective economic activity even under very poor circumstances. Turkey, Iraq, and Syria need to mature their approach from current passive-aggressiveness to acknowledging that current borders simply don't reflect the cultural and national landscape. There is something for each of them to gain by ceding political control, economic control, and even territory in the interest of furthering regional peace and stability. While any mideastern solution seems to cause 20 new mideastern conflicts, this one might be a risk worth taking.

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