"Chemical Deal on Syria is "Kicking the Can Down the Road" 세계 國際 World


http://www.brookings.edu/research/interviews/2013/09/17-chemical-deal-syria-shaikh

Chemical Deal on Syria is "Kicking the Can Down the Road"

With violence in Syria going on unabated, killing civilians right and left and displacing hundreds of thousands every month, the major powers are cheering a diplomatic breakthrough they secured with Russia, the main backer of the Syrian regime, to destroy the country's sizeable chemical arms stockpile.

The Syrian opposition and its allies gave the deal a cold shoulder, arguing that it doesn't address the need to end the violence in the country. The deal also largely lifted the possibility of US-led strikes on Syria.

To talk about these issues, Today's Zaman spoke with Salman Shaikh. After working for nearly 10 years with the UN, Shaikh has become the director of the Brookings Doha Center and a fellow at the Saban Center for Middle East Policy. His research primarily focuses on international relations in the Middle East, with a particular focus on Gulf countries and the Levant. He is especially known with his work on Syria since the Syrian crisis began.

According to Shaikh, the arms deal is very telling regarding the credible threat of the use of force and how it can be effective, but he recommends a strategy that combines the military, diplomatic, political and even the humanitarian sides of the issue.

He praised Turkey's role in backing the Syrian opposition and encouraged Ankara to continue supporting the Supreme Military Council's leader, Salim Idris, helping his efforts and closing all the other channels.

Shaikh is also hopeful about the Syrian crisis, despite many failed diplomatic attempts and the opposition's failure to bring down the regime of Syrian President Bashar al- Assad. “It's never too late,” he says. “Even as Assad tries to tear apart the social fabric of Syrian society, Syrians are still trying to put it back together.”

What do you think about the chemical weapons deal agreed to on Saturday between US Secretary of State John Kerry and Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov?

On the face of it, it is an achievement. Only a week ago, nobody would have expected this. It is possible that Assad will resort to delaying tactics and the situation will get complicated again. In a way, this deal could be another case of "kicking the can down the road" and we might have to deal with the Syrian crisis again six months later. The deal also is very telling about the credible use of force threat and how it can be effective. Though my expectation is that this deal will intensify the conflict on the ground, just as we witnessed after the first Geneva meeting.

Another important aspect of the deal is that it relies on Assad and his remaining in power. In a way it's a rehabilitation of the Assad regime and the US is accepting doing business with Assad.


DEALING WITH THE REPORT

How will this deal affect the UN report on the Aug. 21 chemical weapon attack east of Damascus?

This deal in a way pre-empts the report. The report was going to point the finger at Assad as the actor behind the attack and could have galvanized more forceful action against him. Now, we are already accepting a way forward with his regime with this deal. The deal in a way deflates any effort to really build a coalition against the Assad regime following the report.

What would the ideal diplomatic solution be for the Syrian crisis?

We need a strategy that involves the military, diplomatic, political, and even the humanitarian side. And we need tactics that first and foremost would express clear goals to pressure and coerce the Assad regime and building a coalition for enforcement if necessary. Actually, this whole chemical weapons issue has shown that to us in a certain way, even if we stumbled upon it. To a point, US President Barack Obama expressed a clear goal, then he put a credible threat of force on the table and tried to build the international coalition around it and we started to see something. The president didn't succeed in all of those, but nevertheless I think it was a very important lesson about how to deal with the Syrian crisis moving forward. But President Obama still is very confused when it comes to Syria.

Why is he confused?

He doesn't want to own Syria. He is trying to manage the effects of it when it comes to the US' own core national interests and its key allies. But you have to know that you can't manage the Syrian situation, you have to help resolve it.

Some argue that Obama doesn't trust his advisers.

Many have observed that this administration doesn't have foreign policy thinkers with the deep experience that other administrations had. If you look around, there is some truth to that thought. But, this is very much about President Obama, in terms of how he makes decisions; it is about his world view, which is greatly shaped by the Iraq and Afghanistan wars and working through international norms. Also, the president is deeply driven by domestic politics. But he has a big problem, in that Syria comes at a very inconvenient time for him. The challenges posed [by Syria] now impact national interests, whether it is to do with regional allies, radicalization in the region, chemical weapons falling to the wrong hands, or the security of Israel. All of these things matter to the US now as priorities.

Many have argued from the beginning that there is no core national interest in Syria for the US and that it should not get involved. Yeah, sure. There have been those patting themselves on the back and somehow they thought they were managing to stay out of it. But again, for the reasons I mentioned, time has shown that these national security interests have been impacted by events in Syria. People like us pretty much recognized these from the outset. Why? Because the Syrians were warning us. I remember two-and-a-half years ago, Syrian tribal leaders were telling me, ‘If you don't help us try to get rid of Assad, the extremists will come back.' Who can guarantee that the chemical weapons will not fall into the wrong hands now? All of Syria's borders are compromised. So, we are not speculating, the experiences of the past 30 months give us very clear evidence. And this also gives added credibility to our point that if you allow it to continue for another 30 months, it will get worse. And I really do believe, looking ahead, that this Syrian issue has the ability to take this presidency to a complete train wreck.


GREATEST OPPORTUNITY MISSED BY THE U.S.

What would you say was the biggest opportunity that the US missed regarding Syria?

One obvious tactical one is that the president was going against the advice of his whole national security team (advice to arm the Syrian opposition) at about this time last year. If they had tried to train them, 20,000 or 30,000 members of the Syrian opposition, helped them create a central command structure, particularly from the south of Syria, the momentum of the Syrian opposition would have been very different. And our fears about who these opposition groups are would have been very different.

What is your expectation from the latest efforts at the UN?

I think that the Americans and Russians both would like to see the two Geneva processes come together and form a larger, comprehensive strategy. I think that this chemical offer is good and consists of an important set of meetings. I think we will know quickly whether everyone is working seriously towards what is agreed, that being that Assad voluntarily giving up the chemical weapons. By the way, in any inspection regime, the inspectors should not go hunting around for the weapons; Assad must voluntarily give them up.

In case of a military strike, some have argued that it could spark WW III.

A lot of that is posturing. It's about all of those big states finding a certain strong position and the lead up to that. I think that privately, even the Iranians were quietly very worried about Assad. Assad has always said, ‘Either me or chaos.' So he doesn't want to go quietly. In case of a military strike, he wants to up the ante even further. That of course, could have spiraling consequences in neighboring states such as Turkey, Jordan, Iraq, and Lebanon. They could all face backlash. Though I don't see it happening in such an automatic way as Assad and the Russians wanted us to believe.

Justice and Development Party (AK Party) officials have been strongly criticized for their Syrian policy. What would you advise them?

I would encourage them to continue supporting the Supreme Military Council's leader, Salim Idriss, help his efforts and close all other channels. There was a time that Turkey turned a blind eye to all sorts of other support to other groups in Syria. Turkey can play a role, ensuring that there is one channel of support to the military opposition and in my view that would be the Idriss channel.

I think Turkey has taken some steps in that direction in last few months, particularly on the advice of the Americans.

I believe Turkey has given very commendable support to the political opposition and that Turkey and regional states have a very important role in shaping what comes next in Syria. In this respect, I believe Turkey, along with other key states like Saudi Arabia, Jordan, Qatar and the United Arab Emirates have a very important role in fostering and encouraging intra-Syrian dialogue. I think that the opposition hasn't presented itself as a credible alternative. Simply, the most influential figures in the Alawite, Christian and Druze communities have not joined. It is a challenge; we should get them to engage in this sort of discussion for the future of Syria.

Who should coordinate the dialogue efforts among the Syrians?

I think the UN should have done it. United Nations and Arab League Envoy to Syria Lakhdar Brahimi focused on and spent his energy on the big diplomatic and strategic game between the Russians and the Americans. I think, at the end of the day, it has to be a Syrian-led process. For whatever reason, the political opposition looks too Sunni to many other Syrians and is backed by other Sunni states. It's not capitalizing on the diversity of Syrians. I think one of the biggest failures of the opposition is that it has not managed to wrestle with the narrative of Syria as a secular state, away from Assad. Assad still talks about being the guardian of the minorities and the secular state. Whereas, in reality he is lying and he is the principal actor in the sectarian strife there. What you need is to find an effective power-sharing formula in which the majority of Syrians be included, keeping the Syrian state together. That kind of vision is what has been missing.


NEVER TOO LATE FOR SYRIA

Do you think it's too late for Syria?

No. It's never too late. Even as Assad tries to tear apart the social fabric of Syrian society, Syrians are still trying to put it back together. National reconciliation efforts have to start today, in my view. Why wait? My best hope is that the regional states and the West will support and create a protected space for this kind of activity to take place. I warned last summer that Syria was crumbling when I wrote “Losing Syria." What I have been impressed by is how Syrians still think “Syria first,” despite all the bloodletting and sectarian overtones. It's not going to be the same Syria that was run by a small minority again. There is going to be a big change. But that change will have to come through negotiations for a Syria that is at peace with and doesn't threaten its neighbors. I think it's also in the key regional neighbors' interests to support this.

How much do you think the radicals dominate on the ground?

I think it's irresponsible to say that these people are incapable of creating problems. But at the same time, we won't know their exact strength until we really start supporting Syrian communities, both on the military side as well as with rebuilding efforts.

I always thought that extremism and Syrians are like oil and water; they don't mix. Now, the terrible experiences of this conflict and the slaughter inflicted by the Assad regime have made people more and more desperate. And a more permissive climate for extremism has been created. However, look what's taking place on the ground today, people are running away from extremism. This should be an important indicator for us; given the right support that these people obviously need, these communities will turn and in fact, fight against the extremists. But without that support, you will see continuing radicalization of the opposition.

How likely do you think it will be if the regime falls that the Syrian state will be taken over by radicals?

You know what I fear more than that? Total chaos and continued conflict. That's the biggest enemy we have now. In the case of continued chaos, we will have pockets and maybe larger areas, where radicals will be the first to take control. We already see that. We have radicals in places like Hasakah, Der Zour and Raqqa where they control the area, they have their own sources of revenue through oil in conflict with the regime and they are the ones who do the relief efforts, by and large. What we have seen over the last six months that increasingly that there is a three-way conflict inside Syria [Syrian moderate fighters, radicals and the regime]. That will continue and worsen where we have a situation in which we don't give enough support to the Syrian population and help them organize their affairs and give them arms and aid and whatever they need in order to build a minimum national force.


LOOKING AT ANKARA FROM DOHA

How do Ankara's policies look from Doha?

Turkey certainly has lots of more problems than it did a couple of years ago. And the main reason for that is certainly the Syrian crisis. The way the Syrian regime handled change within the country it affected all neighboring countries, including Turkey. But of course, the vocal position of Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan has led Turkey to also become part of the story and made it kind of a lightning rod for criticism from inside the Middle East. This is nowhere more clear than in the Egyptian case today. Some wonder if this is the wisest thing for Turkey to do, especially when its success so much depended on its economic progress and its ability to do business with everybody.

Some criticized Ankara for its support for the Syrian armed opposition.

I think the criticism I have of Turkey is that it was too selective in the Syrians it worked with. This also contributed the Syrian opposition being too narrow. Turkey is not alone in that, other states can also be criticized for that. I know there is debate in Turkey that this policy exposed Turkey to all sort of risks. But you know, I think Turkey should be proud for standing on the right side of history. Even though Assad was a friend to Ankara and they tried to use persuasion with him at first, they had the guts to oppose Assad in order to stand by the Syrian people. Now the challenge for Turkey is to support all Syrians and let Syrians decide their own future. That's a difficult balancing act because there is a great temptation to try to shape the outcome.

Many argue that the AK Party supported revolutions in the region, including in Syria, because of their Muslim Brotherhood roots. Does Ankara look like a version of the Muslim Brotherhood in the Middle East?

Turkey looks more and more like a principal supporter of the Muslim Brotherhood. That might not be the actual truth, but its vocal protestations about what has been going on, particularly in Egypt, have attracted a lot of attention. Compared to the quieter reaction from the Qataris, who are originally and principally associated with the Brotherhood.


"#JamesFoley's parents speaking @Channel4News amazingly dignified and expressive. I guess they made 세계 國際 World



  1. 오후 12:15 - 2014년 8월 26일 · 자세히
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    has been the most dangerous country in the world for journalists for 2 years running

  • 오전 11:46 - 2014년 8월 26일 · 자세히
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    Revolutionaries are not mercenaries to give up their cause due to difficulties whatsoever. They do know well that RIGHT IS MIGHT.

  • 오전 11:40 - 2014년 8월 26일 · 자세히
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    : An uncle confirms to 's that American Douglas McCain was killed in , fighting as a jihadi.

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    Breaking: American from CA killed fighting as jihadi in , uncle tells Douglas MacArthur McCain was 33

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  • 오전 11:22 - 2014년 8월 26일 · 자세히
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    's parents speaking amazingly dignified and expressive. I guess they made him the brave journalist he was.

  • 오전 11:05 - 2014년 8월 26일 · 자세히 신고됨 (더 알아보기)
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    "Islamic State was born in 2006. It’s not yesterday’s creation. This was a product of the Iraq War."

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    Current regime defense minister taking fall for capture of Tabqa air base by , being called "minister of death" by loyalists

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    A child walking with the head of a beheaded man in - thank you, Islamic State for your barbarism.....

  • 오전 7:45 - 2014년 8월 26일 · 자세히
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    US President authorises surveillance flights over to monitor Islamic State (IS) activities


  • "Around the Halls: U.S. Foreign Policy and Syria 세계 國際 World

    http://www.brookings.edu/blogs/up-front/posts/2013/06/28-syria-us-foreign-policy-riedel-doran-byman-shaikh

    Around the Halls: U.S. Foreign Policy and Syria

    Damaged cars are seen near a screen erected to protect against snipers loyal to Syria's President Bashar al-Assad, at the al-Khalidiya neighbourhood of Homs June 28, 2013

    As international pressure toward the escalating crisis Syria grows, Brookings experts held a candid conversation about U.S. foreign policy options for Syria, including the option of arming the rebels. Below is an edited transcript of these remarks from Bruce Riedel, Michael Doran, Daniel Byman and Salman Shaikh.

    Bruce RiedelBruce Riedel 
    Director, The Intelligence Project, Senior Fellow, Foreign Policy ProgramSaban Center for Middle East PolicyCenter for 21st Century Security and Intelligence

    Little noticed in the media is that the congressional intelligence committees have rejected the administration’s plans to arm the opposition. And the opposition is bipartisan. The CIA has been told to come back with a better plan or it gets no funding. Without congressional approval and funding, no guns.

    The only person who can bring some order and direction here is Susan Rice. Without a strong APNSA [national security adviser] with the support of the president, Syria policy will drift between the desire to stay out at all costs and the desire to do something.

    In Afghanistan, it took 12 years to go from a policy of paying the ISI [Pakistan's Directorate for Inter-Services Intelligence] to arming the rebels to paying the ISI to get the arms back from the rebels. In Syria, I doubt it will take 12 months.


    Michael DoranMichael Doran 
    Senior Fellow, Foreign Policy ProgramSaban Center for Middle East Policy

    We're going back to the 1920s—withdrawal inward.

    I am worried about the lack of leadership—on both sides. Sen. McCain's vision, which moves me personally, does not resonate in today's political climate. We have no Reagan on the Republican side presenting a counter picture that forces Obama to play a greater leadership role.

    I am not inclined to see the military as adamantly opposed to robust policy on Syria as some have suggested. The military would be less obstructionist if the president did not project a deep desire to stay away from Syria.

    I am more concerned by attitudes on the Hill, particularly on the Republican side, where a kind of neo-isolationism is taking hold. Those of us who believe we must remain deeply engaged in this region have our work cut out for us.

    One of the really striking things about this conflict— and one of the reasons I don't shut up about it—is the drift toward American involvement. Consider this striking set of facts: here we have a president who very obviously does not want to do anything. And we also have a public opinion that is fully supportive of him. So bipartisan is public opinion on this issue that Sarah Palin and Andrew Sullivan actually agree about it. (There is only one other statement that the two of them agree on and it is this: bad people suck.) Add to this fact we have a military that on some level and for some reason shares Obama's reservations. And yet despite all of that, the Secretary of State (John Kerry!) is arguing for military strikes against Assad. This mix of executive wariness combined with a drift toward American action is amazing to me.

    My questions to the president would be: what's his plan to prevent a jihadi haven in Syria, and how's it going so far? And what's his plan to get the hundreds of thousands of refugees out of Jordan and back into their homes in Syria?


    Dan BymanDaniel Byman
    Senior Fellow, Foreign Policy Program, Director of Research, Saban Center for Middle East Policy

    I'm on the side of Congress on this one.

    As you all know, I've been pushing the "arm the opposition" approach for two years now, along with several of my esteemed colleagues. But there are two problems. First, it's not two years ago, it's now. A lot has happened in the interim that make the "arm the opposition" approach less likely to succeed. However, I still think it is worth trying for a variety of reasons, including having a horse in the game should Assad fall and Syria collapse into chaos. However, from what I can tell from leaks and press announcements, the Obama administration does not really have a coherent plan, and its approach risks becoming the worst of all worlds—putting U.S. prestige on the line and getting the U.S. mixed up in a confusing situation while not actually leading and putting enough resources in to change the situation on the ground fundamentally.

    It looks like Congress is skeptical that the administration has a plan, understands potential contingencies, has organized the bureaucracies, and has made a case to the American people. I'm skeptical too.

    I very much worry that in this case covert action, or “overt covert” as the old description goes, will become a substitute for policy. We will be doing something, but we’ll have no broader goals or framework. So our actions will become our policy and they’ll be unsupported politically and diplomatically—and have little support across most USG agencies.


    Salman ShaikhSalman Shaikh
    Director, Brookings Doha Center, Fellow, Foreign Policy Program, Saban Center for Middle East Policy

    The Obama administration has no real joined strategy or vision (as Dan points out) for Syria. Mike is right of course in asking how it can ensure its painfully limited national security goals. The administration has to understand that you cannot contain the effects of the Syria crisis, you have to work to resolve it. In particular, containing regional spillover is becoming harder and harder by the day. Syria and its neighborhood are not only facing a devastating humanitarian catastrophe, but an alarming resurgence of civil strife and the growing threat of terrorism.

    The administration's apparent answer—to fortify Jordan by deploying extra U.S. troops and military hardware—while needed, will not protect Jordan from the asymmetrical terror threat of extremism, whether jihadist or that initiated by the Assad regime. Rising sectarian conflict and the effect of paralysed and broken political systems in Lebanon and Iraq will likely embroil rather than insulate both countries armed forces. To think that increased U.S. technical support and hardware to these institutions can save the day, as the administration is reportedly working on, is wishful thinking. In Lebanon today, there is another political storm brewing among its leaders, this time about the decision to extend the term of the General Khawiji, the chief of staff of the Lebanese Army. In Iraq, 1.045 civilians and security personnel were killed only in May—the highest monthly death toll in years. And there is no end in sight.

    As the effects of this crises spiral out of control, it is likely that the Obama administration will have to get involved in the end, just in a much heavier (and potentially more damaging) way.


    "#Syria resembles a classic civil war that research suggests external intervention only prolongs, 세계 國際 World


    1. 오전 3:59 - 2014년 8월 19일 · 자세히
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      resembles a classic civil war that research suggests external intervention only prolongs, rather than resolves

  • 오전 3:54 - 2014년 8월 19일 · 자세히 신고됨 (더 알아보기)
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    Imagine world's reaction if those children, God forbid, were Israelis, Westerners, Christians or even Yazidis?

  • 오전 3:44 - 2014년 8월 19일 · 자세히 신고됨 (더 알아보기)
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    The whole word shook because of 3 Israeli teenagers. Thousands of Syrian children slaughtered mean nothing!

  • 오전 3:27 - 2014년 8월 19일 · 자세히 신고됨 (더 알아보기)
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    airstrikes have targeted the village of Howar al-Nahar in northern - captured by the Islamic State 3 days ago.

  • 오전 2:55 - 2014년 8월 19일 · 자세히
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    Today on World Humanitarian Day we stand in solidarity with the of . We honour their commitment and courage

  • 오전 2:22 - 2014년 8월 19일 · 자세히 신고됨 (더 알아보기)
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    Remembering like Mustafa Kulakçı,who died in a car accident in February, delivering aid in

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  • 오전 1:46 - 2014년 8월 19일 · 자세히 신고됨 (더 알아보기)
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    1000s Yezidis in refugee camp run by Syria Kurds YPG who rescued them from Mt Sinjar. Good PR coup 4 YPG

  • 오전 1:41 - 2014년 8월 19일 · 자세히 신고됨 (더 알아보기)
    " data-you-follow="false" data-you-block="false" style="position: relative; min-height: 51px; padding: 9px 12px; border-bottom-width: 1px; border-bottom-style: solid; border-bottom-color: rgb(225, 232, 237); cursor: pointer;">

    On World Humanitarian Day, we honour the courageous staff members in all our fields - particularly in & .

  • 오전 12:20 - 2014년 8월 19일 · 자세히
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    Most volunteers killed or captured in were carrying out humanitarian activities. All displaying the red crescent emblem.

  • 오전 12:16 - 2014년 8월 19일 · 자세히 신고됨 (더 알아보기)
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    The difficulty for the residents of besieged Eastern Ghouta to get water to their homes.

  • 오전 12:06 - 2014년 8월 19일 · 자세히
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    On this , we call on all parties to the conflict in to respect Red Crescent and Red Cross aid workers.

  • 오후 11:37 - 2014년 8월 18일 · 자세히
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  • 오후 11:30 - 2014년 8월 18일 · 자세히
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  • 오후 11:20 - 2014년 8월 18일 · 자세히 신고됨 (더 알아보기)
    " data-mentions="WFP" data-you-follow="false" data-you-block="false" style="position: relative; min-height: 51px; padding: 9px 12px; border-bottom-width: 1px; border-bottom-style: solid; border-bottom-color: rgb(225, 232, 237); cursor: pointer; background-color: rgb(245, 248, 250);">

    Remembering like 's Ayman Omar, who died in a car accident in July, delivering aid in



  • "Protecting Schools is an International Responsibility:From Aleppo to Northern Nigeria 세계 國際 World

    http://www.brookings.edu/blogs/education-plus-development/posts/2014/05/06-schools-international-responsibility-nigeria-jalbout-peterson

    Protecting Schools is an International Responsibility: From Aleppo to Northern Nigeria

    A girl reads verses from the Koran at a local Koranic school on the second day of the holy month of Ramadan in Nigeria's northern city of Kano July 21, 2012.

    The tragic irony that cost 17 students in an Aleppo school their lives last week must not be lost on the international community. When their school was bombed, they were preparing for an art exhibition depicting the horrors of war and their hopes for more peaceful times. Their art exhibition should have helped relieve some of their psychological stress and reinforced their resilience as survivors of three years of war. Instead, these children became the latest victims of targeted and unlawful attacks on school children in Syria.

    Attacks on education in Syria are rampant and among the highest in the world. Teachers and students have been targeted and schools have been bombed and taken over for military use. Only the day before the Aleppo school was bombed, another school in Damascus was struck, killing at least 14 people and wounding more than 80. Universities, schools and even nurseries have not been spared. In 2012 alone, the U.N. Security Council reported that more than 3,000 schools had been destroyed and more than 1,000 were used as shelters for internal refugees.

    Syria has become one of the most dangerous places for a child to live. At least 10,000 children have lost their lives since the conflict began. Nearly 3 million children are displaced and another 1.2 million have become refugees. At least 2 million Syrian children need psychosocial support—a critical role that can be played by schools serving displaced children inside Syria and refugees in neighboring countries.

    The ‘No Lost Generation’ campaign advocates that education and psychological protection for all Syrian children is in fact possible, but only with more investment from the international community. The international community has not lived up to its responsibility, especially toward the 3 million children who have no access to education. Rather than going to school, these children move about a warzone and are at an even greater risk of being victimized.

    In 2000, governments signed the UNESCO Dakar Framework for Action, which recognized the need to protect the right of children in conflict countries to access safe schooling.  However, not enough progress has been made since then and attacks on education globally are on the rise.  Grave violations against school children are being committed in 30 countries, with many of the worst offenses occurring in Afghanistan, Colombia, Pakistan, Somalia, Sudan and Syria between 2009 and 2012, as outlined in the 2014 Education Under Attack report.

    Despite the grim facts, there is an opportunity to act on current momentum. Since Malala Yousafzai captured the world’s attention with her remarkable resilience in 2011, attacks on schools such as the kidnapping of the 230 girls from a school in northern Nigeria by Boko Haram insurgents seem to receive heightened media coverage resulting in valuable global awareness.

    The Global Coalition to Protect Education from Attack is building on this global awareness and pushing for concrete action.  It is calling on states to finalize and endorse the Lucens Guidelines for Protecting Schools and Universities from Military Use during Armed Conflict. The guidelines, drawn from international humanitarian law and good practices for protecting schools, are a set of rules directed at both government forces and non-state armed groups in conflict countries.

    A sustained international effort is needed to finalize, endorse and most critically enforce the Lucens Guidelines. It is an important step toward honoring the 17 children who died in the Aleppo school and all children who become victims of violence simply because they were at school. It is also important for rebuilding the confidence of students and parents in the safety of schools, especially in conflict-affected countries, where half of all of the out-of-school children already live.  If the international community does not extend the support needed for access to safe schools, what hope do children in Syria or any other affected country have for building a more peaceful future?


    "Dynamic Stalemate: Surveying Syria's Military Landscape 세계 國際 World

    http://www.brookings.edu/research/papers/2014/05/19-syria-military-landscape-lister

    SERIESBrookings Doha Center Publications | No. 32 of 33« Previous | Next »

    Brookings Doha Center

    Dynamic Stalemate: Surveying Syria's Military Landscape

    The Syrian uprising has changed significantly since the first signs of localized armed resistance began emerging in late April 2011. Western states and regional countries opposed to President Assad’s rule failed to manage the formation of an organized and representative political and military opposition body over the past three years. Instead, fragmentation of first the opposition, and then the conflict as a whole, has come to pose numerous serious threats to regional and international security and stability.

    In a new Policy Briefing by the Brookings Doha Center, Charles Lister analyzes the Western-backed opposition, the spreading influence of jihadi militants, and the evolving capabilities of pro-government forces. With a definitive military victory seemingly out of reach for all sides of the conflict, Lister argues these parties will remain at a standoff until a political solution is reached. However, as armed groups multiply on either side, even an agreement between government and opposition will be unlikely to end the violence.

    Lister concludes that Western and regional countries should focus on two core policy objectives. First: the international community should bolster a cohesive opposition that can challenge the Assad regime in battle as well as in negotiations. Second: the international community should aid Syria’s neighbors in managing the violent spillover of the conflict, particularly curtailing the potential for Syria-based jihadi groups to expand their operations beyond the country.

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    "Between The Devil And The Deep Blue Sea: Syria Presents Iran's Moderates With Tough Choices 세계 國際 World

    http://www.brookings.edu/blogs/iran-at-saban/posts/2013/08/28-iran-rouhani-hedges-on-syria

    Between The Devil And The Deep Blue Sea: Syria Presents Iran's Moderates With Tough Choices

    Syria's President Bashar al-Assad and Iran's Parliament speaker Ali Larijani

    The world is not wasting any time in demonstrating to Iran's new president, Hassan Rouhani, the difficulties of navigating a moderate course within a region deeply engulfed in turmoil. The intensification of Syria's simmering horror, and the sudden urgency surrounding Western military intervention against the Islamic Republic's oldest ally, confronts Rouhani's embryonic administration with an excruciating dilemma: either distance Iran from Damascus — the regime’s only durable ally and its resupply route to Hezbollah and other proxy groups — or risk putting Tehran on the wrong side of a shooting war with Washington and Europe.

    How Tehran manages the Syrian crisis will reveal much about the current balance of power within Iran, and should signal whether Rouhani and the Islamic Republic's resurgent moderates can prevent a full-scale confrontation between the Islamic Republic and the world. Rouhani appears to be attempting to emulate some version of the compromise course adopted his ally and mentor, former president Ali Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani, who spearheaded official neutrality toward the American-led campaign to evict Saddam Hussein from Kuwait more than twenty years ago. However, the Syrian challenge is far more complex, and the prospects of a pragmatic Iranian approach this time around are far from certain.

    Rouhani’s initial posture suggests he appreciates the precarious implications of this phase of the Syrian conflict. The president, along with the rest of the leadership, has long insisted that culpability for the massive humanitarian costs of the conflict lies with the rebel forces and their foreign funders and supporters. And there have been strident warnings emanating from across the Iranian political spectrum against military action in Syria, with some threats of reprisals from Tehran.

    Still, Rouhani struck a somewhat surprising note with a statement reported on Saturday that placed new emphasis on the responsibility of the international community to prevent the use of chemical weapons in Syria. In case his point was missed, the official Twitter account associated with the president repeated the statements earlier this week. And when Foreign Minister, Mohammad Javad Zarif, met on Sunday with United Nations Undersecretary Jeffrey Feltman, the official Iranian media made much of his Feltman’s previous assignment as a senior State Department official.

    Trying to restrain the hard-liners who control Iran's security forces is hardly an appealing opening move for a president with limited powers and a long list of thorny problems already on his to-do list. But Rouhani can’t afford to allow Tehran to be implicated further in Asad's abhorrent crimes against his own people, or even worse — to drive the country headlong into a military confrontation with the world.

    After all, he sold himself to a wary Iranian electorate and an unsettled regime elite on promises to rehabilitate the country's economy and its reputation after eight years of acrimony and isolation spawned in large part by his predecessor Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. To deliver on these promises, Rouhani must find a way to mitigate the impact of the economic sanctions that have slashed Iran's oil exports and severed its connections to the international financial system. This means overcoming, if not wholly resolving, the protracted standoff over Iran's nuclear ambitions. For this objective, Syria is a dangerous distraction, and an issue on which the new president has no apparent mandate.

    Still, the new president and his advisors, especially Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif, are sophisticated enough to appreciate that a robust Iranian retaliation to any strike against the Syrian regime will effectively forfeit the very agenda that he was elected to advance. They know that rushing to the ramparts with anything more than just rhetoric on behalf of Bashar Asad will doom any possibility of a diplomatic resolution to Iran's nuclear impasse with the West. And by extension, it could easily pave the way for the worst nightmare of Iran's most paranoid hard-liners: military action against Iran itself.

    In dealing with Syria, Rouhani will have to walk a careful line. He needs to restrain Iran’s most dangerous actors and impulses, without wholly alienating them or provoking the kind of backlash that undid the reformist presidency of Mohammad Khatami. Once again, Rouhani may be tempted to take a page from another predecessor’s playbook – Hashemi Rafsanjani’s astute handling of the 1990 Iraqi invasion of Kuwait and the subsequent international effort to liberate Kuwait.

    This was, in some respects, an easier challenge to manage. Only two years after the Iran-Iraq cease-fire, Saddam Hussein remained Iran’s most potent threat. And his miscalculation in Kuwait brought immediate benefits for Tehran in the form of higher oil prices and a sudden Iraqi willingness to sign off concessions demanded by Tehran as part of the still-unfinished negotiations over the end of the Iran-Iraq war.

    Still, it also created intense new threats, such as the insertion of a half million American troops along its borders and the complications of the failed post-war Shi’a uprising. For that reason, Tehran inveighed against the prospect of an international invasion of Kuwait, and the opposition united the majority of the Iranian political elite at the time – both its conservatives and the radical leftists, who would eventually spawn the more liberal reform movement. Khamenei denounced both Washington and its regional allies in no uncertain terms: “It is necessary for us to inform the Muslim nations that we are strongly opposed to the American presence here…Utter shame on those governments who allow aggressive America to come here in pursuit of its own interests.”

    In 1991, Rafsanjani managed to push through a tacit compromise – fierce rhetoric but effective neutrality – served Rafsanjani’s domestic interests well. The oil price spike meant a new buoyancy for the Iranian economy, which bolstered the case for continuing Rafsanjani’s economic reform program. He gained much-needed traction that enabled him – temporarily, at least – to push forward his broader program of privatization and marginalize his left-wing adversaries.

    However, it’s worth noting that the careful course that Tehran navigated during the 1991 Gulf War limited the payoff. Despite general relief that Iranian policy had helped facilitate the U.S. victory, Iran’s virulent opposition to America’s massive military posture in the Gulf as well as its continued involvement with terror ensured that the bilateral estrangement remained intense.

    The Syrian crisis is infinitely more difficult for Rouhani than the Saddam’s Kuwaiti gambit proved for Rafsanjani. Damascus is a long-standing ally, and its preservation is key to maintaining Tehran's reach into the Levant. And this time around, Iran has other powers to lead the chorus of condemnation, most especially Moscow. Nonetheless, it’s not inconceivable that Iran's new president and the other pragmatists within the system can chart a similarly judicious course as his predecessor almost a quarter-century earlier.


    "U.S. Policymakers Must Understand, Avoid Sectarianism In The Middle East 세계 國際 World

    http://www.brookings.edu/blogs/iran-at-saban/posts/2014/05/21-middle-east-sectarianism-wittes

    U.S. Policymakers Must Understand, Avoid Sectarianism In TheMiddle East

    Iraqi forces walk past near a destroyed Sunni mosque during a patrol looking for militants from the al Qaeda faction, the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL), explosives and weapons in a neighbourhood in Ramadi (REUTERS/ Ali al-Mashhadani).

    Editor's Note: This interview with Tamara Cofman Wittes was originally published by The Fletcher Forum of World Affairs under the headline "The Politics of Sectarianism in the Middle East" on Tuesday, May 20, 2014.

    FLETCHER FORUM: Could you please tell us your overall impression of the sectarian violence in Syria and in the Middle East region?

    WITTES: Well, look, while there’s a sort of conventional wisdom that the Arab world is homogenous, it’s not. It’s diverse, not just in the sense that it has multiple religious communities in it, but it also has a multitude of ethnic communities in it. And as in any diverse society, there are sometimes tensions and conflicts.

    I don’t see sectarianism as driving the war in Syria, but it is certainly a dimension, and it’s one that political actors, both inside Syria and around the region, pick up on and use for their own purposes. And I think that’s exacerbated the extent to which the violence in Syria has become an identity conflict.

    You know, when I started out in political science, it was after the dissolution of Yugoslavia, and the ethnic conflict that was raging in the former Yugoslavia, and at that time there were a lot of people saying things like, “These people have been killing each other for hundreds of years!” And I hear a lot of the same things today about Sunni and Shia in the Arab world “these people have been killing each other for a millennium,” and I think that’s a very simplistic approach.  Sometimes they’ve been killing each other, but they’ve also been living together for a really long time and so you have to get beyond mere sectarian categories and understand the politics and the societal factors behind these kinds of conflicts.

    What I would say is groups on the ground fighting inside Syria are appealing for outside support on the basis of sectarian identity, and actors outside are looking at the conflict through the lens of sectarianism. So you have the Gulf Arab states on the one hand, and the Iranians on the other hand seeing the Syrian conflict as a proxy for this regional competition that has been ongoing for a long time, which you could define in sectarian terms as Sunni-Shia, or you could define it in realpolitik terms, as a struggle over the balance of power in the Middle East. So I think that sectarianism is one kind of label you could apply to this broader power competition. And I think the groups who are receiving assistance, reaching out to external actors for support, they see foreign patrons as allies, they see them as backers, as funders, as arms providers. So, you know, it’s a mutually beneficial interaction to be sure.

    FLETCHER FORUM: Thinking about the ongoing sectarian conflicts in the region, what concerns do they raise for U.S. foreign policy and perhaps, more generally, the global community?

    WITTES: First of all, from a policy perspective the United States is generally not very good at engaging, not very good at grasping conflicts that have significant identity components because we have a civic national identity. We don’t have an ethnic national identity, and though there are a lot of ethnic communities in the United States, that’s not how we define ourselves as a nation state, and so we don’t get that as well as some other countries. We tend to, in our public discourse, think of sectarian or ethnic conflict as somehow irrational, or primordial and, you know, if you could just get people to be rational, then you could resolve the conflict.  That’s just where we come from, that’s our history.

    If you understand ethnic and sectarian identity as one piece of political material that political leaders and political entrepreneurs pick up and use to mobilize people, just like others might pick up and use the minimum wage, then you can understand it in context and work on conflict management in a much more effective manner. So I think the challenge for Americans looking at these conflicts is to think about this as politics.

    FLETCHER FORUM: So how then, would you define American interests vis à vis sectarian divisions in the region?

    WITTES: Let me say a couple of things. First, different actors in the region have tried to pull the United States to one side or another of this sectarian divide, so to speak. When the United States overthrew Saddam Hussein in Iraq and oversaw the establishment of a Shia-led government, the Sunni Arab states were uncomfortable with that. And ever since, they’ve sought to impress upon the United States the desirability of having greater distance from that Shia-led government, and the desirability of seeing that Shia government in Iraq as essentially an ally of Iran. I think in Syria, too, you see pressure from Arab states to look at the Syrian conflict as they do, through a sectarian lens, and to pick sides in that broader regional sectarian conflict.

    For a global power with a complex mix of interests like the U.S., it’s neither necessary nor wise to come down on one side of that region-wide sectarian competition. And it’s important for the United States to understand that regional actors do see events in the region through that lens, but that doesn’t mean that we need to choose sides in that dispute.

    Also, the Arab world is going through a period of reconfiguration. A lot of political institutions that existed five years ago do not exist today. And other institutions are undergoing tremendous renovations. It’s not surprising that in those transitional conflicts, underlying social tensions, whether they’re about class or ethnicity or about sectarianism emerge as political conflicts. That’s a phenomenon to be expected in this transitional context, just as the argument between Islamists and secularists. But in all of these societies, because they’re living with the legacy of repressive authoritarianism, they don’t have a lot of good mechanisms for dialogue and dispute resolution. And whether you’re dealing with sectarianism or class differences, or Islamist-secularist differences, societies need mechanisms for dialogue and dispute resolution. And political institutions, once they are set up and legitimate, and well established, can serve that purpose. But in this interim period those institutions aren’t there, or aren’t prepared to do that.

    FLETCHER FORUM: In countries with major sectarian divisions like Syria, like Iraq, how would you assess the groups currently working to build institutions? 

    WITTES: Well I think that, again, these are societies with a heavy legacy of authoritarianism and central authority. And so civic activism is always pushing a rock uphill in that context. But if you are a government recognizing that your society is facing significant structural challenges, economic challenges the demographic challenge of finding productive employment for all these young people who are entering the labor market every year, government can’t solve those problems all by itself. Hopefully over time, governments come to see these civic organizations, these civic activists more and more as partners in the project of national development. I think there are some examples where that’s already happened with wonderful results. In the case of combating domestic violence in Jordan, you have very good partnerships today between the Jordanian government and Jordanian civil society organizations. But, you could see that more and more, there are lots of opportunities for that, I think.

    FLETCHER FORUM: Thanks for speaking with us today. Looking at your career, do you have any advice for people studying to enter the profession of international affairs and U.S. foreign policy?

    WITTES: Well, I think you’ve got to figure out what you’re passionate about, and go do it. I mean, for me one of the things that drove me into graduate school in international relations was seeing all of that simplistic commentary about the Balkan wars and thinking hey, there’s got to be something more sophisticated to explain this. And so I went into grad school wanting to understand that better, and wanting to get beyond that conventional wisdom. And I think you’ve just got to figure out what you’re passionate about understanding. And then go dig!


    "The State of Terror 536 427 530 We think of terrorist outfits like ISIS as nonstate actors.But what 세계 國際 World

    http://www.slate.com/articles/news_and_politics/foreigners/2014/06/isis_storms_across_iraq_what_would_a_jihadist_state_look_like.single.html

    The State of Terror

    We think of terrorist outfits like ISIS as nonstate actors. But what happens when terrorists carve themselves a state?

    ST_Iraq26
    Iraqi fleeing violence arrive in a makeshift camp at a Kurdish checkpoint in Kalak after the city of Mosul was overrun by ISIS militants, on June 12, 2014.

    Photo by Sebastiano Tomada/Getty Images

    As forces from the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria sweep across Iraq, conquering cities like Mosul and Tikrit, the Obama administration ispledging greater support for the Iraqi government. Yet even if the Iraqi army is able to stop ISIS’s advance on Baghdad, the violent jihadist group will likely retain control of vast swaths of Iraq and eastern Syria.

    In a matter of days, ISIS’s bold and effective fighting in the heartland of the Arab world may have made it the pre-eminent force in the Sunni jihadist movement. It has now arguably eclipsed al-Qaida leader Ayman al-Zawahiri and his Pakistan-based terrorist core in the eyes of potential recruits and funders. Indeed, unlike al-Qaida, ISIS is on its way to controlling a quasi-state, exercising de facto sovereignty over a territory, even if unrecognized by the international community. The territory already under its control is larger than Israel, and it is not some barren desert: It includes oilfields, electrical grids, prisons, small manufacturing centers, and the weapon depots abandoned by the Iraqi military, including arms provided by the United States. When ISIS fighters conquered Mosul, they seized the central bank—and its reported $425 million. By comparison, al-Qaida’s budget before 9/11 was about $30 million—and we called it rich.

    Everyone agrees an ISIS-controlled state could be deadly—but in what ways? We typically think of terrorist outfits like al-Qaida and ISIS as nonstate actors. But what does it mean when a nonstate actor carves itself a state?

    The disaster is worst for those unlucky enough to find themselves living under ISIS rule. The jihadist group’s extreme ideology calls for killing or subjugating not only Christians and Jews, but also many Muslims. Shiite Muslims, who make up a majority in Iraq, are particularly hated for their supposed apostasy, as are the Alawites who rule in Syria. ISIS also targets Sunni Muslims, if the group believes that they are insufficiently zealous or have collaborated with the United States or its allies, including the current Iraqi government. In Syria, ISIS members shot and thencrucified the bodies of their Muslim enemies, leaving their corpses to hang as warnings. Beheading is common. “Repent or die” is its motto. ISIS is so violent, al-Qaida leader Zawahiri disavowed the group in February, excoriating it for its brutality and attacks against other jihadist fighters. Half a million Iraqis fled Mosulas ISIS forces entered the city, and hundreds of thousands more will surely flee wherever ISIS goes.

    If it consolidates power in the territory it now controls, ISIS can exploit the rewards other governments enjoy. It will sell oil from the fields under its control, smuggling out what can’t be sold legally. Millions will pour into its coffers. ISIS can also tax the businesses and residents that remain under its power. They will not offer rich pickings, given the war’s devastation, but they will still give ISIS wealth far beyond that of a typical terrorist group. ISIS can also levy troops, demanding that young Muslims serve in its ranks as proof of their loyalty, enabling it to expand its fighting forces. All this will probably be done inefficiently and will lead more people to flee, but ISIS will still emerge stronger.

    It’s hard to speak of an ISIS “foreign policy,” at least in a traditional sense. Its central goal is the creation of an Islamic state—a goal it has sought to realize through brutality rather than diplomacy. But the group’s military blitz across Iraq has gone a long way to further discredit the government of Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki—particularly after the Iraqi military chose to run instead of fight.

    ISIS doesn’t respect state boundaries, believing they are artificial creations of colonial powers designed to divide the Muslim world, so moving the front from Iraq to Syria and back to Iraq is logical from its point of view. Indeed, ISIS sees the struggles in both countries as parts of a larger grand struggle against apostate-dominated regimes (Shiite in Iraq, Alawite in Syria) backed by Iran and the Lebanese Hezbollah. As sectarianism has grown, this conspiratorial view has become mainstream, with Shiites and Sunnis throughout the region seeing the conflict as existential. Lebanon is now facing a rash of bombings as the violence spreads. ISIS’s control of territory gives it a base to recruit, train, and plan attacks on neighboring lands. For now, because of its sectarian focus, ISIS sees the fight against those groups and governments it considers apostate as a higher priority than the fight against the United States, but the United States is also on ISIS’s list of enemies.

    ISIS is already the primary magnet for thethousands of foreign fighters who have gone to Syria to oppose the Assad regime:One informed estimate puts the number of foreigners fighting with ISIS at 3,000. The group’s prestige will only soar on the back of this week’s victories. ISIS’s uncompromising ideology and its military effectiveness draw foreign Muslims to its banner, and ISIS often uses these recruits (many of whom are unskilled and, especially if from the West, may not speak Arabic) for suicide bombings. As foreigners integrate into ISIS, their personal networks are used to draw still more fighters to the cause. U.S. and European counterterrorism officials fear that these fighters could return to their home countries and sow terror there. Officials in Europe told me that some European Muslims are drawn to ISIS because they want to live in a real Islamic state—so much so they even bring their families with them. This allure will only grow as ISIS has an actual state for them to call home.

    It is also true that ISIS will run into some trouble once it has an address. Just as ISIS hates everyone, so too does everyone hate ISIS. Even as it is taking on Assad and Maliki, ISIS fighters also kidnapped Turkish diplomats in Mosul, making Ankara more likely to assist ISIS’s enemies.  Iraq’s Kurdish leaders and the Shiite-dominated government have little love for each other, but they will cooperate to contain ISIS. And as ISIS grows in power, the United States and other Western governments are more likely to hold their noses and aid regimes like Maliki’s despite its many abuses and weaknesses and despite the fact most Americans want to leave Iraq far behind. Should the U.S. and other governments decide to intervene more directly, ISIS’s newfound home could become a target-rich environment. A shadowy ISIS emerging at night to terrorize civilians is hard to strike; ISIS “government” facilities and leaders who operate in the open are far easier to target.

    Kurdish soldiers provide security at a checkpoint as Iraqi refugee arrive fleeing from the city of Mosul. June 12, 2014.
    Kurdish soldiers provide security at a checkpoint as Iraqi refugees arrive fleeing from the city of Mosul, on June 12, 2014.

    Photo by Sebastiano Tomada/Reportage by Getty Images

    But perhaps the biggest weaknesses for this newly minted jihadist state will be internal. The tribal and regional divisions that plague Iraq and Syria do not go away under ISIS any more than they went away under Syrian, Iraqi, or U.S. control. ISIS has little interest in governing, but if it lingers for long it will have no choice, especially if it wants to prevent the entire population from fleeing. ISIS may be good at preaching fire and brimstone to motivate its followers to kill themselves and their enemies, but the bloodthirsty thug with an AK-47 isn’t much good at helping you find health care or repair your house after it’s been shelled. It can loot and terrorize, but the patient work of providing services or otherwise running a country are beyond it. Even more damning, the movement itself is prone to divisions—violent ones. Power is a function of charisma, not institutions, making rivalries more likely and creating vacuums when a leader is killed. Moreover, having opened the door to declaring other Muslims apostate, it is impossible to close it: You can always find some deviation to fight over or declare a rival insufficiently zealous. The presence of so many foreign fighters often makes this worse. Locals’ zealotry is tempered by their relatives and other personal connections to home; the true-believing foreigners often accept no compromises and, at the same time, their presence exacerbates local resentment and nationalism.

    So an ISIS-controlled state will not expand indefinitely, and it may prove even more fragile than what it has already toppled. What follows after jihadist state collapses? That may be a chaos we can’t imagine.

    Daniel Byman is a professor in the Security Studies Program at Georgetown University and the research director of the Saban Center for Middle East Policy at the Brookings Institution.


    "Aid to Syrian Rebels: How Does It End? 세계 國際 World

    http://www.brookings.edu/research/opinions/2014/06/29-aid-syrian-rebels-pillar

    The National Interest

    Aid to Syrian Rebels: How Does It End?

    The Obama administration's proposal to spend $500 million on training and equipping “appropriately vetted elements of the moderate Syrian armed opposition” leaves unanswered some of the same questions that always have surrounded proposals to give lethal aid to Syrian rebels. Some of those questions involve the challenges in determining who qualifies as a “moderate.” “Vetting” sounds so much easier to do than it actually is to do. It is very difficult to do with anything that is even half as jumbled, confused, and extremist-ridden as is the current armed opposition to the Syrian regime. It is interesting how many of those in Washington who are quick to lambaste the national security bureaucracy for supposedly being unable to perceive and predict accurately who is doing what in the Middle East seem to have ample confidence in the ability of that same bureaucracy to “vet” Syrian rebels.

    “Moderate” presumably refers to long-term political objectives rather than to current methods, given that anyone who is engaging in armed rebellion is by definition using non-moderate methods. The principal difficulty in identifying those political objectives stems not from faulty information or analysis today but rather from the impossibility of predicting the directions that groups or leaders, facing changed circumstances, will take in the future. History is replete with examples of leaders whose trajectories once in power could not have been extrapolated from what they did or said while they were still rebels.

    Another complication is that fighters and the arms they carry have a way of moving from group to group. There already has been some of this movement in the Syrian civil war.

    One hears the argument that the presence of many nasty and immoderate people in the Syrian opposition is all the more reason to aid moderate groups, so that fighters will gravitate toward the moderate groups rather than the extreme ones. But if allegiance and political inclination can be transferred or bought this easily, this calls into question the validity of any “vetting.”

    The most fundamental question about any aid to Syrian rebels is exactly how this type of support advances whatever is our own political objective for Syria, or at least makes more likely an outcome of the war that is more rather than less consistent with U.S. interests. The White House statement about the aid proposal says the assistance is intended to “help defend the Syrian people, stabilize areas under opposition control, facilitate the provision of essential services, counter terrorist threats, and promote conditions for a negotiated settlement.” That sounds reasonable enough, although the nature of the objective concerning a negotiated settlement is unclear given that we never appear to have rescinded explicitly the previously stated objective that Assad must go.

    Perhaps some aid to the rebellion would shift the momentum on the battlefield enough for some figures in the regime's camp to support a negotiated settlement more than they do now. If that is to happen, however, rather than aid to rebels being just one step in a new spiral of escalation, a more complete pro-negotiation strategy will have to become apparent, with everything that entails particularly for the roles of Russia and Iran.

    We also should be wary of a dynamic we observed with some of our client groups in Afghanistan. When a group realizes that it is being aided only because of its role in an ongoing war, it has an incentive to keep the war ongoing. And that means it is more likely to oppose negotiations, at least under any terms that are reasonable and feasible, than to support them.

    Meanwhile, we have the irony of the Syrian regime of Bashar Assad reportedly conducting air strikes against positions of the hated ISIS group in Iraq. The Iraqi prime minister says he didn't ask for the strikes but welcomes them. Some of the same Washington hawks who have been most gung-ho about toppling Assad have also been gung-ho about doing what Assad's own forces are doing in Western Iraq. You can't tell the players in the Middle East without a scorecard. Or rather, the line-ups are so confused even with a scorecard that we need to think again about trying to play whatever is the game that's going on.

    It is unclear how much of what the Obama administration has been doing lately in Iraq and Syria, including this proposal to give lethal aid to Syrian rebels, it would have done without the political pressure from critics to “do something” in those countries. Both the administration and its critics need to keep end games and broad strategy in mind and continually to ask themselves—as well as making more clear for the rest of us—how any move today will make more probable a desired end state in either country.

    This piece originally appeared on The National Interest.



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