Dimensions to be addressed:
– Immediate humanitarian imperatives
– Diplomatic outlook
– Options for economic support
and that will wrap up today’s syria summit. a fascinating debate, even if discussion (understandably) revolved around the problems syria faces more than potential solutions…
i expect the crisis to be at the forefront of john kerry’s comments when he delivers the closing address at 17:30 (10:30am est). i’ll be back to liveblog that session as well!
here are some indicators that put the scale of the syrian conflict into broader context:
as discussion turns to aid, here is an overlooked aspect of the crisis– the impact on education for syria’s youth.
in aleppo, student attendance rates have dropped to a staggering 6%.
discussion, “widely held fear– united nations aid co-opted by the regime?”
syria’s neighbors, by length of border:
here is a disturbing statistic. syria’s health expenditure was just 3.4% of gdp, among the lowest in the world…. before the violence erupted (2010).
notice the deep contrast between israel’s red lines and the united states’. back in august, obama set the red line for intervention at syrian chemical weapons use. after reports came in that assad had breached that, obama simply reset the red line to ‘systematic use’ of chemical weapons. it’s a dotted red line at best, underscoring united states’ deep reluctance to become enmeshed in syria.
conversation has tilted to how israel should not intervene.
i feel the panel is looking at israeli involvement from the wrong perspective entirely.
israel’s involvement– strikes on hezbollah military equipment within syrian borders, etc– strikes me as more of a message to iran than to syria. it’s a statement that israeli red lines are firm and israel won’t hesitate to commit military strikes should iran overstep. israel utilizing the power vacuum in syria and the knowledge that assad has his hands full to underscore their red lines without much chance of retaliation.
“the devil we know/ devil we don’t” just used for the third time. hat trick.
back to the question of whether there are steps short of direct intervention that the united states should be engaging in–
i recently wrote an op-ed on the subject. the bottom line: it is a wildly slippery slope where momentum can really only lead in one direction.
the median age in syria is 22.7 years old.
it seems to me there are a half a dozen players that necessarily need to be included in any discussion on intervention– perhaps more prominently than the united states: turkey, israel, qatar, russia, saudi arabia, Iran…
a good question: “are there steps short of intervention that the united states should be engaging in?”
a sound appraisal of united states’ hesitance to intervene. obama did not build his foreign policy legacy around withdrawal from afghanistan and iraq only to slip into a new war.
“why is the united states not intervening?”
there is a simple answer. poll of american citizens:
“a political solution at this stage does not lie in a regime/opposition dialogue… the regime is not going to operate in good faith.”
we need “a new equation for sharing power.”
my opinion: it’s hard to build a workable equation when assad believes he should be the only variable in syrian power politics… and he is consolidating military gains. the regime has recently achieved significant military successes that will allow it to more seamlessly secure its supply lines along the strategic damascus-homs-aleppo highway. bottom line: the military has become a more agile and coherent force.
lara setrakian: “how do you foresee a syria that can pull itself back together again?”
“one would have to take a very, very long view.”
“why the shortfall? why so hard to rally help to this cause?”
it really goes back to g-zero. there is no actor outside syria for whom the costs of ongoing war can drive sufficient investment in fixing the situation– there is not a coalition of the willing and able. there are also powerful actors on either side of the conflict– a growing power vacuum…and proxy war.
“it’s going to be very hard to stop it now. who can stop it?”
tragically, a question that feels increasingly rhetorical.
conversation has turned to foreign fighters in syria– iraq, lebanon, etc– here is a useful who’s who of the rebel opposition:
95% of syrian refugees in turkey say they’ve lost at least one relative in the civil war.
“rather the devil you know than the devil you don’t” expression used to describe assad/opposition dynamic within first 15min of summit. as expected…
but atrocities “overwhelmingly at the hands of the government.”
discussion has turned to atrocities documented on both sides of the syrian war.
“our youth, if they were here, would say, priority for self-determination, democracy, cannot hide the decision of the people of syria to change.”
to those who say stop the fight, “the people of syria say ‘no way’ back.”
“the ripple effects into the host communities has also been dramatic.”
this is a key point that often goes overlooked– jordan and lebanon have serious political and economic issues that require undivided focus.
“at current rate, we’ll be at 3m refugees by the end of the year.”
here is a good visual depicting the refugee movement:
“1.5 million+ refugees”
“epidemic levels of disease come summer”
“basic sanitation has completely broken down.”
“we come to this panel with a heavy heart and a heavy sense of humility.”
“failures of the global system to stop syria’s slide.”
i call that failure the ‘g-zero’– a lack of global leadership where no country or group of countries can drive the international agenda.
today, syria has unfortunately become the poster child of the g-zero.
and it looks like we’re just about under way…
the syrian civil war is obviously an incredibly fast-moving topic… just yesterday, hezbollah leader hassan nasrallah pledged all-out war in syria– “it is our battle, and we are up to it”– at a rally in lebanon. http://www.nytimes.com/2013/05/26/world/middleeast/syrian-army-and-hezbollah-step-up-raids-on-rebels.html?pagewanted=all&_r=0
just a few hours ago, two rockets hit hezbollah strongholds in southern beirut…
i’m excited to be liveblogging the syria summit, starting soonish– certainly the largest looming question mark in the region today..