Saturday, February 11, 2012

The Safe Haven Plan

The Economist's proposal for Syria shows just how powerless the international community is:
"Far better to attack Mr Assad’s regime where it is vulnerable—by peeling away his support, both at home among Syria’s minorities and abroad, especially in Russia, its chief defender on the UN Security Council. Both Syria’s Alawites and Vladimir Putin cling to this dictator because they think that, despite his faults, he is better than the alternative. Yet under Mr Assad Syria has no future. Before the Arab spring his attempts to modernise the economy enriched a coterie of his cronies but did little for ordinary Syrians. Were he to see off today’s uprising, he would be left ruling over an isolated, impoverished and angry country. Surely the opposition can offer enough Syrians of all creeds a better future than that?

"To make that promise credible, Syria’s fractious opposition must unite. A contact group of outside powers and the opposition could channel money into Syria, as well as help with communications and logistics. With a single voice and a credible leader, the opposition could seek to reassure the merchants, Kurds and Christians who back Mr Assad that they will be safer and more prosperous without him. The Russians would also begin to shift ground. Mr Putin enjoys standing up to the interfering West, not least for domestic political reasons (see article), but sticking with a doomed leader could cost Russia its naval-supply base in Tartus and its arms exports. The more senior officials and army officers defect from the regime, the more likely Mr Putin is to change sides too.

"To help persuade them, Turkey, with the blessing of NATO and the Arab League, should create and defend a safe haven in north-western Syria. The FSA can train fighters there, and a credible opposition can take shape. Turkey seems willing to do this, providing it gets Western support. The haven would be similar to that created for the Kurds in northern Iraq; Mr Assad would suffer only if he attacked it."

This has not just one, but two major weak points. Working from the proposed action, it assumes first that the creation of a safe haven can somehow unite the opposition, and second that this opposition could persuade Assad's supporters within Syria to switch sides. Unfortunately, I don't see much in the way of mechanics for how either actually works.

(Crossposted to American Footprints)

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