February 26, 2012
There is a grim tragedy unfolding in Syria. The Assad Baath regime in Damascus has intensified its campaign of massacre against the besieged people of Homs. It is using heavy artillery against the civilian district of Baba Amr. There is now the humanitarian crisis in the besieged cities and towns.
Saudi Arabia sees the emerging conflict in Syria as an opportunity to push back the influence and power in the region of Iran, the principal local backer of Assad's regime. Saudi involvement risks a proxy war between the two powers in Syria and the wider threat of conflict between Sunni and Shia across the region.
It appears that the Assad regime can only survive with Russia's support and that Moscow, which arms and sustains Assad. Will Russia---ie., Vladimir Putin's Russia---- eventually abandon the regime out of self-interest? Does Russia desire to see Assad give up power and for Syria to embrace democratic reform?
And the US? Is its goal goal is to help the Syrian people or to hurt an Iranian ally? In a policy brief for the Centre for a New American Security Marc Lynch argues that the available military options have little chance of quickly or decisively turning the tide against Assad's regime. They are more likely to simply ratchet the violence up to a higher level, while badly harming the chances of any kind of political transition which could create a stable, inclusive Syria.