After his re-election, Mr. Obama should set the record straight for Syria. Mr. Assad, long back, has lost legitimacy to rule, and that he needs to be ousted.
To be fair to Mr. Obama, Syria is neither Tunisia nor Egypt nor Libya as not much sectarian issue was involved in those states. But conflict in Syria is threatening the peace and stability of the Middle East and would promote sectarianism, divisionism, male chauvinism and conflicts with religious minorities all over the region.
Sunnis outnumber Shia globally. The same is case in Syria. Mr. Assad belongs to Alawite community. Favoring Sunnis could mean granting de facto dominance to Sunnis in Syria and this could affect Christians as well. The increasing Sunni radicalism and Shia radicalism, both are harmful for the region’s stability. On one hand it is al-Qaeda Taliban for many Sunnis and Hezbollah for many Shias.
The ongoing protests in the Middle East would not result in secular democratic societies instead they would promote Islamism. The issue of Syria is very complicated issue. If Mr. Obama acts he would have to act against Mr. Assad. There are so many options for Mr. Assad: oust him through a bloodless coup, or in a bloody coup, or grant him exile or he faces prosecution at home or finally oust him by military actions.
The fact is that Syria has significant stocks of chemical and biological weapons. It should not fall into wrong hands. The US should have enough leverage with Syrian regime, whosoever be in power, to get these weapons destroyed. For that purpose it can seek Russian Federation’s help.
The most complicated thing in Syria is the format of the government in post-Assad regime. Alawites are mere 15% of the total population but till sometime before they used to dominate almost all field; in politics, military, business
and economics. Of course, that would dramatically change and that would be traumatic situation for all minorities and if they do not accept the majority rule then Syria could be plunged into long-term civil war marked by chaos and dissent. The divisions would become permanent. The fact is that Obama administration can only secure safety of minorities and can not do much to secure their proper representation.
Mr. Obama’s policy of arming the Free Syrian Army (FSA) and putting harshest possible sanctions against the Assad-regime may give him positive returns but then the change would be very painful and traumatic. FSA can take control of almost whole of Syria except Damascus and they can oust Mr. Assad with the help of CIA but doing that themselves would heighten the tension in Syria. Syria is already heading towards civil war and the situation can worsen. Moreover, this way the US may loose leverage with both the sides and influence of al-Qaeda and Taliban could strengthen. That is the biggest problem in arming the rebels: that arms provided by Americans should not fall into wrong hands and they ultimately are not used against the Americans.
Though it is a bit difficult to take side for the US in a sectarian conflict, Mr. Assad is a despot and an authoritarian ruler. He has lost all legitimacy to rule. The sooner the US acts, preferably through direct military action, better it would be for Syria and the whole Middle Eastern states. The US needs to make sure that its actions do not result in spillover effect across the region. The bottomline should be clear: Mr. Assad needs to go and he should leave at the earliest.
The first step for the US should be to recognize the unity post-Assad government in Syria but then US needs to take risks in biological and chemical weapons falling into wrong hands. The options in the end are not that clear cut. But the US needs to take an irreversible stand against Mr. Assad. It can diplomatically convince Russian Federation and China to not support Mr. Assad anymore.
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