Moreover, the international community should not be deterred by
Russia and China's October 4 veto of a Security Council resolution that
would have lambasted Syria for its human rights record. China has since
demonstrated greater receptiveness to criticizing Syria, though Russia
remains solidly behind Damascus. But would Moscow veto an arms embargo
on Syria? Such a move would be an embarrassment for Russia in the
And then there is the International Criminal Court. Indicting top
members of the regime, with threats of more indictments to come, could
help to "incentivize" other members of the security services to break
from Assad, lest they too fall prey to international jurisdiction.
The international community should do more to encourage the Syrian
National Council (SNC) which is, unfortunately, divided and
disorganized. That is not surprising, given its relative youth--it only
recently formed--and Syrian government efforts to divide them. But left
to its own devices, the SNC will not be able to reach out to the
significant minority groups that remain fearful that a post-Assad Syria
will offer no protections for them. As much as many within the
Christian, Alawite, Druze, and Armenian communities may dislike Bashar,
many of them remain fearful of the day after. The SNC must do more to
assure those communities that there is a future for them in Syria after
On the economic front, broad-based sanctions are clearly having an
effect on the Syrian economy. It is not clear who they are hurting the
most, however. Do broad sanctions increase the dependency of ordinary
citizens on the regime, as was the case in Saddam's Iraq? Or will they
lead--eventually--to so much malaise that people will take to the streets?
A more effective tool seems to be the designation of individuals who
are most critical to supporting the regime economically. Already some
seventeen individuals and eighteen entities have had sanctions levied
against them. There should be more, so as to encourage fence-sitting
supporters to break from the regime.
Finally, Western officials should not proclaim that all NATO
considerations of Syria are off the table. NATO chief Anders Rasmussen
told reporters recently that NATO "has no intention (to intervene) whatsoever. I can completely rule that out." U.S. ambassador to NATO, Ivo Daalder, reiterated this before the Atlantic Council
last week, saying that NATO has had "no planning, no discussion, and no
thought" of action in Syria. This all may be true. But broadcasting it
only provides unnecessary comfort to Bashar al-Assad. Ambiguity is a key
tool in international politics. Instead of bold proclamations against
the use of military force, hinting at possible sanctuaries and no fly
zones could be helpful, especially should the Arab League call for it.
And if no military action is indeed possible, then best to say nothing.