At a news conference in Moscow Tuesday, Syria's Deputy Prime Minister Qadri Jamil warned the U.S. against foreign military intervention, saying such efforts would lead to "a confrontation wider than Syria's borders." Unfortunately, for those looking for a clean Libya-like solution to the civil war, a number of U.S. officials appear to agree.
The discussion over a U.S.-led intervention in Syria gained traction on Monday when President Obama outlined ways Syrian President Bashar al-Assad could change the U.S. "calculus" on intervention. According to Obama, the usage or transportation of chemical weapons could prompt U.S. action. But as quickly as that remark heightened talk of war, U.S. officials went talking to The New York Times to outline the practical difficulties of intervening. First and foremost, there's the issue of violence spreading beyond Syria, they told reporters Steven Lee Myers and Scott Shane:
American military operations against Syria, officials reiterated on Tuesday, would risk drawing in Syria’s patrons, principally Iran and Russia, at a much greater level than they already are involved. It would allow Syria’s president, Bashar al-Assad, to rally popular sentiment against the West and embolden Al Qaeda and other terrorist groups now fighting the Assad government to turn their attention to what they would see as another American crusade in the Arab world ... Pentagon officials have indicated that a worst-case scenario would require tens of thousands of soldiers, something that the officials said would inflame an already roiling region.
Diplomatically, the issue also poses problems outside of Syria with Russia and China repeatedly vetoing U.N. resolutions for larger cooperation. That's a significant obstacle to intervening because America's European allies including Britain and Turkey require that any intervention be an international effort.
But whether you are for or against intervention, it's clear the fighting is already spreading beyond Syria's borders. As The BBC reports this morning, deadly fighting over Syria is wreaking havoc in Northern Lebanon. "Eight people have been killed and at least 75 wounded in fighting in northern Lebanon between two Muslim communities divided over Syria," reports the news service. "Old rivalries between the two groups have been fuelled by conflicting loyalties in neighbouring Syria. Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, an Alawite, is battling largely Sunni opposition fighters."
In what could be perceived as a positive development, Jamil did hint that Assad may be willing to step down yesterday, noting that "We are even ready to discuss this issue.” Unfortunately, the regime isn't showing any outward signs of halting its attacks on the opposition. As Reuters' Khaled Yacoub Oweis reports, "Syrian army shells crashed into southern Damascus on Wednesday and helicopters fired rockets and machineguns during an assault to shore up... al-Assad's grip on the capital, opposition activists said."
This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.