Now here’s a nice coalition of the willing for you: Belarus, Bolivia, China, Cuba, North Korea, Ecuador, Iran, Nicaragua, Russia, Venezuela, Zimbabwe.
Those are the countries that voted “no” on a UN General Assembly resolution, modeled on the Arab League initiative, which called on Bashar al-Assad to resign and the Syrian army to remove all its tanks and heavy artillery from residential streets.
So at least we’re now clear as to which parties intend to lead the way toward a global re-normalisation of relations with Damascus: three zombified Stalinist regimes, a corporatist mafia state run by a botoxed and whale-harpooning KGB agent, an Islamic dictatorship looking to build a nuclear bomb, a kleptocratic African despot, and a moon-facedcaudillo who blames his prostate cancer on the CIA.
So far, the French have been the ones pushing the issue on Syria. Months ago, Alain Juppe was the first Western statesman to moot the idea of a “humanitarian corridor” into the country to allow food, medicine and supplies to be brought the battered civilian population. When pressed by French reporters what exactly such a corridor would entail and whether or not supply lines would necessitate armed escort – Red Crescent trucks are routinely attacked by the Assad regime in Syria – Juppe admitted that it would in fact amount to military intervention. Nevertheless, such a corridor is on offer again in the form of a proposed French draft of a new UN Security Council resolution on Syria. David Cameron, meanwhile, has offered to provide £2 million in aid to Syria, yet has declined to say which parties will receive this largess and how it will be smuggled into the country. He may soon face a Juppe-style questioning about both.
What we’re seeing emerge, in other words, is intervention-creep. As I’ve argued before, it’s inevitable that foreign firepower will be come to Syria because time can only lead to two outcomes that are inextricably intertwined: further crimes against humanity committed by the Assad regime and that regime’s catastrophic implosion. There is no going back from this point, and those who argue against intervention would do well to admit this basic fact.
Also, all the warnings advanced by anti-interventionists – the rise of sectarianism, regional instability, the proliferation of jihadism – will come to pass in Syria (and are already beginning to) without the benefit of intervention. A failed state that borders Iraq, Turkey, Lebanon, Israel and Jordan is not something even US foreign policy realists can stomach.
As for current US policy, this seems to be winding down all diplomatic engines in a desperate attempt to do something. The other day Hillary Clinton got up alongside Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu and said that in order to dispatch a UN-Arab peacekeeping force to Syria, she’d first need to gain the permission of… Bashar al-Assad: “[T]he peacekeeping request is one that will take agreement and consensus,” Clinton said. “So we don’t know that it is going to be possible to persuade Syria. They’ve already, as of today, rejected that.”
Legally, she’s correct. But to Syrians, this sounds pathetic: the equivalent of seeing a man set on fire and, rather than running to grab a bucket of water, asking the arsonist to sign an affidavit first.
Also, the US strategy is not helped by intense speculation, grounded in no discernible evidence, that that al-Qaeda is not only already in Syria but setting things off. Director of National Intelligence James Clapper told Congress this week that recent bombings in Damascus and Aleppo bore “all the earmarks of an al-Qaeda-like attack.” I think Director Clapper means to say “hallmarks,” but then, I stopped trying to parse his semantics after he claimed a year ago that the Muslim Brotherhood is a “largely secular” movement in Egypt.
Clapper does have a point, however. Homegrown or imported jihadism will almost certainly have the next at-bat against the Syrian people. Why? Because when you’ve already withstood Russian tanks, Iranian and Hezbollah snipers and your own psychopathic princeling’s war machine, you clearly haven’t suffered enough yet.