Saturday, November 10, 2012

A Stalemate of Second-Bests

As the battles continue to rage across Syria, ordinary people and TV talking heads alike speculate whether and when it will all come to an end. Some believe that the unspeakable violence the world is witnessing simply cannot continue much longer; that the international community will also realize the dangers of a protracted armed conflict in such a sensitive spot as Syria, and will find a way to stop it. Others expect the US and other western and regional allies to step up their assistance to the FSA and enable the revolution to defeat Assad’s viscious military machine. Perhaps.

But the possibility of a drawn out armed conflict in Syria is also possible, even likely. Here is why.

Iran realizes that Bashar Alassad has no chance of quelling the revolution and restoring complete control over Syria. That would have been the first best scenario for Iran (and Russia). But that is unachievable any more. So Assad's allies are now seeking their second best option. And their second best option is to prevent the other side from winning, which is a more feasible objective.

On their part, the west and GCC do not seem to be ready to bear the cost or risk entailed in direct or more forceful intervention in order to achieve a quick and complete victory of the rebels against Assad. Instead they are settling for the second best, which is to maintain sufficient support to the rebels to prevent Assad from winning. That is also a more feasible objective as well.

Conclusion?  The external  outside forces supporting the two sides may have fallen into a trap of reciprocal and mutually reinforcing second-best objectives. In the long run, this will not save the Assad regime; but it means many more Syrian lives are likely to be lost before it’s all over.

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