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Even escaping Syria can’t guaranteed one’s safety as reports have surfaced of Syrian refugees and activists in Turkey, Lebanon and Jordan being kidnapped by Syrian intelligence agents and forced back into Syria.
Of course, Bashar Assad’s continued resistance to stepping down from power may have been stiffened by the video images of Muammar Gadhafi being dragged out of a drainage ditch and summarily executed, his corpse dragged through the streets before it was buried in an unmarked grave deep in the Libyan Desert.
So, in an effort to spare himself a similar fate, Assad in a recent interview gave a pointed warning as to the costs of a NATO-led military intervention against his regime, saying, “Syria is the fault line, and if you play with the ground, you will cause an earthquake. Do you want to see another Afghanistan, or tens of Afghanistans?”
While some have dismissed those comments by Assad as simply “playing up to the fears of the West at the moment,” the reality is that launching a military strike against Syria would entail a far more dangerous risk than the one launched against Libya. For starters, unlike Libya, Syria has a host of powerful allies that won’t sit idly by and watch Assad go under, chief among them Iran, Russia and China.
Russia and China already feel they were burned by the United States, France and Britain for overstepping the mandate of UN resolution 1973, which called for the introduction of a UN no-fly zone over Libya designed to protect Libyan civilians.
That mission, however, quickly morphed into an exercise of regime change, one in which NATO helped topple Gadhafi’s regime by launching more than 26,000 airstrikes against pro-Gadhafi forces.
So, when France in early October pushed a similar UN resolution that called for the UN Security Council to take “responsibilities” and sanction the “bloody repression” in Syria, both Russia and China, believing it would be a pretext for an attack on their Syrian ally, vetoed the resolution
For his part, Assad has already indicated that he won’t be content to simply wait for outside help to save his regime. Assad, along with Syria’s proxy terrorist organization Hezbollah, has reportedly pledged to launch its huge arsenal of rockets and missiles at Israel if Syria is attacked, a prospect that would all but guarantee the beginning of a large scale regional war.
Therefore, it is understandable that NATO is much more hesitant this time to invoke the military option, evidenced by NATO Secretary-General Anders Fogh Rasmussen, who told reporters in Libya that he could “completely rule out” a NATO-led strike on Syria.
Yet, while NATO may be ruling out a possible military strike on Syria, some still cling to that hope. That view was voiced by Senator John McCain, who days ago said, “Now that military operations in Libya are ending, there will be renewed focus on what practical military operations might be considered to protect civilian lives in Syria.”
While McCain’s views may not represent the best answer to the Syrian situation, at least he’s not alone. Jordan’s King Abdullah recently said, “I am one of the most optimistic people you’ll meet in the Middle East, but…I don’t think there’s anybody in the region or outside who knows how to tackle the Syria issue.”
With no end in sight to Bashar Assad’s rule and Syria drifting ever closer toward full scale sectarian civil war, finding an answer to the Syrian problem grows more elusive and imperative by the day.
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