The New York Times is reporting that the C.I.A. is Steering Arms to members of the Syrian Opposition. The CIA has a major challenge in trying to unify the Syrian militias, teach them to fight, get them advanced weapons, and supply them with enough intelligence so that they will know how to avoid the Syrian army where it is strong and attack it where it is weak. But even if the Syrian militias, which Jeffrey White of WINEP estimates to be around 100 (I read a 200 estimate yesterday but have forgotten where), cannot unify or develop a command and control structure, they are still likely to bring down the regime eventually. The sponsors of the Syria regime will not supply it with an endless aid and arms. For 12% of the population to police a large country that is in widespread revolt is too costly, especially when much of the world is mobilized for regime-change. Perhaps the CIA’s biggest challenge will be to make sure the arms get to pro-American militias. It cannot afford a repeat of Afghanistan in the 1980s.
Many believe that in time, Syria will produce one leader and its political factions will unify around a national agenda. This may not be the case, however. Like Lebanon or Iraq, its factions may never overcome their differing visions of what Syria should be. In Iraq, the US army held down that country’s militias until it could stand up a new Iraqi army controlled by Prime Minister Maliki. Of course the Kurds got their own state, but Iraq’s Arabs are unified today because the US army was their to force unity upon them. Following the destruction of Saddam’s one-party state, would Iraqi Sunnis and Shiites have come together by themselves?
It could be argued that Lebanon is unified today only because of Syrian intervention. Of course, Syria’s intervention in 1976 prevented Lebanon’s Muslim militias from defeating the Christian forces decisively, which might have unified the country under a new form of government. In all likelihood, however, Lebanon’s Sunnis would have had little more success uniting the country’s religious factions than had the Christians. Syria helped Hizbullah to the per-eminent position it holds today. When the Syrian government becomes dominated by Sunnis again, it may well try to push Lebanon’s Sunnis to the fore there as well.
Britain and America may propose a new diplomatic initiative that focuses on one point from international envoy Kofi Annan’s peace plan — the Syrian-led political process based on the Yemen model in which former president Ali Saleh was offered immunity. But Assad is unlikely to quit Syria for amnesty anytime soon.
Syria: The search for plan B
With both sides locked in a conflict they think they can win, it truly seems like Mission impossible for an unarmed 300-strong UN observer mission in Syria. However there is go further… once Russia and the West find common ground.
Haytham MANNA. Head of the Executive Bureau, National Coordination Body for Democratic Change;
Joshua LANDIS. Director, Centre for Middle East Studies – University of Oklahoma; Blog Syriacomment.com – from Oklahoma City;
Walid PHARES. Special advisor to the US Congress on Terrorism; National Security Advisor to Mitt Romney – from Washigton;
Ole SOLVANG. Human Rights Watch;
Paul VALLET. Professor of Political Science, Sciences Po, Paris.
Produced by François Picard, Anelise Borges, Mary Colombel, Christopher Davis.
Video footage of Homs devastation – posted on Atlantic by Max Fisher