Satellite images of suspect sites in Syria 370 (R).
(photo credit: Reuters / Handout)
Western intervention in Syria is gaining pace since US President Barack Obama
visited Israel and Jordan over the past week, with the talks partly focusing on
the Syrian crisis.
One thing that could trigger direct US intervention is
the use of chemical weapons, but American officials say there is no intelligence
to back up the claims by both the Syrian government and the opposition of the
use of such weapons by the opposing side.
The unannounced visit by
Secretary of State John Kerry to Iraq on Sunday in order to stop the flow of
arms from Iran to Syria, by ground and by air, may not have had much effect, but
it shows an increasing US involvement.
This follows leaked information
that the CIA is providing intelligence to the Syrian rebels as reported by The
Wall Street Journal on Saturday.
The CIA is already working from Turkey
in order to help make sure the arms provided by Sunni Gulf allies are ending up
in the right hands, meaning non-al-Qaida-linked groups such as the al-Nusra
Col. (res.) Shaul Shay, a senior research fellow at the
Begin-Sadat (BESA) Center for Strategic Studies, told The Jerusalem Post that
there “is a problem with the headline of the Syrian ‘opposition’ because there
is more than one opposition group.”
So at best, he says, the West can
choose to support certain groups, and not others.
The resignation on
Sunday of Moaz Alkhatib, the leader of the Western-backed Syrian National
Coalition comes after the appointment in Turkey last Tuesday of Ghassan Hitto,
chosen to be the interim prime minister, described by The New York Times as the
preferred choice of the Muslim Brotherhood.
Alkhatib complained that the
West was not supportive enough of the armed opposition.
Joel Parker, a
PhD candidate at Tel Aviv University who is tracking developments on opposition
websites and social media, told the Post that the rate of the Syrian pound to
the dollar has been seen, since late 2011, as an important indicator of the
strength of the Syrian economy.”
He adds that the Syrian government is
taking credit for keeping the Syrian pound stable and that Alkhatib could be
upset that the West did not use all of its tools to increase economic pressure
on the regime.
According to Alkhatib’s logic, “since the West is not
willing to take such drastic measures, it is merely prolonging the slow,
agonizing death of the country,” Parker said.
The Arab league decided on
Sunday to give Syria’s seat to the new interim prime minister, according to a
report by the Turkish Anadolu Agency.
Predictably, the Shi’ite dominated
governments of Iraq and Lebanon voiced their dissent.
“The balance of
power between President Bashar Assad and the opposition is about equal and any
external intervention could tip the balance, similar to the Western intervention
in Libya,” said Shay. However, this is not necessarily a desired outcome, he
said, noting, “if we look at Libya, it is a failing state.”
The rumors of
chemical weapons use, the spillover of violence into Lebanon and Israel, and the
progress by the opposition on the ground, have led the West into a more active
policy. The US and some European countries were reluctant to get involved, but
now they are worried that they could miss the train – and lose control of
shaping events in what could soon be the end-game in Syria – at least for Assad,
but the crisis in the country will most likely outlive his rule.