Analysis: New urgency for Obama’s Syria choices

Forewarnings of an assault by Assad on Aleppo echo the daunting days before Gaddafi descended on Benghazi.

June 12, 2013 21:37
2 minute read.
US President Barack Obama.

Obama talking with his hands 370. (photo credit: REUTERS/Kevin Lamarque)

WASHINGTON – Significant shifts on the ground in Syria last week might provide the White House with more justification for action than it has found over months of paralyzing stasis in the country’s civil war.

As President Barack Obama continues a series of meetings this week in which he is expected to reevaluate US policy on direct involvement in the brutal conflict, evidence that Assad may suddenly but definitively be winning the war has created a sense of urgency to help the rebels while outside assistance can still prove fruitful.

The loss of Qusair, a city central to supply routes from rebel-held central provinces to the Assad-loyalist Western corridor bordering Lebanon, has motivated Assad to march on to an already devastated Homs and Aleppo, the country’s largest city. Assad government officials have warned local outlets to prepare for a significant offensive in the coming days.

Those forewarnings echo the daunting days before Libya’s Col. Muammar Gaddafi prepared to descend on Benghazi in 2011, at the time a stronghold of rebel forces. Western powers justified intervention at the UN Security Council on humanitarian grounds, and in announcing US involvement in the eventual no-fly zone that NATO put into place, Obama said he feared for the fate of local Libyans as Gaddafi made final battle preparations.

Hezbollah’s bold leap into the Syrian conflict – the first foray of its kind for the Lebanese paramilitary group – has also changed the calculus.

A reported 5,000 Hezbollah fighters have crossed the border to assist in the coming offensive.

Leading congressmen on foreign policy have renewed their push for more aggressive US involvement in recent days. Sens John McCain and Bob Corker – ranking members on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee – have called for direct arming and training of Syrian rebel fighters.

Analysts tell The Jerusalem Post that Assad’s war with rebel factions is far from over. But the opposition is in dire straits, with a lack of sufficient arms, training and leadership – required elements in a military force that take time to acquire and develop.

As the conditions for rebels continue to deteriorate, Obama’s options this week will further be set in contrast, underscored by the urgency on the ground and the knowledge that indecision at such a pivotal moment in the conflict will have direct consequences on the outcome of the war’s next stage.

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