For Washington and its allies, the real red line in Syria is the defeat of Syrian opposition fighters. Once the opposition fighters start losing battles — and they do — alarm bells will start ringing in Western capitals by Mahir Zeynalov
Last year, Washington drew a line in the sand and said once the Syrian regime uses chemical weapons, calculations will change significantly. As I pointed out in one of my previous blogs, the real reason why the US, UK and Turkey have confirmed that chemical weapons were used in Syria is that they are preparing for an intervention.
If we consider that Syrian President Bashar al-Assad is a rational man, there is no reason for him to use chemical weapons as long as he believes that it will invite foreign powers into his country. The main motive for the impending intervention is the recent significant military gains of the Syrian regime inside Syria.
Never mind whether Assad used chemical weapons or Washington will honor its red line. Here are five ways that Syrians could force Western countries to intervene in Syria to tip the balance against the regime forces.
1 – Lose battles. Western nations will not tolerate Assad regaining his previous power and defeat opposition fighters. The US and its allies have not intervened in Syria so far because they wanted opposition fighters to do the job. In the past few weeks, the Syrian opposition, however, lost important battles in Idlib, Aleppo, Homs, Qusayir and particularly in the Damascus suburbs. On Thursday morning, Syrian troops captured another central district of Homs, which was the flashpoint of the Syrian uprising and has significant psychological importance for the fighters. These sweeping campaigns of Assad forces have pushed Western nations to think of ways to stop the troubling trend and to level the accusation against Assad that he used chemical weapons to prepare the ground for intervention. In Libya and Bosnia, NATO intervention came as rebels started losing the war. The same scenario could be played out in Syria as well.
2 – Make sure you shave your beard. The length of the beards of Syrian opposition fighters has become a major reason why Russia strongly opposes a Syrian intervention and why some politicians in Washington remain skeptical about the future of Syria. The presence of the al-Qaeda-linked Al-Nusra front in Syria clearly complicates the flow of arms into Syria as vetting weapons takes time. In the words of former Syrian opposition leader Moaz al-Khatib, “Many, especially in the media, seem more concerned about the length of the beards of the fighters than the volume of blood that flows from the children.”
3 – Manipulate Americans. A recent poll by Reuters/Ipsos finds that there is almost no support for US military action against Syria. Only 10 percent of those surveyed in the poll said the United States should become involved in the fighting. Sixty-one percent opposed getting involved. To change this indifference, it is imperative for Syrian opposition activists to manipulate the American public by playing to their emotions. One example is striking: Only after a video prepared by activists that showed rebel leader Joseph Kony’s brutality went viral, Washington sent troops to Africa to combat the Lord’s Resistance Army in September 2011.
4 – Bring in Hezbollah. Israel is watching atrocities in Syria with concern but Hezbollah’s growing role in the conflict has frustrated the Israeli government. A weapons flow from Syria to Hezbollah is Israel’s red line. Once Hezbollah starts benefiting from the Syria conflict, Israel will have no choice but to urge the US to intervene in Syria. Hezbollah’s involvement in Syria has helped Assad win battles in towns bordering Lebanon but will also become a wake-up call for Israel and Washington on the need to intervene sooner than later.
5 – Abandon the West. At least bluff. Another factor that has kept Western nations at bay in Syria is an assurance that Syria’s moderate opposition is pro-Western. As long as the Syrian opposition declares allegiance to the Western world, the US and its allies have little reason to worry about the future of Syria. Imagine what would happen once the Syrian opposition leaders started traveling to Moscow and Tehran, inking secret deals and hence disturbing the West. It would immediately put in motion a set of events in the West that would be helpful to the opposition fighters. At the end of the day, the Syrian conflict is a proxy war between the West and Russia/Iran.
You can follow the author on Twitter @MahirZeynalov (English) and @MahirZeynalov_ (Turkish).