Last Updated: Wed Feb 01, 2012 12:58 pm (KSA) 09:58 am (GMT)

Muna Khan: Is it now time for international intervention in Syria?

The Arab League has suspended its mission to Damascus due to the violence that continues unabated.

Something has to give in Syria.

There are likely to be demands for an international intervention but there have been legitimate concerns about such a scenario occurring in Syria.

The comparisons to Libya seem easy to make ─ a no fly-zone did ease the suffering and ultimately the ouster of Muammar Qaddafi’s regime ─ but there was a unified opposition in Libya and an armed force that was organized and able to fight on the ground. None of that exists in Syria. Most of the international community was also behind an international intervention; not so in the case of Syria, the role of Russia, Iran (and China) in their support for Assad cannot be discounted.

A rag tag type of a rebel army in Syria only means the conflict will drag. As an editorial in The Economist points out, “a no fly zone would be useless as the Syrian air force has not flown.” So one is left with striking at the Syrian army, as was also done in Libya, but does that translate it into being a short-lived conflict that will be over in a few days? Or will it lead to more bloodshed should President Bashar al-Assad choose to exact his revenge on innocent Syrians as he clings to power?

An intervention in Libya led to the creation of a new government attempting to govern a fragile and unstable country. In Syria, however, the situation is likely to turn into a full-blown sectarian conflict given the various regional powers that already wield considerable influence. The Arab League seems to know this the most and has tried to use its authority to find a diplomatic solution.

It’s difficult to imagine how the League will shape its strategy next. Will it pay heed to calls by the Syrian opposition ─ en route to meet United Nations officials this coming week ─ asking for international intervention or will it try to continue to search for a diplomatic route? Its repeated calls for Assad to halt the violence during its mission to Damascus fell on deaf ears so analysts are curious to see what the league will do next. Does it have the authority or clout to convince Assad to step down and put up a time frame for new elections it once said it would propose?

It is correct to worry that by intervening in Syria we run the risk of creating another Iraq but perhaps one should ask about the motivation for intervention. It is commonly accepted that false pretences were created to intervene in Iraq. Can the same be said for Syria where the number of Syrians being killed increases at alarming rates. It is their plight that needs immediate attention.

(The writer is Editor of Al Arabiya English and can be reached at

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