WASHINGTON, DC – The United States is rapidly approaching a critical juncture in its policy towards Syria. While opposition fighters have grown more capable in recent weeks, defeating President Bashar al-Assad’s forces will be difficult, if not impossible, without increased external military assistance. But America’s current policy focuses on providing the opposition with non-lethal humanitarian assistance. As a result, an increasingly bloody and protracted civil war is likely.
Indeed, America’s current approach will undercut opposition forces’ ability to gain the upper hand militarily. And the longer the conflict is drawn out, the more violent it is likely to become, and the more difficult it will be to establish a stable democratic government in its wake.
America’s failure to support the opposition more actively already is provoking resentment among Syria’s population, which will undermine US efforts to influence the post-Assad transition. As one opposition spokesman warned, “America will pay a price for this. America will lose the friendship of the Syrians, and no one will trust them anymore.”
Moreover, the conflict in Syria has significant geostrategic implications beyond Syria’s border. The issue is not simply Syria’s evolution, but the nature and stability of the future political order in the Middle East.