"The hard edges of Syria's frontlines—dogmatic, revolutionary, Islamist or pure murderously sectarian—almost melt away outside the oilfields. New lines emerge pitting tribesmen against battalions, Islamists against everyone else, and creating sometimes surreal lines of engagement."
Syria has been mired in deadly strife since March 2011 and the outlook for resolving what is now a full blown civil war looks increasingly dire. The worst case outcome for Syria is one whereby the country fragments and becomes a failed state in which the Damascus government no longer controls its own territory. Under such a scenario, the glue holding the country together comes unstuck.
According to Micah Zenko, "We are deluding ourselves if we believe that we need more time to "think through" U.S. military intervention options for Syria. We have an excellent understanding of what those options are, and a vast majority of officials, policymakers, and the American people do not believe they are worth the effort."
The UN General Assembly approved, by a vote of 107-12 with 59 abstentions, the resolution on May 15, 2013, which supports political transition in Syria through the establishment of the Syrian National Coalition.
Secretary of State John Kerry said the United States will hold the Syrian government accountable for the use of chemical weapons on civilians. CFR's Matthew C. Waxman highlights three sets of considerations for U.S. intervention in the country's ongoing civil war.
Gregory Koblentz argues that the United States' best option for a response to the conflict in Syria is not simply arming the rebels, pushing for UN sanctions, indicting Assad, or pressuring Russia—rather, it is a combination of all four.
"The Administration has given the Syrian opposition more than six hundred and fifty million dollars in nonmilitary aid, but Obama has consistently opposed arming the rebels or intervening militarily on their behalf. The United States has taken a tenuous position: not deep enough to please the rebels or its allies in Europe, or to topple the regime, or to claim leadership in the war's aftermath—but also, perhaps most important, not so deep that it can't get out."
Asked by Jake C., from University of Texas at Tyler
A number of countries, including the United States, the United Kingdom, Turkey, and Qatar, have been providing support to the opposition in various forms, ranging from humanitarian aid to military supplies, such as weapons, armor, and communication devices. However, these efforts have not been enough to turn the tide, and after three years of fighting, a diplomatic solution still seems unlikely.
In light of recent reports of chemical weapons being used against Syrian civilians, Gayle Tzemach Lemmon highlights frustrations felt by some State Department employees at the lack of response from the White House.
The UN Arms Trade Treaty (ATT) was passed on March 28, 2013, and seeks to regulate and limit trade in arms in circumstances of human rights violations. Unfortunately, it will have minimal effect on the Syrian conflict. Syria's own vote against the treaty, along with Iran's and North Korea's, sounded the death knell for a universally applicable treaty to limit small arms, ammunition, and conventional weapons technology.
The Council on Foreign Relations' David Rockefeller Studies Program—CFR's "think tank"—is home to more than seventy full-time, adjunct, and visiting scholars and practitioners (called "fellows"). Their expertise covers the world's major regions as well as the critical issues shaping today's global agenda. Download the printable CFR Experts Guide.
The authors argue that it is essential to begin working now to expand and establish rules and norms governing armed drones, thereby creating standards of behavior that other countries will be more likely to follow.
The author examines Pakistan's complex role in U.S. foreign policy and advocates for a two-pronged approach that works to quarantine threats while integrating Pakistan into the broader U.S. agenda in Asia.