Leader Development & Education for Sustained Peace Program: Cross-Cultural, Geopolitical & Regional Education

Topic Debate: Syria, after the Massacres

Background: In recent months, the escalation of conflict in Syria took a serious turn with reports of countless atrocities, including two civilian massacres. On 25 May, United Nations observers found a combined 108 casualties in the two neighboring towns of Houla and Taldou, and an estimated 78 casualties in Qubeir of the Hama province on 6 June. Despite the complexity and ambiguity surrounding both events, news agencies are transmitting various sources of citizen journalism, including a mix of video and audio clips, and first-hand accounts, most of which provide evidence for claims that pro-government forces were responsible for both massacres. Nonetheless, the Syrian government continues to deny these allegations. Adding to the complexity of the conflict in Syria, there have been reports of human rights abuses by opposition forces including, “kidnapping, detention, and torture of security force members, government supporters, and people identified as pro-government militias, called shabeeha.” International pressures against the regime are also mounting from different angles: the U.S. with the Friends of Syria coalition; the U.N. monitoring group and Kofi Annan’s faltering peace plan; and Russian calls to organize a meeting of states that should include Iran and Turkey in a cohesive effort to broker peace between the regime and the opposition. The following articles offer a sample of the different arguments regarding the prospect of foreign involvement as a solution:

  • U.S. Options for Syria: Action vs. Inaction” by Michael Singh of The Washington Institute for Near East Policy weighs the risks of intervention, favoring strong U.S. leadership through military action.
  • Mark Brown, of the Financial Times, cautions against the use of foreign military intervention and suggests that more aggressive diplomatic strategies be prioritized.
  • Dmitri Trenin, director of the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace Center in Moscow, provides a more pessimistic analysis of both previously discussed strategies of diplomacy and military intervention.
  • Foreign Policy asked five renowned experts for alternative strategies to answer the question on “What the Hell Should We Do About Syria?” The nuanced recommendations include arming the guerrillas, talking to Iran, serious negotiations with Russia, cutting off Assad’s lifelines, and locking up the WMDs.

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